Music bodies up lobbying efforts ahead of crucial Article 13 vote


It’s now one day until a crucial vote in the European Parliament on the EU’s draft Copyright Directive, and music bodies are leading the charge of creative industries in urging politicians to support the proposed legislation – and specifically its Article 13, which focuses on the obligations of online platforms around copyrighted content being uploaded by their users.

It’s fair to describe the atmosphere as tense, with the lobbying process having reopened some of the deep divisions between rightsholders and large technology companies (Google in particular) – or rather, having highlighted that despite the recent launch of YouTube Music, those divisions had never been truly closed. From the music side, this week’s lobbying is focused around two points: convincing politicians of Article 13’s necessity on one hand, and criticising Google’s lobbying on the other.

The latter is causing particular anger within the rightsholder community. “The Internet giants and the consumer organisations they fund have whipped up a social media storm of misinformation about the proposed changes in order to preserve their current advantage,” wrote PRS for Music CEO Robert Ashcroft in a blog post published last night.

“The US tech lobby has been using its enormous reach and resources to try to whip up an alarmist campaign by users, disingenuously crying ‘censorship’ and claiming this will ‘break the internet’ or ‘ban memes’. These baseless scare tactics deserve to fail,” wrote BPI boss Geoff Taylor in his own post.

“This is desperate and dishonest. Whilst some of the myths are repeated by people who remain blissfully untroubled by the technical but crucially important details of the proposed EU changes, in the worst cases this propaganda is being cynically pedalled by big tech like Google’s YouTube with a huge vested and multi-million-pound interest in this battle,” wrote UK Music chief Michael Dugher in his opinion piece. And UK Music has separately claimed that Google alone has spent more than €31m ($36m) lobbying in Europe, although pegging all of this as ‘anti-copyright’ spend is a stretch.

When Music Ally recently interviewed YouTube’s head of music Lyor Cohen, he expressed frustration with questions about the ‘value gap’ and safe harbour, suggesting that in his meetings with rightsholders, these issues simply don’t come up any more.

At the time, we pointed out that music companies don’t – and are right not to – see a contradiction between positive engagement with YouTube’s licensed music service, and fierce lobbying against Google over copyright modernisation.

This week has certainly been a focused display of unity for the music industry on the latter count, and while the posts linked to above from Ashcroft, Taylor and Dugher all make their positive cases for Article 13, the criticism of Google’s lobbying is a bigger plank in their argument than ever before.

At a time when European politicians seem to be leaning towards more regulation (and criticism) of big, American technology companies, the rightsholders’ arrows appear well-aimed. Tomorrow’s vote will tell us whether they have hit their mark.

Above all, this is a debate that demands and deserves full engagement. So read the posts we’ve linked to above, but also digest some of the opposing views directly: Techdirt’s ‘Music Industry’s Nonsense ‘Myth Busting’ About EU’s Censorship Machines’ post is one place to start, and this open letter from a group of tech-industry bodies and lobbying organisations another (albeit one that’s part of that argument about how many of them are taking funding from the technology companies).

As overheated as some of the “Article 13 threatens everything you do on the internet” rhetoric is, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the arguments being made about some of the potential unintended consequences of the proposed Copyright Directive – and then to use that as the basis for reading the music industry’s responses to those concerns.

Contrary to some claims from the anti-Article-13 side, music rightsholders aren’t blind to those worries.

Written by: Stuart Dredge