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IFPI and YouTube at loggerheads over $1.8bn-payments figure


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YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s latest thoughts on Europe’s proposed copyright reform – and specifically the Article 13 section – has certainly caused a stir, as has Google’s latest ‘How Google Fights Piracy’ report. We reported on Friday on indie body Impala’s response to Wojcicki, but global music body the IFPI wasn’t far behind with its own rebuttal of the Google report. Specifically the claim that YouTube paid the music industry $1.8bn in advertising revenue alone between October 2017 and September 2018.

“The figures in Google’s anti-piracy paper don’t match our own,” said CEO Frances Moore. “It is difficult to get any clarity on Google’s claims as it doesn’t explain its methodology, but IFPI data shows that revenue returning to the record industry through video streaming services (including but not limited to YouTube) with 1.3 billion users amounted to US $856 million in 2017 – less than half of Google’s claim and less than US $1 per user per year.”

The response to the response? Music Ally contacted YouTube, and a spokesperson provided this statement: “We stand by the numbers in our report. IFPI has a limited view of payments that we make across the industry, including to collection societies, and our direct advertising deals with music partners.” The truth lies between Google’s definition of “the music industry” and the IFPI’s definition of “the record industry”, clearly.

On the subject of collecting societies, however, PRS for Music CEO Robert Ashcroft weighed in to the Article 13 debate on Friday, with a letter to the Financial Times criticising Wojcicki’s recent comments on the proposed legislation. He didn’t hold back, either.

“Ms Wojcicki does not offer a shred of evidence to support her claims that Article 13 will harm the creative community. The music industry, on the other hand, has laid out ample evidence that current legislation, via its ‘safe harbour’ regime, favours both YouTube and other platforms to the detriment of the economy as a whole,” wrote Ashcroft.

“It is imperative that the EU Parliament, Council and Commission resist what I consider to be fake news, untruths and alarmist propaganda being circulated by multi-billion-pound internet companies that have for so long unfairly profited at the expense of our creative industries.”

With the ‘trilogue’ process to nail down the final wording of Article 13 and the wider European copyright directive continuing, there are more salvos and counter-salvos to come. And not just around our industry: witness the separate debate this week around comments made by Google’s VP of news Richard Gingras about the so-called ‘link tax’ element (Article 11) of the legislation.

Gingras noted that when Spain passed similar legislation (essentially it’s about sites aggregating news and providing summaries with links having to pay for that) Google shut down Google News in the country, leading to a drop in traffic for the local news sites that had campaigned in favour of the new law. “We would not like to see that happen in Europe,” said Gingras. “Right now what we want to do is work with stakeholders.” The parallel to Wojcicki’s claim last week that Article 13 might mean YouTube has to block music videos (she cited ‘Despacito’ specifically) is clear. The gloves are well and truly off.

Stuart Dredge

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