Will US music be affected by EU’s Article 13 targeting sites like YouTube?

The Crazy Daysies on YouTube

Who doesn’t listen to music by surfing videos at YouTube? Many of us love to stroll through pages and pages of links in hopes of finding a song or artist whose message touches our minds and hearts. Of late there’s been a lot of media coverage, primarily in the European Union, about passage of Article 13. If you’re a working musician or a fan, it’d be a good idea to learn more about this because although the EU Parliament didn’t pass the copyright law, the battle isn’t over, and US media do a lousy job covering matters of importance related to government in our daily lives. 

Article 13 has to do with copyright infringement. A British CEO in favor of Article 13 had this to say in an article at Music Business Worldwide:

“Google’s YouTube is the world’s most popular music platform, yet it deliberately chooses to return a pittance to those whose creativity it has built its multi-billion pound business model on.

“Google remain the vultures that feed off music creators. The fact remains that this must end.”

At the heart of the matter is, I think, a simple premise. Artists want more money from YouTube. Spotify is the major player in streaming, but the revenue model between YouTube and Spotify is very different. An article at Hypebot explained part of the payment problem:

“At the heart of the value gap argument is a fight for control. Rights holders want more control over YouTube to extract better deals and YouTube does not want to cede that control. But there is an argument that YouTube’s greater control enabled it to build a commercial sustainable model. Spotify, which does not have YouTube’s negotiating power, is still not generating a net profit on streaming. On a sliding scale, there are label-defined rates with a non-commercially sustainable business model at one end, while at the other end there is YouTube, which does not pay rights holders what they want, but has a commercially sustainable model.”

Concerns of critics about Article 13 shouldn’t be dismissed. For instance, will it affect memes? Countless times a day I see brief seconds-long clips of famous stars used in a rebuttal to political arguments. I see those a lot on Twitter. Would meme-makers be impacted by stricter copyright laws?

Techdirt approached the issue from a standpoint of incidents of copyright infringement. In taking down illegitimate content, there’s the potential for legitimate content to suffer too. Techdirt cited projections done by Alec Muffett who worked at Facebook and is well-known in the tech sector. Muffett’s projections indicate far more harm than good if Article 13 as voted on had passed.

This could be devastating to indie musicians. What if your content, even though legitimate, was flagged as copyright infringement? What might that do to a budding artist who lacks upscale attorney representation?

Muffett features a lot of info about copyright changes on his Twitter feed. If you’re a musician, it’d be a good idea to follow him.

My personal feelings relate to concerns about heavy-handedness on the part of government and the arts. I believe Article 13 as it was presented would disenfranchise indie artists who aren’t represented by a major label. Imagine trying to convince YouTube you aren’t guilty of something. You can’t just pick up a phone and call to complain.

Muffett believes passage of this law would actually shut down competition.

If you like to listen to music via YouTube videos, or Facebook, you might want to monitor developments on Article 13. If you are an artist with a YouTube or Facebook page, I’d suggest paying close attention.

The EU Parliament is expected to resume deliberations on the failed vote in September. The music industry supports these changes, but bear in mind, that industry favors superstars whose brands can be aggressive when it comes to copyright.

In the United States, some in Washington reportedly are already discussing Article 13, with those favoring corporate music entities entertaining the idea of doing something similar. Also, if laws like those did pass in the EU, since YouTube is global, how might that affect US artists and consumers?

Suppose YouTube decided to shut down its music sector. What might happen to indie artists then?

(Kay B. Day/July 12, 2018)

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