Every day, thousands of videos are published on YouTube using content from copyrighted sources without gaining permission or paying licensing fees. The EU has now proposed a set of laws that seek to stop such illegal use of copyrighted material on YouTube.
The laws are being put in place to protect copyright holders from being robbed of their rightful share of profit. “This proposal is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new balance in the online world… It is about copyright and making sure creators and their partners get a fair share of the value they create,” Helen Smith, the executive chair of the European music association, Impala, said to Fortune.
Even though YouTube already has a Content ID system that blocks copyrighted content from spreading through its service, the new laws will put an additional burden on the company. YouTube may face several compensation claims that could create a huge dent in profitability. Certain provisions might also infringe on user’s privacy.
“Article 13 demands that online services build or buy specific technology to monitor and categorize each and every user upload. At a time when the EU is showing global leadership on privacy and data protection, it is deeply regrettable that lawmakers are nonetheless seeking to codify a regime that would compel service providers to monitor European Internet users’ activity with even more vigor,” according to Mozilla.
The negative effects
Holding YouTube accountable for the spread of copyrighted content may seem ethical at first. But there is a big drawback — the open nature of YouTube will be compromised. YouTube enables people from all walks of life to remix content (including copyrighted content) and publish it.
A person might take a clip from CNN for critical analysis or may use a track from a TV series as an intro for their channel. Another user might publish funny videos by cutting up clips from various movies and mixing them up. YouTube is populated with thousands of such channels publishing millions of such videos. This is what defines YouTube culture.
But once the EU implements the new laws, content producers will have to license the music and video. A channel that criticizes government policies may not be able to use clips from mainstream media unless they pay for them. Another channel that remixes new film scenes with old movie dialogues will not be able to publish unless they pay a fee to the original creators.
YouTube creators may even have to cough up license fees to set up a channel. Such rules will inevitably discourage many independent and passionate creators from publishing content on YouTube. Only a few individuals and media organizations with enough resources will be able to operate a high-quality channel under such circumstances.
However, YouTube offers a middle ground in the matter that seeks to balance the concerns of copyright holders and its creators. “Copyright holders have control over their content: They can use our tools to block or remove their works, or they can keep them on YouTube and earn advertising revenue… In over 90 percent of cases, they choose to leave the content up. Enabling this new form of creativity and engagement with fans can lead to mass global promotion and even more revenue for the artist,” Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s head of business, said in a statement (The Verge).
A final vote on the matter will be taken by the European Parliament in January next year. If passed, the stricter copyright laws will drastically change Internet culture as we know it.