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YouTube’s Lyor Cohen: Article 13 will harm the very creative industry it seeks to protect



Ever since the European Union’s (EU) revamped the copyright rules and put them to vote in its Parliament in September 2018, YouTube has not left a single stone unturned to criticise the “unrealistic” Article 13.

With a continual worry, YouTube’s Head of Music Lyor Cohen, in his recently-published blog, insists that the industry members must not “leave it up to someone else” and “help build a better way forward in collaboration with the creative community that doesn’t clamp down on the new growth our industry is experiencing.”

In his blog, Cohen said, “Emerging artists will find it harder to be discovered and heard on a global stage. In short, the Parliament’s version of Article 13 will harm the very creative industry it seeks to protect. I’m deeply concerned that people don’t understand these consequences so I want to set the record straight.”

In a bid to tackle copyright issues, YouTube, 11 years ago, created content ID. This copyright management technology helps rights holders find, claim and control their content on YouTube.

“Over 98% of copyright management on YouTube takes place through Content ID and it’s been used to pay rights holders over €2.5 billion for third-party uses of their content,” said Cohen.

Cohen opined that YouTube has paid the music industry over €5 billion to date from ads alone and over €1.5 billion in the last 12 months also from advertising revenue.

However, he adds, “The creative community has an incomplete picture of how much we pay. There is a lack of transparency between the money YouTube pays to labels and the money artists see in their pocket. To fix this, we commit to disclosing revenue earned on YouTube to artists and songwriters directly IF their labels and publishers waive their contractual prohibitions that prevent us from doing this. We welcome more transparency so we can put to rest false accusation from the IFPI and others about our payments.”

Cohen clarifies that YouTube in is complete support of Commission’s efforts for copyright reform and believes in creating a well-balanced Article 13. But, Cohen doesn’t agree with the Parliament’s current version which he claims to be flawed.

To make their opinion well heard and read, YouTube has gone the extra mile and made some rather drastic moves. On its European version of the website, YouTube has replaced the pop-up which initially prompted users to sign up for YouTube’s free ad service to a new message that warns users about the EU’s proposed copyright directive. If that wasn’t enough, it also explains the possible impact of Article 13 on the company’s standalone website once the viewers click on the pop-up.

Citing reasons for disagreement, Cohen explains, “There is no consensus within the music industry on license and rights ownership. Well over 50 per cent of music has some portion of unknown ownership. It’s a black box that often pits music collecting societies, publishers, labels, and even artists against one another in a fight for who owns what.”

Touching upon the unmitigated liability, Cohen expresses concern over the Parliament’s version of Article 13 which would remove current protections and hold YouTube and other platforms directly liable for any copyright infringement, exposing it to unmitigated liability and a large financial risk as the platform would be forced to block huge amounts of video.


Cohen also mentions that artists like Dua Lipa, Alan Walker and Ed Sheeran all built their careers on YouTube. Under Parliament’s version of Article 13, the future generation’s European artists would never see the light of the day, all because their videos would be blocked at scale to avoid any copyright liability. This reform would not benefit the artists, it would rather drive more devaluation to artists, major labels and small, independent artists would get less money and less promotion from open platforms like YouTube.

In conclusion, Cohen writes, “Fortunately, Article 13 is not yet set in stone. We can still shape the outcome. Let’s do the responsible thing and ensure that artists and songwriters can continue to find new audiences, connect with their fans, and earn a living making music.”


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