Sep 15, 2016

EU Sets Its Sights On YouTube

The EU Commission has announced its plans to amend and harmonise EU copyright law.  The President of the European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker announced the proposals in his 'State of the European Union' address on Wednesday 14 September 2016.  The changes have been suggested to ensure that copyright law remains effective in the digital age.

One of the biggest proposed changes will be to force user generated services such as YouTube to pay more to right holders and to divulge to rights holders how much profit their content has generated. YouTube currently sells advertising and then divide profits between right holders.  This approach differs from music streaming sites like Spotify and Apply who pay right holders a fee every time a song is played.

This proposal follows a public campaign from the global music industry over the so called "value gap" between services like Spotify and YouTube. Over 1000 artists and songwriters, including Lady Gaga, signed a letter asking the European Commission to take steps to address the value gap.  It said that YouTube was "unfairly siphoning value away from the music community and its artists and songwriters".

Jean-Claude Juncker said in his speech on Wednesday: "I want journalists, publishers and authors to be paid fairly for their work, whether it is made in studios or living rooms, whether it is disseminated offline or online, whether it is published via a copying machine or hyperlinked on the web."

The proposals are to also take tougher measures to prevent the illegal distribution of music and video content online.  The amendment would require platforms such as YouTube to run checks to determine whether the content they are hosting contains copyright material. Currently, platforms only remove material after being notified by right holders.

The changes will also create copyright for news publishers so that they will be recognised as rights holders. This means that services such as Google News would be forced to pay publishers a fee when using small extracts or snippets of stories in its search results, something that has long been lobbied for.

The reforms would also allow for easier access to online content across borders.  It should be possible for broadcasters to easily obtain authorisation from right holders to transmit programmes online in other EU Member States. There will also be improved copyright rules on education, research, cultural heritage and inclusion of disabled people.

Unsurprisingly the proposals have already been met with some criticism from affected groups including tech companies and digital rights groups saying that the proposed reforms are regressive and will bring in rules that will force private companies to police the Internet.

It should be noted that these are draft proposals only and will now be put to the European Parliament and individual EU states for amendment or approval. It is therefore unlikely that all of the proposals will come to pass and it will be interesting to see which do indeed survive to become law. It will likely take a significant amount of time for any of the proposals to become law and so nothing in this area is likely to change in the short to medium term.

in: EU/International, News

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