By Chris Cooke | Published on Thursday 26 October 2017
While most of the music industry’s value gap ranting has, of late, been focused on Europe – where the European Union is actively considering a new law increasing the liabilities of user-upload platforms like YouTube – the American music community still has ambitions to reform safe harbour laws there too. And to that end lobbying group the Content Creators Coalition – aka C3 – has launched two new ads laying into the YouTubes.
As much previously reported, the music industry argues that websites like YouTube are exploiting the copyright safe harbour in order to secure much more preferential deals from the music industry than the audio streaming services, with which they directly compete. But, say the music companies, the safe harbour – which reduces the liabilities of internet companies whose users infringe copyright – was never intended for services like YouTube, which basically build streaming platforms out of the content their users upload.
In Europe, proposals to increase the liabilities of user-upload sites are contained within the draft copyright directive that is slowly going through the motions in Brussels. Reforming the safe harbour Stateside would require amending the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
C3 is one of various organisations attempting to get DMCA reform onto the agenda in US Congress, which means both behind-the-scenes lobbying in Washington and more above-the-line activity to try and rally public support for increasing YouTube’s obligations. Which meant that, when the US Copyright Office was inviting submissions for its review of safe harbour, C3 produced this video message from singer-songwriter and record producer T Bone Burnett, intended as both a formal submission and a public facing rally call:
The lobbying group is now planning more videos in a bid to increase public support for its cause, and has just put live two new digital ads that it will be pushing around the internet in the coming months. Somewhat ironically, the videos will appear on YouTube itself, though official communications from C3 point to the videos on Vimeo, a rival platform that had its own run-ins with the music industry back in the day.
One of the videos is focused on the disparity between the royalties paid by audio streaming platforms and by YouTube – ie what the music industry has dubbed the ‘value gap’.
While the monies paid to the artist in the video by the character representing Spotify et al aren’t massive, at least they are in paper money, while the suited corporate type meant to represent the Google video site only has a few coins to share. “See, it’s just that she’s paid seven times as much”, the artist character moans to the unapologetic YouTube character.
The second video considers the more general issue many copyright owners have with the safe harbour, beyond the value gap it arguably creates in the streaming market. And that’s the fact that, under the principle, it is the copyright owner’s responsibility to monitor safe harbour dwelling platforms for users uploading their content without permission.
Though YouTube is sure to immediately counter that that video makes no mention of its Content ID system, which does help with the monitoring process. Even if Content ID isn’t as effective as many in the music industry would like it to be – and it still constitutes an opt-out rather than opt-in system – Google will likely argue that the C3 video’s suggestion that artists need to hire a lawyer to keep their content off the video site is somewhat misleading.
Nevertheless, the lobbying group hopes its upcoming ad campaign will have an impact, with lawmakers, the public and maybe even Google itself.
Referencing the location of the web giant’s Californian HQ, C3 President Melvin Gibbs says: “Our ads send a message to the executives in Mountain View that artists are fighting back and mobilising fans to push Congress to update the DMCA and end the legal neglect that has given big tech too much power over our work and society”.
He adds: “YouTube has short-changed artists while earning billions of dollars off our music. Artists know YouTube can do better. So, rather than hiding behind outdated laws, YouTube and Google should work to give artists more control over our music and pay music creators fairly when our songs are played on their platform”.
You can watch the value gap video here…
…and the takedowns video here: