Vivendi and EU Music Organizations Slam Article 13 For Failing to Fix Value Gap

Universal Music Group owner Vivendi and the broader music industry are now pushing back against an initiative they helped pass.  So what happened?

The European music industry has long pushed for an overhaul on the use of copyrighted works online.

IMPALA’s Helen Smith, for example, has stated that the EU’s Copyright Directive – and Article 13 – would force user-uploaded platforms (i.e., YouTube and Facebook) to pay more in royalties when using artists’ works online.  This would “fix” the value gap.

Historically, Google’s popular video platform has used safe harbor loopholes to pay artists the bare minimum in royalties.  YouTube, for example, now pays roughly $0.00074 per stream, according to intel shared with DMN, up from $0.00006 last year.  In turn, Apple Music and Spotify pay $0.00783 and $0.00397, respectively.

YouTube has long slammed the initiative, likely fearing the prospect of having to pay the music industry its fair share.

In an effort to turn its nearly 2 billion monthly active users against the Copyright Directive, YouTube has engaged in scaremongering.  Without providing proof, both CEO Susan Wojcicki and Head of Music Lyor Cohen have made sensational claims.  Dubbing Article 13 the ‘meme ban,’ the bill allegedly poses a “threat” to “creators’ livelihood.”

Clearly, both Wojcicki and Cohen have overlooked the video platform’s dismal payouts for both artists and content creators.  But their efforts may be having the intended effect on Article 13, and rightsholders aren’t happy about it.

Now, major European organizations say the updated Article 13 won’t fix the ‘value gap’ problem anymore.

The current iteration of Article 13 includes the following provisions — though it looks like other, YouTube-favoring aspects are being incorporated.

Online content sharing platforms will conclude fair and appropriate licensing agreements with rightsholders.

These licensing agreements will cover the liability for works uploaded by users of online content sharing services in line with the terms and conditions set out in the licensing agreement.

When rightsholders don’t want to conclude licensing agreements, EU Member States will ensure online content service providers and rightsholders cooperate in good faith in order to ensure that unauthorized protected works or other subject matter are not available on their services.

Member States will ensure online content sharing service providers implement effective and expeditious complaints and redress mechanisms for users.

Complaints must be processed without undue delay and be subject to human review.

The European Commission and Member States will organize dialogues between stakeholders to harmonize and define best practices and issue guidance.  This will ensure cooperation between online content sharing service providers and right holders for the use of their works.

In an open letter published online, Vivendi and EU music organizations have lambasted the latest draft of Article 13.  In particular, the group seems concerned about language that would limit YouTube’s liabilities.

Supporting organizations include IMPALA, the IFPI, GESAC, IMPF, EPC, and others from the entertainment and literary industries.

The letter comes ahead of an important meeting this week.  Members of the Commission, Parliament, and Council will discuss the final wording of the Copyright Directive.

Dubbed “Rightsholders Unite in Calling for an Effective Solution to the Value Gap/Transfer of Value,” the letter warns,

Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, the text now put forward by the European Commission would need fundamental changes to achieve the Directive’s aim to correct the Value Gap/Transfer of Value.

Supporters urge the EU to remember “the overall aim of the original European Commission proposal.”  The bill would’ve “corrected the distortion of the digital marketplace caused by User Upload Content (UUC) services.”  Currently, these services “enable users to upload content,” profiting “from the availability of creative content.”  Unfortunately, they don’t return “fair revenue to rightsholders, who create and invest in such content.”

Supporters warn against creating a law that would “qualify or mitigate the liability of Online Content Sharing Service Providers [i.e., YouTube].”  This could potentially leave rightsholders in a worse position.  Mitigation measures, the letter continues, “must therefore be clearly formulated and conditional on OCSSPs taking robust action to ensure the unavailability of works or other subject matter on their services.”

Though rightsholders may give UUC services the “necessary identifying information,” this should not come at a cost.

Unclear or open-ended provisions potentially obliging rightsholders to play the main role in preventing unauthorized uses of their works fail to provide the necessary legal certainty, and therefore fail to provide a meaningful solution to the Value Gap/Transfer of Value.

You can view the letter below.

 


Featured image by Håkan Dahlström (CC by 2.0).