Relatively silent in the run-up to the September vote which saw the European Parliament vote in favor of proposals put forward by Axel Voss’ EPP group, YouTube now seems very concerned over the possibility of being held liable for infringing content uploaded to its platform.
“While we support the goals of article 13, the European Parliament’s current proposal will create unintended consequences that will have a profound impact on the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people,” Wojcicki wrote in blog post earlier this week.
Wojcicki’s statement carried a stark warning that liability for YouTube under Article 13 could force the platform to block content from EU citizens. No company could take on such a financial risk, she said.
Thus far, the Article 13 debate has been polarized, with the entertainment industries hugely in favor and companies like YouTube and pro-Internet freedom groups strongly against. Now, however, a new development has created an interesting split in the ranks, with Julia Reda, MEP for the Pirate Party, warning that YouTube is now lobbying in favor of upload filters.
As detailed in a release from Reda’s office this morning, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has made a number of statements in recent weeks that indicate that the video hosting platform is in favor of pre-filtering content before it’s made available to the public.
Of course, Google has its ContentID filtering system already in place, meaning that it would be in pole position to further dominate the video hosting space, if the filtering option is adopted by the EU.
“The fact that Youtube is now publicly lobbying for mandatory upload filters is not surprising in the least. By introducing ContentID, YouTube has already proven that is is very much capable of developing filters for certain types of content, such as music,” Reda explains.
“If the entire market was obliged to install such filters, YouTube would not only be miles ahead in of its competitors in the development of such technologies, it would also be in a position to sell its filters to smaller platforms. Large platforms such as YouTube would grow further and be presented with an entirely new business model. The significantly smaller EU competition would be left behind.”
In common with many activists, Reda is passionately against the idea of content being filtered. The MEP points to numerous failures of YouTube’s ContentID system that have led to entirely legal content being blocked or deleted from the platform. Reda also warns of a slippery slope where filtering leads to other unintended consequences, such as the stifling of copyright exceptions including parody or quotation.
During October, Wojcicki posted on the company’s blog, warning that Article 13 could “drastically change the Internet.” The piece was effectively a rallying cry to millions of YouTube creators, who were urged to take to social media to protest the proposed legislation.
Now, however, Reda is warning YouTubers against taking YouTube’s stance as their own, noting that its CEO has been in Strasbourg lobbying in favor of upload filters and is only interested in avoiding legal liability.
“The fear of many YouTubers that internet culture and independent creatives will be sacrificed in this reform is certainly justified. They should however not make the mistake of singing from YouTube’s hymn sheet, whose CEO has only been outspoken against the liability of platforms for copyright infringements, while presenting mandatory upload filters as a reasonable compromise,” Reda says.
“If you look more closely at the countless videos, it’s apparent that most YouTubers are warning of the exact problems that YouTube’s ContentID upload filters are already causing today: unjustified copyright strikes and the automated deletion of entirely legal creative content. YouTube and its YouTubers have very different interests in this debate.”
The fact that Julia Reda is now speaking out so clearly against YouTube is likely to prove somewhat of a conundrum to the music industry critics who have been regularly attacking her on Twitter.
While she has risen above many embarrassingly childish accusations, some have claimed – without any evidence – that she’s somehow shilling for YouTube-owner Google in respect of Article 13.
Clearly, the battle lines in this war aren’t so easily drawn.