YouTube is arguably one of the best alternatives to piracy for casual listeners. Instead of going through the trouble of downloading a track for ‘sampling’ purposes, people can usually play it from YouTube straightaway.
The added bonus is that copyright holders also earn money from authorized plays on the site, which generates dozens of millions in added revenue per month.
While this might sound positive, the major music labels are not pleased with YouTube at all. In fact, in recent months they’ve been pushing hard to revamp current legislation, so they can make YouTube pay more than just a small portion of the ad-revenue.
Figures reported by BPI today reveal that music video plays surged 88% last year, but that revenues rose only 0.4% in the same period. According to BPI Chief Geoff Taylor artists and labels are clearly not benefiting from the growing demand
“Instead, dominant tech platforms like YouTube are able to abuse liability protections as royalty havens, dictating terms so they can grab the value from music for themselves, at the expense of artists,” he says.
“This is wrong. Music is precious – it’s not a commodity to be strip-mined for big data,” he adds.
Ultimately, the music industry wants YouTube and other user generated services to pay more. In part, they think this can be achieved by making sure that “pirate” videos no longer appear on the site.
If there was no pirated content on YouTube the labels believe they would be in a better position to negotiate than they are now. Ideally, this should happen by changing copyright law so the site can no longer “hide behind” safe harbor protections.
“This problem requires urgent action by the EU, and our Government needs to take the lead in making sure it is tackled,” Taylor says.
The music industry attack on YouTube is well-coordinated. BPI’s comments fall in line with similar complaints made by other music industry groups, including the RIAA which recently accused YouTube of running a DMCA-protected protection racket.
YouTube owner Google, meanwhile, remains seemingly unfazed by the complaints. The company recently stressed that it does have proper licensing deals with both major and independent labels and that it paid out over a billion dollars in recent years.
In addition the company noted that there are sufficient tools to remove infringing content from Google.
“Those pressing the ‘value grab’ argument also assert that the royalty rates in these licenses are too low, allegedly because the DMCA’s notice-and-takedown process makes it too difficult for record labels to withdraw their works from YouTube in the face of users re-uploading those works.
“This claim, however, ignores Content ID, which has been in existence since 2008 and which record labels use every day to monetize their works on YouTube,” Google noted.
One thing’s very clear though. With Google and YouTube being targeted from multiple sides, we haven’t heard the last of this yet.