YouTube is pushing back against a new EU copyright law, which it says will massively restrict how many videos Europeans can watch

Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunchYouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.
  • YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki voiced her opposition to new EU copyright legislation in a Financial Times op-ed.
  • Specifically she took aim at the draft directive’s article 13, which would force online platforms to censor content that breaches copyright.
  • Wojcicki says article 13 is an unrealistic way of policing copyright, and would deny European users access to lots of videos on YouTube.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki wrote an op-ed in the Financial Times on Monday arguing against tough new online copyright laws the European Parliament is trying to push through.

Wojcicki specifically takes issue with article 13 of the EU’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which would force platforms like YouTube or Reddit to monitor for content that breaches copyright and take it down, or else face financial penalties. When it was first drafted, article 13 became famous as some thought it might pose an existential threat to memes.

Article 13 is part of legislation which was initially blocked in July, but the European Parliament backed the amended legislation in September. It still faces a final vote in early 2019.

In her article Wojcicki claims that enforcement of Article 13 would bankrupt YouTube’s “creator economy,” and asks that policymakers re-examine how best to protect copyright.

“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,” she writes.

She says that enforcement of the law is unrealistic because it doesn’t take into account that sometimes people dispute copyright ownership. She uses the music video for “Despacito” – which has now amassed over 5 billion views since it was uploaded in January 2017 – as an example.

“This video contains multiple copyrights, ranging from sound recording to publishing rights. Although YouTube has agreements with multiple entities to licence and pay for the video, some of the rights holders remain unknown. That uncertainty means we might have to block videos like this to avoid liability under article 13,” she says.

A European Parliament source disputed this argument. They told Business Insider:

“The EP’s aim for Article 13 is to give artists a stronger position in invoking their rights for fair compensation when their work is used and distributed online by others. An artist will typically have notified platforms like YouTube that a specific work is theirs. Works for which the rights holder is unknown are therefore unlikely to engage a platform’s liability if they are uploaded there.”

Wojcicki also argues that European users would miss out on videos which YouTube would be forced to censor for fear of financial risk.

You can also read Wojcicki’s article in this blog post.

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