The EU Wants To Pass A Law That Could Potentially Kill YouTube

Farai Mudzingwa Avatar
cybersecurity data protection privacy security

Earlier this year, the European Union put into effect a controversial and internet-shattering law that came to be known as the GDPR. Online publishers had to change their websites to deal with user data much differently than they had before. The GDPR was centred on the EU but it ended up affecting everyone, including people outside the EU. Believe you me even Techzim had to contemplate how we would tackle GDPR.

Now the EU is at it again with a different law that could make it almost impossible for content creators on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook to include any copyrighted content.

What’s going on?

European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market is a proposed law that will stop the use of copyrighted material on platforms such as YouTube , if copyright holders are not compensated fairly. The whole point of the law (as Wired puts it) is to “update existing copyright laws for the internet age”. Under current legislation, platforms such as YouTube aren’t responsible for copyright violations, although they must remove that content when directed to do so by the rights holders.

Websites such as FB, Twitter & YouTube will be held responsible for the content placed on their platforms. Viewers from the EU might no longer be able to watch this content if the law is passed but also content creators would be in trouble?

How will it affect content creators?

Let’s take YouTube as our example –as that’s where many have voiced their concerns. If a YouTuber were to create a video and use a song by Adele (without permission). That artist or the record label can then sue the YouTuber. This hasn’t been happening because most of these creators are small therefore it’s not worth the record label/artist’s time & money. Now copyright holders will now get a slice of the revenue of their content that is being used instead of it being taken down. Copyright holders feel like the share (it’s not disclosed) they are getting is far from adequate.

But now that the platforms will be held responsible if the law is passed it suddenly makes a lot of financial sense for every artist whose song has been used without their permission to sue because suing YouTube is much more lucrative than suing a YouTube creator. Why? YouTube has a lot of money!

Once you consider the number of videos on YouTube it’s easy to see how the company could end up spending millions on lawsuits with different copyright holders.

Now YouTube obviously wouldn’t be too cool with this and they would have to find a way to save their own backsides. Most content creators on YouTube believe the video sharing platform would have to build a firewall of sorts and this would block any video with third-party content. The only problem with this is that an algorithm that would do so might end up affecting many people as there has been no clear definition of what this third-party content would include or not include. This grey area is what could end up being the death-knell of many YouTubers and there have been concerns that even memes could be considered as copyrighted.

This law only affects content consumed in the EU,  but as we saw with the GDPR which ended up affecting everyone else. Why? Because there are so many eyeballs there. There have already been many complaints about YouTube filtering methods/mechanisms/algorithms and this is just another new headache-shaped cherry to top that cake.

Is there a solution?

As aforementioned the legislation is yet to be passed. It’s only been voted on in the European parliament. There is still a negotiation phase going on and they are negotiating over 3 different versions of article 13. One from the European Council. One from the European Parliament and one from the European Commission.

Power to the people?

4 million EU have signed a petition opposing Article 13 and the basis of their argument  is pretty solid:

Only Big US Tech companies can afford (making the field less competitive and thus harder for working artists to negotiate better deals in) and because these filters will censor enormous quantities of legitimate material, thanks to inevitable algorithmic errors and abuse.

Hopefully, this could lead to a compromise and the final version of the European Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market will better serve consumers, creators and copyright holders.