Tomorrow, a hugely important vote on changes to EU copyright law will take place in Brussels. Over months of intensely heated lobbying and campaigning, the legislation in question has quickly become one of the most controversial proposals put forward before EU parliament in recent years.
Article 13, as it’s known, aims to redress the imbalance in the transfer of value between online platforms and content creators for the use of their work.
As it stands, platforms like YouTube make billions from the work of creatives, who receive minimal reimbursement in return. This is enabled by the current legal framework, whose ‘safe harbour’ loophole allows Google to use creators’ work for massive profit without negotiating a license to do so.
Now, the current status-quo is being threatened. Google stands to lose huge revenue stakes if it is forced to pay rightsholders fairly for use of their work, in a model similar to streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. As a result, they have summoned all the forces available to them as a world-dominating conglomerate, and created an unscrupulous campaign of misinformation to prevent Article 13 from being passed.
Largely this campaign has revolved around manipulation of the press and the use of ‘fake news’, for which Google has become so infamous.
Last week, the FT exposed that Google had been utilising publishers it supports with huge grants through its DNI programme to support its own agenda by spreading falsities about Article 13. As our fellow trade-body IMPALA pointed out, this was not the first time that Google has influenced academics or manipulated the press.
The claims that Google has made around the copyright mandate – that it will destroy memes and user-generated content, leading to censorship and impeding the free flow of information – have been totally debunked. John Mottram, PRS for Music’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs, breaks them down brilliantly here.
There is an inherent irony in Google putting forward false claims that Article 13 would lead to censorship, and then using their influence to flood the internet with negative press supporting their campaign of misinformation.
These underhand tactics are no longer unfamiliar in the ‘post-truth’ era, and are particularly astounding considering Google’s ongoing lobbying for an ‘open internet’. The very principles of users sharing and enjoying content would have no basis if the creators of that content are not able to monetise their work and continue producing it as a professional career.
It has been well-reported that many musicians, and those who work with them, often struggle to make a living from music. This is particularly the case within the independent sector, which operates without being bankrolled by large corporate structures.
The independent sector is the music industry’s greatest hub of innovation, often pioneering new sounds and acting as the proving grounds for the next sensation. It is vital for a future of diverse, vibrant and culturally-strong British music that we support and ensure fair payment for music-makers to allow them to flourish with careers dedicated to their craft.
For many modern musicians, this is not a possibility. There is no doubt that YouTube is a great platform which offers artists huge levels of exposure and access to fans and consumers. However, it must also offer the monetary compensation these artists deserve for use of their content, or we are at risk of a finding ourselves with huge platforms lacking any diversity of content – all medium, no message.
Last week I raised the importance of this issue to MEPs as part of a delegation led by UK Music in Brussels. Lobbying the EU parliament on this matter is one example of the work AIM does to represent our members in the public domain. Working hand-in-hand with organisations like IMPALA, the European trade body for independent music, we are fighting to level the playing field between tech companies and independent artists.
There is still time to make a difference. You can do so by using PRS for Music Creators’ Rights Fight email tool to contact UK MEPs or by taking to Twitter. To find out more about the best way to lobby MEPS via Twitter and email, visit AIM’s site here.
If the proposed directive is voted in tomorrow, it has the potential to usher in a substantial positive change for the future of music and musicians. I urge you to stand with us to support it and a fairer internet.
Paul Pacifico is CEO of AIM.