EU copyright directive risks cutting people off from YouTube videos, site boss warns

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Musicians were joined by Tom Watson MP in September outside YouTube’s UK headquarters, in support of the copyright directive (PA/Jonathan Hordle)

YouTube viewers across the EU could be cut off from videos as a result of the controversial Article 13 copyright directive, platform boss Susan Wojcicki has said in a fresh warning.

The video sharing site is among the opponents of changes to EU copyright law, which could affect the way music, memes and news articles are shared online.

The changes would make the likes of Twitter, Google and Facebook take responsibility for the copyright status of material posted by users.

Members of the European Parliament backed an overhaul to the current law in September, leaving each EU member state to make the final decision in a vote scheduled for January 2019.

In a lengthy blog post, Ms Wojcicki reiterated the company’s stance on the proposals, claiming the approach was “unrealistic”.

“EU residents are at risk of being cut off from videos that, in just the last month, they viewed more than 90 billion times,” she said.

“The parliament’s approach is unrealistic in many cases because copyright owners often disagree over who owns what rights. If the owners cannot agree, it is impossible to expect the open platforms that host this content to make the correct rights decisions.”

Ms Wojcicki also suggested that there will be financial consequences from the move, putting the creator economy under threat. In the last year, YouTube said it paid content owners across the EU 800 million euro (£699 million) as well as 1.5 billion euro (£1.3 billion) to global music in generated revenue.

“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,” the YouTube chief executive continued.

The law has divided many, with musicians including Sir Paul McCartney saying that the reforms are necessary in order to  compensate artists fairly.

Two parts of the law, Article 11 and Article 13, have been most contentious since the start of talks to change copyright rules.

The European Parliament revised its earlier proposals, making non-commercial encyclopaedias like Wikipedia exempt from the requirement to comply with the copyright rules.

Chris Price