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EC CALLS FOR YOUTUBE REFORM...MAYBE

The European Commission has responded to the music industry’s calls for tougher sanctions on YouTube with its copyright reform proposals. And its report is surprisingly rights-holder friendly, says copyright expert Cliff Fluet (pictured), albeit typically vague.

The report’s main headline is the sanction that calls for websites to take “appropriate measures” to identify rights holders. Google has partly welcomed that, pointing to YouTube’s Content ID system as evidence of those measures. However, the tech giant has warned against “rigid requirements that smaller and start-up companies may find hard to implement.”

“The thing Google is worried about is someone saying Content ID is not good enough; the phrasing ‘appropriate measures’ could have people in court for years,” Fluet says.

Major labels have been calling for laws to fix the so-called value gap that arises from YouTube hiding behind Safe Harbour laws when it comes to user-generated content.  YouTube should be required to have the same license as Spotify, argue Universal, Warner and Sony, so that any music uploaded to its service has to first be cleared for use by its owners, the labels contend.

The situation is currently the other way around, of course, with rights holders needing to send requests for copyright infringing content to be taken down after being posted.

The proposals don’t go as far as the labels might have liked—YouTube is not about to be hit with the same licensing rules as Spotify—but it could bring about a “take down/stay down” opportunity.

“So you avoid the whack-a-mole thing,” says Fluet. “That would mean if a new song by Lady Gaga goes up on YouTube, labels would send one take-down notice without having to send one every single time someone tries uploading another copy.”

It’s now over to the lobbyists the determine what measures the EC will turn into legislation. “The EC wants rights holders and tech companies to sit down, smoke a peace pipe, and find a way through,” Fluet concludes.

The situation in the U.K. isn’t as clear cut, however, thanks to Brexit. Here's something to contemplate while smoking your own kind of peace pipe: Will the British government side with their creative industries, or pose sanctions to tempt Apple and Google away from Ireland?

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