YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki Attempts To Rally YouTubers Against Tougher EU Copyright Law

Asa Mathat for Vox Media

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is attempting to rally its users against a proposed update to European copyright law that would make online platforms liable for copyright infringement.

“This legislation poses a threat to both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world,” Wojcicki wrote in a blog post published Monday.

At issue is Article 13 of the new Directive on Copyright, which won the support of the European Parliament in September. This directive sets the parameters for talks between parliament, the European Commission and national governments. If the law is passed, E.U. member states have two years to implement the new rules.

These rules would place more responsibility on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other websites to ensure copyrighted material isn’t illegally shared on their platforms. That’s a dramatic shift in the burden of copyright enforcement, which until now has rested with the copyright holders. The online platforms would need to take steps to prevent “unauthorized protected works” from circulating. That seemingly would require YouTube and others to filter every piece of content uploaded to their services and block anything that might trigger a copyright violation.

Dozens of high-profile artists, including former Beatle Paul McCartney, supported the tougher copyright rules, while Silicon Valley opposed it, warning it would mean the end of the internet as we know it.

“Article 13 as written threatens to shut down the ability of millions of people — from creators like you to everyday users — to upload content to platforms like YouTube,” Wojcicki wrote to YouTube’s creators. “And it threatens to block users in the EU from viewing content that is already live on the channels of creators everywhere. This includes YouTube’s incredible video library of educational content, such as language classes, physics tutorials and other how-to’s.”

YouTube recognizes the importance of compensating rights holders – and has taken steps to make sure they get paid, Wojcicki wrote. But the shift in liability would make it too risky to host content from smaller content creators.

“The unintended consequences of article 13 will put this ecosystem at risk,” Wojcicki said. “We are committed to working with the industry to find a better way.  This language could be finalized by the end of the year, so it’s important to speak up now.”

The EU is expected to vote on the final version of the proposal next year.

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