Copyright 13

We are approaching the endgame and this is not the MCU. Within a few weeks one of the worst pieces of legislation I've ever seen will be passed by the EU parliament. The chances to stop it are pretty slim, but we have to try. So I will kick off a small series of short articles about what we're fighting for and against, why we are fighting it and who are our opponents. My hope that this may help mobilize for the protests on March 23rd all over Europe.

#copyright13 #copyright #eu #article13

Part 1: Youtube

It seems that YouTube is one of the most polarizing aspect in the debate. The proponents of the new law YouTube seems to be the embodiment of an evil American empire that gobbles up European creativity for profit. Some of the have literally their professional existence on YouTube.

So YouTube seems to have become the ground zero for the current copyright debate.

That is strange. Of all the platforms for user created content, YouTube is actually the one with the strictest enforcement of copyrights. It a platform that rather has a problem with too far reaching claims.

So why is YouTube at the centre of the conflict?

The myth of the freeloader

If you follow the proponents of the law, YouTube is overflowing with stolen content. Honest and hard working musicians and film makers are starving because everyone is enjoying their stuff for free.

There are two facts that are speaking against this:
  • Never before in history, so much money has been spent on media consumption. People spent in 2018 more money than ever before for Video games, Music, Movies and TV shows. Even the long dead music industry is growing again. On average, people aren't freeloaders.
  • If you look at the list of most viewed Youtube-videos, you notice that only a small share of them has not been uploaded by the copyright owner. Quite the contrary. The stars want their music videos to be on YouTube as it promotes their brand.
Google is making a shitload of money with YouTube. But cat videos and fashion tips play a much larger role than stolen content.

So why the disdain?

To understand the disdain for YouTube, we first need to understand who is harbouring it.

Historically, media consumption has long been controlled by an Oligopoly. A few large companies have been the gatekeepers to the market. There control on the market based on the hold on the Intellectual Property rights (like the copyrights). It was virtually impossible to produce and market media without them being involved.

Of course there are YouTube videos available that infringe on their rights. But compared to the market size this is small change.

More important is the loss of control. YouTube stars are rising (and falling) without the old Oligopoly having any say and (more important) revenue. While someone is watching a cat video on YouTube, he cannot watch the newest Hollywood flic or listen to the latest hit.

YouTube is a direct competitor in the Attention Economy.

What is the purpose of Upload Filters?

YouTube has only a marginal copyright problem. So how are Upload Filters supposed to benefit the artists?

The saddening truth is: no artist will benefit from them.

If if we had a copyright problem (as pointed out above: we don't have it), Upload Filters could not fix it. Copyrights are a legal issue, not a technical one. Our AI technology is far from solving the problem of malware uploads which is (from a technology standpoint) a trivial problem compared to making judgement calls about the copyright.

So those people uploading copyright protected material will be the least impacted as they have all the tools to confuse and bypass such systems.

But the average user uploading his own content will be plagued by false positives. The few notes of the title melody of the movie (s)he is reviewing, the sound of the radio in the background, the quote of the interview the user is dissecting, all this will trigger the upload filters. All those will be false positives, as no copyright is violated but the algorithms cannot decide that.

These false alarms are far from being unwanted. In my opinion, they are the main purpose.

Any falsely detected copyright violation will increase the costs for user created content. The platform has to deal with all the support incidents. The user gets frustrated and may desist from creating content as (s)he neither has the knowledge, time and resources to deal with such issued.


The goal of the Copyright directive Article 13 is not the prevention of copyright theft but to curb user generated content. YouTube is at the centre of the debate just because it is the biggest hub for such content.