from the look-at-that dept
Paul Resnikoff’s Digital Music News site is a worthwhile read, often turning up some really interesting news. However, the site pretty consistently takes the legacy music industry’s point of view in the various debates on copyright and music services. To me, it has a somewhat unfair bias against many of the new innovators and music platforms that have helped drag the industry (kicking and screaming all the way) into the internet era. But it’s still well written and thoughtful, and I appreciate the work that Paul does, even if I don’t always agree with his opinion. So consider it quite a surprise to see Resnikoff call out the RIAA on its completely bullshit attacks on YouTube over the past few months. Resnikoff isn’t pulling any punches. He points out that basically all of the music video views on YouTube are licensed, and ContentID (for better or for worse) has basically made it easy for the labels to do a “notice and staydown” like they’ve been demanding for the past few years:
But new data not only shows that YouTube isn?t breaking the law, they aren?t even abusing existing copyright law. A recent report from music industry research group Midia revealed that just 2% of YouTube?s music video content is unauthorized. These are illegal UGC uploads of concerts, lyrics videos, the actual videos, or other material that rights owners didn?t green light beforehand. The rest, about 98%, are not only completely authorized, about 75% of them are high-quality and supplied by the labels themselves through Vevo, according to the same dataset.
So, if just 2% of music videos are unauthorized and can be taken down using DMCA procedures, what?s the problem here? The Recording Industry Association of America, an organization that represents the three major labels, has been leading the charge against widespread DMCA abuse by video giant. ?YouTube takes advantage of the dysfunctional DMCA to do less about piracy than it could and pay unfairly low royalty rates,? RIAA chief executive Cary Sherman declared. ?It doesn?t have to be like this.?
But is that even true? Adding to the confusing is Content ID, a system created by YouTube to allow content owners to automatically flag their content if it appears on YouTube without permission. Once identified, the owner has the option to remove that content, monetize it, or even strip the audio out of it (for example, if paired with a group of people singing karaoke). YouTube says that system, part of a self-contained copyright ecosystem, makes the DMCA irrelevant in most situations. In other words, if you don?t want your video on YouTube, then you should just remove it.
To be clear, looking at the details from Midia itself, it’s not saying that only 2% of the videos are unauthorized, but 2% of music video views on YouTube are of unauthorized videos. And that’s still an important point. It suggests that, contrary to what the industry likes to claim, the kids these days aren’t spending very much time at all using YouTube to watch unauthorized streams. It’s almost non-existent. The same report also found that music represents just 12% of all YouTube viewing time. That kinda shows how the claims of the industry about how YouTube is supposedly only successful because of music uploads is complete hogwash.
He notes that most musicians themselves recognize the promotional value of YouTube as well, and they’d probably freak out if the labels removed their videos from YouTube (remember, for all the hype about Taylor Swift removing her music from Spotify and other streaming services… she kept her YouTube videos up). As Resnikoff points out, the labels are upset about the amount of money that YouTube pays, but it’s pretty clear that the overall value that YouTube provides in terms of audience, exposure, marketing and, yes, some money, is clearly worth it:
It?s a simple economic calculation: YouTube offers more value than just a fractional penny rate, and artists and labels are making a calculation that it?s worth it. Otherwise, they would leave.
He goes on to point out that the RIAA’s complaints make no sense other than as whining because they’re upset that Google is so rich… and they’re not.
In the end it’s good to see this data. To hear some in the recording industry explain things, you’d think YouTube is entirely built off of pirated music. I’ve literally seen some musicians complain that YouTube deliberately allows piracy because that’s the only thing that keeps the site afloat. That appears to be based on conspiracy theories, not reality.