In 2016, big data changed politics in the USA and the UK. Last year, it was the EU that felt the force of big tech as it tried to complete the Digital Single Market.
The big tech companies turned against the Copyright Directive because it aimed to reset the balance between creators and platforms. Until now, the platforms have used the ‘safe harbour’ provisions to argue that they had little or no responsibility for the content on their network and that they should pay little or nothing for the content on their platform. The most notable example is YouTube, which hosts billions of videos and allows users to stream music, TV programmes and general entertainment, threading them into a continuous sequence, like a TV channel. Because most of the content is uploaded by users, YouTube was able to claim ‘safe harbour’ provisions and pay less for the content.
The figures are stark. Compare the per play rates for YouTube with the two largest dedicated music services.
You have to look closely at the decimal point. YouTube pays about 1/10 as much as Apple and Spotify for its music. So, artists and record companies get a fraction in royalties.
It’s a similar situation for news aggregators. Google and others conveniently aggregate relevant news items so users can scroll through and keep up with what’s going on. The newspapers that create the headlines and the stories receive no revenue, because of ‘safe harbour’ and arguments over copyright in a standfirst.
The EU, keen to see a thriving Digital Single Market, decided to act. The Copyright Directive was drafted giving publishers a new right, forcing platforms to take some responsibility for content they made available and giving artists new rights to claim remuneration.
There was nothing unusual about the early stages of this legislation. There was a consultation, the draft was published and the Council and the Parliament set about debating each clause.
Then things turned ugly. MEPs received 10,000 – 50,000 emails each in a few weeks. Their office phones were jammed with calls. Memes started circulating predicting the end of free speech and a new age of censorship. Ads appeared in front of YouTube videos saying that Article 13 would ban future videos. Finally, there were death threats
against some MEPs and their staff.
The message was that Article 13 of the directive would ban memes and break the internet. The campaign went under the hashtag #SaveYourInternet.
Much of this activity has been traced back to a company in Canada, OpenMedia. They set up automated email and dialling APIs. These generated standard emails delivered direct to an MEP’s inbox. They even contained a phone number and a request to talk to the MEP about Article 13. MEPs initially thought these were from concerned citizens, but on closer inspection many were not from real people. Indeed they were not all from the EU. One MEP took a random sample of 10 emails and rang the 10 numbers in them. 9 were non-allocated numbers. The tenth was very surprised to receive a phone call from an MEP and had no knowledge of the email containing their phone number. It looked as though bot farms had sent millions of emails.
On the back of this, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki repeatedly spoke out against the Copyright Directive, echoing the activities of Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda. It is not known how much Google spent on the campaign against the Copyright Directive, but some have suggested in excess of $30m.
Transparency International EU puts Google as the most active lobby group in Brussels, even above BusinessEurope representing all European companies.
Some tweets have stated that Google paid young people to campaign on their behalf against Article 13.
Google is the second largest corporation on the planet, it owns the largest video streaming platform YouTube and it owns a global email system gmail. How could artists with little money and limited resources compete against such a monolith? You can’t beat the bots. Humans cannot send as many emails as machines. That’s where relationships and political now come into play. That’s the approach that cuts through and the results speak for themselves. Feel free to contact us for more on this.
The Copyright Directive was finally adopted by the European Parliament and the European Council. Publishers have a new right to license their news items, video platforms have to get a licence for content on their network and artists get a new right to remuneration for streaming their music. And it’s always nice to see some of your own drafting make it into legislation.
You can read more about this story here.“Purchased Protest” Bombshell:
“Purchased Protest” Bombshell: Germany’s FAZ News Uncovers The Seamy Underbelly of Google’s Article 13 Lobbying
A Cautionary Tale for Congress: Big Tech Uses Fake Grassroots Interference Lobbying In Europe
Article 13: Let the Investigations Begin
EU and Article 13: The Dystopia That Never Was and Never Will Be
EU Tech Lobbying: Tricks-Camouflage-Deception
Grassroots or US Cyberturf? Who Tweets on EU Copyright
Pledge 2019 EU Campaign: Old Wine in New Bottles
Questions and Answers on issues about the digital copyright directive by European Parliament
The EU’s New Copyright Laws Won’t “Wreck the Internet”
C8 Associates is a consultancy dedicated to taking creative and digital businesses to the next level. C8 is working with clients on Brexit plans, managing risk, exploiting opportunities and validating Brexit plans.
For more detailed results from this expert opinion survey, please contact Dominic McGonigal directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dominic McGonigal is Chairman of C8 Associates, a consultancy dedicated to taking creative businesses to the next level. He also chairs two creative startups, CICI and JazzUK. Read more at www.c8associates.com