Let's get artists paid by making Big Tech pay them, not by creating EU copyright filters

The EU wants to punish Google for allegedly underpaying artists for the use of their works on YouTube, and so they're proposing copyright filters that block anything that appears in an anonymously created, crowdsourced database of forbidden works that are allegedly in copyright.

The reasoning goes like this: if Google can't post stuff that appears on the blocklist, they'll offer the entertainment industry more and more money until they remove it from the blocklist. Then the entertainment industry will take the extra money Google made and hand it to the artists who made those works.

Here's how that's likely to work: The entertainment industry will get a little extra money from the use of the filters and will pass little or none of that money on to artists. Then, because YouTube is so critical to the entertainment industry's ability to reach its audience, the gains will taper and end, because YouTube will still control that market and Big Content needs YouTube more than YouTube needs Big Content.

What if we did it a different way? What if we extended the blanket licenses used for recording covers, playing music on the radio and in public halls, and cable TV, to cover YouTube? Then we could set a rate that the entertainment industry and the artists' lobbies agreed was fair, and mandate that a certain percentage of that money had to go to the artists.

Then, instead of YouTube's competitors being killed by a filtering mandate that only YouTube could afford, cementing Google's dominance and its negotiating leverage, we'd create a level playing field where small competitors to Google could access exactly the same catalog of works, and only pay out a proportional share of the licensing fees (companies with 1% of the reach of Google would pay 1% of the licensing fees), which would rise as they grew.

That way, we'd punish Google for underpaying artists, rather than rewarding Google with a relatively cheap Perpetual Internet Domination license that would break the internet.

That way, we'd pay artists a fair rate for their work, rather than giving money to the entertainment monopolists that control their rights and praying that they decide to share with the artists that they've exploited for a century.

But YouTube's CEO says she likes filters!

Yes, it seems she does. After lobbying like crazy against Article 13, Google has changed tactics and decided that they want filters, because they already have ContentID for YouTube and can afford to pay to expand it across all their platforms. (Remember, it was Google that suggested ContentID to Europe as a model for enforcement when the Copyright Directive was just getting started.)

Like every monopolist, Google's first preference was always going to be no regulation; but their second preference was also always going to be lots of regulation, provided that they could afford the regulatory costs and no one who might challenge them could.

Even if you think YouTube has been drastically underpaying artists, letting them buy perpetual Internet domination for the price of some big filters is a bad way to fix this.

Instead of breaking the Internet, let's fix copyright: let's come up with rules that reduce monopoly power, increase competition and puts money in the pockets of artists. If we want Google to pay creators more, let's just make Google pay creators more and skip the censorware.

Article 13: If You Want To Force Google to Pay Artists More, Force Google to Pay Artists More
[Cory Doctorow/EFF Deeplinks]