YouTube CEO calls EU’s proposed copyright regulation financially impossible

By Julia Alexander

Getty Images for WIRED25

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has once again decried the European Union’s proposed copyright directive, arguing in a new blog post that it’s impossible for a platform like YouTube to comply with the suggested regulations.

This is the second blog post Wojcicki has published on Article 13, a part of the copyright directive that calls for stricter copyright infringement enforcement that puts the responsibility on the platform instead of the user. This marks the first time the CEO has vehemently stated that YouTube does not have the technical or financial capabilities to enforce the kind of copyright restriction the European Union is seeking.

There are more than 400 hours of video uploaded every minute to the platform, and putting the onus of responsibility on platforms like YouTube to catch every video isn’t fair, according to Wojcicki. She used “Despacito,” the most watched video on YouTube, as an example of how complicated the process can become.

“This video contains multiple copyrights, ranging from sound recording to publishing rights,” Wojcicki wrote. “Although YouTube has agreements with multiple entities to license and pay for the video, some of the rights holders remain unknown. That uncertainty means we might have to block videos like this to avoid liability under article 13. Multiply that risk with the scale of YouTube, where more than 400 hours of video are uploaded every minute, and the potential liabilities could be so large that no company could take on such a financial risk.”

YouTube has gone on the offensive over the last month to garner support in opposing the EU’s copyright directive. The company’s creators account on Twitter has tweeted out multiple videos from creators condemning the directive, and a site dedicated to informing users about Article 13 launched last month.

It’s not just a campaign to appease creators, either. The company has released a number of updated statistics regarding its Content ID system, which pays copyright holders for their original work if used in another creator’s video.

“To date, we have used the system to pay rights holders more than €2.5B for third party use of their content,” Wojcicki wrote. “We believe Content ID provides the best solution for managing rights on a global scale.”

YouTube has invested more than $100 million into its Content ID system since it launched in October 2007. Wojcicki still sees it as the best way of tracking copyright infringement and ensuring that copyright owners are paid when their material is used.

“Platforms that follow these rules, and make a good effort to help rights holders identify their content, shouldn’t be held directly liable for every single piece of content that a user uploads,” Wojcicki wrote.

Wojcicki’s note also includes some information about YouTube viewing habits in Europe, acknowledging how restrictions imposed by a copyright directive that YouTube will have to enforce to protect itself could affect European users and creators.

“EU residents are at risk of being cut off from videos that, in just the last month, they viewed more than 90 billion times,” Wojcicki wrote. “Those videos come from around the world, including more than 35 million EU channels, and they include language classes and science tutorials as well as music videos.”

Although the EU’s copyright directive will affect creators and their ability to use copyrighted content — even under the Fair Use Act — YouTube’s primary concern seems to be the financial burden associated with complying. The European Union will have its final vote on whether to pass the copyright directive in January.