YouTube users could soon find much less content available on the video-streaming platform once known for hosting anything and everything. A controversial copyright reform proposal in Europe — a bundle of legislation aimed at updating copyright law for the digital age called the Copyright Directive — was just approved by the European Parliament on Wednesday, meaning it now only has to pass one final vote before being signed into a law that would curtail user-generated platforms across the Internet.
While the Copyright Directive tackles publishing and licensing updates across a number of industries in Europe, one major provision within it called Article 13 forces social media platforms — like YouTube, Google and Facebook — to be responsible for unlicensed user-uploaded material. Under Article 13, these companies must take steps to stop users from sharing unlicensed copyrighted material and proactively detect copyright-infringing videos before they are available. For rights-holders, like artists and record labels, it’s great news (and more money). “This is a good sign for the creative industries in Europe,” parliamentary member Axel Voss, who has led the charge on Article 13, said in remarks following the vote.
Others see it in a much grimmer light. From the start, opponents of Article 13 have protested that it’d cripple user-driven creation — memes and remixes, for example — which has grown into its own dominating culture on the web. YouTube, where users upload around 400 hours of video content each minute, sure isn’t happy about potentially having to tighten its rules or more closely police its content. “Today’s outcome in the EU copyright debate is disappointing and we’re concerned about the impact on the creative economy across the Internet,” YouTube’s chief product officer Neal Mohan said in a tweet. YouTube and Google have yet to issue official comments.
Members of the European Parliament voted 438-226 in favor of the Copyright Directive on Wednesday, and the final vote will be conducted by individual EU member countries in January 2019.