YouTube CEO urges users to protest EU ‘meme ban’ legislation

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is encouraging her platform’s creators to protest a proposed EU copyright regulation that some worry will restrict user-created content.

Earlier today, she published an open letter to YouTube’s creators criticizing the EU’s copyright regulation directives, with specific focus on Article 13. This infamous proposal has become known in Europe as a “censorship machine” or “meme ban”.

Today, user content often consists of samples or a mix of pre-existing songs, pictures, or videos that would technically be considered copyright material.

In some countries, memes and parodies are differentiated from copyright violations and protected by legislation. However, upload filters usually cannot tell the difference between a copyright violation and a meme. Often, these filters block content that should be allowed. Hence the aforementioned nickname, “meme ban”. Since the legislation was first proposed, the “meme ban” has ironically become a source for hundreds of memes on social media.

According to Article 13, sites with large amounts of user generated content (i.e. Facebook, YouTube), will be liable for taking down any content on their platform that constitutes a copyright infringement. Wojcicki claims that this legislation will effectively “shut down the ability” of millions of YouTube users to upload their content. The CEO also expressed concerns that Article 13 would threaten “thousands of jobs”-I.e. those of European based YouTube content creators.

“This legislation poses a threat to both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world,” Wojcicki wrote.

Wojcicki warned that these objectives could “force platforms, like YouTube, to allow only content from a small number of large companies,” since it would become “too risky for platforms to host content from smaller original content creators, because the platforms would now be directly liable for that content.”

It’s unclear how the EU plans to enforce this legislation. The current proposal wouldn’t require sharing platforms to use upload filters. Some believe that YouTube’s current Content ID system, which scans videos after they’re uploaded, would be a sufficient filter to protect copyrighted content.

Wojcicki does not deny the importance of recognizing the rights of content creators, and cites YouTube’s Content ID system as a testament of this. However, she worries that the legislation will put YouTube’s entire “ecosystem at risk”.

The company wants to provide its input on the wording of the EU’s copyright legislation to insure its interests are protected. Wojcicki claims that YouTube is intent on working with the industry to find more suitable ways to respect the rights of copyright holders, before the official legislation is finalized by the end of 2018.

Internet companies such as Google, have often rallied their users to protest regulations that would harm their platform’s industry. In 2012, it succeeded in rallying thousands to object to the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act. Internet companies have similarly been supportive of pro-net neutrality rules. Large numbers of their user base have come to their support for regulations on broadband companies.

YouTube appears to be following a similar path. Wojcicki urged creators and the wider YouTube user community to protest against the legislation on social media, using the hashtag #SaveYourInternet.