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How Does the European Copyright Directive Affect You?

The European Copyright Directive is facing strong opposition from YouTube. But it is the best way of making sure musicians and creators are paid for the work they do.

Published: 13 December 2018 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:29 PM

The European Copyright Directive is facing strong opposition from YouTube. But it is the best way of making sure musicians and creators are paid for the work they do.

You’ve been asking us via Musicians’ Union (MU) social media channels and our network of Regional Offices what it all means.

So, here is a rundown of what the European Copyright Directive is, what it means for you, why YouTube doesn’t like it, and how to protect your rights.

The European Copyright Directive

Earlier this year, the European Parliament passed a new European Copyright Directive with 438 votes in favour.

The goal is to strengthen musicians’ and creators’ rights in relation to use of their work on digital platforms.

Right now:

  • One million streams on YouTube generates as little as £540 for the artist
  • YouTube pays creators a tiny £0.00054p per stream of music
  • 85% of YouTube’s visitors come to the site for music
  • YouTube accounts for 84% of video streaming services
  • At least £2.33 billion of YouTube’s revenue was generated by music in 2017

Our hope is that the European Copyright Directive will mean you get paid when your work is used on YouTube - like you would be paid if your music was on a streaming platform, on the radio or used in a TV show.

What is Article 13?

There are four articles that are relevant for musicians. The most “controversial” is Article 13, which is about protecting your copyright as a creator.

It means if you hold the rights and can prove you own a piece of content, and if you haven’t licensed it for use, then that content would not be allowed to be made available via platforms such as YouTube.

Ultimately it is about where you consent for your work to be used and under what terms you give your consent.

Remixes are safe, because services are already licensed for remixes. Mash-ups are safe, because they are covered by existing exceptions to copyright. Memes are safe, because there are already copyright exceptions for things like parody, caricature, humour and comment.

Privacy is also safe, because of GDPR.

As are blogs like Wikipedia - these are all protected under existing rules that will remain the same after the European Copyright Directive comes into effect.

YouTube doesn’t like it

YouTube doesn’t want the European Copyright Directive to be properly implemented because it would cost the company money.

So they are actively lobbying Members of Parliament and Members of the European Parliament to try and stop it.

They have also been calling Article 13 “censorship” to rally their bases against it. But it isn't censorship – it's paying people for the work they do, and ensuring musicians and other creative people like you can continue to do what you do. The technology in question does not block content it doesn’t recognise anyway.


YouTube is owned by Google. Google is currently worth over $120 billion. It’s worth more than the Croatian economy.

Google is owned by Alphabet. Alphabet is currently worth over $800 billion. It is expected that Alphabet will become a trillion dollar company, like Amazon, very soon. That would make it worth more than the economy of South Africa.

They can afford to pay you for the right to use your work for their own profit.

That is all we want to do - make sure you, the musician, get paid for the work you do.

Just because a company is big should not mean they get away with it.

Get involved

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