The Google Campaign to Scare Musicians

The #SaveTheInternet video

The Google Campaign to Scare Musicians

'Organic' search on Google still bringing up YouTube's #SaveYourInternet video from last November.

Over the last week, Google and its subsidiary YouTube have been continuing a major online campaign against the new EU Copyright Directive.

The new legislation, as The Journal of Music reported last September, places responsibility on digital platforms to ensure that they have agreements with rightsholders for music on their sites. This will have significant financial implications for the tech companies, but they have been claiming that the new legislation will damage musicians and artists.

As part of their campaign, Google’s YouTube this week posted to its 71 million Twitter followers an image that attempts to show ‘what YouTube would look like’ if the EU’s Article 13 is implemented.


 The mock-up image YouTube and Google have been promoting on Twitter this week.

The image shows the YouTube homepage with 18 videos, 14 of which have been blacked out. YouTube claims that the new legislation will mean it cannot show certain videos, although YouTube already has a sophisticated Content ID system and a music database that it uses to analyse content before it is published – and it still allows videos that infringe copyright on its website.

The new EU legislation will mean the company can only publish material for which it has permission. This will put artists and creators in a stronger negotiating position because their content is key to YouTube’s free-content/paid-ads business model.

Tech campaigning
Google and YouTube are not the only companies campaigning against the legislation. The Internet Society in the United States, which has received significant funding from Google for its work, and has partnerships with Facebook too, is also running a major Google ads campaign against the Directive.

As well as the Twitter and Google Ad campaigns, Google’s search results for the phrase ‘Article 13’ – in contrast to search engines such as DuckDuckGo – are generally returning articles and videos that are opposed to Article 13 on the first page, including YouTube’s own #SaveYourInternet video. This video, which dates from 16 November 2018 but still regularly appears on the first or second page of Google results, claims that Article 13 ‘threatens hundreds of thousands of creators, artists and others employed in the creative economy.’

No link to any European Parliament page related to the proposed text, for example this Q&A, or any article with an opposing argument, appears on the first page of Google’s search results.

Empty shell
On Monday 21 January, a meeting to finalise the text of the EU Copyright Directive was called off because EU members could not agree on proposed amendments regarding small and micro enterprises. A press spokesperson for the European Parliament told
The Journal of Music that, given the European Parliament elections are in May, there is a significant possibility that the legislation will not be adopted before then, or that Article 13 will be left out, which would ‘make an empty shell of [the legislation].’  

Published on 22 January 2019

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