YouTube slammed by music industry veteran Azoff in copyright tiff

Call it Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, streaming edition: YouTube Red is in a war of words with another giant, the music industry, over the continuing issue of copyright-violating uploads of music on the OTT service.

In the latest swing, YouTube Red is being criticized by music industry veteran Irving Azoff, who says that the Google (NASDAQ: GOOG)-owned SVOD component has the ability to put its own original content behind the $9.99 monthly paywall, but doesn't extend the same ability to musicians. Instead, their content is being illegally uploaded and shared by YouTube users, Azoff claims.

"YouTube has created original programming. Those programs sit behind a 'paid wall' and are not accessible for free unless YouTube decides to make them available that way. … But the same does not apply to music," said Azoff, an artists' manager who has represented several musicians and groups from Van Halen to Christina Aguilera, in an open letter to the OTT service. Azoff is also a former chairman and CEO of Ticketmaster.

Azoff suggested that musicians should be able to control how their music is uploaded and streamed across YouTube's platforms just as easily as YouTube controls its own original video content.

The letter is the latest shot in an escalating feud between music industry representatives, including individual artists, and YouTube over how the streaming video service deals with copyright violations -- or doesn't deal with them, according to Azoff.

"Labels can take the deals you offer or engage in an impossible, expensive game of 'whack a mole,' while the music they control is still being exploited without any compensation," Azoff continued.

The industry veteran's missive was in response to a blog post by YouTube last week, itself a defense against the accusations leveled by other spokespersons for the music industry that it is not doing enough. YouTube said the accusations that it is allowing a flood of unlicensed music onto its streaming platform are "surprising."

"The truth is that YouTube takes copyright management extremely seriously and we work to ensure rightsholders make money no matter who uploads their music," said Christophe Muller, head of YouTube international music partnerships, in the post.

Muller noted that music is "core to YouTube" and that Content ID, the automated system that detects copyright-violating content and implements a solution, works well. "Only 0.5 percent of all music claims are issued manually; we handle the remaining 99.5 percent with 99.7 percent accuracy," he said. Further, YouTube has paid out over $3 billion to the music industry so far via the model, he said.

YouTube also launched a custom Music app and the YouTube Red SVOD service -- which allows creators to place all their content behind a paywall as one option.

Don't expect this latest back and forth to die down anytime soon: Azoff said the despite the music industry traditionally being fragmented, "on this we are united."

For more:
- see this Recode article
- see this YouTube blog post

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