YouTube chief says EU copyright decision will hurt creative economy

Journalist Kate Bulkley (left) speaks with YouTube's Neal Mohan (right) on Friday, Sept. 14, during IBC in Amsterdam. (Ben Munson/FierceVideo)

AMSTERDAM—Neal Mohan, chief product officer at YouTube and senior vice president at Google, used part of his IBC keynote to express his dismay over the EU’s new copyright directive.

EU copyright rules have been under proposal for overhaul since 2016, but recent acts updated them to include making digital platforms like Google and Facebook pay news organizations for linking to their stories, and scanning all creator content for copyrighted material.

The copyright directive is about protecting copyrighted material, so why is it a bad thing, Mohan was asked by moderator Kate Bulkley. He said that the decision is disappointing on the surface but that it’s only been a few days.

“We think that it’s going to be something that will impact the entire creative economy,” Mohan said, referring not just to YouTube but also to the entire open internet.

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Mohan pointed toward investments YouTube has already made to protect copyrighted material, like the tens of millions the company spent to develop Content ID to let people manage rights and monetize. He said that through that program, many copyright claims are often left up and the holder decides to monetize instead.

YouTube has always had content guidelines, but they need to improve their methods for enforcing those guidelines, Mohan said. The company is using machine learning combined with human review to find and take down content that violates guidelines regarding violence, hate speech and spam.

While Mohan clearly outlined the importance of YouTube’s creator community, he was speaking to an audience of broadcasters and he was sure to give them their due for attracting and keeping users on the platform. He said that last year YouTube users watched the equivalent of 268,000 years of broadcast content from the European Broadcasting Union. Successes include “Britain’s Got Talent,” the Mr. Bean channel in partnership with Endemol Shine and BT Sport with the UEFA Champions League Final, which attracted more than 1 million livestreams.

But given YouTube’s rapidly growing viewership on TVs, could the service begin to eat broadcasters’ lunch? Mohan simply said that YouTube wants all of its content, including broadcast content, to be available everywhere. It’s not about the content but really about having a seamless experience based on users’ preferences, he said.