Warner Music Group has a signed a new deal with YouTube. It’s not happy about it.
Warner Music CEO Steve Cooper says his company has renewed a deal “under very difficult circumstances.” The new pact is a short-term deal which gives Google’s video site continued access to Warner’s official music videos from artists like Bruno Mars, as well as amateur videos that use Warner music.
But in a memo to his company, Cooper says Warner couldn’t get the deal it wants, because YouTube has the protection of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and other rules which give it substantial leeway when it comes to copyright claims.
“Our fight... continues to be hindered by the leverage that ‘safe harbor’ laws provide YouTube and other user-uploaded services,” Cooper wrote. “There’s no getting around the fact that, even if YouTube doesn’t have licenses, our music will still be available but not monetized at all. Under those circumstances, there can be no free-market ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ negotiation.”
Cooper’s complaint echoes those other music industry executives have made about YouTube for some time.
The labels also used to complain about other big music platforms, like Spotify and Pandora, but over the past few years they have become big fans of digital music streamers, which have become the music industry’s dominant revenue source.
Update: Here’s a comment from a YouTube rep. “After months of negotiations, we are pleased to say we’ve renewed our deal with Warner Music Group, Warner/Chappell and PEDL. This new deal continues to capitalize on the growth in advertising revenue we've paid to the music industry -- over a $1b paid out between November 2015 and December 2016 -- and is an important step to enabling the international expansion of our subscription service, YouTube Red.”
Last night YouTube showed off a new slate of programming to advertisers at its annual “Brandcast” presentation in New York. Warner Music announces its first quarter earnings on Monday.
Here’s Cooper’s full memo:
I wanted to let you all know that, following months of tough negotiations, we’ve extended our deals with YouTube, separately for music publishing and recorded music. On the publishing side, Warner/Chappell tirelessly championed songwriters’ rights, and equally, our recorded music team was relentless on behalf of our artists and our music. We secured the best possible deals under very difficult circumstances. Our new deals are also shorter than usual, giving us more options in the future.
Nevertheless, our fight to further improve compensation and control for our songwriters and artists continues to be hindered by the leverage that ‘safe harbor’ laws provide YouTube and other user-uploaded services. There’s no getting around the fact that, even if YouTube doesn’t have licenses, our music will still be available but not monetized at all. Under those circumstances, there can be no free-market ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ negotiation.
YouTube has a bigger audience than any other streaming service, which presents huge opportunities for the creative community, and we’re always hopeful about the future. But our experiences during these negotiations were proof positive of the acute need to clarify ‘safe harbor’ provisions under US and EU copyright legislation. That’s the only way to conclusively close the gap between the revenue YouTube generates and what songwriters, artists, publishers and labels make in return.
Our sustained investment in new music and the pace with which we embrace emerging technologies, is resulting in some promising growth. However, ‘safe harbor’ laws that don’t protect artists, songwriters and rights-holders remain the weak link in the music ecosystem. We’re now calling for change more loudly than ever.
In the meantime, we’re all focused on doing truly original, imaginative and exciting work across all platforms, in order to bring our artists and songwriters the biggest opportunities, both creative and commercial. It’s already been an incredible year, and there’s an outstanding array of new music still to come.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.