ouTube announced in a July 14th blog post that they have collected over $2 billion in streaming revenue for rights owners using their rights management system Content ID, double what YouTube reported back in 2014.
For those unfamiliar with Content ID, the system uses audio files submitted to them by a partner (like TuneCore YouTube Sound Recording Revenue Service), and then detects those audio files on third-party videos uploaded to YouTube to monetize on behalf of the rights owner. In layman’s terms, if someone uses your song on a cat video that goes viral, you get paid for any money that the video makes as the rights owner of the music. It has been a lucrative service for many artists in the industry, with YouTube being one of the most popular methods with which to stream music.
“We take protecting creativity online seriously, and we’re doing more to help battle copyright-infringing activity than ever before,” Senior Policy Counsel for Google, Katie Oyama, said in the statement.
However, many songwriters and publishers on the other side of that $2 billion have a different perspective on YouTube’s news. Both labels and publishers alike have argued that Content ID fails to recognize as much as 40% of their music on third-party videos in YouTube. Additionally, while YouTube claims that 98% of the time rights owners prefer to monetize videos rather than take them down, representatives of the music industry believe that Content ID encourages YouTube piracy.
“Their pitch goes something like this: ‘Hey, advertising is good for you. Why not use Content ID to cash in on all the piracy by getting a share of revenue we can generate from ad placement?’ Well, they don’t call it piracy – but make no mistake, in the end, their whole scheme still depends on a culture of piracy,” said Maria Schneider in an op-ed for Music Technology Policy.
It’s hard to discern who’s really in the right with the Content ID debate, since rights owners are making a marginal streaming payout from each video play and, like any automated system, there will be hiccups based on similar sounding recordings, use of samples, etc. What’s clear is that YouTube is trying to make lemonade out of lemons for musicians who would otherwise be making nothing from these pirated videos. While it’s not an ideal situation for rights owners, one can hope it’s at least a step in the right direction as we learn to deal with the repercussions of the digital age in the music industry.