The Price of Closing the “Value Gap”: How the Music Industry Hacked EU Copyright Reform

Annemarie Bridy · 22 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. 323

Abstract

Sweeping changes are coming to copyright law in the European Union. Following four years of negotiations, the European Parliament in April 2019 approved the final text of the Digital Single Market (DSM) Directive. The new directive contains provisions for enhancing cross-border access to content available through digital subscription services, enabling new uses of copyrighted works for education and research, and, most controversially, “clarifying” the role of online services in the distribution of copyrighted works.

Article 17 of the DSM Directive is directed to the last of these goals. It was designed to address the so-called value gap—the music industry’s longstanding complaint that YouTube underpays music rights holders for streams of user-uploaded videos containing claimed copyrighted content. The text of the DSM Directive nowhere mentions YouTube, but anyone versed in the political economy of digital copyright knows that Article 17 was designed specifically to make YouTube pay. The important question in the wake of Article 17’s adoption is who else will pay—and in what ways