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Warner extends its deal with YouTube

By | Published on Monday 8 May 2017

YouTube

Warner Music has extended its deal with YouTube, and is very excited about its new partnership with the Google video site. Though it’s mainly excited about the length of the new deal, and the fact that it’s not committed to anything for too long. So basically what the major is saying is “with this new deal in the bag, we can’t wait to start negotiating the next deal”. Such is the peculiarity of the music industry’s relationship with YouTube.

The mini-major’s CEO Steve Cooper last week wrote in a memo to staff, published by Variety, that: “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”.

He added: “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”.

Of course, while YouTube remains a key marketing platform for the music industry, and does generate some income via rights owners sharing in the ad revenue generated around their content, most labels and publishers are unhappy with their deals with the Google company and the royalties they earn from them.

The issue is that it’s hard for music companies to keep their songs and recordings off the user-upload platform, and those pesky safe harbour laws mean that the music industry hasn’t to date been able to shift responsibility for keeping unlicensed music off YouTube onto YouTube itself. This, the music industry argues, greatly weakens the negotiating hand of the rights owners, hence them only reluctantly doing licensing deals with the Google site.

Labels and publishers want copyright law rewritten, so that companies like YouTube no longer benefit from the safe harbour. Cooper’s memo continued: “Our fight to further improve compensation and control for our songwriters and artists continues to be hindered by the leverage that ‘safe harbour’ laws provide YouTube and other user-uploaded services. There’s no getting around the fact that, even if YouTube doesn’t have licences, our music will still be available but not monetised at all. Under those circumstances, there can be no free-market ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ negotiation”.

Warner was actually the first of the big music companies to license YouTube back in 2006, and it has top level content partner status, so that it can directly sell advertising on its own channels, as well as sharing in ad income YouTube sells around user-generated content containing its music. Sony and Universal enjoy similar content partner status, though often via Vevo, the online music video company they co-own.

Nevertheless, all the majors have become ever more critical of YouTube in recent years, making safe harbour reform their top lobbying priority. And that hasn’t changed since YouTube hired the record industry veteran who oversaw that first deal at Warner in 2006, Lyor Cohen, to be its Global Head Of Music.



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