Like a couple of 5-year-olds kicking and scratching in the playground, YouTube is set to block music videos from UK users over a spat with a rights body. In a dispute with the UK Performing Rights Society (PRS), which licenses music on behalf of artists for performance in bars, clubs and other public places, the site is considering blocking official videos uploaded by record companies.
YouTube has complained about "prohibitive licensing fees and lack of transparency," with the PRS reportedly asking the video site "to pay many, many times more for our licence than before." The PRS snipes back that YouTube's owner Google simply wants to "pay significantly less than at present to the writers of the music on which their service relies."
Now we're totally on board with the need to ensure musicians are compensated for their work. But it's shortsighted of the PRS to fail to reach an agreement with YouTube, which is in a position of strength because of, y'know, all the unofficial content on YouTube. Which is, y'know, most of it.
That's the elephant in the room: pull the official videos and you'll still have a Web site stuffed with unofficial uploads of every music video ever, because that's what YouTube is. Oh, not to mention the UK users who, whisper it, know how to get round regional blocking. The rights holders go back to chasing after every copyright infraction individually, users get poorly copied videos, and the PRS doesn't make a penny. Nice work guys!
The people behind YouTube claim to have "worked hard with rights-holders to generate significant online revenue for them and to respect copyright", which is awfully nice of them. Officially posted, decent-quality videos on YouTube are one of the precious few signs of digital maturity from the music industry, and now we as music fans are losing out again in a backwards step. It's ironic that this comes so soon after YouTube threw its toys out of the pram over Muziic, a piece of software that turned the site into a kind of radio station. The sooner that all involved realise this kind of regionalised arsing about is just a gigantic waste of everybody's time, the better.