On copyright and upload filters

This might be my most controversial blog entry ever. Maybe you are one of the readers that will tell me that I have no idea of the modern internet. Let me start with a real case. Last year in Bellinzona I shot this press picture of the Swiss sprinter Mujinga Kambundji.

Mujinga Kambundji at Gala dei Castelli 2018 Bellinzona  July-18, 2018

Mujinga Kambundji at Gala dei Castelli 2018 Bellinzona July-18, 2018

I uploaded this picture to my agency, and one of our main clients, the Swiss Athletics Federation, used it for this article. The picture has never been sold to any other client. Recently, I met my picture again, namely, here:

Screenshot 2019-03-26 at 18.42.26

A YouTuber, called Nuffin’ Long Athletics, used it as cover photo for a video about Mujinga. I have no doubt that the video itself is a completely legal production. However, the use of the cover picture is illegal. It is my picture. I have never been contacted. Neither has my agency.

This is theft.

Today, the EU parliament passed a reform of the copyright legislation. This reform has been extremely controversial. Some of the main opponents were: Google (the owner of YouTube), a political party called the ‘Pirates’, many bloggers, YouTubers, etc.

The name of the political party is their program. Piracy is almost as old as the internet. Once, it almost destroyed the music industry. Since then, things have changed. Old players disappeard and were replaced by new players. One of the most important ones is

… YouTube.

To see this, go back to the case of my stolen picture. My interest would have been to sell to Nuffin’ Long Athletics. The reason? If I can’t cover my expenses, I have to stop my activities, sell my equipment, and do something else. Ask any artist, photographer, video producer, text author. They all have the same problem. Once the intellectual property is accessible, there is nothing that prevents pirates from copying it. This happens on each day, a million times. No wonder so many creative people change their jobs.

Who profits from piracy? To answer this, click on the video. YouTube starts with an advertising video and earns money (sometimes the YouTuber profits with a tiny amount, but Nuffin’ Long Athletics is too small; they get nothing). So the winner from the piracy is

… YouTube.

In theory, the law is on my side. However, will Nuffin’ Long Athletics respond to an invoice? Most likely not. Can I sue them? In theory, yes. Can I pay all the necessary legal fees from a damage payment? Obviously not. The economic value of an online picture is far too low. Can I sue Youtube? No. I have no contractual relationship with YouTube.

Let us come back to the EU copyright directive. The very controversial Article 13 (Article 17 in the revised version) states that that anyone sharing copyrighted content must get permission from rights owners (or at least have made the best possible effort to get permission). In particular it forces all online platforms like YouTube to police and prevent the uploading of copyrighted content, or make people seek the correct licenses to post that content. In plain words, YouTube will be held responsible.

What a game changer.

Obviously, YouTube doesn’t like this. Why? It’s expensive to improve their upload filters. Moreover, taking away illegal content from YouTube reduces revenue. Bloggers, YouTubers, and users of online platforms don’t like it either. Why? Users get less illegal content for free. They don’t care. And producers like Nuffin’ Long Athletics have to make sure they have proper licenses. This requires effort and costs money.

Now it’s your turn.

  • Feel free to explain why the EU is censoring Nuffin’ Long Athletics.  
  • Feel free to explain why the freedom of speech on the internet has died.

But please, answer these two questions and relate to my case. I’m not interested in Bla Bla on other things.