Samuel Jones largely lives off the money he makes from YouTube as a TV and film reviewer. “In terms of paying rent, buying food, buying cigarettes, it’s all YouTube money,” he said. While his channel’s co-creator Max Bardsley is in university, Jones works on “NitPix ” full-time. The U.K.-based pair also nurture a small fashion business on the side that mostly provides some spending change. Recently, Jones and Bardsley have been thinking about a backup plan. Like other content creators who have built brands and businesses on tech platforms like YouTube, they fear their livelihood and creative outlet could be threatened by a new copyright directive passed by the European Union in March.
Under the new rules, which member states have two years to formally write into law, tech platforms like YouTube could be held liable for hosting copyrighted content without the proper rights and licensing. That’s a big change from the status quo, which generally assumes platforms are not legally liable for their users’ uploads so long as they take down infringing content once flagged. But according to the directive, companies like YouTube can soon be held liable unless they can also prove they made “best efforts” to get authorization for the content and prevent it from being shared without rights in the first place.
YouTube and other tech platforms have argued that the only practical way to avoid liability will be to install even more restrictive content filters than the ones they currently have to prevent infringement. The EU directive does not require tech companies to do that and it makes exceptions for using copyrighted material in parody or commentary, as would be the case in Jones and Bardsley’s reviews. But experts say it will be difficult for platforms to create automated filters that can distinguish this context, at least at first. That could mean a channel like “NitPix” would have to avoid using any movie or TV clips in their reviews to ensure their videos upload to the site in a timely manner.