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The latest rumour on the E-commerce directive  is that there will be a consultation announced this month on the implementation of it in the Member States. And there are lobbyists, notably those who represent the rights-holders, who have been pushing for a review and can be guaranteed to pile in with their demands.


One fundamental  issue for whoever takes on this thorny review, is the status of webhosting companies. In a recent conversation with one of those said lobbyists,  it became clear how certain media companies  perceive YouTube as a

double threat to their business. Double, because  it is getting the  advertising revenue that they are losing; and they are not getting the syndication payments either. 


In this scenario, the rights-holders can be expected to push for a review of the status of web hosting companies, in respect of their liability for content - because YouTube - a content platform -  is classed as a web host or, to use the French term ‘herbergeurs'.


The danger for politicians and lobbyists who are not so conversant with the Internet at a technical level, is that they could make a very bad decision here, through sheer ignorance.


It will be very important, in any policy decision, to make a distinction between the likes of You Tube (the  very large user generated content sites)  versus the  web hosting companies (which provide server space for websites).


The point is that You Tube is actually classed as a web platform. It provides a facility for people to put up whatever content they like, on a page which they are allocated.It earns money from indirect sources like advertising, and the users do not pay either for the facilities or for viewing. 


The  web hosting companies offer services  for websites.  These services include server space, facilities  and bandwidth, and may also include web programming, design and administration. These services are paid for directly by their customers. Web host companies  are responsible for ensuring the security of the server and the network connection. But they cannot be made liable for the content on the web sites to whom they provide a service. If that were to happen, many would go out of business, because the liabilty overhead would be too high. Many are SMEs and even sole traders (such as the company which hosts And it would be harder for start up companies and individuals wanting to put up websites.


The argument between YouTube and the rights-holders is a commercial one, and they are all big enough companies to be able to work through the legal tussle and come up with a commercial solution. It would be absolutely wrong for this to be taken into the political arena, and for the web hosting community to be swept up it, which would only be to its detriment.


The compromise might be to re-classify the large UGC sites.


Otherwise,  it does occur to me, that this  could just be straw that broke the web.



Original reporting by! 




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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

Don't miss Iptegrity!  RSS/ Bookmark is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is a policy analyst specialising in Internet governance & European policy, including platform accountability. She is a published author & Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet Freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. In a voluntary capacity, she has led UK citizen delegations to the European Parliament. She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012.

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