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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 iptegrity.com). 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 iptegrity.com!

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.  

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