Google isn’t just being a little bad in their contract negotiations with indie labels. In a leak to Digital Music News, it proves to be the worst contract I or anyone I’ve talked to has ever seen, for anything music-related. It puts the “boiler” in boilerplate.

F*&K It: Here’s the Entire YouTube Contract for Indies…

If this leaked contract is what Google still stands by, and current analysis in the music press is correct, the deal is deeply unsettling. It blurs the lines between free and premium services by placing them all under a single contract. YouTube and its Spotify rival would be under one deal. It sets rates independently for smaller labels based on a single, not-very-good fee. And then it protects Google from any action that would stop unauthorized or pirated uploads to their services.

I can sum it up roughly this way, unless I’ve seriously misread the terms and their intentions:

Sign this contract. It covers everything Google does – free (like YouTube) or otherwise. It lets us specify license terms and royalty rates, not you, and not any organisation that represents you. It gives us rights to all your music, and all your music videos, and everything else. It gives us rights to pirated music and videos other people upload, too. And you promise never to sue us.

(and another thing.) Sign it, or we’ll ban you from YouTube for your own content.

The key sections to watch out for: not only is there a “do not sue” covenant that prevents labels from protecting their own content, but it merges free services (apparently including YouTube) with the upcoming premium ones. At the very end, you’ll also find the royalty rates that had frustrated indies, which are reportedly lower than those they had gotten from other sources and lower than what majors had been offered. (The numbers are now out there for discussion.)

But the real surprise here is the lawsuit immunity provision. It’s easy to understand why Google would want it; it’s just that if they succeed in forcing labels to sign, it’s a fairly ugly development. It was already shocking enough that Google would hold hostage music uploaded by artists and labels to YouTube just to get preferential terms for the company on its premium service. It’s even more shocking that it would protect non-authorised, pirated content in the same contract, blurring premium and free services.

Or, as The Register more succinctly put it:

…the move will preserve Google’s illegal supply chain by cracking down on its legal supply chain.

Google’s proposed indie music-killing contract terms

Unless Google can explain otherwise, that is, the current understanding is that Google is threatening legal content that follows its terms of service, as part of a contract that would protect illegal content that violates it.

That’s a low not even the likes of Napster or Megaupload or Pirate Bay ever reached.

Google might not have to block labels and artists from YouTube. If this remains their negotiating contract with indies, those musical entities would be well advised to abandon Google’s services of their own accord.

And if this is all wrong, and this isn’t what Google is offering – or if it is, and they have a change of heart – the company needs to quickly get out in front of the music community and public with better terms.

  • Jim Aikin

    Apparently, their new motto is, “Don’t be human.” My experience with lawyers drafting contracts for their corporate clients is limited, but my strong impression is that the lawyer will draft the contract in such a way as to give his or her client (the corporation) the maximum possible protection. Fairness to the other party doesn’t enter into it — and collateral damage to the corporation’s broader interests doesn’t seem to enter into it either.

    The good news is, if indies and unsigned musicians stick together, this could be a business opportunity for someone new to enter the market with a streaming music video service. The bad news is, if that happens and the new entity is successful, before long they’ll have corporate lawyers (or will be bought by Google).

    • its about the eyeballs

      As far as the new streaming service goes, the problem is that youtube is the 2nd largest search engine worldwide. It doesn’t get any bigger than that in terms of audience. And without audience, your platform is not interesting for artists. The only thing that can beat it in my view is bandcamp, as long as they manage to stay independent and improve their visibility on the web (especially in search engines).

  • alex

    “Sign it, or we’ll ban you from YouTube for your own content.” <– I don't think this is accurate. I believe they are changing the way they monetize videos on YouTube as part of the contract so people that don't sign it can no longer monetize under the existing deal. They aren't proposing to remove videos as lots of people keep saying. ie. They're still going to offer everyone free video hosting.

    • Charles

      You need to read the article again.

    • Peter Kirn

      No, quite the reverse — this contract actually explains how it is that they’re promising to remove videos.

      Google has publicly said they will start blocking artists and labels who haven’t signed. See the previous story here, or for another source:

      At the time, they (rather inexplicably) said that they needed to consolidate YouTube videos under the same contract. With the contract terms out, it’s clear why: this contract covers YouTube, and gives Google what appears to be unlimited immunity from litigation on all content, whether artists or labels have uploaded it or not.

      So yes, Google is holding artist/label content from the likes of Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys hostage in order to force license terms that massively favor Google.

  • Beatbbeat

    – Google: “All your music are belong to us”

    – Artist: “What?!”

  • K

    And, just as that, their empire started to fall apart. Don’t be stupid, Google, you’re just riding a wave and people are starting to move away from it. Just as with Facebook and other over-night successes, this is only temporary. It’s only about the influencers and once they back away, once they join some clever developers, it will be a fast shut down and on with a new path. We don’t like monopole and we don’t like fascist behaviour. We are watching you.

    • K

      And BTW, this is a trillion times worse tha apple removing the minijack on their devices. I’m not a fan boy, but I think it’s fair to say that while apple wants your money, google is after your soul.

  • SomeDude

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again : Google is the most scary and most EVIL company in the face of the earth. The ideologies that are behind it are just freakish. Not content of just owning all your private life, and owning all your creative work, they’re in the process of owning your body too : have you heard of ? It’s a company that offers to analyze your DNA for a mere 99$ in exchange for a bit of your saliva. They have over half a million DNA profiles so far. Guess who owns it ? Google. Massive database cross-profiling everything going on in your brain ( thru your internet activity ) and everything going on in your body ( thru your DNA )

    I say Fuck you Google. Can’t wait for your demise.

    • rant

      Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google penned a book last year titled “The New Digital Age: Reshaping The Future Of People, Nations and Business”

      What gives anyone the right to reshape my future. Capitalism ( if it ever existed ) has been replaced with Corporatism. America is well on its way to be the new Brazil: massive inequality and a police state apparatus to contain the uneducated poor.

    • SomeDude

      from a 2010 interview with E.Schmidt :

      “”I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions,” he elaborates. “They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”

      That says it all. They see themselves as The Boss, and as they’re slowly compiling all your mental activity and your DNA, and creating a modelized representation of who you are, they are preparing you for your future slave condition in wich you will slip voluntarily.

      You know what .. I actually hope they will put their menace to execution and throw all indies out from YT. As an indie myself, I don’t want my music to be funding their future fascist plans. Nor will I ever use or buy any Google related product.
      Meanwhile, Vimeo will be my destination for everything else.

  • Charles

    Even more succinct summary: Fuck Google.

    • just passing

      In Corporate America, Google fuck you. And your spouse. And your offspring. And your pets. And demand you smile say “thank you” for privilege.

  • dulcett

    Fuck YouTube, just move all yr vids over to Vimeo and DON’T sign that contract! Problem solved.

  • heinrich zwahlen

    This is very the rubber hits the road and musicians will finally have to start to think a bit more about politics and the big historic picture within which music and art exists.

  • Andre Brown

    This fake “news” is a week old June 19th, Digital Music Trends!4aibt
    Google had its massive developers conference today, Google I/O (page views AdClick $$$) capitalize on Google hate or indifference by hard core OSX iOS musicians for (page views AdClick $$$) AdClick upper right corner.
    I must remember this site is a business not my advocate or friend, with no moral/ethical obligation.

    • just passing

      Hmm. Between this comment and DigitalDistributor’s, I don’t know whether to be amused that Google Astroturf is now a thing, or scared absolutely shiteless that Google have created Skynet and *not noticed*…

  • DigitalDistributor

    ” preserve Google’s illegal supply chain” – as u can read on page 15 pt. e on the leaked contract – you as right holder are free to sue people using your music in a non-legal way that is not included in the content_id mechanism (this mechanism matches legal delivered audio with user uploads.) of course you could claim content_id supports YT’s “illegal supply chain” – but if that’s the point never talk again about remixes, bootlegs and user generated content.

  • Dartanyan Brown

    “That’s a low not even the likes of Napster or Megaupload or Pirate Bay ever reached.”

    Just got back from a camping trip Humboldt Redwoods State Park, pristine…but this shit just blew my high….

    We’re talking about cultural respect here and obviously, those guys at Google (and Facebook, and too many others) have none. I’ve talked to programmers who HAD to have their music on while working but could never see the irony of their view that musicians should go away with their need to make money. Those same digital friends are more than ready to sue the pants off anyone who would dare steal their algorithms, right?

    We’ve been in this game a long time. Me since ’83 (Thanks Mr. Trammiel) and I’ve been creating/teaching/performing digital and analog music for awhile now. Still love it passionately.

    Thanks to Ted Nelson’s Xanadu project (on which I was an all-too-brief collaborator in the ’94 space) he envisioned an open internet where every node was co-equal and an “owner-defined value” for material linked to and downloaded was baked into the code from the ground up.

    Well, as we know now, that egalitarian system lost out to the clusterf#@k we now are being told to bend over and accept.

    Now, you know that Google (and the rest of the digital illuminati) don’t give a shit about you or your music. All information is just bits to them and now the digital revolution is heading to your doctors office, and (heh heh) an Internet of (hackable) Things. Indie artists (like me and many others) are less than gum on the bottom of their expensive shoes.

    Robert Levine, in his hard-to-read-but-deadly-accurate tome, Free Ride (How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, And How The Culture Business can Fight Back) he more than warned us in 2011, but heck, coming out of a major recession, we hoped for the best and uploaded our stuff to Google servers.

    A few points:

    1. Ask yourselves why Google even floats a shit deal like this knowing the probable firestorm? Arrogance? Political moxie? (who exactly are their ‘friends’ in congress?)

    2. Speaking of political moxie, Napster was clipped because of illegal uploading of copyrighted material. Google? They escape culpability and even expand on what Napster was knifed for. That, my friends is legislative/legal power.

    I’m struck at how these new ‘young titans’ of media seem to have even less respect for creators than their fathers or grandfathers.

    Early 20th century artists were recorded (but not compensated) by guys who could afford the latest recording technology to make money from “free talent” out in the hinterlands.

    Mid-20th century artists were exploited by mobsters who owned Jukeboxes and needed lots of music but felt compelled to write exploitive contracts that cheated the creators of some fine music.

    Napster begins the 21st century by ripping off musicians (again, in the name of selling a new wonder technology) and Google seems ready to deliver a coup de grace.

    Google’s play here seems to indicate that they’re betting that net neutrality is headed toward the null bucket of history and they want to be first to set the terms of the new reality.

    If we don’t retain a truly open web, their shitty little contract will actually will be the least of our problems. AFTER we secure the future of the open web, the next order of business is to make them understand that NO ONE gets to set the price for our work but the creators. Steve J set his price but at least there was some logic to his method.

    Now, If I choose to enter into a contract for some sort of hope of further fame or business, I realize I’ve got to “give to get”, but this idea that I have to accept your terms to become a serf on your google turf (=-) reminds me too much of the days when my ancestors were deemed to only be 3/5th of a person.

    If Google, or anyone else, thinks they’re going to put me in that sort of a box, I’ve got your algorithm right here.

    btw: I walk my talk. Digital since 1995 but nothing on YouTube! You can hear all you want at If you find me on YT it’s because someone uploaded it without my permission… closed.

    This may be the best non-oscillator topic of the year.

  • Dartanyan Brown
  • Tekknovator

    I shared this article as I heard the labels winge and I am always in favor of the underdogs. This, especially YouTip, looks tempting enough to stay with google though:

    Its kinda taking on the bandcamp way of working but with a streaming service as foundation.

  • Charles