I HAVE just spent a fascinating five minutes watching the Young Fathers online video Holy Ghost, the one where the guy is having a piss on a bleak Scottish hillside. As the tracks raps its surreal path through smelling salts in the South Pacific, online ads popped up – one for hearing aids, another for outdoor garden-lighting and another for Farrow and Ball paint.

Ok I get the message I’m an ageing man with bourgeois tastes in interior design, but surely in a free world I should be allowed to listen to cutting-edge Scottish music without being interrupted by posh paint adverts.

Well no, actually – it’s not a free world. We pay for all this content through advertising, whether we like it or not.

Most of us watch YouTube videos on a daily basis, sometimes without even knowing it. Those daft, infernal and sometimes illuminating short videos pop up in our social feed frequently, whether you roll out the welcome mat or not.

YouTube isn’t going away any time soon but it is under duress and we may be on the cusp of a new era which will challenge its dominance in social video and force it to take greater care over the thorny issue of search advertising and copyright.

I admit that I’m conflicted and can change my mind on this issue depending on what I’m doing or who I’m with.

It’s a selfish admission, but when I’m listening to music and catching up with some long lost track, I’m glad someone has taken the time to upload it to YouTube. Then when I bump into a friend whose livelihood hinges on their music, I back into reverse gear and take the opposite view.

Two-faced? You better believe it. YouTube is either a curse or a carnival depending on who you are talking to.

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In last year’s accounts, music labels brought in revenues of £870 million from all its main income streams, the back catalogue of major artists, new consumers discovering tracks on the back of movies such as the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody and from streaming sources like Spotify and Apple music.

A paltry £39 million of that money comes from YouTube plays, less than half the amount of money that the industry generates from vinyl – the neo-retro format that was once deemed dead, but has been resurrected by a unlikely coalition of young and old.

The record industry is understandably enraged by the poor sales, given that YouTube’s owners Google have the algorithmic power to push their videos to the very top of search pages.

Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour Party and a keen analyst of digital media, channelled traditional left-wing political ideals when he spoke out in favour of musicians.

“We have got to secure for the workers ... the full fruits of their industry. Google are trying to prevent that from happening”, Watson argued, using language that would make Jeremy Corbyn semi-erect.

YouTube have been caught in the middle of an almighty row with musicians. Trade bodies assume that about 30 billion music videos are streamed annually in the UK but that YouTube only passes on a fraction of the advertising revenues it generates to musicians.

It’s either a handy service to enjoy music or a leech that profits on the back of creativity.

Timing is crucial too. The music industry is in the midst of disruptive change. Last year streaming income rose 32.8% to £516m whilst sales of CDs plummeted by 28.4% to only £176m.

It is a far cry from 1985, when Dire Strait’s Brothers in Arms was one of the first CDs to be marketed. Now a format that was once thought to be space-age is in perilous decline.

You will not be surprised to know that there is a further complication – where does the money actually go?

Record companies are fixated with back catalogue and with mainstream pop artists such as Dua Lipa and Paloma Faith and so that’s where the lion’s share of copyright money flows. The fruits of musical labour tend to hang on very high trees.

The National: Pop music superstar Dua LipaPop music superstar Dua Lipa

It remains a very cold climate if you are a new band, an emergent songwriter or even an established artist who for whatever reason is not part of the golden triangle of modern pop success. It’s even colder if you happen to be an author trying to make spoken word books or podcasts work commercially.

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THE BBC recently announced an expansion of the Sounds app which delivers podcasts and sound streams to users. As part of their plans, they have withdrawn BBC content from Google’s podcast app and from Apple and Spotify.

The BBC believes that the big music and sound streaming services do not reward partners by sharing data or returning revenues and that content paid for by the licence fee is being short-changed.

Copyright is not a simple issue and you will not be surprised to know that Brexit will only confuse it.

The EU’s much-derided Copyright Directive is rumbling into legislation dodging bricks and backlashes as it goes.

The directive still requires final approval by the member states who will then have up to 24 months to introduce new copyright laws into their own countries.

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To say it has been an epic battle to get to this stage would be a thundering understatement.

This has been one of the most disputed laws ever in Europe. Although both the Conservative and the Labour Party both largely supported the directive we may be out of Europe before it becomes law.

The new directive puts pressure on YouTube to strengthen its “uploading filters” to ensure that people who post videos have the right to do so.

Despite an expensive and sometimes disguised lobbying campaign by Google the pressure to put in much stricter checks remains.

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Paul McCartney is one of the musicians who has been at the forefront of the demand for change arguing that there is a “value gap” between what YouTube earns and what it pays out to musicians.

In his letter to the EU McCartney wrote: “Unfortunately, the value gap jeopardizes the music ecosystem.

‘‘We need an internet that is fair and sustainable for all. But today some user upload content platforms refuse to compensate artists and all music creators fairly for their work, while they exploit it for their own profit.”

Google have argued that the directive’s Article 13 covering online sharing services “will change the web as we know it” and that over-control of uploads will destroy the world of memes, video game play-throughs, video essays and film reviews.

The onus will be on YouTube to gain a “blanket agreement licence”, something similar to what the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are required to do, or to pay copyright holders on a case-by-case basis.

It is an obligation they will almost certainly resist and court cases will rumble on into the future.

There is one shaft of light for those cynics among us that value the weird outlying edges of the web.

The EU directive protects “parody”, a welcome relief to those online warriors that like to make mocking Hitler videos or parodies of David Mundell chewing his beard.

Relax, you guys are protected, but spare a thought for the singer down the street that’s trying to pay the bills.

The US corporations that control online video-sharing don’t care but will happily skim fast-bucks from advertising on the back your songs.

YouTube sucks and I need to stop letting it into my life.