YouTube is by far the most popular way to listen to music online in Malta, new research has found, as the EU prepares for a controversial digital copyright reform that could change the way the web works.

Research carried out by the Performing Rights Society for Songwriters and Composers, found that 85 per cent of people in Malta used YouTube to listen to music in the last three months.

By contrast, just 32 per cent of people had used Google Play, while even fewer, 28 per cent, had used Spotify. 

Over a quarter, 28 per cent, said they use the site exclusively to listen to their favourite tunes when online.

Local users estimate that 71 per cent of their daily “listening time” was spent on YouTube.

Read: Maltese student has over 50 million YouTube views

The study was conducted locally on behalf of PRS by Malta’s Bloom Research as the European Parliament debates proposed legislation to overhaul the way music is listened to and licensed online.

The landmark vote will be held on September 12 to reform EU copyright laws and redress what some European policy makers say is an imbalance in the online market.

The proposed changes would mean that platforms like YouTube would be liable for the use of copyright protected works on their site more than ever before.

They would have to obtain a license for the works they make available and loopholes allowing them to avoid doing so would be closed.

However, not everyone is behind the reform. Some internet pioneers, including the inventor of the world-wide-web Tim Berners-Lee, fear that the law could turn the internet into “a tool for surveillance and control”. 

READ: National Book Council bemoans EP's failed Copyright Directive vote

First proposed by the European commission back in 2016, the law attempts to update EU copyright laws to bring them in line with the demands of the 'age of Facebook and Google'.

Critics, however, fear the measures could stifle freedom of expression and hinder internet users’ ability to share digital content.

On the other hand, PRS said legal ambiguity allowed some online platforms – those hosting works uploaded by users, such as YouTube – to minimise or evade their responsibility and avoid paying royalties, or pay very little to music creators.

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