Musicians Sign Petition Calling for Copyright Reform

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on June 21, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It can be difficult to feel the pain of the world's wealthiest performers as they complain about YouTube, a video-streaming platform musicians say is built on stolen content. But artists are banding together against YouTube, signing a petition which they are publishing in major Washington, D.C. publications this week, calling the platform a haven for copyright infringement.

Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, U2, and other bands and musicians who already made a ton of money, signed the petition to show support for reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The musicians blame tech companies for their dwindling profits, saying that the corporations create tools that enable them to generate profits from the work of artists while musician incomes are decreasing.

According to the Daily Mail, the petition will be published in major Washington, D.C. publications this week and is targeted at policy and government types. The musicians say that the DMCA needs to be revised because it was enacted in 1998 before video streaming services like YouTube existed. This is not the first time that musicians have circulated and published this petition but apparently heavy hitters from the music industry have joined in recent months.

The man driving the effort is Irving Azoff, a music manager who says that his clients are losing a lot of money. "I had one artist who was making $450,000 a year between all of his royalties," Azoff said, explaining the situation during his keynote address at the National Music Publishers' Association earlier this month. "Now after the digital revolution, he is down to making $40,000 a year." Azoff asked, "How many tens of thousands of people in the music industry have to lose their jobs?'"

Digital Revolution

Certainly musicians are not the only ones sad about jobs in a world changed by technology. The impact of tech on all kinds of production has been mixed, and few artists of any kind would say it's been exclusively positive .

For Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame, however, YouTube is downright offensive. He told Billboard magazine in an interview, "I find YouTube's business to be very disingenuous. It is built on the backs of free, stolen content and that's how they got that big." But it should be noted that Reznor is Chief Creative Officer at Apple Music and he also criticized Apple's competitor Spotify, saying, "I think any free-tiered service is not fair ...That's how I feel about it. Strongly."

The truth is that there is no way to turn back time, unstream the songs that were never paid for, and undo the influence of YouTube and other services that musicians say undermine their earnings. But the artists do seem to have a point about the law: 1998 does seem very dated for legislation meant to address a bunch of tech that was invented after its passage, so maybe the DMCA could use a tune-up, just like the musicians are saying.

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