400 Artists, Managers, Industry Organizations Band Together For DMCA Reform

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An unprecedented group of 18 music industry organizations, as well as 400 songwriters, artists, managers, and other industry personnel, have banded together to plea with the U.S. Copyright Office to reform the “safe harbor” provisions of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The music industry members have called it outdated, and stated that its “notice and takedown” system failed in its intent to promote healthier balance in online music market.

Under the DMCA, record labels and publishing companies are responsible for approaching website owner/operators to take down pirated music that they have illegally made available on their sites.

Cary Sherman

Cary Sherman

Cary Sherman, Chairman and CEO, RIAA, stated, “I don’t recall a time when the entire music community has united behind an issue like it has this one—speaking with a collective voice for reform of the DMCA. This outdated and dysfunctional law has hurt everyone involved in creating music, from the newest emerging artists and songwriters to the global superstars, from the smallest labels and publishers to the biggest majors. I hope this unprecedented coming together will encourage policymakers to take the steps necessary to update this law and ensure the creative future of music.”

According to MusicWeek, a sampling of those supporting the petition include: Scott Borchetta, Garth Brooks, Rosanne Cash,Emmylou Harris, Mick Fleetwood, Don Henley, Bryan Adams, Maroon 5, Pearl Jam, Rod Stewart, Pete Townshend, Irving Azoff, Jonathan Azu, Jon Landau, Larry Mestel, David Byrne, Elvis Costello, Sean Ono Lennon, Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt and John Zorn. Organizations like ASCAP, BMI, Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and SESAC have also supported the petition.

The DMCA was signed into law during the era of dial-up internet and static websites, a time before music streaming and downloads had such a dominant impact on the sale of music.

Richard James Burgess

Richard James Burgess

“The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was a boon to artists and labels alike when it was enacted in 1998,” said Richard James Burgess, CEO, American Association of Independent Music (A2IM). “Unfortunately the systematic abuse of law makes it necessary for it to be rebalanced to lift the insurmountably one-sided burden that currently falls on music creators and copyright owners. We will not have a healthy creative community as long as organizations and individuals are allowed to profit from the use of unlicensed music. The seriousness of this problem is emphasized by the unprecedentedly unified response from all sides of the creative and copyright communities.”

Some companies on the tech side of the situation oppose the joint brief. The Internet Association, which represents companies like Pandora, Spotify, Facebook, Amazon, Yahoo!, Google and Netflix, commented via its blog Tuesday, stating the DMCA is effective.

“The Digital Millennium Copyright Act creates safe harbors for Internet platforms by ensuring they will not be liable for what their users do, so long as the platforms act responsibly,” says the post. “These smart laws allow people to post content that they have created on platforms — such as videos, reviews, pictures, and text. In essence, this is what makes the Internet great.”

The petition noted, in regard to the Section 512 notice-and-takedown process, that music trade associations have sent notices of more than 280 million infringements to Google alone. “To get a sense of the scope of the problem, consider that since 2012, RIAA alone has noticed over 175 million infringements of music. In just the short period between the Grammy nominations (Dec. 7, 2015) and the Grammy awards (Feb. 16, 2016), nearly 4,000 unique infringing links were noticed to digital services for just the five nominated Record of the Year tracks.”

The petition also stated “that the notice-and-takedown process, as currently implemented by some providers, does not in any manner address the reappearance of infringing material previously removed by a provider in response to a notice.”

“At its worst, the DMCA safe harbors have become a business plan for profiting off of stolen content; at best, the system is a de facto government subsidy enriching some digital services at the expense of creators.” the petition states. ” This almost 20-year-old, 20th Century law should be updated.”

Organizations that signed the brief include: A2IM, American Federation of Musicians, ASCAP, Americana Music Association, BMI, Christian Music Trade Association, Church Music Publishers Association, Global Music Rights, The Latin Academy Of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc., Music Managers Forum—United States, Music Publishers Association, NSAI, National Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences, National Music Publishers’ Association, Recording Industry Association Of America, Rhythm And Blues Foundation, Screen Actors Guild—American Federation Of Television And Radio Artists, SESAC Holdings, Inc., and SoundExchange.

The full, 97-page joint brief can be read here.



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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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