Artistes call for major reforms of take down policies and the ‘largely useless’ DMCA

May 2016

Internet, artistes



Some 400 recording artists, songwriters and groups including the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) are calling on Congress to reform existing US copyright law saying that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is obsolete, dysfunctional and harmful,  and calling for stronger measures against the ongoing piracy troubles they face. The DCMA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998 and aimed to ready copyright law for the digital age. Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry, Steve Tyler, Lionel Richie and Garth Brooks are just some of music’s biggest names want to make it harder to pirate music online. The musicians are asking lawmakers to make “drastic reforms” to the Act.
“Artists spanning a variety of genres and generations are submitting comments to the federal government’s U.S. Copyright Office …. demanding reforms to the antiquated DMCA which forces creators to police the entire Internet for instances of theft, placing an undue burden on these artists and unfairly favoring technology companies and rogue pirate sites,” says a statement issued by the Recording Industry Association of America: Recording artistes including deadmau5, Tony Bennett, Pearl Jam and Bette Midler have filed petitions to the U.S. Copyright Office detailing their struggles with the “antiquated policies” and demanding reform to better “protect the future of the music industry, recording artists and songwriters,” according to a statement from the RIAA.


The filings include three letters — one from music managers, one from creators, and one from artists and songwriters — that ”detail how the out-dated DMCA and its faulty notice-and-takedown system allows some tech companies such as Google, YouTube, Tumblr, just to name a few, to build multi-billion dollar businesses off their content without compensation and drag down the value of their hard work into fractional digital pennies”,


In September 2015 Cary Sherman, the chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, has some choice words about the current state of US copyright law. He said that the provisions of the Act were ‘largely useless’ to combat music piracy and  that under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, rightsholders had to play a game of whack-a-mole with Internet companies to get them to remove infringing content. But that “never-ending game” has allowed piracy to run amok and has cheapened the legal demand for music. Sure, many Internet companies remove links under the DMCA’s “notice-and-takedown” regime. But the DMCA grants these companies, such as Google, a so-called “safe harbor”—meaning companies only have to remove infringing content upon notice from rightsholders.


Across the pond over the Easter weekend, the UK’s BPI issued its 200 millionth take down request to Google – every one, it says, targeting a searchable link which infringed on an owned copyright. As a result, BPI CEO Geoff Taylor publicly called on Google to change its infringement policy to ‘notice and stay down’; effectively ensuring that any infringing link removed from Google’s search results doesn’t then creep its way back online.


Google responded by telling MBW that it had already tweaked its algorithm to demote infringing sites, and that it had actually reviewed more than 80m links to pirated content in the past month alone. Google then added  “Search is not the primary problem – all traffic from major search engines accounts for less than 16% of traffic to sites like The Pirate Bay” prompting a clearly frustrated BPI to respond “It is disappointing that Google continues to downplay the role its search engine plays in guiding millions of consumers to illegal sites” and the BPI (and other music rights-holders) clearly now want the UK Government to take further action against Google if it continues to refuse to take more steps to help with their search takedown headache.


And an interesting take on the DMCA – and Google’s lobbying – on The Register here:
“Copyright owners (it’s hard to believe today) were once enormously powerful, while internet companies were fledglings. The balance struck allowed the ordinary Joe to remove material from intermediaries without having to consult a lawyer; a one-click, five-minute procedure.

Back then, there were no content ID robots to help automate the business of identifying material, and the burden of checking every envelope and package passing through the postal system would have been so onerous, nobody would have ever wanted to start a better post office.

But power has shifted radically over 20 years. The power now lies with the vast Silicon Valley plantation owners, who have aggregated wealth by ensuring you don’t have any control over your own digital goods.


It’s not surprising that this super-elite don’t want to hand anything resembling “ownership” back to us. Their fortunes have come from monetizing an individual’s work – amateur and professional – and selling ads against it. Whether it’s Instagram “monetizing” your photos, or Google “monetizing” music on YouTube, it’s a business that has worked at scale, and with the minimum of effort and engagement from Google or Facebook.”

And.. “Google’s strategy more closely resembles that vintage “business model”: the protection racket.”

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