DMCA is a Gift to Artists. Really?

Despite the outcry over incredibly small royalty payments from streaming services, or openly criticized reports about the inability to fully take down all pirated or unauthorized links to songs or videos, Digital Music News says the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a gift to artists.

What the what?!

In the 21st century, many artists are getting their start online thanks to YouTube, Spotify, iTunes and other websites. The digital world is a nifty and fast way to get exposure and with a lower cost of entry than other methods, including fronting the cash to record a demo and then shopping it around to studios or playing endlessly in the hopes of getting discovered.  More artists are getting an increasing share of their revenue from digital services.

But there’s been so much talk lately about the pitfalls and shortcomings of the DMCA, from complaints about musicians losing big wads of cash from streaming services to the oddball situation revealed over the weekend in which Warner Brothers sent a takedown notice to its own websites.

“The reality is, via the internet, Silicon Valley has built the recording industry a vast and powerful new global platform for content distribution and monetization—all for free,” writes Digital Music News’ Gary Shapiro. Independent music has thrived as a result of the DMCA.”

The DMCA was passed unanimously by Congress in 1998 and “was carefully written to strike a balance between protecting copyrights and providing consumers access to digital content across a variety of platforms,” he continues. “This balance is enshrined by an idea known as a ‘safe harbor,’ which says that if an online platform is responsible and removes user-generated content, after being notified by a rights holder that it infringes copyright, the platform is protected.” There’s your takedown notices.

YouTube has paid artists more than $3 billion, half of which came from user-generated content, and YouTube’s ContentID helps to identify pirated content to remove it. Shapiro says this is proof that the DMCA is an effective tool that has helped create new opportunities for musicians. Others have said Google “greenwashed” the report and the numbers only reflect a small portion of the amount of pirated copy on YouTube.

He compares a new push for “take down, stay down” notices, requiring content believed to be pirated or illegally posted to be removed permanently and blocked from searches, to the 2012 Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which was strongly opposed by many creative content producers. “SOPA was handily defeated in Congress after a mainstream and grass-roots internet uprising against the damage it would cause. It’s surprising that the RIAA would advocate for this concept again, given that it would stifle online innovation and creativity.”

The DMCA, by the way, was strongly supported by RIAA at the beginning.

Shapiro makes some interesting arguments. Read the rest here.


Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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