Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney and Kings of Leon are among the 160 artists and record labels that signed a petition calling for a reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
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The petition, organized by music manager Irving Azoff, contends that YouTube provided a "safe harbor" for copyright infringement under the current writing of the DMCA, which was enacted in 1998 before the advent of the video streaming service, Billboard reports.
The petition, which will publish in issues of Politico, The Hill and other Washington D.C.-based publications throughout the week, argues that the DMCA "has allowed major tech companies to grow and generate huge profits by creating ease of use for consumers to carry almost every recorded song in history in their pocket via a smartphone, while songwriters' and artists' earnings continue to diminish."
Major labels have aligned with streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal in the past. But a potential war is brewing between the labels and YouTube; Universal's contract with YouTube has already expired, although that label's artists remain on the service while a new deal is negotiated. However, the major labels have stated that the DMCA has provided YouTube with unfair and unexpected leverage during negotiations.
Since the DMCA was drafted in 1998, there was no way it could have predicted YouTube's impact on the music industry, and therefore a "sensible reform that balances the interests of creators with the interests of the companies who exploit music for their financial enrichment" is needed, the petition states. The DMCA was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton in an effort to update copyright law for the digital age, but technology has since usurped the law's effectiveness.
In April, a similar petition calling for DMCA reforms was published, but since then, some more major acts have lent their name to the cause.
The battle against the DMCA and YouTube is being fought on multiple fronts, as recently Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor criticized YouTube's "very disingenuous" business model. "It is built on the backs of free, stolen content and that's how they got that big," Reznor, in the capacity of chief creative officer of Apple Music, said. "I think any free-tiered service is not fair. It's making their numbers and getting them a big IPO and it is built on the back of my work and that of my peers. That's how I feel about it. Strongly. We're trying to build a platform that provides an alternative — where you can get paid and an artist can control where their [content] goes."
In a statement, a rep for YouTube responded: "The overwhelming majority of labels and publishers have licensing agreements in place with YouTube to leave fan videos up on the platform and earn revenue from them. Today the revenue from fan uploaded content accounts for roughly 50 percent of the music industry's YouTube revenue. Any assertion that this content is largely unlicensed is false."