The music industry is brewing another epic battle against copyrights infringements. It all began with a few musicians including Katy Perry and Billy Joel and dozen other trade groups including the Recording Industry Association of America and American Federation of Musicians sending a petition to the U.S. Copyright Office. They called for an amendment to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998 (DMCA). Now, there’s a legion of musicians and creators who collaborated in sending an open letter to the Congress. The letter duly signed by stars like Christina Aguilera, The Band Perry, Jennifer Hudson, Elton John, Yoko Ono Lennon, Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift and U2 expressing a similar sentiment. They are of the opinion that the law “threatens the continued viability of songwriters and record artists to survive.” They also urge the lawmakers to update the DMCA to address issues they consider to be unlicensed copies of music on YouTube and other music sites.
The DMCA was put in force to protect digital works from infringement, while keeping a provision for "safe harbour” which protects Internet service providers and other web sites from copyright violations if they take down the reported content when notified of piracy. However, as YouTube has become the most widely used music hub, rapid takedown of any content has proven to be difficult. The Hilland Politico, one of Washington publications stated the artists claimed that "the law was written and passed in an era that is technologically out-of-date compared to the era in which we live. It 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."
Although the letter addressed the DMCA, certain indications focus on one big platform, YouTube. The man behind the letter and the representative of the group, is music tycoon Irving Azoff. Artists, composers and label companies are claiming that Google’s video site does not pay them enough in return for using their music, nor do they get to have a say in how their music will be used. In response, YouTube claims that they generate billions of dollars for their industry, while the pirate sites do the same without paying a dime.
Many believe all the commotion is just for a better negotiation deal by the music label companies to renew their licensing with YouTube.
Despite all the chaos and complain, the fact remains that all the signing artists including Taylor Swift, have had the greatest advantages from using YouTube. From growing a bigger fan base to selling more albums due to the worldwide marketing, to advertising, they have done it all. Last year, Swift refused to let Spotify play her new album for free while keeping her videos free on YouTube.
What has it really come down to is this, money. The artists feel like they are being cheated of the rights to their intellectual property. Yet, we hear an unending list of plagiarism cases against Ed Sheeran for copying off from other artists. Swift has been accused the same for her track “Shake it off”, Katy Perry for “Roar”, Pharrel for “Blurred Lines”, the list includes Coldplay, George Harrison, the Beatles, Jennifer Lopez and there are many more. Swift has been very vocal about her disapproval of streaming music services without sufficient payments. We can understand the sentiment about trying to protect your own musical works, but haven’t you heard the maxim that “He who comes into equity must come with clean hands.” Moreover, many people either don’t have access to mainstream music or can’t afford to subscribe to high end music sites, for them YouTube is an essential route to international music.
Last year she refused to let her album stream free to Apple Music, until they agreed to pay royalties. She said "Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing," she wrote at the time. "We don't ask you for free iPhones. Please don't ask us to provide you with our music for free."
All in all, everything comes down to the fact that musicians and label companies think that DMCA is allowing platforms like YouTube to host and stream their music without compensating them fairly. YouTube, in contrast, points out all the precautions it has taken to lessen use and distribution of unlicensed content, and locate the user’s identity as well. They also mention the amount of 3 billion dollars that has been paid out to the artists. Maybe it’s time Taylor should just shake it off and let it go or her own alleged case of plagiarism might just see the light of day again.