The music industry’s latest effort to fight piracy might very well turn into a 21st century milestone for the Western world. But despite all the headlines, it can still be difficult to put a finger on what this dispute is about. After all, it can be framed in so many different ways. It’s a push for copyright law reform in the United States and Europe by massive coalitions of musicians, managers, labels, and organizations. It’s the latest struggle by artists and creators to control their work, wresting it back from the users and platforms they consider exploitative. And in perhaps its most controversial form, it’s The Music Industry vs. YouTube.
This issue hit the public consciousness in an unprecedented way in late June, largely thanks to artists of varying genres and levels of prominence calling for legislative change. In America, 180 musicians, along with major labels and a variety of music organizations, petitioned Congress to reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was enacted in 1998. Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, U2, and Lady Gaga signed it and so did ZHU, Gallant, Krewella, and Troye Sivan. A little over a week later, a whopping 1,000 artists signed a letter to the president of the European Commission, asking that the EC clarify “safe harbor” laws that “are misapplied to corporations that distribute and monetise our works,” the letter reads.
This kind of mass mobilization came on the heels of well-publicized comments by frustrated artists (some more so than others), including Nikki Sixx, Blondie’s Debbie Harry, Nelly Furtado, Trent Reznor, and The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney. These musicians have become the public faces of an industry-wide movement that has been snowballing for months, starting with the US Copyright Office’s call for a round of public comments on the DMCA’s “safe harbor” laws for a study announced in December 2015. They collected 92,400 comments in four months, including filings by music industry figures determined to have their say.
Twenty music organizations, including the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, filed a joint comment as the “Music Community.” The three major labels – Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment – made their own filings. Separate comments also came from music managers, recording artists and songwriters, and a group of music creators led by T Bone Burnett. (Some prominent platforms that feature music and media uploaded by users – such as Google and SoundCloud – also filed comments.)
YouTube is really Google, and Google has more money than God, so good luck. There's plenty of content on YouTube that generates revenue. Music content should be removed unless it is of direct benefit to the artist who owns the recording. Paying royalties to a record company that inherited the rights to songs made thirty years ago is not exactly "artist friendly" either.
If you wrote the goddamned song, you should own the song. There's no reason why an album recorded in the late 1970s is still being used to generate revenue for a company that has found a way to avoid paying the artist who made the record a royalty. This is part of the mountain of bullshit, too. Not only is YouTube stealing from artists but so are the companies eager to make a quick deal with YouTube. Ownership belongs to the artist. There is no "record business" anymore, just conglomerates that ended up owning everything.
Break them up and distribute the rights and the revenue to the people who made the music in the first place.