The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

By Oscar Williams, August 16, 2016

Copyright is broke but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be fixed. Unless you consider the ‘fix’ is in. Let’s face it, the courts and the legislature have certainly played favorites lately. Corporations are people, anti-trust laws are bent it all kinds of ways, anybody the FBI has on the no-fly list can pick up an AK-47, and we clearly make laws that favor the rich and powerful over the common man and common sense. Take a look at our potential Presidential nominees and tell me we’re not in trouble.

In all this twisted mess we are also destroying our artists. Creating art may be just as fulfilling as it once was, but where artists once could make money copyrighting and selling their work, there is little protection these days offered by copyright. Artist’s work can be exploited without any compensation going to the creator. Google can scan books – any books – and make money as that database is searched, but they neither need permission nor do they need to pay for scanning any author’s work. YouTube can host and provide access to any song and performance that’s posted, and the performer and writer get no royalty.

What’s going on?? Why are companies like Alphabet and Amazon given such free reign? It all boils down to money and special interest politics. Sadly, those are the building blocks of our society, so I don’t think anything is going to change.

Even so, a bunch of artists and songwriters recently drafted a letter to Congress about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Idealism and hope must spring eternal. It is predictably naive and while it asks for change it doesn’t offer any solutions.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

As songwriters and artists who are a vital contributing force to the U.S. and to American exports around the world, we are writing to express our concern about the ability of the next generation of creators to earn a living. The existing laws threaten the continued viability of songwriters and recording artists to survive from the creation of music. Aspiring creators shouldn’t have to decide between making music and making a living. Please protect them.

One of the biggest problems confronting songwriters and recording artists today is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This law was written and passed in an era that is technologically out-of-date compared to the era in which we live.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 smart phone, while songwriters’ and artists’ earnings continue to diminish. Music consumption has skyrocketed, but the monies earned by individual writers and artists for that consumption has plummeted.

The DMCA simply doesn’t work. It’s impossible for tens of thousands of individual songwriters and artists to muster the resources necessary to comply with its application. The tech companies who benefit from the DMCA today were not the intended protectorates when it was signed into law nearly two decades ago. We ask you to enact sensible reform that balances the interests of creators with the interests of the companies who exploit music for their financial enrichment. It’s only then that consumers will truly benefit.

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