Artists. Stand Up for Your Work.
In the United States we have been without an effective anti-piracy law since 1998.
As a result of a loophole in Section 512 of the DMCA, the United States is essentially without an effective law to prosecute and close down ‘known’ pirate sites. Creators have been stripped of their right to limit who uses their work and in the process have lost billions of dollars in revenue and tens-of-thousands of careers. The fact that this law has been on the books for over fifteen years is tragic.
Enacted in 1998 the DMCA legislation was created to accommodate the tech industry concerned that frivolous and unwarranted copyright claims would impede start-up investment. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. As the result of an unintended loophole in the ‘takedown’ notification process the law actually penalizes copyright holders, denying them of their right to have their work permanently removed from infringing sites.
The petition asks Congress to add a ‘staydown’ provision that would require website owners to be responsible and accountable for blocking the specific content identified in the notification permanently from their websites. Without a ‘Staydown’ provision website operators can repeatedly repost copyrighted works without any legal consequences. Takedown alone grants infringing websites Safe Harbor protection from prosecution.
After two years of testimony and public hearings, the House Judiciary Committee is preparing to begin proposed revisions for copyright legislation. The outcome from these hearings will have a profound impact on musicians, songwriters, filmmakers, authors, photographers and all individuals who create professionally for a living.
Last September, I had the opportunity to meet with Chief Counsel Joe Keeley and Democratic Counsel Norberto Salinas of the House Judiciary Committee in Washington. We spoke exclusively about the Section 512, Takedown notification process and the need for revisions. They confirmed that Section 512 was under consideration. The recommendations presented at that meeting are contained in the petition that you are being asking to sign and support.
This past June I had the opportunity to speak with Congressman Jerrold Nadler D – N.Y., about revisions to Section 512. Representative Nadler chaired the subcommittee hearing on the DMCA and Section 512 back on March 13, 2014 (see video edit).
The Congressman is a member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee and is also a sponsor Fair Play, Fair Pay Act along with Representatives Marcia Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). The Fair Play, Fair Pay Act would end broadcast radio’s long history of playing sound recordings without paying performance royalties.
“For decades, music services have gotten away with building their business on the backs of hardworking musicians, paying unfair rates — and in the case of the $17.5-billion radio industry, paying nothing at all — for the music they use,” said Michael Huppe, president and CEO of SoundExchange, an independent nonprofit performance rights organization that collects and distributes digital performance royalties. Los Angeles Times.
Nadler had this to say at a music industry luncheon in Los Angeles, the day before the 2015 Grammy Awards:
When it comes to legislation, the issues are too important and the opposition too powerful for you to win as a divided community…….If the entertainment industry ( and artists ) are not united you will not be well represented or able to participate adequately in the discussions going on in the halls of Congress…….. These discussions are going to happen with or without you.
It doesn’t get any more direct, if you want to have impact get united and use that power to influence the decisions that will have a profound impact on your future earnings from work distributed on the Internet. If there were ever a time to actively support changes to legislation in support of artists and their work, that time is NOW.
If artists fail to act now even more of you may be forced to abandon your careers.
Since 2006 there have been bloggers actively advocating for artists’ rights and writing about the impact of online piracy on creators. Websites like Music Technology Policy, Vox Indie, The Trichordist and The Illusion Of More, among others, have been fighting to beat back those who would defend piracy and harass those creators who speak out in support of being able to remove their work, permanently, from infringing sites.
The bloggers supporting artists’ rights made a commitment to respond to the constant flow of misleading information that came out of Tech Dirt and the EFF. Their message was clear, “we’re done with letting you get away with half truths and outright lies.” After all, not so long ago, there were days when everyone who dared challenge “free file sharing” was attacked by a hostile mob. It was nasty, personal stuff; “Your music sucks, who would want to buy it anyway.”
But now, as a result of years of fighting back in the press, things have changed. There are fewer anonymous trolls on the prowl to defend piracy’s bad behavior and mount personal smear campaigns against artists.
A path has been cleared for artists to step forward and take back their careers by becoming outspoken advocates for laws that actually protect their work from predators. Piracy has cost the creative community dearly. No huge windfall from selling t-shirts or playing clubs, just soaring ticket prices for the few bands that can fill large halls.
The fans have gained nothing. Free recorded music has been replaced by expensive concert tickets. Before piracy you could buy the music and go to see a band for far less than you pay for concert tickets today. As a result of expensive tickets fewer bands are able to mount successful tours; marquis bands tour repeatedly in an effort to make up for the money they’ve lost from not being able to sell their music.
Piracy is a scam, it is only a profitable business model for the owners and operators of infringing websites.
Have you ever heard of any other industry where the workers were criticized because they wanted to get paid for their work? To absolve themselves from anything that might faintly resemble theft, they view P2P file sharing as some kind of peoples’ revolution. It was more like a lynch mob. They were entitled to take your work and artists had no say in the matter.
Turns out the real money has been redirected to the owners and investors in the distribution channel. If you look under the hood, tech is actually creating very little new wealth, they’re just moving what exists around…. and not in the direction of creators.
No question there is a generation that believes they are somehow entitled to your work for free and many will never waver in that belief. They don’t want to stop getting their music and movies without paying. But winning this battle was never about convincing someone to change, it was about having effective laws to protect our artists. Laws that make those who operate pirate sites responsible and accountable for their actions.
The most glaringly ineffective of those laws is the ‘takedown’ notification. Until we revise ‘takedown’ by adding a ‘staydown’ provision artists will never be able to control what happens to their work.
A little over a week ago a petition was introduced asking Congress to revise this law. A law that is ending the careers of not just musicians and songwriters, but filmmakers, authors, photographers and every creator whose work can be digitized and distributed over the internet.
We need your signature TODAY. We need you to talk to your friends and get their signatures. We need a lot of signatures. In the scheme of things we’re asking you to do very little. But if enough of you do we can make something positive happen. You can own your work, again.
For you to do nothing to protect your work would be the real tragedy.
It was inevitable that the Internet would change everything, but that doesn’t mean people working in tech can come in, unchallenged, and marginalize our rich heritage of art in America.
As a private citizen with no ties to the entertainment industry or industry trade groups, the opinions expressed here are my own.
Respectfully, William Buckley Jr., Founder / President FarePlay, Inc.