Digital petition

Volume 120, No. 5May, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed many weaknesses in our social safety net and labor laws. The predicament of musical artists — the original gig workers — is particularly poignant. With live performance shut down, the vast majority of the music sector has lost the economic means for basic survival. Most, if not all, of the income forfeited is never coming back. Not long ago, many musicians, DJs, and sound performers could have made it through this period by relying on sales of recorded music. Today, online corporations –YouTube above all — have distorted that market by enabling near-limitless unauthorized distribution of recordings without the artists’ consent or compensation, while Google and Facebook profit from linking to such content.

Nearly half of the music listened to online is heard on YouTube, where third-party users can illegally upload copyrighted material with near impunity.

At the same time YouTube pockets ad revenue on this infringing content without any repercussion, because the Digital Millennium Copyright Act establishes “safe harbors” protecting corporations from lawsuits in the case of illegal activity by third-party users of their platforms. Ad revenue based on illegal uploads of musical artists’ content will continue through this extended period in which live music is entirely shut down.

In this moment of crisis, musical artists’ ongoing call for basic fairness in the digital marketplace takes on a new urgency.

In the name of economic justice for the creators of recorded musical products, we make the following demands:

  1. Immediate Disaster Relief Fund for Music Workers

We call on all major corporations profiting from the distribution of music to contribute 1 percent of their ad revenue during each month that live performance remains shut down into an emergency fund to be administered by artist relief organizations with long track records of assistance to performing artist communities, such as MusicCares, The Actors Fund, Sweet Relief, and The Jazz Foundation. We applaud both Sony and Netflix for already having donated $100 million each towards Covid-19 relief efforts.

  1. Reduce Copyright Infringement by Establishing “Standard Technical Measures”

We call on Google, YouTube, Facebook and other major online corporations, in coordination with a wide net of music industry organizations — including representatives of independent labels and content creators — to immediately establish and empower a working group tasked with examining steps, including standard technical measures, that could address infringement in order to create a more sustainable online music ecosystem that sustains culturally diverse production and promotes economic development and small and medium-size enterprises.

Many people across the world are turning to music to get through these unprecedented times. If we want the people who create that music to survive in this pandemic and the economic fallout that will follow, we need to fix an untenable situation: music workers need economic justice in the digital domain now.

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