Copyright Protections and Intellectual Property

Amending the DMCA is vital for musicians, businesses and music fans worldwide

Volume 116, No. 9September, 2016

Christopher Carroll
Christopher Carroll

Christopher Carroll

Music and the arts are vital components of our society, able to bridge linguistic, economic and social divides. They comprise our cultural heritage, a culmination of our past and present, which becomes a gift for our future.

Today, our artists and musicians are struggling. Though they play an important role in our economic health and the vibrancy of our communities, musicians are finding it increasingly difficult to make a living and raise a family while doing what they were born to do – create art for all to enjoy.

While there are numerous reasons for this – including the unfair misclassification of musicians as independent contractors and the continued pressure to lower the wage floor for musicians across the country – current outdated legislation fails to provide musicians with the support necessary to protect themselves and their property, further questioning the viability of songwriters and recording artists to make a living.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a prime example of such legislation. Written in a bygone era, the technologically out-of-date DMCA allows large corporations to generate huge profits on the backs of musicians, who find themselves forced to utilize insufficient and onerous “notice and take down” provisions that inadequately protect their property even after content is requested to be removed. Meanwhile, “safe harbor” provisions in the DMCA limit the liability of major corporations and platforms for copyright infringement even when manipulation is obvious, providing additional protection for the companies that need it least.

Photo: Northern Stock via

Photo: Northern Stock via

This must stop.

We must turn to find ways to ensure that the DMCA accurately reflects the act’s original intent by making it more applicable to the realities of a time where every member of our society can carry a recorded song or video in their pocket.

The DMCA impacts countless numbers of people, industries and priorities and amending the act will be a herculean task. Progress can only be made one step at a time.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has indicated that it is time to discuss amending the DMCA by bringing together industry stakeholders to identify common interests and areas for progress and consensus. Local 802 and the AFM could not agree more.

Amending DMCA so that it aligns with the original spirit of the act is not a zero-sum game. Whether it be by clarifying “red flag” protections and safe harbor standards, or using digital fingerprinting and implementing standard technical measures that would clarify free use, or streamlining the notice and take down process to prevent repeat offenders, there are solutions that are in the best interest of all. We eagerly await the launch of this process and would welcome the opportunity to provide expertise and support in any way possible.

And why does this matter? Because everyone stands to gain!

When the music community thrives, internet usage and advertising revenues increase, the economic realities of creating music become more sustainable, more jobs are created and more people get to enjoy incredible music every day.

Legislation is a reflection of our country’s priorities, and the arts and music are a bellwether for our societal and cultural health. John Adams, the second president of the United States, famously wrote to his wife that he

“must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematics and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematics and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Music, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelain.”

President Adams understood that the mark of a truly successful society lies in what we are able to create and give to future generations. Wouldn’t it be a shame if our society failed this all-important test? Wouldn’t it be a shame if we failed to give to future generations what has been given to us? Wouldn’t it be a shame, if the art that marks a truly great nation, disappears forever?