Any music fan actively involved with the digital age has come to learn that the relationship between the internet and musicians can be tempestuous. On the one hand, consuming music for free has become the default practice while on the other, artists themselves are often suffering because of it. For those raised on programs like Napster and Kazaa, paying for music has become an outdated practice and for those born in the era of streaming services like Spotify and Tidal, owning music means something else entirely. Sites like YouTube are proving themselves to be wild cards in the debate over proper compensation for artists due to their not being solely a place for listening to music, but now artists like Pusha T, Sade, Roy Ayers, Vince Staples, Miguel, and others are joining forces to force direct action from Congress.
As reported by Pitchfork, the artists above and a host of others are looking to reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the set of treaties that in 1998 began protecting the dissemination of copyrighted material on the web. Having all signed a strongly worded petition, the artists involved are interested in “curtailing the practices of sites like YouTube, which allows users to upload copyrighted material for anyone to hear,” although that website isn’t named in the petition. For years, these outlets have been given what’s called “safe harbor,” effectively allowing for the uploading of copyrighted material as long as its taken down once an official warning has been issued. Because of that somewhat loosely binding agreement, the petition argues, the DMCA “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 smartphone, while songwriters’ and artists’ earnings continue to diminish.”
Adding more gravity to the petition’s demands is the fact that major companies are also involved, including the Recording Academy, the governing body behind the Grammy Awards; and the Recording Industry Association of America, which is responsible for (amongst other things) doling out certifications that an artist has achieved gold or platinum-selling status.