Why are musicians so angry at YouTube?
Taylor Swift Grammy Awards

A number of high profile artists have joined a petition calling for the laws to be changed on YouTube’s attitude to copyright

The letter is yet another high profile attempt by the music industry to ply some pressure on video sites, such as YouTube.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the petition about?

The open letter was sent to U.S Congress, asking for the government to act on updating the Digital Millennium copyright act – mainly relating to the posting of music on sites such as YouTube.

YouTube can host, and make money, from music videos posted without the artist’s permission.

The letter begins:

“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.”

What is the current law?

The Digital Milliennium Copyright Act currently means that copyrighted materials (such as music tracks and videos) can be uploaded and posted online (to sites such as YouTube), but if the owner asks for the track to be taken down, then YouTube must comply.

The argument from the number of artists, who added their signature to the open letter, is that this 1998 law is outdated and many artists don’t have the time, manpower or finances to track down and contact YouTube about every single copyright infringement:

Taylor Swift


“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 protectorate 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.”

What big name artists have put their names to this petition?

The open letter comes complete with nearly 200 signatures attached, from artists from all areas of the musical spectrum. There’s big name pop stars such as Taylor Swift and Britney Spears, historic figures like Dionne Warwick and The Who’s Pete Townsend, alongside up-and-coming artists like Leon Bridges.

Oh, as well as Kenny G.

Impressive, but will this letter change anything?

That’s where it gets difficult. Although YouTube have released a statement saying they are always looking to work with artists and improve their relationships, the sheer scale of the task is nigh-on impossible.

There are thousands upon thousands of music videos, full albums and tracks hosted on unofficial channels across the site. Meaning YouTube would have to significantly increase their manpower and dedicate more hours to combing through potentially law-breaking videos.

This would cost a huge amount of money and, surprisingly, most companies like to keep their money. They’ve also pointed to the £3 billion dollars they have paid to the music industry to date.

However, if artists jump to a rival site in order to post their own videos en mass, then the streaming site’s musical output may suddenly be in trouble of going the way of MySpace.

Read the full letter here

Main image: Getty


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