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Taylor Swift, U2 and Paul McCartney join DMCA reform campaign


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The US campaign for reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) – and by extension, for a shift in the licensing relationship between the music industry and YouTube – has picked up more high-profile artist advocates.

An open letter to the US Congress calling for action on the “broke” DMCA has the backing of all three major labels and two of the big-three publishers, as well as artists including Taylor Swift, U2, Paul McCartney, Deadmau5, Katy Perry, Kings of Leon, Britney Spears, Maroon 5, Pharrell Williams and Mark Ronson.

These are the big hitters – those 10 artists alone have more than 28.3bn views on their official YouTube channels, and that doesn’t count user-uploaded videos elsewhere on YouTube that their rightsholders may have claimed. These artists have done very well out of YouTube, but (perhaps counter-intuitively) that gives their decision to join the campaign more weight.

It’s certainly YouTube that the letter is aimed squarely at with its claim that “the tech companies who benefit from the DMCA today were not the intended protectorate when it was signed into law nearly two decades ago”.

Irving Azoff, who organised the letter, thinks the participation of the major labels – who are renegotiating their licensing deals with YouTube – is just as important however.

“I would be shocked, after supporting all these artists in a letter to Congress, [if] these big labels would turn around and make voluntary extensions to YouTube,” Azoff told Recode, mooting the prospect of labels pulling their catalogues from the service altogether.

That’s the action that has loomed in the background throughout the current safe-harbour reform campaigns in the US and Europe, albeit with a strong sense that labels will wait to see which way legislators jump on the issue before taking any drastic action.

It’s a reminder that there are two big moving parts to all this: any reforms to the legislation governing safe harbour, and THEN the new licensing deals to be hammered out if those laws are reformed to YouTube’s disadvantage. Or – and nobody can afford to discount this possibility – if they are not.

Stuart Dredge

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