Back in February, Irving Azoff, who has managed everyone from Christina Aguilera to Fleetwood Mac to Van Halen lashed out at Google-owned Youtube during an acceptance speech at Clive Davis' pre-Grammy Awards gala. As Billboard reported, "Azoff said it's hard to negotiate fairly with services like YouTube...because the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows them to stream any content that users upload until a copyright owner requests it to be taken down. That means YouTube can use music to attract an audience without licensing it -- which lets it acquire rights to music for less than it otherwise would." He finished his acceptance/rant by saying "It's a system that is rigged against the artists."
This war of words has been escalating slowly for years. Now the musicians are mad as hell and they're not gonna take it any more. Tomorrow an ad will run that has been signed by 180 musicians and organizations who are calling for a reform of the DMCA. The ad (seen above) will run in Washington DC-centric publications like "The Hill," "Roll Call" and "Politico."
It is my opinion that this sudden collective shout for fairness could only have occurred if a few brave souls, starting with Lars Ulrich who seems positively prophetic today, had the cojones to rage against the dying of the light before anyone else. And now, after the thankless grunt work, musicians with even bigger clout and bank accounts are finally speaking out en masse. Okay they're not speaking per se, but at least lending their signatures to a petition.
The ad above asserts that the DMCA was created and passed in an era way before technology became so advanced, and therefore needs a revisit. It's kind of the same argument gun-control lobbyists are using. Back when the second amendment was ratified, we only had muskets. Shouldn't we change it to reflect how far weaponry has advanced?
The ad carries signatures from heavyweights across musical genres and decades like Sir Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono Lennon (probably the first time those two have agreed on anything in decades) Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, TV On The Radio, David Byrne and Bootsy Collins to name just a few. Interesting to note that included on the list is Jack White, co-owner of TIDAL.
What will surely give detractors ammo are the big companies like Warner Brothers, Sony, BMI and RIAA. In case you aren't aware, the RIAA is basically the NRA to all free culture types.
It is quite admirable that so many artists are lending their support to the cause however late in the day it may be, so to speak. It would have been a lot better to have run two ads, though. One coming from the voice of the artists, and one coming from the music industry companies. Then again, I also think it would have been great if whatever entity responsible for this ad had hired me and Dabitch to act as copywriter and art director respectively on it because not only have we been covering this extensively for a few years now, and are thoroughly invested in the cause, but uh, we wouldn't have made it look like this. I'm not sayin'. I'm just sayin' I have received junk mail that was laid out and written better. Can we just pause for a second to consider this is an advertisement representing some of the most creative people of our day-- perhaps of all time, and it looks like something you'd see in the back of a high school football program? It actually offends my sensibility.
*takes deep breaths*
*walks around the block*
*makes a cup of herbal tea*
Okay I'm better now. Time will tell if a petition ad will sway the hearts and minds of congress, especially since the majority of members in congress have neither hearts nor minds. Let's hope it at least makes the conversation a little louder on the musicians' side.
Just do us a favor. Next time you want to run an ad, put down the Quark Express and email us first.