A TL;DR for people who don't read articles all the way through because words: The whack-a-mole DMCA system is as bad for Youtube content creators as it is for rich musicians.
Back in June, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, Cee Lo Green and one hundred seventy something other artists leant their names to the most horribly designed ad ever calling for a reform to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which was passed in 1998 before the millennium, Facebook, Youtube, Buzzfeed, et al. You would think Silicon Valley who is always quick to send out the Astroturf Army to label anyone a Luddite for wanting to protect their creative rights would want to update a law that in tech terms is positively antediluvian. Their ironic attitude now is "So what if a law that was passed 18 years ago no longer reflects current society. We don't want to adapt." Far easier to put the burden of the creator, already having to hustle to make ends meet, spend their days playing whack-a-mole on Youtube because the people who run the site don't know how to fix it derp derp. Just as the same morons at Spotify don't know how to file a notice of intention to get an automatic compulsory license cause it's real hard n' stuff. In case you missed the /s it's easy to get an automatic compulsory license.
But this is nothing new.
All this is nothing you haven't read here before. For a few years. At least. Nothing sums it up better than that second link from an article Dabitch wrote in 2014 called "Web 3.0 - Steal it, then sell it," in it she references a story in which a newspaper published another newspaper's articles, claiming it was "public domain," and then turned around and sold access to said public domain in their archives for $1,000 because that totally makes sense. When called out, the Newnan-Times Herald who stole the article from Decaturish offered up this excuse:
“Most authors, including newspapers, seek to have as extensive circulation of their articles as possible so long as appropriate attribution is provided. And any damage to viewership on your site, as a result of our posting the article, would be miniscule.”
Dabitch is particularly on point (and living up to her name) in this comment:
Yes, we've all heard that one. Way to miss the point. You're simply supposed to ask first. It's not up to the not-owner of the copyright to stick their finger in the air and guesstimate what they think is going to happen regarding viewership, or whatever. It's not their work, and thus not their judgement call. More importantly, copyright is not based on how many people interact with the work.
This sort of thinking is rampant in the new tech startups, funded with piles of money (as long as the funders are White Men Under Thirty, we are painfully aware). Let's take Rap Genius as an example. You know: the kids who gank lyrics from every musician ever just to "enhance" them, with user-generated liner notes, thereby getting twice as much unpaid work from everyone else. Government-funded NPR spent a podcast fawning over RapGenius while scoffing at a lyric author whose work was monetized without his consent, because RapGenius are cool guys in Brooklyn with a diamond shaped neon sign on their wall, like OMG, so cool, yo.
Musicians are pulling in so many different directions on this topic, they are so fragmented it's amazing they are still able to write songs together. They sign horribly - and we mean horribly - designed ads. They start hashtags. They write blogs. Some bands like Ghost Beach attempted to capitalize on the issue, via advertising, without really having an impact. Others like Amanda Palmer acted more like a Big Tech Corporation, crowdsourcing working musicians that she made audition for her shows for nothing more than high-fives and free beer. And while scant few were just fine with that, enough of them raised a stink until she had to do the right thing and pay the musicians that she asked to augment her show.
This is nothing new.
Today, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter penned a lengthy essay. I would urge you to read beyond the headline if only to understand the complexity of this situation because it goes beyond Silicon Valley and it goes beyond music. The article is essentially a rebuttal to lawyer Marvin Ammori slamming content creators for daring to want to change the anachronistic DMCA from 1998, which again is from 18 years ago before Youtube, Facebook et al.
Marv: The RIAA is trying to revive an “assault on internet freedom [that] would relitigate the SOPA debate and threaten free speech and innovation online.”
Jesus fucking Christ, show some imagination, Marvin. Every time we take a stand for the rights of artists, the bullshit internet freedom fighters accuse the entertainment industry of holding a séance to resurrect SOPA/PIPA, trotting out the same well-worn talking points. Google’s shadow groups, like Fight for the Future, continuously spew the same hollow arguments and never address the issues. The creative communities are not interested in relitigating SOPA or PIPA – we are only interested in protecting the rights of artists everywhere.
I have news for Kurt and all the other well-meaning high profile creators out there: No one gives a toss what you have to say except your own ilk. We complained about this for years and as a result, Google has banned Adland from using Adsense, leaving us with no choice but to run a fundraiser. Thanks to all you lot who donated. But Kurt, I need to remind you what the President said: you didn't build that. You had nothing to do with Youtube, Facebook, Megaupload, Napster or mp3.ru or Putlocker. They built it, you didn't. And the kids flocked to the internet believing it was up for grabs, while Google made untold fortunes placing human trafficking ads on sites pirating content. Your blaming lawyers who cash checks from Google is nice and all but some within the Google ecosystem are currently running our government. This is true in the U.S. and globally. It makes you wonder in this climate how much traction little hashtag movements like #IRespectMusic can ever really have. For every well-meaning fan or person willing to hold up a sign on twitter naive enough to think this works, there are scores of well-funded lobbyists and lawyers with a veritable army to shut your child's play game down. Google is the same company that was smart enough to set up lobbying shops in Germany to lay the groundwork in 2012. Europe, by the way, still cares about this stuff, or at least the taxes they believe they aren't getting which is also a valid criticism, hence France's decision to raid a Google office this past May.
But this is nothing new. I will tell you what is new.
Hit show creators and Major Label Musicians: You have a great voice. But I now believe this fight is over. Or at least, it won't be won by you or the RIAA or anyone else who makes really shitty looking ads. (Did I mention that already? That ad was hideous.) No. We must look to the future, and the future is a generation of content creators who have embraced Youtube, and made it what it is, and spawned its lucrative offshoots and have finally woken up to the fact that being internet famous is nice but doesn't pay that well without sponsorship. They're also seeing what it's like to have their hard work taken by the ever hungry content monster. This is the group of Youtube creators writing change.org petitions demanding Advertisers to Stop Supporting BuzzFeed Video's Idea Theft. The same group calling Facebook liars and cheaters, for "stealing from content creators by not putting more effort and providing more tools to identify illegally uploaded content," in order to monetize them in the process. The content creators understand that in this war between Youtube and Facebook, they are the golden pawns. If enough of them speak out, they might have the power to effect change.
If you had consulted us at Adland to work on any campaigns you would understand that but alas, you didn't. As advertising professionals who create content on a daily basis (as well as for this site) we understand the first rule of reaching people in digital isn't through a banner ad we already know is fraudulent and prone to malware. And it isn't through a well-meaning hashtag campaign that engages people at random for short bursts but is impossible to sustain because Twitter's trending topic algorithm doesn't work like that. No, it's by using the right influencers to talk to the right audience. If more people are watching Let's Play videos than playing vide games every month, which is a fact, those content creators have a lot of clout. If a teenager's favorite Youtube star who is closer in age and is therefore a peer raises a stink, the followers will mobilize in ways that would scare the pants off of Silicon Valley.
If you care about content creation for everyone and not just yourself or your chosen field, and if you're smart, you'll give the influencers the microphone. Let the ones who create the content that was made for the channel do the talking. Keep your ego in check and turn the spotlight on them. They understood the media well before you ever came around to it, after all. While you've been yelling at the kids to get off your lawn, those kids have gone and created a genre of content with an arguably bigger spotlight. Chew on that before you write your next rebuttal to a Google shill.