We Need Every Yop
As a follow-up to my post from last week discussing the Copyright Office review of Section 512 of the DMCA, I’m going to shift from my usual format of the editorial essay to outright endorsement of grassroots efforts aimed at letting Congress know that artists and creators want to see change to obsolete aspects of US law that unfairly disadvantage them in the market. Recently, musician Blake Morgan published a heartfelt article in The Huffington Post called Why Music Makers Are the Real American Innovators. Morgan writes:
We know all about American innovation.
Rock & Roll is an American innovation. Hip-Hop is an American innovation. Jazz is an American innovation. Blues, Country, Gospel, Bluegrass, each of these — and so many others — are distinct American innovations.
Music is one of the things America still makes that the world still wants. The people who make that music should be paid fairly for their work.
That’s our argument.
In his article, Morgan calls attention to two congressional bills that seek to update the law to recognize and fairly compensate American music makers. The Songwriter Equity Act proposes changes to two sections of the Copyright Act, which currently prevent songwriters and composers from receiving fair market value royalties for their work. The second bill is the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, which Morgan has spearheaded with his viral #IRespectMusic campaign.
The other campaign I’m calling attention to is the Take Down Stay Down petition, created by the tireless work of FarePlay’s Will Buckley. This effort is directly addressing the aforementioned safe harbor loopholes in the DMCA, which can affect all creators in every medium. When push comes to shove, the Copyright Office can do its study and make its recommendations; and Members of Congress may even recognize the plain reality that outdated safe harbor provisions create a financial incentive for platforms like YouTube; but if creators themselves do not actually speak up in numbers and tell Congress they care, Google will probably win that fight. They’re simply too damn big. And it is folly to believe this particular debate will be won or lost on merit alone. It will be won by the people who show up. And last I counted there are millions of creators in this country and only one Google.
After four years of wading into these issues, many of the artists I’ve met can be described as either unsure of where they stand on copyright related matters or resigned to the way things are. I still remember one of the first independent musicians I spoke to about this stuff. It’s not that she didn’t care about the unlicensed use of her work, she said, it’s that she had simply given up trying to deal with it. That’s music (if you will) to Silicon Valley ears. When it comes to outright criminal, pirate enterprises operating overseas, it’s one thing; but the idea that creators just have to roll over and take it while American companies are free to turn mass infringement into billions of dollars is just plain wrong. And in the service of what? Jobs? Innovation? Hardly. To Blake Morgan’s point, the creators being hurt are the real innovators; and the industries we’re talking about employ more people by orders of magnitude than all of the major Internet giants combined.
I’m adding three new links to the sidebar of IOM by way of endorsing these efforts. As in Dr. Suess’s Horton Hears a Who, we need every Yop if we want creators to at least be heard through the lobbying juggernaut that the Internet industry has become. Signing these petitions isn’t going to win the day; but if we even want a balanced debate, creators need to first let Congress know “We are here.”
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