ARA Antitrust Letter to DOJ, FTC, and House Judiciary Committee

image by Robin Worrall

Covering Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon, the letter highlights ways in which the platforms’ data collection practices, market domination, safe harbor protections, and numerous other abuses damage the creative ecosystem and make it harder for artists to make a living, connect with their fans, and have control over their own work.

There are countless tech controversies occurring on what feels like a daily basis, it’s important to us to shine a light on the ways artists are uniquely impacted by big tech’s abusive practices. In an increasingly digital world, artists are forced to rely more and more on these platforms to reach their fans and make their music accessible.

Unfortunately, tech platforms are well aware of how reliant artists must be, and take full advantage. Payouts from YouTube are astonishingly small, yet creators are left with little choice when the alternative is to not put your work on the largest streaming platform in the world. And the low pay is made particularly insulting when Google refuses to use its groundbreaking Content ID technology to keep unlicensed music and video off its platforms. Google profits off of ads on artists licensed work and ads on unlicensed postings of that work.

On Facebook, artists are forced to pay for ads to ensure their fans see their content, and then have no access to the copious amounts of data Facebook collects on those fans. Twitter has become a hotbed of pirated material, taking no action themselves to control the problem and instead charging creators unreasonable fees to access data that would help them have unlicensed content removed.

The sheer mass of data that companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google have collected on their users is unnerving, and is what allows them to continue to operate as monopolies in the tech space. It makes it impossible for artists to gain leverage and time and time again creators are forced to accept pitiful pay and seeing their art used without their consent because the alternative is no pay at all.

“We actively embrace digital listening and distribution and will continue to work with new services and platforms to give fans the best ways to find and listen to music”, the letter reads. “We want a future in which innovation continues to thrive and fairness for all stakeholders and new competitors flourishes.” But this future isn’t attainable unless tech platforms are held accountable.

We look forward to seeing how the FTC, DOJ, and House Judiciary Committee conduct their investigations and are hopeful that they will be as alarmed by the way these platforms have treated artists as we are.

Artist-run, non-profit advocating for musicians, performers, & songwriters in the digital landscape. (Formerly the Content Creators Coalition or “c3”)

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