ARA Calls For Sweeping DMCA Reform

Decries Big Tech’s overbroad safe harbor immunity as “the original sin of today’s imbalanced and unfair digital creative economy”

Washington, D.C. — The Artist Rights Alliance (ARA), an artist run nonprofit fighting for a healthy creative economy and fair treatment for all creators in the digital world, has released a new letter today urging a fundamental rethink of the legal immunity that allows online tech platforms to force artists to bear almost sole responsibility for combatting online piracy of their work. In comments sent to Senator Tillis as part of his ongoing reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the influential musicians and songwriters group called reform a matter of “professional viability” for working performers and songwriters.

ARA argues that the original balance of the DMCA has been “utterly destroyed by unchecked and unaccountable global platforms shielded from ordinary rules of liability by catastrophically overbroad readings of the Section 512 safe harbor”. These flawed readings allow huge and successful companies like Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube to turn a willfully blind eye to unlicensed music on their systems and exploit artists and creators. This problem is playing out in the real world right now as Twitch continues to resist fair market-based licensing of music that has powered its success, shortchanging artists in vital emerging markets.

ARA proposes to strip safe harbor immunity from platforms that curate content and profit off data-driven recommendation algorithms — “put(ting) the power of the free market behind the problems of moderating content and policing copyright infringement on the internet” by incentiviz[ing] the parties closest to the problem and with the greatest visibility into the networks that enable it to actively work to find and stop infringement — to the benefit of creators.”

In a similar vein, for companies that retain the liability shield, ARA advocates for a “notice and staydown” system. Artists “should not be further burdened with mapping unfamiliar networks and finding every other instance of such unlicensed use.” Instead, platforms should stop new unlicensed uploads of music as they occur. To enhance innovation and support both small services and working artists and performers, ARA argues that tools to moderate and monitor online networks must affordably scale down for use by startups, independent app developers, and individual creators.

ARA notes: “Today’s massive unchecked platforms swallow up far too much of the economic value of music and other creative works that drive so much interest and activity online, a short-sighted approach to their business that puts the livelihood of the next generation of creators at risk.

And if something isn’t changed, they’ll end up drying up the supply of creative works they depend upon and need, eating the seed corn of their own astronomical success, and shortchanging everyone who loves music, movies, photography, and every other form of art.”

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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

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