In its early days, the Internet was hailed a panacea. A global community — unshackled from corporate, military, or government control ready to equalize and connect the world.
One of its early false prophets named it a “Culture of the Mind” that “all may enter without privilege or prejudice”.
But that’s not what we got.
Instead of opening up minds, it has closed them down — becoming a restrictive, abusive place where women, people of color, and anyone marked different are shunned, attacked, and shouted down.
2016 laid bare how cyberspace hasn’t rationalized dialog. It’s become a megaphone for propaganda and fake news where it’s easier to demagogue and divide than ever.
Dreams of a stronger democracy have given way to foreign hackers and corporate manipulation — a shriveled politics indistinguishable from reality TV.
And for artists and creators, instead of amplifying our voices to lead the fight for change, it undermines and silences us.
The Internet — with all its promise and beauty — threatens to destroy what it was supposed to save.
We can’t let that happen.
This proceeding is focused on the legal safe harbors in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — the law that was supposed to balance the Internet’s openness with creators’ ability to earn a living wage from their work.
Those safe harbors have failed.
The problems are familiar — they are well described in the record of these proceedings from the broken Sisyphus climb of “notice and takedown” to the gunpoint negotiations and pittance wages forced upon creators by the Google monopoly.
The Big Tech ITOPIANS can track us across dozens of networks, devices, and profiles to bombard us with micro targeted ads, but they can’t even identify unauthorized copies of our work and keep them off their own servers and systems.
Or they won’t.
The problem here isn’t technology — creators welcome the digital revolution and its power to connect, amplify, and inspire. A modern recording studio looks more like a cockpit than a honky tonk, and that’s just fine.
The problem is business models — designed to scrape away value rather than fuel new creation, focused on taking rather than making.
To restore technology’s place as the rightful partner of tomorrow’s creators, we need change.
The safe harbors must be restored — so only responsible actors earn their protection, not those who actively profit from the abuse and exploitation of creators’ work.
Technology must be enlisted to make the system work better, not to roadblock progress in a pointless arms race of whack a mole and digital deception.
Creators must be given meaningful tools to earn a living from their art.
The false prophets of the internet may have imagined an egalitarian open source creative wonderland — but what we got was a digital playground for a handful of mega corporations and web moguls living fat off the artistic, cultural, and economic value everyone else creates online. And if our democracy becomes stunted and diverse Americans are shut out, I guess these new Galtian Lords would say, “That’s business.”
But artists and creators will never bow to that. We will never accept an Internet that turns its back on the vitality, optimism, and hope from which it was born. We will never allow our democracy to become a mere series of pseudo-events designed to manipulate people into spending money.
Everyone with a stake in the Internet’s success and the health of our creative democracy must work together to make this right.
It’s time for Congress to close the loopholes in section 512 of the DMCA. Our culture is at stake.
And it’s time for musicians to join with us, the Content Creators Coalition, to make that happen. Your career depends on it.
On behalf of music creators, thank you to the Copyright Office for this proceeding and for considering these views.