The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Artists and Composers Say Digital Millennium Copyright Act Isn’t Working

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 gave copyright owners the ability to remove infringing content from the Internet by sending a takedown notice to online providers.  As long as the providers promptly responded, they were assured of broad safe harbor protections from prosecution.  Unfortunately, these takedown notices have not functioned as intended, due to problems with illicit digital files being posted as fast as they are taken down from online sites.

The growth in the number of takedown notices is astounding.  In 2013, the six members companies of the Motion Picture Association of America issued a combined 25.3 million takedown notices to search engines and site operators.  In 2014, the Recording Industry of America announced that it had issued its 100 millionth takedown notice to Google.  By the end of 2014, it was reported that Google alone handled 345 million copyright takedowns, a 75 percent increase over the previous year.  In 2015, that number increased by 62 percent, to 558 million takedown notices.

On June 21, 2016, more than 180 songwriters and recording artists, including Bryan Adams, Kenny Chesney, Sheryl Crow, The Doobie Brothers, Fifth Harmony, Lady Gaga, Cee Lo Green, Idina Menzel, Michael W. Smith, Taylor Swift, and WALK THE MOON, signed an ad highlighting the problems with the DMCA noting that the law doesn’t work and it is “impossible for tens of thousands of individual songwriters and artists to muster the resources necessary to comply with its application.” 

Since April 24, 2013, the House Judiciary Committee has been performing an in-depth review of the Copyright office and copyright laws, and in September 2015, committee members embarked on a listening tour to hear from stakeholders about the challenges they face in protecting their intellectual property.  During a March 13, 2014 House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet hearing, three-time Grammy Award-winning composer, conductor, and producer Maria Schneider stated, “As fast as I take my music down, it reappears again on the same site – an endless whac-a-mole game.”

It should not matter if a movie is produced by a major film studio or a small independent filmmaker; or if a song is distributed by a large recording label or independently distributed by a budding young artist:  when content is widely distributed without the consent of, or compensation to the creator, intellectual property is being stolen.  Until it is reined in, this industrial-scale theft will continue to rob the U.S. economy and consumers of jobs, investment, innovation, and creativity.

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