Taylor Swift wants to start a digital music revolution. She’s no stranger to causing a stir in the industry; the singer-songwriter created all kinds of outcry after she penned an open letter to tech giants Apple last year, criticising their decision not to pay artists any royalties during its free trial period of its new music app. For three months, Apple was proposing not to pay royalties. However, one strongly-worded Tumblr post from Taylor and a bit of virality saw Apple Music change its tune and subsequently reverse its decision to pay artists for the use of their work.
YouTube is next in the firing line after Swift has joined a legion of 180 fellow artists – including U2 and Paul McCarthy – in signing an open letter to US Congress asking for the reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which oversees copyright online. Enacted in 1998, the DMCA gives services like YouTube “safe harbour” from copyright infringement liability for the actions of their users, as long as they respond to takedown notices from rights holders. According to labels and publishers, this gives YouTube an unfair negotiating advantage and obvious protection from copyright lawsuits.
The open letter, which is also signed by music labels including Sony and Universal, will be published by major publications in the States – such as The Hill and Politico – in an attempt to rally support against the video-sharing site so they treat artists better; they believe that YouTube’s free service makes it harder to convince music consumers to sign up for subscription services like Apple Music and Spotify which pay artists royalties – unless record companies have a contract with YouTube, artists receive little compensation once their music is shared via the free streaming site.
Will Swift win round two? Time will tell…