As its fight with YouTube wages on, major record labels are reportedly banning together to ask the federal government to change the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which states that platforms like YouTube aren’t necessarily liable — or are afforded a ‘safe harbor’ — for any copyrighted content that they happen to host. The fact that the onus isn’t on YouTube to remove copyrighted material, record labels say, makes the process impossible for they themselves to do so effectively, according to a report in The New York Times.
“This is a new form of piracy,” Cary Sherman, the CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), told the Times. “You can do it in plain sight and rely on the DMCA to justify that what you’re doing is perfectly legal.”
And enforcing takedowns can be a full-time job. For instance, in a filing to the United States Copyright Office in December, Universal Music said it devoted a team to seeking out illegal versions of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album. It sent 66,000 takedown notices across the web, in addition to 114,000 blocks made automatically through YouTube’s Content ID system. Some independent artists, who do not have access to Content ID, also say that copyright infringement can be particularly damaging to their nascent careers, according to the Times.
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In response, YouTube’s chief business officer Robery Kyncl told the Times that YouTube has paid out $3 billion to the global music industry. He also said that its Content ID system, which tracks unauthorized content and lets copyright holders either monetize or take down offending videos, is responsible for 99.5% of all claims related to music. While 8,000 companies have access to Content ID, indie artists can get access through affiliated companies, according to YouTube.
Some experts also warn that changing the DMCA could have sweeping — and potentially dangerous — impacts on the Internet as a whole. For instance, such a change might make “smaller companies and individual users [more] vulnernable to lawsuits, takedowns, and arbitrary censorship,” according to The Verge.