Published Jun 20, 2016Apple Music chief creative officer and Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor called out video streaming site YouTube in an interview last week, calling its business "disingenuous," in addition to being "built on the backs of free, stolen content." Now, a whole lot more artists are adding their voices to the conversation.
In an advertisement that will run Tuesday (June 20) through Thursday with U.S. publications such as Politico and Roll Call, 180 performers and songwriters from multiple genres are calling for U.S. Congress to reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which gives sites like YouTube immunity from copyright infringement liability of its users so long as takedown notices from rightsholders are acknowledged. Labels and publishers say such a ruling gives the service a negotiating advantage that other streaming services don't have.
Artists supporting the reform include Taylor Swift, Vince Staples, U2 and Paul McCartney; 19 companies have also signed in support, including the "big three" major labels.
UPDATE (6/22, 9:00 a.m. EDT): The full list of artists who have lent their support to the ad has been revealed. It includes Ryan Adams, Beck, the Black Keys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Leon Bridges, Chris Cornell, Elvis Costello, deadmau5, Elton John, Mick Jones, Lady Gaga, Yoko Ono, Duff McKagan, Miguel, Krist Novoselic, Pearl Jam, Pusha T, Queens of the Stone Age, Rush, Spoon, St. Vincent, Jack White, and tons more.
The ad calls for "sensible reform that balances the interests of creators with the interests of the companies who exploit music for their financial enrichment," saying that the DMCA "has allowed major tech companies to grow and generate huge profits by creating ease of use for consumers to carry almost every recorded song in history in their pocket via a smartphone, while songwriters' and artists' earnings continue to diminish."
A YouTube spokesperson had this to say about Reznor's comments last week:
The overwhelming majority of labels and publishers have licensing agreements in place with YouTube to leave fan videos up on the platform and earn revenue from them. Today the revenue from fan uploaded content accounts for roughly 50 percent of the music industry's YouTube revenue. Any assertion that this content is largely unlicensed is false. To date, we have paid out over $3 billion to the music industry — and that number is growing year on year.
Reznor isn't the only one speaking out against the site's approach to paying artists. Late last year, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke likened YouTube's handling of art and artists to that of Nazi Germany.