T Bone Burnett Calls For Congress to Put More Piracy Blame on Digital Service Providers

by VVN Music

Producer and artist T Bone Burnett has released a five minute video asking congress to review their DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and place more of the blame on internet piracy on such digital providers as YouTube.

Specifically, Burnett says that the current method of allowing providers to put in place provisions for take-down notices in lieu of taking any responsibility for policing their own sites as a "digital black hole".

Currently, most providers will allow content to stay on their site until they receive a take-down notice from the person/company whose copyright is being infringed. They then give the offending party time to respond to the take-down notice before actually removing the post from the site.

YouTube, in particular, has taken more of the responsibility in recent years, using "sniffing" software to review all newly posted content and compare sound signatures with a database in an attempt to pro-actively start the removal process.

Still, Burnett says it is not enough.

The transcription of the video (courtesy of Billboard):

In its early days, the internet was hailed as 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. 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 Copyright Office 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 merely technology; creators welcome the digital revolution and its facility 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.

For technology to earn its place as the rightful partner of tomorrow’s creators, we need change. The original intent of safe harbors must be realized so only responsible actors earn their protection, not those who actively profit from the abuse and exploitation of creators' work. Technology must not road block 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 instead was an exploitative digital black hole that benefits a handful of mega corporations and web moguls. They are enriching themselves off the artistic, cultural and economic value everyone else creates.

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, c3 (Content Creators Coalition), to make that happen. Your livelihood depends on it.

On behalf of music creators, thank you to the Copyright Office for this proceeding and for considering these views.

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