Debbie Harry & Nikki Sixx's Sixx:A.M. Join List of Artists Demanding Changes to Copyright Act

Venturelli/Getty Images for amfAR

Debbie Harry performs at amfAR Milano 2015 at La Permanente on September 26, 2015 in Milan, Italy.  

Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx and his band Sixx:A.M. have joined the chorus of hundreds of artists and managers who are pushing for a change to copyright laws. Sixx is also imploring YouTube to pay musicians a higher rate for streaming their videos and match the rates paid by other streaming services.

"YouTube is paying out about a sixth of what Spotify and Apple pay artists," Sixx told The Guardian. "We are not telling them how to run their business. We’re saying treat artists fairly the way other streaming services are. And by the way, we are a big part of what built your business: music is the No 1 most-searched thing on YouTube."

According to a spokesperson for Debbie Harry, the Blondie singer is also on board on the larger copyright effort. The spokesperson said Harry is trying to rally journalists to ask all the presidential candidates, as well as President Obama, to lobby Congress about the so-called "safe-harbor" loophole. Critics have claimed the loophole allows YouTube to operate what amounts to a massive streaming service while profiting from unlicensed content and avoiding legal responsibility for copyright infringement that takes place on the site.

Music Industry A-Listers Call on Congress to Reform Copyright Act

Sixx:A.M. and Harry join a growing list of artists supporting a petition to reform the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) in the U.S., which they say "threatens the continued viability of songwriters and recording artists to survive from the creation of music." Among those who've signed on so far are: Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera, Pearl Jam, Fifth Harmony, Lionel Richie, CeeLo Green, Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Steven Tyler, Maroon 5 and managers including Irving Azoff, Scott Borchetta and Jon Landau. In some cases, the petition argues, the law allows infringers to repost material after it has been removed.

On Dec. 31, the Copyright Office announced its intent to evaluate the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, which -- to an extent -- protects internet service providers from third parties who illegally share content online. 

Wait, What? The Copyright Royalty Board, Webcasting Rates and Paying Artists, Explained

“While Congress understood that it would be essential to address online infringement as the internet continued to grow, it may have been difficult to anticipate the online world as we now know it, where each day users upload hundreds of millions of photos, videos and other items, and service providers receive over a million notices of alleged infringement,” read the announcement from the Copyright Office. “Among other issues, the Office will consider the costs and burdens of the notice-and-takedown process on large- and small-scale copyright owners, online service providers and the general public.”

The DMCA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998 with a goal of updating copyright laws for the digital age, but it's now disturbingly out of date, according to the petition signed by dozens of artists and songwriters that was filed last month.

A spokesperson for Google (which owns YouTube) provided the following statement to Billboard: "We've paid out billions to the music industry, and we’re engaged in productive conversations with the labels and publishers around increasing transparency on payouts. We believe that by providing artists and songwriters greater visibility around revenue earned on YouTube, we can solve many of these issues. We’re also working hard to bring more revenue to the music industry through our subscription service, as well as continuing to grow our ad supported business, which allows artists and labels to monetize the 80% music listeners who historically have never paid for music."

In addition, a YouTube spokesperson said that the company has agreements in place with music labels and publishing agencies around the world that extend a license to fan-uploaded videos featuring music. Through its proprietary Content ID system, YouTube allows content owners to manage fan uploads by either blocking them, making money from them or tracking user engagement on claimed videos; the company claims that Content ID represents around 50 percent of revenue paid out to the music industry and that 99.5 percent of sound recording claims are automated through Content ID, with only 0.5 percent left to be claimed manually. In total, YouTube said, less than 4.5 percent of videos are blocked by the system, with labels monetizing the remaining 95 percent.


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