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Jack White, St. Vincent, Paul McCartney and More Petition Against YouTube

Mike Coppola, Rick Diamond and Kevin Winter / Getty Images
Mike Coppola, Rick Diamond and Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Jack White, St. Vincent and Paul McCartney are among dozens of artists from all genres who have signed a petition against the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Their protest decries portals such as YouTube and Vimeo, which were “allowed… 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.”

The artists’ coalition — also endorsed by numerous music publishing companies — say the 1998 congressional law is outdated. The signees proclaim that major entities such as YouTube (though not specifically named in the petition) “were not the intended protectorate when it was signed into law nearly two decades ago.”

The DMCA states that services are safeguarded against copyright infringement litigation— as long as they take down the material in question and inform the poster that it was removed. The petitioners seek to hold the services themselves liable, so songwriters and their record labels can benefit from this widespread consumption of their music.

Countless YouTube subscribers have claimed “Fair Use” in posting songs to the service. As defined by DMCA.com, “Items considered Fair Use would be commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching or scholarship.” The official act language counters, “By contrast, since the fair use doctrine is not a defense to the act of gaining unauthorized access to a work, the act of circumventing a technological measure in order to gain access is prohibited.”

The U.S. Copyright Office will likely recommend that Congress update the DMCA in the next year, according to a Los Angeles Times op-ed by New York University law professor Chris Sprigman.

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