Do you know what the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is?
Have you ever been browsing YouTube or a streaming platform like Spotify and observed that your music was uploaded by someone else?
If you haven't experienced this, then I’m sure you’ve witnessed popular music being used by others who more than likely don't have the permission to do so.
As one can imagine, this has been an ever-evolving problem for musicians, especially when you consider the now prominent uses of streaming services, social media, and all the other ways that we now consume content.
You work hard to create your music, spending not only time but money to create your projects, so it isn’t exactly fair that someone can benefit from your work without permission or any repercussion outside of fair use.
Enter the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
Back in the 1990s, before the internet grew to be what it is today, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA was passed into law to mitigate the issues of online copyright infringement.
At the time, the DMCA was meant to protect the interests of internet users, copyright owners, and online service providers. This was done by reducing the need for copyright owners to take court action by merely encouraging them to request that online service providers remove any infringing content from their platforms with what is known as a takedown notice or notice of intent.
For example, you (the artist), see your song on YouTube, but it was uploaded without your permission. You can then file a takedown notice with YouTube and hope that the platform removes the content.
Changing Digital Landscape
While things were complicated back when the law was initially introduced, the online landscape has undoubtedly grown, muddying the waters of online copyright infringement even further.
With the increased rate at which we consume content today, successfully filing takedown notices and clearing online service providers of infringing content becomes one big game of whack a mole for both artists and the online service providers.
It seems as you tackle one infringement, another pops up just as fast, making the situation quite the headache. In most cases, online service providers are making the process of filling takedown notices quite easy.
Platforms like YouTube, for example, take things a step further, allowing you to monetize the content so that you can benefit from it, which can be more of a plus than requesting a takedown.
Direct Impact on Copyright
So how does this tie into the whole discussion of copyright? Well, once again, it is vital to know the following as a musician:
- Who owns what, in terms of the song. This ties into the two parts of a song equation once again as, without ownership, you may not have the right to file a takedown request or attempt to monetize the work.
- The details of your contracts and agreements, so you know what authority you have as well as all the other parties involved.
- You need to know the actual composition of the song. By this, we are referring to the creative elements which can be difficult. For example, if you buy a beat from a producer and they have used a sample that hasn’t been cleared, you could be infringing on someone's copyright. You won’t always be able to know this information, but claiming you didn’t know doesn’t absolve you from liability.
- You need to understand fair use because there are some protections users may have that do not count as an infringement.
- Lastly, you need to be strategic in these situations and understand all your options. While it may be frustrating to see your music being used without your permission, a takedown notice might not be the most beneficial situation for you. Evaluate the situation, and if you can profit from it, then it may be worth monetizing the content rather than having it removed.
Wrapping It Up
Roaming the internet looking for infringement is probably not the best use of your time, but it shouldn't be ignored. Utilize tools that will ensure you are either properly compensated or be diligent in your takedown requests when you come across infringement.
While it's essential to be aware of infringements happening on your work, you will also need to be conscious of not infringing on the work of others as well.
No matter how careful you are, unfortunate things can happen, but do your due diligence and do your best to request permission when required.
Furthermore, always ask questions before making purchases or working directly with others and, whenever possible, always get things in writing.