The DMCA and Digital Music

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed in 1998 to address emerging threats posed to copyrighted material by circumvention technology. But is the DMCA either protecting artists and fostering art? According to some of the biggest names in music, the DMCA inadequately protects artists. In June 2016, more than 150 major artists told Congress that the DMCA was “written and passed in an era that is technologically out-of-date compared to the [present] era.” The letter highlights artists’ concerns that, while technology has led to an increase in music consumption, artists’ and writers’ compensation has comparatively plummeted. The letter disparages the DMCA’s “Notice and Takedown” provision, calling it useless due to service providers’ “lackluster policing of [copyright] infringement” of user-uploaded content. As the volume of copyrighted content increases, the notice and takedown process for removal becomes less and less efficient, leaving artists jaded and “unable to reap the financial rewards from their creative works.” The financial realities of moving forward with a copyright infringement claim are oppressive. The DMCA compels copyright holders to “send takedown notices to service providers” who must then remove the material and notify the alleged infringer. The accused can then file a counter objection, giving the copyright owner fourteen days to sue. 17 U.S.C. § 512.  However, even the quickest settlements of copyright suits can cost upwards of $10,000. Thus, independent artists without the manpower to patrol websites or the money to litigate go virtually unprotected by notice and takedown. The effect of “outdated” copyright laws on the artistic value of music is unclear. While some artists have produced revolutionary works in the face of—what they...