T Bone Burnett Slams Notice-and-Takedown Copyright Rules

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

Taking swipes at Google’s YouTube, legendary musician and record producer T Bone Burnett made a personal appeal, in video form, for change in the notice-and-takedown system for infringing content posted online.

In a five-minute video posted Feb. 21, Burnett slammed the current safe harbors under U.S. law, which protect internet service providers from copyright lawsuits if they take down infringing content when they get notice.

Musicians and other creators don’t like the system, because it requires them to monitor the entire internet for unauthorized copies of their works, a process that Burnett referred to as “a pointless arms race of whack-a-mole and digital deception.” In the case of YouTube, artists can agree to let videos stay up in exchange for a small share of ad income.

“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 megacorporations and web moguls,” Burnett said.

Tens of Thousands of Comments in 2016

The Copyright Office is taking comments from the public on what, if anything, needs to be changed about the system, and Burnett posted the video on Vimeo on behalf of artist advocacy group the Content Creators Coalition, known as C3.

This is the second time around that the Copyright Office is taking comments on Section 512 of the Copyright Act. The first round, which ended almost a year ago, resulted in more than 90,000 submissions. The second round ends Feb. 21, but the comments likely won’t be accessible on the website for several more days, according to the agency.

Internet users also don’t like the system. They say that copyright owners abuse the system by striking posts that should be left up. Online services are the one group that doesn’t want change—preferring to keep the safe harbor protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

In Burnett’s video, he said that this process forces artists to accept “the gunpoint negotiations and pittance wages forced upon creators by the Google monopoly.” Artists often complain of the low rates that Google pays when they agree to let YouTube play ads over videos posted without permission.

In addition to filing the video and a transcript, the C3 is joining with other music organizations, led by the Recording Industry Association of America, to file comments in the proceeding.

Burnett has worked with dozens of performers, such as Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello and Roy Orbison. He has produced his own and others’ albums and has won numerous awards, including four Grammys for his work on the soundtrack of the 2000 Coen Brothers movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at AMazumdar@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at mwilczek@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the music industry's Feb. 21 comments is at http://src.bna.com/mnc.

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