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May 13, 2016 | Music Notes Blog

A Manager's Perspective on the DMCA and How It Fails Artists

The U.S. Copyright Office has convened a series public “roundtables” on the efficacy of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Those roundtables follow a public comment period, in which thousands of artists, managers, and music organizations demanded reforms to the antiquated DMCA which forces creators to police the entire Internet for instances of theft, placing an undue burden on these artists and unfairly favoring technology companies and rogue pirate sites. On Thursday, in San Francisco, Jordan Berliant, a founding partner at the Revelation Management Group (a division of Red Light Management), delivered the following remarks (below). Mr. Berliant’s firm represents a number of artists including: Slash, Evanescence, Stone Temple Pilots, Billy Talent, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, STAIND, Godsmack, Ting Tings, Saint Asonia, The White Buffalo & Beware of Darkness.

Remarkable as it may seem coming from an artist manager, I wish to associate myself with the comments of the labels here that have already spoken. You see, this problem is so bad that it’s managed to align the artists & labels.

Congratulations, Google.

I’m not a technologist but it seems to me that the fundamental issue here is that we’re trying to fix a 21st century problem with a 20th century solution. And, not surprisingly, it isn’t working. I have one motto that everyone at our company is probably sick of hearing: “no matter what it takes to prevent a problem, it’s always easier than having to fix a problem.” And here’s the good news—the technology exists to prevent the problem of unauthorized uploading of copyrighted music with little or no financial burden to streaming platforms.

I’m not talking about automatic takedown notices—we know those don’t work. I’m talking about deploying the technology that already exists that prevents the uploading of unauthorized content in the first place. I’m talking about preventing the problem at its source rather than having to respond to it.

There’s been a lot of mention of wanting to avoid a solution that infringes on “free speech.” I want you all to think about something: if you really value free speech, then you also have to value an artist’s ability to practice it. Because artists are the “thought leaders” of a free society. I am here today, as the only representative of the actual artists—all of whom are being decimated by the failure of the current system to prevent their music from being streamed from unauthorized sources. I’m here today because I’m very concerned about even our biggest client’s ability to earn a living in the future under the current copyright protection system which, in effect, sanctions the infringement of their rights and is devastating the revenue they can earn from recording music.

Unless this problem is fixed, we will end up applying a “Citizens United” approach to the creation & distribution of artist content—where only billionaires and large corporations will control what is created and what users have access to. If that sounds scary in an Orwellian kind of way, then good. Because that’s not a world I want to live in and I can’t imagine it’s a world that any of us would want to live in.

Jordan Berliant, Revelation Management Group