Taylor Swift v/s YouTube

It seems like Taylor Swift can’t catch a break. But with these new developments even some Swifties are wondering if she should! This whole situation is a bit heavy.

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Taylor was named as the top earning celebrity of 2015-2016, where she nabbed $170 million. Now she and 180 other musicians have attached their names to an open letter to the congress asking them to reconsider the Digital millennium copyright act, 1998.

The act basically says that the big internet companies are not completely responsible for the content their users create/upload. This was put into place due to the booming evolution of the internet and rightfully so. Imagine if Facebook was responsible for each post or comment made or twitter was for all those crazy tweets. It is impossible for something like that to ever take place. But all those platforms do constantly try to monitor and regulate the Wild, Wild West to the best of their capability.


Even though the letter says “major tech companies” in general, but they seem to have a special bone to pick with YouTube. The letter implies that the law has “allowed major tech companies 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” while “songwriters’ and artists’ earnings continue to diminish”

This has happened before with Apple Music. Earlier Apple Music used to offer three-month trial for its users. Free trail meant that no royalties to the artists during that period. Taylor wrote an open letter to Apple Music, about how she thought it was unfair of them to be using the artist’s music and not paying them for that brief period. The letter blew up and Apple did a complete 180 and changed their trial period duration. Many people commended Swift’s action and called brave for standing up to an organization as big as Apple. While this was going on, her music was available on another streaming sites like Spotify, which pays the artists a small amount per stream. It pays the artists even if Spotify suffers loss.

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The main issue they have is that many creators on YouTube use their content but they don’t get paid for it. The letter says, “Threaten[s] the continued viability of songwriters and record artists to survive”. They feel YouTube (and other platforms) are not being fair to the artist. But according to YouTube, that is no entirely true. YouTube has spent over $3 billion in royalties to artists, in general, and big labels too.

Taylor even butted head with Spotify last year, when she refused play her new album on the free, ad-supported version of its service. But she kept her videos available for free on YouTube. So, if you are wondering as to what changed between last year and this year, the letter’s organizer, manager Irving Azoff pens “This isn’t a fee dispute. It’s far deeper. That’s why it’s really dangerous for anybody to hide behind the DMCA if they need a relationship with anybody in the music business.” Irving also predicts that, if YouTube doesn’t agree to the demands of these artists then the music labels will take their music away from YouTube.

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Most of the type of content the artists have an issue with is fan created. It’s a way of showing adoration to their favorite artist. If their music is used, then it is justifiable that they are mad about the royalties. But they do get their money, in fact, 50% of $3 billion comes from fan made videos.

YouTuber Hank Greene explained in his article in Recode. YouTube has a system called ContentID. He writes, ‘ContentID is amazing. It checks every second of every video uploaded to YouTube against a massive database of owned content to ensure that the video doesn’t have someone else’s property in it. If it does, it then allows the creator of the content to automatically do whatever they’d like. They can take the video down, or they can claim the revenue for themselves, or they can do nothing. This is not an expensive game of whack-a-mole, it’s 100 percent automated.’

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But it is not YouTube’s job to find out the infringement of copyright, it is the artist/labels job. YouTube has already done a huge favor for the artists with this system. If they truly are concerned and don’t want their song on YouTube then they can upload it into ContentID database and issue a blanket take down for all videos using that song. So, any video that even has 1 second of the song would be taken down immediately. Instead of doing that, they take most of the ad revenues from those videos and they want more. All in the name of ‘legacy’? Well it’s some legacy they are leaving.




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