Experts Agree: The DMCA Takedown System Is a Joke, and Must be Scrapped…

In the past couple of days, the DMCA takedown system has come under attack both from the RIAA and anti-copyright campaigner Derek Khanna. No doubt this has been brought on by the Congressional review of the DMCA that is getting underway.

Which means, both sides – tech and content – have big problems with this ‘system’. The RIAA’s EVP of anti-piracy initiatives, Brad Buckles, claims the fact that the organisation has now sent its 20 millionth copyright takedown to Google proves that the system is not fit for purpose.  Meanwhile, Khanna claims the DMCA “restricts entire classes of technology and hampers innovative products and services from being offered to the public.”

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The headline for Khanna’s Washington Post blog was: “Let artists, innovators and the public define our copyright system.”  I”m a member of all three categories (I’d argue that all music creators are, indeed, innovators), so I’d like to offer my services by explaining exactly why this law is broken:

(1) First of all, the takedown system doesn’t restrict tech companies or “innovative products” at all.

It simply gives those who don’t want to bother getting a license for the content they use to build their lucrative businesses a veil to hide behind.

(2) The DMCA is ineffective for major labels, and useless for indies

Considering that the RIAA is a US-based organisation that simply deals with major label recordings, clearly the total of takedown notices filed is much bigger than 20 million – and for independent music creators, such as myself, the DMCA is a complete joke.

I once spent a week, several hours a day, trying to get just one song taken down from Grooveshark, before I gave up (you can read about my experience here).  The links seemed to multiply the more I tried.

There were examples of at least ten other songs of mine on the site but, as I prefer to spend my time actually making music to spending hours copying and pasting long lists of URLs into endless emails for several hours a day, I couldn’t be asked to tackle those – especially after seeing how little effect it had.

(3) The DMCA is Local, Not Global

It’s also worth considering that the DMCA is a US act – it’s not some sort of universal act that applies globally – and I’m based, and was accessing Grooveshark, from the UK.

(4) This Goes Way, Way Beyond Grooveshark

Of course Grooveshark is only one of thousands of sites hiding behind the DMCA. When I told a representative for the EU Commission about my experience, a few months later, he concluded, “So what you need is a legal framework where musicians, such as yourself, can defend their rights without going broke.”


My music is available on numerous legal sites, both for downloading and streaming – sometimes even for free – and if Spotify is able to ensure that all the music it offers is paid for through structured licenses, why shouldn’t sites such as Grooveshark be, as well?

12 Responses

  1. Visitor

    “So what you need is a legal framework where musicians, such as yourself, can defend their rights without going broke.”

    Yup — and it has to be fast & easy:

    My neighbour can call the police and his insurance company if somebody steals his property.

    It’s ridiculous that we can’t do that.

  2. visitor

    “It simply gives those who don’t want to bother getting a license for the content they use to build their lucrative businesses a veil to hide behind.”

    this is it!! that´s what the dmca is all about!!

  3. Visitor

    We need an ISP level version of Youtube’s Content ID fingerprinting system.

    This would require registration of works to a central copyright database with an accompanying registration fee to fund the program. A hash could then be made of each work. A sophisticated web crawler would automatically find matches and relay them to rights holders while partial matches would be kicked up to human supervisors for further analysis.

    The DMCA doesn’t work. We need something centralized, simplified, and streamlined.

    • Visitor

      ugh… if functional profitible businesses can be legal and licensed, there is no excuse for the infringers (other than greed and exploitation)

      Two Simple Facts about Technology and Piracy : iTunes Vs. YouTube

    • Perspective

      You are right on the money here…there is a huge need for a global database of works that multiple sources could key off as to rights. It would also help transition our reporting systems from metadata to audio based fingerprints that could be used on so many levels. The key here is to require ISP and services to source uploads and compare them to the database…if there is a positive legal match it would be unlocked…if it comesback restricted it can’t be uploaded or linked to publically. With the amazing IT minds we have in this country this would seem to be a very simple process…especially since there are hundreds of companies with existing databases that could be pulled from. That said this sounds like a really good thing for the library of congress to take on and then connect to the common works database used on the publishing side!

  4. Visitor

    I always found it funny that both pro and anti-copyright movements hate the DMCA (for different reasons I suppose). It’s the law nobody likes.

  5. does it cost a lot to keep onl

    How much does Google pay for Chilling Effects per year?

  6. Pete Photographer

    DMCA is a guard dog for our work that doesn’t bite. In fact it has no teeth and doesn’t even bark.

    We need at the very least a reasonable fine and system for filing a simple small claim against the people who use our work, without paying. Something where the civil courts can issue a penalty (like a misdemeanor judgement) which will deter people and make them aware.