A Five-Time Grammy Winner Explains Why YouTube are Total Scumbags

YouTube's 'Frownie' Face
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Maria Schneider is a five-time Grammy winning performer, composer, director, and creator of one of the first fan-funded classical albums.  These are her thoughts on how YouTube, Google, and Alphabet are treating musicians.

Open Letter to YouTube, “Pushers” of Piracy

by Maria Schneider

Hank Green’s recent open letter in support of YouTube (that was in response to Irving Azoff’s open and scathing letter against YouTube) deserves a strong response from musicians and other creators.  I appreciate YouTube’s illegal business model might yield a few anecdotal success stories like Mr. Green’s and his videos of opening beer bottles with antlers, but for the vast majority of the artistic community, including me, and every musician I know (and I know thousands), YouTube is a resounding disaster.

There’s no use in beating around the bush, so I’m going to cut to the chase – I’m of the firm opinion that YouTube should immediately lose its DMCA “safe harbor” status.   And I’m of the further opinion that YouTube is guilty of racketeering.   Let me explain:

YouTube is Not Entitled to “Safe Harbor” Status

YouTube and its parent Alphabet have obliterated the original meaning of the “safe harbor” law with their bullying and coercive schemes to get their users to disrespect and ignore copyright.

YouTube squeaked past its litigation with Viacom by settling their case after a four-year mutual war of attrition.  But what came out of that litigation was the best measuring stick for whether YouTube is still entitled to the protections of the “safe harbor.”   The most important directive from the court in those Viacom decisions goes something like this: If YouTube is “substantially influencing their user behavior” toward infringing, then YouTube is not entitled to the safe harbor.  It’s that straightforward.

And without doubt, since 2014, YouTube has substantially influenced the behavior of hundreds of millions of its users toward infringement, fermenting a veritable pirate orgy.  YouTube goes way beyond turning a blind eye to the marauding masses; it actively seduces its users into illegal behavior, and has even managed to make its users believe pirate behavior is beneficial to creators.

Hank Green’s latest letter illustrates that perfectly, by explaining how YouTube’s Content ID scheme has been building and morphing since its inception, further contributing to making YouTube and Google a global empire, causing a seismic, cataclysmic shift in creative culture in our country and the world at large.

The vast majority of music on YouTube is uploaded by people with no legal right to do so – users whom YouTube has carefully molded and brainwashed.  And I’m meeting more and more young musicians who feel a growing resentment at being duped into being a part of cannibalistic behavior that is destroying their own financial future to the benefit of a corporate giant.

Here are a few things that the Viacom judges never got to hear – things that in my opinion should immediately kick YouTube out of the “safe harbor.”

Ways in Which YouTube “Substantially Influences User Behavior”

A. YouTube allows infringers to “monetize” illegally uploaded work, encouraging a culture of piracy.  And even after a takedown, YouTube and the infringers keep their past illegal profits for themselves.

B. YouTube has created technologies that allow lightning fast uploads of full tracks and albums, with no questions asked of the uploader, with no checkpoints of any kind.   YouTube knows full well there is almost never “fair use” for full tracks and albums.   So, to encourage this type of uploading can only be seen as blatant encouragement of out and out infringement.

C. YouTube is using Content ID to make users feel good about themselves as they upload work that they don’t own.   YouTube baits users to upload to their hearts content and feel helpful to copyright owners.   But for those of us who weren’t accepted into YouTube’s Content ID protection program, or didn’t agree to drink the purple Kool-Aid of licensing our entire catalogue to YouTube for monetization, tough luck – you’re left with an anemic takedown remedy.   YouTube should proactively direct users to a library of licensed music before they upload, rather than perpetuate the notion that one can upload anything, without inquiry and responsibility.   As it stands, YouTube emboldens users to assume it’s OK to upload indiscriminately.

D. YouTube has publicly offered to pay attorney’s fees up to a million dollars of some users who feel they’ve wrongly received takedown notices.   This publicity stunt emboldens all users to feel that YouTube has their back.   What a way to intimidate the creator and stir up the infringer.

E. YouTube consistently demonizes and intimidates musicians in the takedown process, publicly posting our names and making public apologies for our takedowns accompanied by a sad face.   And inversely, they protect the identity of the user who has infringed the creators work.   This public demonization of creators, contrasted by protection of the user, is unbalanced, and empowers the user to feel they are in the right.   The public apology should be from YouTube itself.

F. YouTube turns a blind eye to beyond-obvious-infringement, and users know that YouTube purposely looks the other way.   Go to YouTube and search “no infringement intended,” “I don’t own this, but…,” “I just want to share this music,” and millions of examples instantly appear where users openly admit to not owning the music or having the rights, but simply want to share it.   Google, the indisputable “king of data” certainly has the analytics to search this stuff and inform those that are breaking the law.

G. YouTube intentionally confuses and misleads users about the importance of copyright rights, offering utterly inane “educational videos.”  Watch Copyright Basics or Copyright School to see how YouTube completely downplays creators’ rights, and overplays the impact of fair use without clarification.

And YouTube’s legal eagle, Fred von Lohmann, even lectures creators about censoring negative commentary in Copyright Basics, so his hypocrisy at having disabled the public’s comments on these pathetic videos was not lost on me.  Any judge would be repulsed by YouTube’s hubris and arrogance displayed in these ghastly videos.  Considering that “music” is the most popular category of content on YouTube, it stands to follow that any educational video should at very least say to all users, “full tracks and albums” almost never qualify as “fair use.”

For years, YouTube has been a “pusher” of pirate activity on its unsuspecting “users.”  The sweeping influence of their scam has succeeded in dismantling copyright from the inside, like a flesh-eating virus, influencing citizens to destroy themselves.   Any company influencing behavior like this, especially for the purposes of eroding Constitutional rights, should lose their safe harbor.

Withholding Content ID from Creators is Outrageous.

There are other grounds for kicking YouTube out of the ‘safe harbor.”   To be in it, the law (section 512(i) which is written in terms even a non-lawyer like me can read) requires that YouTube make available to “any person on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms” “standard technical measures” to identify or protect copyrighted works.   Well guess what:  YouTube has completely ignored that requirement, and struts around like a banty rooster while doing it.

Content ID is pretty standard “fingerprinting” stuff, and there are other companies that have similarly effective fingerprinting technologies like Audible Magic.  Fingerprinting has become standard, and YouTube certainly uses it very effectively when it comes to monetizing mountains of licensed works.  The DMCA makes it very clear YouTube needs to make that technology available to ANY (the word “any” is in the law) musician, not just the big powerful companies.  And certainly the technology shouldn’t be able to be used to instead coerce copyright holders into monetizing their catalogues instead of protecting them.

The scheme is clear: wear copyright owners down, and then they’ll be on their knees for any scraps at all.  I’m so sorry that so many big companies caved in to that pressure.  YouTube has brought nearly everyone in our business to our knees.

You won’t see me drinking YouTube’s purple Kool-Aid.  They refused me Content ID without any real explanation, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the truth.  This truth about fingerprinting is exposed in Hank Green’s own letter.   The truth even more came to light in Zoe Keating’s Billboard article.

Clearly, after training their unsuspecting users to be pirates, the next tactic is to muscle the weak copyright holders into an all-or-nothing chokehold.  They never wanted creators “protecting” their work with Content ID at all – they want them monetizing their work, for YouTube’s benefit.  (And by the way, YouTube keeps about 2/3rds of the gross ad revenue – read East Bay Ray’s helpful explanation.)

Clearly, the only companies that get some protection from the Content ID service are ones licensing huge amounts of music, and then they probably get to offset a certain amount of work to be protected from upload at all.  I’m guessing a few big artists get to use Content ID as intended –  the ones that YouTube would want to keep quiet.  It’s hard to know the whole ugly truth that YouTube hides from us behind the NDAs Keating spoke about.

The Emperor (or Data Lord) Has No Clothes

So if we take away YouTube’s “safe harbor,” what do we have left?   It’s standing there naked, exposed for what it is – a huge pirate schemer, manipulating and using a lot of vulnerable people in order to feed their own greed, while intimidating and controlling the rest of the people that don’t feed their needs –  the people that need to be kept out of YouTube’s way.   In my opinion this scheme is an old-fashioned racket.

YouTube is Guilty of Criminal Racketeering

YouTube has thoroughly twisted, contorted, and abused the original meaning of the outdated DMCA “safe harbor” to create a massive income redistribution scheme, where income is continually transferred from the pockets of musicians and creators of all types, and siphoned directly into their own pockets.   Congress seems to be too hypnotized by Alphabet lobbyists, swarming like locusts, for the lawmakers to stand up straight with a firm sense of right and wrong, and defend the Constitution and the citizens of this country.

When we analyze the bullying behavior of YouTube, in my opinion YouTube has created an illegal business through intimidation – the classic Webster’s Dictionary definition of racketeering.

Racketeer:  a person who makes money through illegal activities; one who obtains money by an illegal enterprise, usually involving intimidation.

So let’s look at just a few examples of intimidating behavior YouTube shoves at us in the back alleys of its monstrous empire.

A. YouTube’s first intimidation is that you can’t join Content ID, unless you fit its special secret criteria, which we don’t know what it really is, but which appears to be that you must offer up your whole catalogue for monetization, in order to get the benefit of the technology.   And it must be a big catalogue, clearly bigger than mine.

B. YouTube’s second intimidation is making the musician sign on YouTube’s/Google’s terms in order to do a takedown. (See Stephen Carlisle’s article) It is abusive of the law, self-serving, and intimidating, as there are limits of liability, place of jurisdiction and various legalese that one shouldn’t have to agree to in order to do a take-down.   None of that is in the DMCA.   That’s YouTube’s own special sauce.

C. YouTube’s third intimidation is to reveal to the whole world, the identity of the person exercising their Constitutional right, while protecting the uploader’s identity.   That’s not in the DMCA.   It’s YouTube’s special spin.

D. YouTube’s fourth intimidation is to offer a permanent public apology for me and a sad face (or “frownie face” as YouTube general counsel, Katherine Oyama, corrected me at the Section 512 Hearings before Congress in 2014.   (YouTube and Google love “cute” words, “Alphabet, Google, YouTube, Frownie…” it creates an illusion of being harmless.)   Many rights-holders have told of bullying and threats that have resulted from exposure of their identity.   This demonization and intimidation makes many creators reticent to assert their Constitutional right.   That’s not in the DMCA.   That was YouTube’s grand idea.

E. YouTube’s fifth intimidation is to throw a whole lot of questions at the copyright holder, and even a threat about attorney’s fees, whereas none are posed to the user at the point of upload.   That’s not in the DMCA.   Only YouTube could be so cunning.

F. The sixth YouTube intimidation is the publicity stunt of offering a million dollars to defend a user against a wrongful takedown.   That’s scary.   What if I make a mistake?   And why aren’t they offering a million dollars to me against the endless infringements on my work on their site?   That confusing dynamic of YouTube throwing around their power to embolden their well-trained users is beyond intimidating.   It makes creators just give up, while it inversely cranks infringers up.   Sure, there are wrong takedowns, but there’s no comparison to the incalculable volume of infringement.   This scheme isn’t in the DMCA.   That must have come from YouTube’s goons.

G. The seventh intimidation is that though they have what’s now a standard finger-printing technology to keep content down, they force musicians like me into an endless whack-a-mole game that eventually wears out even the fiercest of us.   I personally know the feeling of giving up, and the resentment that builds when you feel manipulated into helplessness by corporate manipulation.

H. And just because they’re a different head of the same ugly monster, the eighth intimidation is specifically Google’s – Google and their special 46-step path to a takedown (cited by Stephen Carlisle) that again, ends in having to sign on to those nasty terms and condition just like YouTube.  What an abuse of the DMCA.

It’s almost impossible to believe that any group of human beings could have been so bold as to dream up and implement such a sick plan as all of this.  Even Google itself initially expressed that YouTube was dirty.  As we know, they eventually bought YouTube, so I guess Google finally decided that its inspired motto of “do no evil” was just too high of a bar to live by.  The following statements/admissions by Google employees were taken from the Viacom/YouTube case, and were made before Google acquired YouTube:

“A large part of their traffic is pirated content.”

YouTube is a “rogue enabler of content theft.”

“YouTube’s business model is completely sustained by pirated content.”

“It’s a video Grokster.”

“I can’t believe you’re recommending buying YouTube . . . they’re 80% illegal pirated content.”

“…it crosses the threshold of Don’t Be Evil to facilitate distribution of other people’s intellectual property.”

Google thoroughly recognized this was criminal activity.   But when Google bought YouTube in 2006 for 1.65 billion, their tune suddenly changed.

Copyright Infringement + Intimidation = Racketeering

Since Google bought YouTube, the Alphabet empire folded their new piracy factory into the world’s most powerful company, the world’s richest company, and the world’s most secretive company.   Alphabet encourages, for their own gain, a “free” and “open” society, where all “content” is free and accessible, as though that is some sort of measure of a free society.   But when it comes to their own “content” in the form of its database and algorithms, they choose to guard it like Fort Knox.

The recent dustup at Facebook, with the political influence wielded behind their wizard’s green curtain, is just a small example of the sort of power data lords can have over us ordinary folks.   Alphabet’s influence, control, and domination will only grow exponentially as the value of its “trade secret” database continues to balloon to unimaginable proportions.   Thank God the EU is holding companies like Alphabet responsible, as we in this country all seem to be asleep at the switch, so long as YouTube is there to serve us up some edifying viral videos of somebody lighting their crotch on fire.

What is especially scary about this corporate power is that YouTube is now starting to inject itself into the very manner in which art is created.   Do we really want YouTube controlling the funding of music?   How terrifying – they destroy our creative culture, and now “they” want to save it by helping to create it themselves?   Oh my God!   That brings me to my final revelation:

YouTube Suffers from Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy

I was thinking about this whole convoluted scheme YouTube has cooked up with its Content ID program, when something popped in my mind, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.   That’s that disease you hear about sometimes on the local news where some sicko caregiver induces an illness to their own patients, so they can then turn around and quick save them and be the hero.

I suddenly realized, oh my God, that’s YouTube!  YouTube has Munchausen by proxy!   I see now – they’re not only evil, they’re sick.   Too bad it’s the most powerful company in the world that has the Munchausen affliction, and the entire world of music, film, and creative arts are the unsuspecting victims.   We, like the unsuspecting patient, can all feel grateful that YouTube, our savior, has come up with the life-saving solution of helping us monetize our pirated work, and they’ll further save us by letting some of us be “the chosen” YouTube artists they’ll produce.

Common Sense Solutions

I asked YouTube nicely to reform its ways when I testified before Congress, offering several key ways to even the playing field and stop destroying musicians and other creators.   But they’ve not only ignored me (and many others like me), they’ve since turned up the heat and made an even greater mockery of the “safe harbor” rules.

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in four of the seven roundtables held by the U.S. Copyright Office on the DMCA’s Section 512.   I offered the following common-sense solutions:

A. Takedown should mean stay-down.

B. There should be mandatory checkpoints and education on the upload, with language created by the U.S. Office of Copyright, as well as a required signed perjury statement on the upload.   Parity between upload and takedown is only logical and only fair.

C. All sites with uploaded content should have to use the latest fingerprinting technology where creators can enter their work for the purpose of protecting it, not for the purpose of being muscled into monetizing it to the benefit of the hosting company.

D. Stop the public display of the copyright holder’s identity when they do a takedown.

For starters, YouTube, would you please consider these four steps as a first, good-faith step in the right direction?

Perspective is Everything

I appreciate that YouTube might work for a select few folks including Mr. Hank Green, but it is not in any way representative of the breadth of the arts in America – musicians, authors, filmmakers, photographers, poets, artists and more.   Alphabet is systematically leeching away our diverse and rich culture in order to become the most powerful and wealthy corporate empire the world has ever known.   And it’s just getting started.

The Internet has brought the world together in many wonderful ways.  I appreciate that as much as anyone, having been the first Internet-only, fan-funded Grammy winner.  But the arts have connected people far more, and for far longer, than the Internet.  The arts have connected us in times of war, brought healing through times of suppression, brought inspiration in times of need, and expression when weak voices needed to be heard.

The Internet and the arts could be powerful if they worked to help one another, but as it stands, the Internet is being used by corporate giants to gut the arts for their own gain – and they are destroying our culture.

I heard an extremely powerful quote yesterday from the great American author, T.J. Stiles, (where he paraphrased Professor Jane Ginsburg from Columbia University) saying: “the worst form of censorship is poverty.”  YouTube/Google, and other data lord companies are absolutely “silencing” and thereby “censoring” the arts – just ask the 80% of Nashville songwriters who have had to leave the profession in the last decade.

Jaron Lanier, who wrote Who Owns the Future, describes musicians as the canary in the coal mine.  While YouTube has the canary’s feathers sticking out of its mouth, we’re not dead yet.  Temporarily dazed by YouTube’s cunning bite, and drowning in its greedy drool, we are slowly coming to our senses.

Musicians and artists of all types, as well as record companies, publishers and agents (who only exist because of music creators), need to unite and stand up for our Constitutional right to own our copyrights, and to force data lords like YouTube out of the lucrative “safe harbor” that it has used to exploit us.

75 Responses

    • Anonymous


      My favorite part was “YouTube has thoroughly twisted, contorted, and abused the original meaning of the outdated DMCA “safe harbor” …”

      So wait … you mean someone besides the existing, malevolent Music, Video and Content producers managed to use the DMCA so the Old Guard content producers have suddenly decided the DMCA is now “Outdated” (or at least the parts of it they didn’t really want in the first place … the exceptions).

      Color me “shocked” /s

      • Anonymous

        “so the Old Guard content producers have suddenly decided the DMCA is now “Outdated””

        The old guard????? lol

        You don’t think the DMCA is outdated?

        • hg

          You don’t think the DMCA is outdated?

          i think YOU are outdated.

    • David

      I actually had to read This Business Music (Billboard Press) whilst in engineering school. I remember the Dat machines coming from Japan because they were considered burglary tools. Not legal here. Meanwhile in Europe there was a blank media tax because everyone knew copying copyright content was the main utilization. Meanwhile cassette sales, because TDK and MEMOREX lobbied our stupid Congress into believing that all those cassettes were being used for legitimate reasons. This all started with case prices on blank tapes of all kinds at Good Guys et al. So when the Internet happened I remembered a Netty Award conference at Moscow where I got into a claw your eyes out argument with this 22 yrs old moron who just kept chanting “information wants to be free” a cryptogram for if I can steal your intellectual property you can’t sue because it’s immoral. The train ran off the rails before Napster whose creator should have been sent to prison was even a glimmer. Most musicians today don’t know…..performance royalty, from synchronization rights or best of all mechanical rate. I was recently at a magnet performing arts school here where no law was being taught. Never mind labour history which in a way led to paying the victims on tin pan alley in the alley beside the Brill building.

      In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. Illiteracy is biting us in the ass yet again.

  1. Nicholas

    A couple of your common sense solutions are full of bologna. This is why.

    A. Takedown should mean stay-down.

    That would give further power to copyright takedown abusers. While there is illegally uploaded content, there is also a multitude of critics whose videos are removed because the people who they criticize don’t like the criticism, even when they told the critics ‘go ahead, you can even have this review copy!’

    Yes, this has happened. Enacting a stay-down policy would result in the destruction of many people’s livings because just one person could impersonate a copyright holder to content they do not own and take down the videos permanently.

    This sort of behavior happens regularly. This policy would be rewarding it.

    B. There should be mandatory checkpoints and education on the upload, with language created by the U.S. Office of Copyright, as well as a required signed perjury statement on the upload. Parity between upload and takedown is only logical and only fair.

    Okay. You upload it, you must acknowledge that your content adheres to copyright policy and is your original work/the original creator consented to the upload in your name, and must sign to this fact so you can’t squirm out of trouble. This is fine.

    C. All sites with uploaded content should have to use the latest fingerprinting technology where creators can enter their work for the purpose of protecting it, not for the purpose of being muscled into monetizing it to the benefit of the hosting company.

    I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say here, so you can explain more thoroughly or we can both ignore it.

    D. Stop the public display of the copyright holder’s identity when they do a takedown.

    No. This would be further rewarding anonymity and illicit acts against a person on a personal basis. The foremost problem with copyright takedowns is that the people who issue the staggering number of false claims run away with no consequences, and can even steal monetization for some time before the claim finally dies out because they have nothing legitimate to back it up.

    By further allowing them to remain nameless, we’re giving them more opportunity to abuse the system with literally no repercussions.

    You can’t push for change on YouTube like this because you’re not pushing the right points. Yes, there is illegally uploaded music. But that is far from the only problem, and you’re pretending like it is. Don’t.

    • Anonymous

      You try too hard google guy, it’s no worky.

    • Versus

      What is the ” the staggering number of false claims”?
      Accurate estimate, please, with evidence.

      • Troglite

        Thank you!!

        I would add to that by asking what monetary damages were incurred as the direct result of each false claim?

      • Human

        Ohh, I love when burden of proof lies on the common man and almost never on the elite artists and producers. Lets face it, artists getting ripped off is only a headline discussion when it’s a millionaire who’s the victim.

  2. JTVDigital

    And I commented her letter, pointing out all the BS and lack of understanding how Content ID works and benefits for artists (vs pirated and non-monetized content).
    Surprisingly the comment was not published…

  3. Ronald K.

    I’ve stopped taking copyright seriously the day the Disney Extension was approved and the audience got royally shafted up the pooper. Roll back the insane IP laws to where they were, not centuries after the death of the creator, stop sicking lawyers onto people uploading birthday parties, and stop going after schoolkids with laywers.

    Once sanity has returned, I might give a damn about musicians. Before that, I won’t shed a tear.

    Just for your information: the music industry is still raking in billions. See http://www.statista.com/topics/1639/music/ – yes, piracy took a bite out of their profits. But so did the fact that new music was lackluster and MP3’s don’t have to be replaced like vinyl or CD.

    • Versus

      “stop going after schoolkids with laywers”

      So how to go after “schoolkids” who break the law?
      Or because they are “kids”, laws don’t apply to them?
      Kids will be kids, let them loot and pillage!

    • Seriously

      So, you stopped taking Copyright seriously.

      Is that for all the writers, photographers, artists and musicians in the world as well? Is it also for your own works, assuming at some point you have/would like to create some?

      Or does this just apply to Dumbo and the Big Bad Wolf?

      • sedwards

        If Copyright Holders want people to respect the law, then they need to be the ones to fight to return some sanity to the law and actually understand what Copyright is.

        There is no natural right to Copyright, it is a fully artificial creation and it is only by the graces of the nation that you have any protection at all. Patent holders don’t get anywhere near the length of term of protection for invention that Copyright holders get, and it is a disservice to them and the world at large, and it would be even worse if they did, because the entire point of the law is to promote for a ‘limited time’. Once that artificial ‘limited time’ passes, then the material is supposed to return to the commons as it would without the artificial limitation.

        So what does that mean, an artificial limitation? All property law is based on the concept of ownership. A person can have something and loan it out but have the right to get the property back in their possession. It can be sold or transferred and the same rights granted to someone else.

        Information is different in that by giving it away, one will still retain the original knowledge. If anything, sharing it actually increases its value as it can spur other innovation which can improve upon the original work.

        Since the marginal cost of replication is zero, once the information is given away and can be replicated over and over again at no cost, there is not really any way to compute the value because the replication is now unbounded, it is no longer a limited commodity like Gold or Silver or Oil.

        It is only because of value to society at large that we allow for an artificial protection to turn information in to a limited commodity to help the creator for a limited time. For most of human history we lacked this sort of protection and even once civil society innovated it, the term lengths were more inline with the protections granted to the useful sciences like patent law.

        If you want to be taken seriously, return Copyright protection to twenty or forty years, otherwise even those of us that understand the purpose of the law will advocate flagrantly violating it.

        • DavidB

          In the past I’ve challenged people with views like yours to say whether they would accept a copyright regime based solely on the laws of contract, but I’ve never got a clear reply. Here’s your chance to rectify that.
          Your comparison of copyright and patents is misconceived. Patents do not last as long as copyright, but give wider protection. A patent protects the inventor of a product or process against competition, regardless of whether the competitor is copying the invention or might plausibly have discovered it independently (unless they can show that they were actually using it before the patent was filed.) Typically, many different inventors are trying to solve the same problem in much the same way at the same time, but a patent gives the reward to the one who gets there first. For example, many people were trying to develop an electric light bulb at the same time as Swann and Edison, but Swann (in the UK) and Edison (in the US) filed the first successful patents. This is not closely comparable to works of art, where independent recreation of an extensive work is unlikely, but if it can be shown that the creation was independent, there is no copyright infringement, in contrast to patents.

          • sedwards

            It is not misconceived because we’ve allowed them to be lumped in to this nebulous concept of ‘Intellectual Property’ along with Trademarks and the rest.

            The concept you are missing, or perhaps consciously avoiding is the ‘limited time’ argument. Here let me help you.

            “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

            The argument is that the entire life or the entire life plus more time is beyond reason for ‘limited time’.

            If you want to throw in other canards and red herrings, feel free to keep doing it, but that is the root of the argument.

            The law is bad. Our founders believed we have an obligation to break bad law so the full weight of the bad law does not come down on those that are unaware or unprepared to face a government that is acting unjustly.

            That is the argument. Until the ‘limited time’ is returned to a ‘limited time’ you can expect little respect for the law.

        • Me2

          “There is no natural right to Copyright, it is a fully artificial creation and it is only by the graces of the nation that you have any protection at all.”

          Just like every other right. In the US Bill of Rights we see freedom of press, freedom of speech, right to assemble, redress of grievances and so on. Copyright is written into the first article: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” So I’m not sure exactly what your point is here.

          I thought along your lines back in freshman year, for roughly a few days.

          Then I started to ask myself why not just copy bank accounts? They’re digital. Wouldn’t that just make them more valuable? Then I took economics.

          Also, this “zero production cost” meme that keeps popping up has always been suspect to me on a rational level (and also from experience in the content creation industries). Nothing is free. It’s labor, equipment, time, investment. Whether that be studios, coders or server rooms it’s all cost.

          Free culture had a good run, but it’s clearly been hijacked by corporate interests. If you don’t see that the “Open” mentality is being every bit as abused as Copyright ever was, then perhaps a little more attention is needed.

          And if you think that commodities markets don’t employ “artificial” scarcity, then again, you haven’t been watching the way grown-ups do things.

          So perhaps at best we just have a mild case of “think it through here”. At worst, a philosophy as utterly devoid of context sand humanity as a certain disconnected machine that sings “Crazy” to itself and tries to make a point.

          Talk about artificial.

          • sedwards

            Is it possible for you to make an argument without lying? I am not saying you are, I am going to be nice and assume you simply have a misunderstanding.

            I didn’t say “zero production cost”

            I said “marginal cost of replication is zero”

            Come back when you understand the difference and we can discuss it.

          • Me2

            Yes, I’m aware of the misquote from what your post is, and thought about changing it. But no editing here… and the phrase I usually see is exactly as I wrote it. Plus, it doesn’t always have to be about you. The statement is just fine on it’s own.

            And yes I know the difference. Though one might argue that zero isn’t really a ‘cost’ per say. I pointed out that servers and hardware used to ‘freely’ copy files still have a cost. Huge costs in the case of large companies. Even with p2p you’ve still got your computer, drive space etc.

            This is my point. It’s fine to idealize all you like, but that just isn’t how things really pan out.

            Anything else that you think I’m lying about?

          • Me2

            EDIT- 1st sentence

            Yes, I’m aware of the there is different wording from what you posted.

            (because, It’s not really a misquote at all, you’re not named in it, and that’s what bugged me about this for the last bit. Sorry if you read it that way, but I’m past that confusion now. I always copy and paste, or go verbatim when actually quoting people.

            If you read it again, you can see that I’m trying to accurately identify a theme that I repeatedly see, and not directly attributing it to you. I was right to leave it. Thanks and have a good one.)

        • Troglite

          Gotta call bullshit when you correlate mass-scale infringement with the need to violate laws that are unjust. It’s an insult to act like the repression of basic human rights could be equated to not being able to listen to a particular song whenever and wherever you want or the inability to monetize a derivative work. Cry me river.

    • gailstorm

      No system is perfect. Doesn’t mean you blow up what people have been working and battling over and compromising over for a century. Yeah there is abuse. There always will be. We live in an oligarchy.

  4. Walker of the Bees

    I respect our artistic community greatly, but as Maria points out, music and the arts have been a cultural glue holding people together for centuries, which is long before copyright became a thing. In the US and in many other countries, copyright holders have great power over culture, and as much as they feel abused by Google over their copyrights being infringed, they have to realize that many of the rest of us feel abused by copyright law and the way it locks up popular culture and arts out of our grasp for decades and decades. Rights holders like Maria never mention fair use in their tirades against the DMCA and Safe Harbor provisions. And they never seem to acknowledge how Google’s ContentID system can be abused by powerful organizations to silence unwanted views and unilaterally quash fair use.

    But Maria is in a tough spot (thought not as tough a spot as many smaller indie artists). She’s not a huge mega-star with influence to spare or a nascent star for whom YouTube is the key to future wealth. She is successful, but stuck in that moderate middle where she can’t strong-arm Google for her needs but she has lost sight of the inherent monopolistic tyranny of strong copyright that Google sometimes serves as a bulwark against (both intentionally and unintentionally). Just as copyright shields some, it is a bludgeon against others. Just as Google appears to some to “run roughshod” over copyright, to others it helps the dis-empowered find a voice with which to fight for fair use and battle the massive forces of copyright that so often deny us access to our own culture.

    There is no nobility in this issue, just the recognition that the issue is not nearly as simplistic as Maria seems to want it to be.

    • Matt

      Walker of the Bees,

      In what way are you “abused by copyright law and the way it locks up popular culture and arts out of our grasp for decades and decades”

      Can you elaborate?

      Do you think $9.99 for access to vast majority of the entire history of recorded music is too much? I hardly call that abuse.

      • Walker of the Bees

        Where can I get access to the “vast majority of the entire history or recorded music” for only $9.99? And how long do I have that access? Am I limited to just listening to that music, or can I actually use it for things, both personal and transformative? Participating in popular culture is more than just paying money to listen to or view things and go to concerts. It’s also about using, reusing, transforming those arts in ways the original artists never imagined, and perhaps don’t necessarily approve of. Culture is participatory, not passive. Copyright allows an artist to basically prevent others from interacting meaningfully with their works. Thank goodness for fair use to give us some access to that vast universe of art.

  5. Gary

    I was trying to read this & take it seriously until I got to the phrase, “fermenting a veritable pirate orgy.” Now all I can think of is naked pirates drinking kombucha.

    • Anonymous

      Wow, all the google shills come out to play today.

      Wonder why, haha…

      • Google Shill

        Ironic you call people Google shills, when companies like UMG and Sony constantly take down music made by their own artists because it “belongs” to Sony and UMG.

        Trading one slavery for another isn’t the answer, and if the answer is for everyone have their own label, then we might as well tell artists to just not make money. Maria’s ideas are dangerous when there’s billion dollar companies that can strong arm the ideas she’s putting forth.

        Anything that would apply to an independent artist would also be applicable to the billion dollar gatekeepers that exist. And it’s the ignorance in realizing that how laws allowing indefinite incarceration of any citizen the government deems dangerous by their own definition gets passed.

  6. What if...

    What if Tidal could be the new YouTube everybody wants?

    I mean, it’s got HD, 16/44 FLACs, subs. And we keep talking about it for all sorts of reasons. It’s not like Vessel, or something.

    And I know — Beyoncé, West, Prince. But why would they be the last?

  7. L. Bart

    If Copyright holders had their way, we would have much less access to content. Many people won’t stop talking about how piracy is bad, never mentioning that strict Copyright rules result in music and other content being so often denied, even when the public is willing to pay. For instance, if I were to buy CDs I’d have to buy many of them in foreign stores, because distributors in my country are very limited. This would make me buy one CD for the price of five, because of currency conversion, taxes, and expensive shipping, and wait several months to receive my package. Thanks to the Internet and how easy it is to get music, I subscribe to streaming and have music aplenty. How about discussing this kind of problem, instead of simply insisting that Copyright rules must be enforced at all costs?

    • Me2

      Actually, if Copyright holders had their way, you’d have more access that you can handle. It’s just that they’d get paid when the content is accessed.

      • L. Bart

        Like in the 90s, when I barely had access to music? Artists and labels miss that time so much. I don’t.

        • Versus

          I know, I also hate those greedy store owners who expect me to wait in line at a cash register, and then pay for things!

          Things are so much better during blackouts when we can just loot everything.

          Information wants to be free!
          So do groceries, flat-screen TVs, your credit card info,and, by the way, your car! You can walk to work, fascist capitalist pigs!

  8. An Indie

    YouTube’s MO and terms of service are just as one-sided and self serving if not more so than anything the ‘Old Guard’ came up with.

    Lotsa derision towards ‘Big Media’ here, not much talk about ‘Big Data’ yet. Do the numbers, then tell me who’s big.

    As an indie, I could care less which one is doing the screwing, it’s pretty much equal.

    But what some indies serious about protecting their interests in these matters (ie control over their own work, and remuneration) need to see is that YouTube is not your friend, and your eroding rights are ironically best served at this point by the content creators/rights holders side of things.

    How much longer till coffee time?

  9. Anonymous

    “but for the vast majority of the artistic community, including me, and every musician I know (and I know thousands), YouTube is a resounding disaster.”

    Yup, that’s all every artist needs to know about YouTube.

  10. Anonymous

    ” YouTube should immediately lose its DMCA “safe harbor” status. And I’m of the further opinion that YouTube is guilty of racketeering”


    An important part of Google’s business model is to maximize the revenue it generates from the interval between a and b, where a is the moment Google uploads the criminal content, and b is the moment when it is forced to take it down.

    This technique was carefully developed and refined over the years in order to monetize flaws in the DMCA on an industrial scale.

  11. Anonymous

    “And even after a takedown, YouTube and the infringers keep their past illegal profits for themselves.”

    YouTube’s latest — and perhaps most brilliant — scheme is to allow monetization during ongoing twists.

    To support the right holders, of course. 🙂

    No matter if you win or lose the twist, YouTube will always get your money in the end.

  12. Me2

    There are some good points here. DMCA needs to be rewritten. Too much abuse. Too much infringement, and too much takedown abuse. Uploads and takedowns need to be taken more seriously, Right now the way YouTube operates makes a mockery of both copyright and free speech. But make no mistake, the way things are now work for YouTube, and that’s all that really matters to them.

  13. Anonymous

    “But for those of us who weren’t accepted into YouTube’s Content ID protection program, or didn’t agree to drink the purple Kool-Aid of licensing our entire catalogue to YouTube for monetization, tough luck”

    Yes, it’s pure extortion:

    If you don’t allow Google to monetize everything you own, the company can no longer protect you against its thugs, and bad things can (and will) happen. 🙁

    • Me2

      And that’s if you can even get Content ID. They’re discriminatory here. Evidently, protections as defined by the law are not for everyone.

      • Versus

        That is a serious problem indeed. If ContentID is the proffered solution or “opt out”, it has to be offered to everyone.

        But to really do right, ContentID blocking should be the DEFAULT, and rights owners should have to opt in to allow their works to be on YouTube.

        Otherwise it’s like saying you have a right to ask every bootlegger of your work in the world “Please take down your work, but you you can keep all the profits you made by stealing it until now, and you won’t receive any penalty at all”. That’s what GoogleTube calls respecting intellectual property?

        Someone needs to hack all of Google’s software search algorithms and technology research and share them with the world as an example of “fair use”.

        • Me2

          Haha. Granted, Fair Use can be a murky determination in some cases, but uploading an entire album, movie, someone else’s video or flat out distributing someone else’s code is more clearly not fair use.

  14. Anonymous

    …this is why Google shouldn’t mess with writers:

    They can write!

    Take that, Google motherf*ckers!

  15. Anonymous

    I just asked European Commisioner Margrethe Vestager to read this article.

    It’s the encyclopedia of GWOA — Google’s War On Art — and it everybody should read it.

  16. hexicGrind

    This absurd novel assumes that there is no fair use of copyrighted content. Apparently they’ve never seen one of the millions of videos on youtube that are so blatantly fair use that this entire rant becomes pathetic.


    • Versus

      What’s “blatantly fair use”?

      Certainly not just posting entire songs and albums with the cover artwork or some semi-pornographic image.

    • Matt

      There’s a lot more unfair use than there is fair on youtube.

  17. Me2

    ” I personally know the feeling of giving up, and the resentment that builds when you feel manipulated into helplessness by corporate manipulation.”

    This sums it up for me, as an artist finally realizing some years ago just how stacked their system is against artists. Utterly extortionate, usurping and anti-art to the very core. I can come up with no other way to put it.

    It was then that I took down the whole library, some 4 albums worth. And down for good so far.

    The fact that YT may be making some money from my work without my “participation” is simply further proof of what they are all about.

    • Me2

      Shoot, I forgot about my other bands, projects, and songwriting, probably eight or ten albums that I ended up pulling from YouTube.

  18. Anonymous

    I wanted to know if other music sites had printed this absolutely outstanding open letter, so I googled one of the phrases.

    The result was kind of depressing, though: This article was the only result. So nobody really seems to care.

    Then I saw the small letters at the bottom of the page:

    “In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 1 already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included. ”

    And there we go — articles in musictechpolicy, indiebrewdotnet, indiesstandup, beatblah, hypebot, vdoop… 🙂

    • Versus

      Let’s all do our part and spread this far and wide. Link to this article on your various accounts, Twitter, FB, etc.

  19. Versus

    “A. YouTube allows infringers to “monetize” illegally uploaded work, encouraging a culture of piracy. And even after a takedown, YouTube and the infringers keep their past illegal profits for themselves.”

    Excellent point. That illicitly gained “income” should be distributed to the rights holder, along with a penalty fine/interest.

    • Me2

      True and this latest escrow stunt of theirs is simply income optimization. But what if they could keep the infringing content off of the platform in the first place? They already have this capability, but they only use it when It’s to the advantage of their bottom line.

  20. notdrinkingherkoolaideither

    what she means is that “unless you are part of the elite musician/artist trade group and publish all your music/art through this “approved” method” you cannot and will not publish at all. No one can be trusted -and WE are sole arbitrators of what you can and cannot publish.


  21. Bruce Houghton of Hypebot

    This article is the worst article I’ve ever read!

    There’s only one thing worse: every other article on Digital Music News!

    • Nah

      You’re just mad that all the comments are here.

  22. FarePlay

    I finally met Maria at the recent US Copyright Office Roundtable hearings in NYC earlier this month.

    The hearings were on Section 512 and transcripts from those hearings will become available shortly.

    One thing is becoming eminently clear, both from those hearings and recent articles from Irving Azoff, Nikki Sixx and the thousands of artists who have recently signed letters of support for a “stay down” type resolution to the problems created by a safe harbor provision that protects rampant criminal activity.

    If you want to actually do something about it, either write a letter to you congressman or add your signature here:

    • Anonymous

      “I finally met Maria at the recent US Copyright Office Roundtable hearings in NYC earlier this month.”

      She’s my hero now.

  23. DavidB

    Most of the people who go on and on about fair use don’t know what it is, which is not surprising, because neither does the Supreme Court of the United States. If it is desirable for YouTube posters to have a ‘fair use’ option, it would be possible for this to be incorporated into YT’s terms of service. Posters would be required to vouch that either:
    a) their post contains no material subject to copyright
    b) it does, but they have obtained consent from the relevant copyright holders
    c) they believe it is covered by ‘fair use’. But in this case they should be required to specify the grounds on which they think it is ‘fair use’. This would concentrate minds wonderfully, and put a stop to all the idiots posting entire tracks, albums, TV episodes, etc, with a comment just saying ‘no copyright infringement intended’.

    • Faza (TCM)

      Almost agree, except that my suggestion would be that rather than explaining why they think it’s fair use, they should be required to provide verifiable details of their identity – in case a rights holder disagrees with their assessment.

      See, I don’t believe that YouTube have any desire (nor are competent) to judge whether a use is fair. Instead, we would have an assertion from the uploader along the lines of “I believe any use of third-party copyrighted works in this upload is covered under Fair Use and here’s who to file suit against”. In the event of a copyright challenge, YouTube can simply say “this guy says he’s clear, sort it out between yourselves”. If the copyright holder feels they have a case, they can file suit.

      It really is important that everyone finally gets it into their thick skulls that a finding of Fair Use is something you get only by going to court.

    • Oh Wise One...


      “Most of the people who go on and on about fair use don’t know what it is, which is not surprising, because neither does the Supreme Court of the United States.”

      Oh, please DO gift us all your sage perspective on how the SCOTUS doesn’t understand those things that YOU do…

      • DavidB

        I didn’t say that I understand what fair use is, so I don’t claim to understand something that SCOTUS doesn’t. *Nobody* understands what fair use is. Defining fair use is like trying to define a cloud. SCOTUS has deliberately left the concept of fair use open-ended, so it is impossible to be sure without a court decision whether any amount of copying, short of plain unvarnished 100% replication, would count as fair use – and I’m not even sure about the latter. I suspect that some charlatan ‘conceptual’ artists would just copy something and put a signature on it, claiming that this elevates it into art. Though it is not an American case, Damien Hirst has come very close to this in one of his ‘works’, where he just made a large copy of an anatomical model.

    • Anonymous

      “put a stop to all the idiots posting entire tracks, albums, TV episodes, etc, with a comment just saying ‘no copyright infringement intended’”

      Haha, yeah!

      Seriously, Fair Use is very simple and doesn’t apply to 99.9% of UGC on YouTube.

  24. AndyK304

    “I appreciate YouTube’s illegal business model might yield a few anecdotal success stories like Mr. Green’s and his videos of opening beer bottles with antlers…”

    Wow, what a way to trash a guy who’s done more to educate by making science fun and interesting than you’ll ever do to enlighten or educate in your comparably useless life, Mr. Resnikoff

  25. Andy L

    Schneider is signed with a record label that tried to get the courts to shut down Kickstarter.

    That should tell you what they think about the rights of independent creators, and why they want to make it more difficult to share your work online.