As Music Streaming Subscribers Grow, So Do The Amount of DMCA Takedown Requests
Edited by: Anthony Zangrillo
Back in September, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek reported via Twitter that 40 million people were now paying subscribers to his service, up from 30 million since March.1 Tim Cook shared encouraging news in September as well, noting that his streaming service, Apple Music, had already garnered 17 million paid users in just over a year since inception.2
But as both subscription income and ad revenue generated from streaming services continue to grow at a rapid pace, so do the amount of Google DMCA takedown requests submitted by record labels and rights-holders. According to Google’s Transparency Report, the tech giant is now fielding more than 24 million individual takedown requests per day, compared to 11.2 million last year and 1.7 million in 2012.3 This equates to a 115.2% increase in one year and a 14-fold increase in just four years. While Google believes that this unprecedented growth pattern is a signal that the takedown process is working efficiently, the music industry sees the situation as an unbeatable game of whack-a-mole that’s only getting worse. 4
Rights-holders have argued that the DMCA has become a “dysfunctional relic,” sustaining a loophole for massive piracy while failing to hold search giants like Google legally accountable for their part in the epidemic. What’s more, the DMCA takedown process is not equipped to handle new, widely-adopted piracy technology such as stream-ripping; “youtube to mp3,” for example, was the 7th most searched term in the world in 2015 according to Siege Media.6 James Sammataro, Managing Partner of Stroock, Stroock, & Lavan’s Miami office, stated that content holders want “a system of notice and stay-down.” This advocates a policy to identify and stamp out repeat offenders, while also shifting the burden away from content holders to police the marketplace. James mentions that the current system follows the policy that “with great rewards, comes great obligations [for content holders].” Despite the role that artists and their music play in attracting eyeballs to search engines and content platforms, there remains a large gap between the financial state of the music and technology industries: Google, for example, is valued at just under $500 billion while the entire recorded record industry is valued at around $15 billion.7
As tension continues to mount between content owners and tech companies over accountability in the fight against piracy, the United States Copyright Office is currently undertaking a public study to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the safe harbor provisions contained in section 512 of the DMCA.8 With Republicans holding onto both the House and Senate and president-elect Donald Trump poised to take the White House in January, perhaps a unified Washington will deliver DMCA reform in 2017. Change will not come without opposition, however, as some argue that reform will have unintended consequences including arbitrary censorship and an increase in litigation. “Undermining the reliability of the DMCA safe harbors would be disastrous for the Internet economy. And it isn’t just the large, well-known Internet platforms that would be affected,” said Matthew Schrupers of CCIA, an advocacy organization representing the computer, Internet, information technology, and telecommunications companies.9
Whether DMCA reform will materialize remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: while the music industry continues to win the battle of attracting costumers to services like Apple Music and Spotify, it continues to struggle in the war against piracy.