A who's who of recording artists including Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears have participated in a petition calling for reform of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), which they argue protects online music services that provide copyrighted content to listeners illegally. YouTube is the major target of the petitioners, who argue that artists and labels are losing revenue due to the proliferation of unlicensed music content on the free streaming video service.

The DMCA essentially protects services like YouTube who may host unlicensed copyright violating content provided by uploaders, as long as the services respond to DMCA takedown notices filed by the copyright holder after the content is uploaded.

Rather than putting the onus on platforms like YouTube, the uploader is considered responsible for the violation. The petitioners for reform, led by longtime top music executive Irving Azoff, now a music manager, argue that by allowing the upload of any content to YouTube without first checking if it is legally licensed, it is impossible to halt the proliferation of unlicensed content on the service.

For example, if an individual uploads a song to YouTube which violates copyright laws, it is up to the copyright holder to identify the violation and alert Google, which owns YouTube, to take it down.

Meanwhile, another user can upload the same song, violating the same restrictions, essentially creating an ongoing whack-a-mole game where license holders are one step behind in removing content. YouTube argues that its system, which is designed to detect illegal content is working properly, but the artists and major labels signing onto the petition beg to differ.

"[DMCA] 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. Music consumption has skyrocketed, but the monies earned by individual writers and artists for that consumption has plummeted," the petition argues. The letter further adds that "It's impossible for tens of thousands of individual songwriters and artists to muster the resources necessary to comply with [the DMCA's] application."

Other major artists signing the petition include Christina Aguilera, Deadmau5, Chicago, The Doobie Brothers, Garth Brooks, Katy Perry, Fall Out Boy, Pink, Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani, and Meghan Trainor. Also on board are all three major music labels, Warner Music Group, Sony Music and Universal Music Group.

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