Facebook is systematically destroying the dreams of young musicians
“Respect” by Aretha Franklin, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5” — all cover songs not written or initially performed by the artists who made them famous.
Yet, they’re arguably each star's greatest hit. In music, covers can be a big deal, and are often teaching tools that morph into confidence boosters for young dreamers to embark on their own artistic journey. Covers are also an incurable thorn in the side of labels and rights owners, especially on the Internet, where thousands of illegal songs are uploaded daily.
But now, at least according to Digital Music News, Facebook has joined forces with the hungry elite and is aggressively pulling down unauthorized covers as a means to appease them. It isn’t just the popular e-celebrities who are being targeted by big labels and the social media giant either. Anyone who can (or can’t) carry a tune is in its path.
As the source article states, an LA-based singer/songwriter named Sarah Hollins woke up one morning to an inbox message from Facebook’s home office. It stated that her cover of DNCE’s “Cake by the Ocean” (something she uploaded almost 8 months ago) is in violation of copyright laws. Whoever owns the rights to the original song found her and complained. Per standard procedure, Facebook has to ask her to take down the video (as is required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) in order to cover its own ass.
If Hollins refuses to do so, Facebook reserves the right to shut her down. Essentially, it can refuse her and her artist account (which has only 400 fans) from further participating on social media. A video with less than 500 views can get her canned for good.
In an age where online profiles matter, it would be the end of her dream to become a viable musician.
Though on the surface it appears like Facebook is maliciously embarking on a lengthy “Buzzkill America Tour,” delivering takedown notices is in its obligation to do so as a third-party content provider. As per the DMCA, it’s not necessarily responsible for the things people upload, but if an offending post comes to its attention of being something violating copyright, it must make the offense a point of concern immediately. Either that or the whole site could face serious consequences.
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter — these social media branches all have an obligation to obey the law. And neither of them give two likes about Sarah Hollins and artists like her in lieu of their own ability to maintain themselves as companies with a future. Just ask GrooveShark (a once influential online streaming provider worth millions) about how it tastes when labels don’t like you. The law is on their side.
Younger, inexperienced musicians and artists often have no idea their content is illegal, however. The gray area between what they can and can’t put up is just that, completely open for interpretation. Many YouTube stars are making great livings by simply uploading a cover of their favorite artist. Except, those artists likely have agents, who themselves have worked out deals with rights holders. There’s a lot more to the backend of entertainment than one might think.
You don’t need a fancy Hollywood-type agent to cover your own ass as a bedroom producer, though. At the end of the day, it’s all about intention. Are you uploading just to exploit the popularity of a song written by a Top 40 artist, or are you truly trying to get exposure or practice performing without the hassle of writing your own songs? If you make it a point to contact the rights holders, labels, or anyone else connected to it (with a searchable paper trail), often smaller deals can be worked out so that covers can be uploaded. Labels, after all, want their songs to be heard, and online influencers are big business in exposing songs that could otherwise get lost in the saturation of content.
If you're an aspiring artist, read and research everything you can about “sync licenses” — or the ability to share payouts with the people who own the content. YouTube makes it easy for anyone uploading content to cover this particular facet; sometimes not even having to deal with labels themselves.
You get a cut, the rights holders get a cut, everyone gets a cut!
For Hollins, if she had asked for a sync license before uploading, Facebook taking down her video likely wouldn’t have happened. Even if it did, all she would have to do is email Facebook with the appropriate information and everything would be fine. It's not too late, either. Just a pain in the ass more than anything else.
Those extra steps aren’t always what young artists consider. But as the online streaming battle between providers and rights holders continues to work itself out, so too will the tactics companies use to find offending material and get it offline as quick as possible. As that happens, everyone recording content becomes less immune to attacks.
It’s still legal to dream, making them a reality, however, not so much.