John Mellencamp is railing against what he believes are Internet thieves who have used legal loopholes to dodge the copyright laws for writers and musicians. In a piece published on Thursday (October 25th) by The Huffington Post, titled, Good News! Ten Commandments Reduced Now To Only Nine, Mellencamp spoke frankly about the moral and legal problems facing recording artists and spelled out a way to finally protect them from online copyright infringement.
Some key points made by Mellencamp:
"We need to restore intellectual property to its rightful owners and reconstruct the business that has lost thousands and thousands of jobs plus billions of dollars in revenue."
"Why is thievery allowed to continue on the Internet? And why do people think it's so impossible to correct? Right after radio was invented, they played music and sold advertising. Then it dawned on some: 'Hey, they're playing our music, and they're selling advertising on our backs; we should get paid.' So performing rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI were established with the express intention of protecting the intellectual property of artists who create it. . . The government held these systems responsible for keeping track of their respective broadcast neighborhoods. They turned new delivery systems into multi-billion dollar businesses. That was progress."
"Where are ASCAP and BMI today on the new delivery system -- the Internet? Where are the record companies? Where are the book publishers? Where are the unions to which we pay dues that are supposed to protect actors, writers, songwriters, and producers? And, most importantly, where's the government? Apparently everybody's too busy making excuses and shrugging their shoulders to realize their gravy train has gone up the waterspout. Yes, there's a mechanism called SoundExchange that collects statutory royalties from satellite radio, Internet radio and other sources of streaming sound recordings but it's powerless to deal with those who have simply helped themselves to the intellectual property of others. It's a laudable effort but not the answer to this problem."
Mellencamp went on to talk about the "Safe Harbor Provisions" in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which puts the onus on the artist to seek out those infringing their copyright: "To put it plainly, radio kept track of their playlists, record stores kept track of their sales, each movie theater counted tickets, each bookstore kept track of books sold, and why? Because the law required it and the manufacturers demanded it. And so the same should apply to search engines. They should be governed in the same manner but they're not. The Safe Harbor Provisions allow intellectual property to be stolen because the search engines are not held accountable. There's actually Safe Harbor litigation going on right now between Viacom and YouTube. YouTube is claiming that it had nothing to do with the posting of copyrighted material because Safe Harbor puts the burden on whoever did the posting. But all of that is really a hair-splitting, distraction in the grand theme of things."
He went on to suggest that the government can easily help tighten the reigns on what he believes is all out thievery: "Why is it that people feel that this problem is unconquerable? Often, when I talk about it, I just get an eye roll and the comment, 'It's just gone too far now. This is just the way it is.' No, this is not the way it has to be. This is the way we've allowed it to become, this faulty 'new model.' Recent history has shown that things can, in fact, change. When online gambling, once a huge and thriving underground business, was determined to be illegal sites went out of business almost overnight. Why? Because legal gaming enterprises and government regulation brought the hammer down where it hurt the most -- credit card companies were told they could not be part of this dubious trade and they complied immediately. In the same way, if anti-piracy legislation were the order of the day servers, wherever they may be including the mythical 'cloud,' could and would be shut down thanks to technologies that have been developed and successfully employed during the fight against terrorism. The means to get this done actually exists; what we're lacking, at the moment, is the will to do it."
"My answer, and it's really quite logical, is that current search engines and any that emerge in the future (the brazen thieves at Pirate Bay have smugly threatened to start their own search engine) need to be held responsible in the same fashion as any other business in this country. The law needs to be changed. ASCAP, BMI and intellectual property creators need to work to get rid of the antiquated Safe Harbor Provisions. We need to write a new law that should declare, something to the effect, that if you own and operate a search engine, you cannot allow criminal activity to take place in your virtual town."
John Mellencamp admitted to us that he's realistic as to why he writes and releases new projects: "I've come to the conclusion that any record that I put out now, is really just a calling card. I don't really anticipate sellin' a bunch of 'em, because people don't buy 'em anymore! They're calling cards to let people know that I'm still writing songs, and I'm still current and I'm not an oldies act and I will never be and oldies act and there won't be any 'Happy Together' tour for John Mellencamp."