This afternoon, representatives of some of the most significant technology companies on the planet will meet with President-elect Donald Trump for a round-table discussion in New York.
Heading to Trump Tower will be Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Google parent Alphabet, Tim Cook of Apple, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Satya Nadella of Microsoft. According to the New York Times, the companies are keeping a low profile about the event, but with giants like IBM, Intel and Cisco also in attendance, flying under the radar just isn’t possible.
The meeting today clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed by America’s music industry either. Despite some attempts at building bridges with companies such as Google, there is a gaping chasm of understanding due to the manner in which platforms like YouTube are said to utilize music without properly compensating artists. The industry feels that Trump has a role to play in solving this problem.
In an open letter to president-elect Trump congratulating him on his election, the RIAA and an A to Z of music groups make it clear that he should keep them in mind when he meets with the technology giants this afternoon. Protection of their intellectual property is paramount, they argue.
“Congratulations on your election to serve as the 45th President of the United States. We look forward to working with you and your Administration on behalf of American music – one of our nation’s most valuable forms of art and intellectual property, and a powerful driver of high – quality U.S. jobs and exports,” they begin.
Pointing to a statement Trump issued earlier this year when he described intellectual property as “a driving force in today’s global economy of constant innovation” while calling for its protection, the groups paint themselves as sharing the president-elect’s goals.
“So much of what you wrote in your platform this summer about intellectual property and private property rights resonated with many of us,” they write, adding that they share the desire to take strong action to enforce intellectual property laws against infringers.
Noting that they’re aware of the meeting today, the music groups lay out the significance of their industry, claiming a $1.2m trillion contribution to the economy while supporting the jobs of 5.5 million Americans. However, they also remind America’s forthcoming new leader that some of the companies he will meet with today owe a great debt to the music industry.
“Indeed, many of today’s popular technology platforms owe much of their growth and success to music. Music is responsible for the most-followed accounts on Facebook and Twitter, the most-watched videos on YouTube, and is one of the most popular draws for phones and other personal devices,” they note.
The music groups say that such platforms thrive by delivering the work created by artists and many deserve to be commended for valuing and protecting the music industry. But while some have developed systems to “deter theft”, much more needs to be done.
“Search engines, user upload content platforms, hosting companies, and domain name registrars and registries should follow others’ example to effectively stop theft and assure fair payment,” they say.
“Further, there is a massive ‘value grab’ as some of these corporations weaken intellectual property rights for America’s creators by exploiting legal loopholes never intended for them – perversely abusing U.S. law to underpay music creators, thus harming one of America’s economic and job engines.
“Surely the world’s most sophisticated technology corporations can do better – by helping to prevent illegal access and paying fair market value for music with prices set by or based on the free market.”
All of these issues were covered by the Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement released by the Obama administration this week. At this point (and despite political differences) it seems unlikely that Trump will deviate far from its key goal of protecting American interests both domestically and overseas.
However, as the SOPA debate of almost five years ago brought sharply into focus, technology companies and the content industries might need each other to progress, but agreement on IP issues are usually tough to come by, especially when that involves holding tech companies responsible for the infringements of others. Trump certainly has a balancing act up ahead, but the music groups know which way they want him to go.
“Strong protection for intellectual property rights will assure growth in both creativity and technology, benefiting the American economy as a whole. We hope you will lead the effort to assure American creativity is encouraged, invested in, protected and fairly compensated in a manner that carries out the exclusive rights guaranteed in the Constitution to those who, with the genius of their mind, form the cultural identity of our great nation,” they conclude.
The original letter can be found here (pdf)