The first way we help creators Take Creative Control is by making sure we all know our rights (and how to exercise them). But we’re not stopping there. The giants of the information economy—and their armies of lawyers and lobbyists—have stacked the deck against creators of color who are just getting started. Like other social justice issues, in IP law inequities are deeply ingrained in a system designed to protect the powerful. Here’s what we’re doing to take our power back.
What is in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan?
In August, President Biden and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators agreed on a plan that will provide $579 billion in infrastructure investments to improve roads, utilities and broadband.
Creators are key drivers of economic growth and recovery. In the short term, the bipartisan infrastructure plan will help ensure that creators have the resources they need to turn ideas into reality, but it leaves our future in limbo.
Key Features of the Plan
Expands broadband access. High-speed internet access is absolutely essential in the creative economy. The deal includes $65 billion that the White House says will ensure every single American has access to broadband—a huge deal for rural communities of color, especially. The funding will also be used to force companies to offer low-priced plans and to encourage competition between companies.
Expands public transportation. Whether due to intentional exclusion or the impacts of gentrification, communities of color often lack quality public transit access, even in big cities. With transportation comes economic opportunity, and the $39 billion in public transit spending will be a boon to creators and their communities.
Provides environmental remediation. More than a quarter of Black and Hispanic Americans live near a toxic Superfund site. The deal invests $21 billion to clean up these sites and rectify this grave environmental injustice. Public health will be the greatest beneficiary, but clean communities will also spur economic growth and opportunity for local residents.
Reconnects communities. For as long as there have been economies, community relationships have played a critical role. Throughout the last century, Black neighborhoods were bulldozed in half to make room for highways. The results were devastating for our social relations and our economic ones. The original plan would have dedicated $24 billion to start righting these wrongs, but the bipartisan deal slashed the funding to just $1 billion.
Improves power and water infrastructure. The deal will fund $128 billion in improvements to our power and water infrastructure. Clean water and reliable electricity are bare essentials to live and work in the modern world, but recent disasters have shown how vulnerable these services often are.
What Does it Mean for the Creative Community?
Despite these important investments, the deal leaves the long-term future of communities of color and creators in serious limbo.
The plan focuses more on increasing usage of cars and planes, while doing little to combat climate change. Compared to the White House’s original proposal, the bipartisan deal cut funding for electric vehicle infrastructure by 90% and eliminated clean energy tax credits altogether. At the same time, the deal includes $121 billion in funding for roads and another $25 billion for airports. While our country’s transportation infrastructure certainly needs maintenance, it is irresponsible to increase our ability to pollute without making an equally substantial investment in climate change mitigation. As the impacts of climate change continue to intensify, investments in power infrastructure and environmental remediation may seem gravely insufficient.
The bipartisan plan has $0 for innovation, public housing, or schools. The original plan included nearly $1 trillion in investments in innovation, such as research funding for HBCUs, and building improvements, including public housing, schools, hospitals, and child care centers. Each of these investments would have greatly benefited communities of color, but each of them was zeroed-out during the bipartisan negotiations. As a result, we have missed a major opportunity to invest in our economic and social futures.
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The CASE Act
What is the CASE Act?
The CASE Act—short for the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act—would create a new small claims board designed to ensure that individuals and small businesses can defend their copyrighted work without the huge costs of going to federal court. That’s it. A simple fix to a big problem.
The bill has already passed the House of Representatives, but right now it is being held up in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.
What’s at stake?
Imagine you’re a graphic artist. It’s early in your career, but you’re making things work. You’ve got a decent rotation of freelance clients, and a solid Instagram following that loves your art. One night you’re walking downtown, looking in the window of one of those fast fashion chains, and you see your latest piece, on a t-shirt, going for $7.99. You’re flattered and outraged at the same time. Your art is, apparently, in thousands of stores across the world, but where’s the credit? And, for that matter, where’s the compensation?
Your friends insist that there’s no way they can get away with this. They’ll have to pay you for your work. But as you consider your options you realize: Even if you can afford a lawyer, you’ll never be able to compete with the massive legal department of an international corporation. And if you did win in court, would there be any money left after all the legal fees?
This is how intellectual property law ends up as a social justice issue. It doesn’t much matter if the law is on your side when the system itself gives every advantage to those who can spend millions drawing out every legal process, bleeding their opponents dry. What good are rights if there is no way you can enforce them?
That’s where the CASE Act comes in.
How can you help?
Fired up yet? Then it’s time to call your Senators—especially if you live in Oregon. Just call (202) 224-3121 and the friendly folks at the Senate switchboard will put you through. Tell the staff in your Senators’ offices why, as a creator, you support the CASE Act. We know it sounds awkward, but it really does make a difference.
The Earn It Act
What is the Earn It Act?
Sens. Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal introduced the Earn It Act ostensibly to combat online child sex abuse—a good cause, of course—but the latest version of the bill would effectively allow all 50 states to regulate the internet as the choose. The bill lays the groundwork for unprecedented internet censorship. To make matters worse, experts said a previous version of the bill threatened encryption—the very basis of internet privacy. The bill has since been watered down, but Sen. Graham admits that outlawing encryption “will be a debate for another day.”
But isn’t fighting child sex abuse important?
Obviously! But, as Mashable wrote, the devil is in the details. As it’s written now, the bill would give way too much power to state officials to censor the internet as they please. Any censorship would need to be tied, in some way, to child sex abuse, but stretching a law way past it’s original intent would be nothing new. And we live in an era where a growing number of voters—and elected officials!—believe in the bogus Q-Anon pedophilia consipiracy that has tied nearly every opponent of Trump to sex trafficing.
We also have reason to be worried about the rights of protest and dissent in this country. Black Lives Matter protesters have been assaulted by police in full view of cameras and shoved into unmarked vans by unidentified officers. Most of these abuses have only come to light through social media, often after denials by local officials. States and cities are censoring protests with impunity. Now is not the time to give states the power to censor the internet, too.
What can I do?
In July, the Senate Judiciary approved the bill, which means it is now awaiting a vote by the full Senate. You know what that means: it’s time to get on the phones! Call you Senators (the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121 will connect you) and tell that that you are worried the Earn It Act will let states squash the next #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter movement before it gets started.
The Music Modernization Act and the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC)
What is the Music Modernization Act?
Lauded as a long-overdue way to ensure songwriters are adequately paid by streaming platforms, the MMA, signed into law in 2018, will make key changes to copyright law. In a nutshell, the MMA features three reforms that artists and songwriters should be aware of. The MMA:
- Closes the “pre-72 loophole.”
- Creates the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC).
- Codifies the practice of “Letters of Direction” for those who want to split royalties between creative partners.
Closing the pre-72 loophole will protect songwriters who recorded their musical works before 1972. Until now, those artists were left unprotected and therefore unable to collect royalties.
The creation of the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) is perhaps the most important part of this law. This new organization will be responsible for collecting and distributing royalty payments to copyright owners: songwriters and publishers. It will not be responsible for distributing statutory royalties that are owed to producers, record labels or performers. For those, SoundExchange is still responsible.
And lastly, the MMA codifies the long-practice of “Letters of Direction (LOD),” which enables songwriters to spit royalties among “creative participants.” This enables the MLC to also distribute digital royalties among various partners.
How to take advantage
The Music Modernization Act (MMA) went into effect January 1, 2021. So now it’s time to: Get organized. Get registered. Get paid.
- Get organized. Regardless of where you are in your music career, you’re going to want to get organized. This means determining who owns what and who will get paid. For some artists, it might just be you, the songwriter. But for others, there might be discussions that need to be had to make sure all creative partners are included. The use of LODs might be necessary.Next is to upload your songs into the MLC system, which may be a one-day project or a multi-day nightmare. Either way, you can’t get paid, if you don’t do the leg-work of adding your musical works into their system.
- Get registered. Once you’ve organized your life, you’re ready to register with the MLC at www.themlc.com.
Remember, registering with the MLC does not bypass the need to register with the Copyright office, which adds additional protections for your musical works.
- Get paid. The MLC Portal is the tool you will need to use to receive your payments and get paid!
Check out these resources for more information.
And once you’ve registered, we want to here your feedback.