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Jazz Artists Join Music Workers Alliance Call for Economic Justice Online

Norah Jones, Wayne Shorter, Jack DeJohnette, Esperanza Spalding, and many more sign petition for financial relief from YouTube, Facebook, and Google

Norah Jones
Norah Jones

A panoply of notable jazz artists—including Wayne Shorter, Norah Jones, Jack DeJohnette, Esperanza Spalding, Jason Moran, Charles Lloyd, Bill Frisell, Terri Lyne Carrington, Henry Threadgill, and Vijay Iyer—have added their signatures to an emergency petition launched by the Music Workers Alliance. The petition, which at the time of this writing included the names of nearly 3,500 musicians and DJs covering a wide spectrum of genres, calls for “basic fairness in the digital marketplace” and is addressed to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The petition was prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic’s shutdown of the live music business. A lack of live work has forced music-makers to look for alternate means of making a living—and refocused their attention on the ongoing and drastic disconnect between the revenue that corporate giants like YouTube, Google, and Facebook receive from the use of recorded music on their platforms and the amount that the creators of that music receive from such use.

In part, the petition reads: “Nearly half of music listened to online is heard on YouTube, where third-party users can illegally upload copyrighted material with near impunity. At the same time YouTube pockets ad revenue on this infringing content without any repercussion, because the Digital Millennium Copyright Act establishes ‘safe harbors’ protecting corporations from lawsuits in the case of illegal activity by third-party users of their platforms. Ad revenue based on illegal uploads of musical artists’ content will continue through this extended period in which live music is entirely shut down.”

The petition demands the creation of an immediate disaster relief fund for music workers, to which all major online corporations profiting from the distribution of music will contribute 1% of their ad revenue during each month that live performance remains shut down. It also urges those corporations to adopt “standard technical measures” to address mass copyright infringement.

Guitarist Marc Ribot, one of the Music Workers Alliance’s principal organizers and a signer of the petition, said in an accompanying statement, “All my work is shut down through June, with more cancellations expected. If we don’t deal—NOW—with the mass online infringement that has destroyed our ability to make money from recording, then soon WE’RE going to be shut down.”

Go here to see the full petition.