More than 170 artists, including Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney, are joining record labels, music publishers and others to urge Congress to reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which in part protects Internet companies like YouTube–the labels’ biggest target–from getting sued when users upload copyrighted content. Here’s what’s at stake:
Google, which owns YouTube, says it has paid more than $3 billion to the music industry over the years (thanks to revenue-sharing deals) and helped propel its artists, like Justin Bieber, into megastardom. But artists and labels say they’re being shortchanged, since sites like YouTube sell ads against user videos that feature their copyrighted content.
Musicians argue that it is too easy under the DMCA for users to upload stolen versions of their work. But YouTube says it has several anti-piracy tools, including one that prevents known copyrighted material from being uploaded and another that asks rights holders if they want a cut of a video’s advertising revenue.
Beyond YouTube, the DMCA has helped protect services such as Facebook and Snapchat from the mire of litigation during their early stages. Though many agree that the 20-year-old law needs reform, tech companies worry that a change to its liability clause could have unforeseen consequences.
This appears in the July 04, 2016 issue of TIME.