Why are a handful of musicians — a substrata of society generally predisposed to fall on the left side of the political spectrum — ticked off at Zephyr Teachout, the progressive Democratic candidate in the 19th Congressional District?
Blame it on the internet. To be more precise, blame it on Teachout’s former work for Fight For The Future, a nonprofit “dedicated to protecting and expanding the Internet’s transformative power,” according to its own website.
In online postings and outreach to the media, several artists have denounced FFF as having an “anti-artist, anti-copyright agenda” — an allegation the group denies vociferously. Teachout served on the board of the group’s education fund, but stepped down earlier this year after announcing her candidacy.
Those calling for Teachout to respond include the jazz great Jack DeJohnette, a resident of the Catskills who, in a recent letter, told the candidate, “It disturbs me that someone who seems to be running in support of the people is not further tuned in to the needs of us artists, who ultimately might be your constituents.”
DeJohnette said in his letter that since the advent of the digital age, his royalties from recorded music have declined 90 percent. “I am all over YouTube,” he wrote, and “everyone but me gets an income from this.”
The most immediate bone of contention for those hammering Teachout on this issue — a list that also includes guitarist Marc Ribot and Red Hook author and filmmaker David Newhoff — appears to be proposed changes to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in particular a toughening of provisions that aim to prevent websites from hosting copyrighted material without the consent of the copyright holder. Currently, online service providers are generally protected from liability under the so-called “Safe Harbor” provision of the DMCA, which aims to balance the interests of internet users and copyright holders.
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