Protect America’s Creative Future

This article was originally published in U.S. News & World Report on November 30, 2016.

Value creators and their work by respecting intellectual property rights

When we were kids, if you had asked either of us what we wanted to do when we grew up, political advocacy would have been last on our list. And when teachers and parents wanted us to pursue so-called sensible jobs – something 9 to 5 – we headed to the garage to make music instead. We got into bands to escape legal-sounding terms like intellectual property. Or so we thought.

Our sheer love of music is still what keeps us going – and it’s also what causes us to sound the alarm for the many, many American creators struggling to make it in today’s market.

Creative rights are increasingly under attack. Those rights are the only things that allow musicians of all kinds to continue making a living. The erosion of those rights is having a chilling effect on musicians and other artists. That is why we find ourselves doing a bunch of things we never thought we’d do, like sending a message about intellectual property to anyone who will listen, including lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

Music lovers everywhere, including in Washington, should be extremely concerned by the trends undermining and undervaluing creativity. For the same reasons that today’s educators should be careful not to steer creative kids away from the arts, creators cannot sit back silently while the theft of their works becomes publicly acceptable. Because both threaten the very future and the heart of American creative works.

Copyright protections enable musicians to earn their livings bringing hits to fans throughout the world. And while what we really want to do is make music, we can’t ignore the threats to the system that has helped so many artists touch the lives of so many people.

But it is not just our jobs on the line. Intellectual property industries – including the creative industries we work in – are worth $6.6 trillion to the U.S. alone and support 45 million jobs overall. At first glance, you might think we count for only two of those jobs. But the list grows and grows when you count our bands, the technicians, lighting artists, sound engineers, promotion companies and countless others.

You may wonder why two established artists are taking up this banner. Of course we care about our own legacies, and we don’t apologize for wanting credit for the work that we’ve done. It’s frustrating that people who would never go to New York’s Museum of Modern Art and swipe a Basquiat to hang over their couch will happily grab a free download of “Fly” or “Eyes Wide Shut” to play at their next party.

But we also care about the future of the industry. The truth is, as established artists, we’ll survive. Others may not. And we were once the little guys too.

The same technologies that allow budding artists to reach audiences in new ways from L.A. to Austin to Nashville also make it easier to steal their songs. And the same thieves who prey on creators also prey on consumers: People who simply want to download their favorite song often download a nasty computer virus with it, potentially compromising their financial information and exposing their family’s personal information.

What do we do about these problems? As a society, we must value creativity in all its forms. We must start early – in our homes and in our classrooms – sending the message that we need the people who invent, think, imagine, dream and create as much as we need any other worker.

And what can you do? Stand with us on the side of creators. Stand strong for the intellectual property rights that are guaranteed by nothing less than the U.S. Constitution.

So add this opinion piece to the list of things we never thought we’d do. But in our exciting global and digital age, the stakes are too high. Our greatest achievements will depend on our ability to give tomorrow’s artists, innovators and inventors the tools to protect their intellectual property. Not only will it benefit creators, it may also help ensure that the next great artist gets to share their next big hit with you.

The authors will receive the IP Champion Award for Excellence in Creativity from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 30.

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