In recent months, the music world has been united to a rare degree in a public fight against YouTube, accusing the service of paying too little in royalties and asking for changes to the law that allows the company to operate the way it does.
The battle highlights the need to capture every dollar as listeners' habits turn to streaming, as well as the industry's complicated relationship with YouTube. The dispute has played out in a drumbeat of industry reports, blog posts and opinion columns. Stars such as Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams and Billy Joel have signed letters asking for changes to copyright laws.
"This is the result of an explosion of views of music videos on YouTube against a backdrop of decline in the recorded music business in general," Larry Miller, an associate professor of music business at New York University's Steinhardt School, said of the fight.
With more than 1 billion users, YouTube has long been seen by the music business as a vital way to promote songs. At the same time, music executives grumble that it has never been a substantial source of revenue.
In its newest effort, the music industry has asked the government to change the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, saying the law — which was passed in 1998 and protects sites like YouTube that host copyrighted material posted by users — is outdated and makes removing unauthorized content too difficult.
Cary Sherman, the chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America, says that even when songs are taken down, they can easily be uploaded again.
"This is a new form of piracy," he said. "You can do it in plain sight and rely on the DMCA to justify that what you're doing is perfectly legal."
Robert Kyncl, YouTube's chief business officer, said YouTube's copyright protections were functioning as they should. Content ID, the site's proprietary system, lets copyright owners keep track of their material, and when the system detects a new video including a tracked song, the owner can choose to take the video down.