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Politicians: Respect and Protect Copyright

10/14/2015 10:29 am ET | Updated Oct 14, 2015
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This week, I sent a letter to Donald Trump's campaign asking to not use my music at political rallies. My intent was not to make a political statement, but to make one about the rights of my fellow music creators. But I've been singing this song for a while now.

In February, I became a founding member of the GRAMMY Creators' Alliance. The Alliance joined many big names in the music business, not for ourselves, but for the up-and-coming songwriters and artists. To bring hope. To try and change laws that are hindering the music biz. To make sure that songwriters and artists can practice their art without threat of extinction. To make sure those who practice their craft get paid fairly when others use their work.

I'm not alone in my efforts to bring change. Today, more than 1,650 musicians and songwriters will be visiting their local congress members in their home offices as part of our grassroots program, GRAMMYs in my District.

Big changes are happening right now in copyright reform as a result of massive technology changes and with the way fans pay for music and consume music. These changes can be a good thing for songwriters and up-and-coming artists, if we are paid fairly by those who make money using our work. Everyone deserves to be able to pay their bills, support their families, and do the work they love. Too many can't because we are being shortchanged by new and old technology companies.

Now, I don't blame all the new technologies, some are really cool. You can listen to music wherever you are, make up your own playlists, and hear what you want when you want. That's powerful, and at least they are paying creators something! The old technology companies do not pay artists; not one penny! And they are paying songwriters the minimum that the law says they should pay.

The laws need to change. We have so many laws in America that control how we get paid for our music. Seventy-five percent of songwriters' income in the U.S. is regulated by the government? Too much government intervention in art and music is a bad thing.

Just as my record label sister, Taylor Swift, wrote her letter to Apple in June, this is my open letter to everyone. We need change. Songwriters, producers and artists can't survive on what they are being paid.

I received a real lesson on this a couple years ago when I started to look into laws surrounding copyright. I found out that there was an effort underway in Washington to strip certain important approval rights of artists and songwriters for derivative use of their work. When I heard about this crazy idea, I submitted an official comment paper to the folks in Washington D.C. along with a few of my friends like Don Henley and Joe Walsh of the Eagles, deadmau5, Britney, Dr. Dre and Sting explaining why this was a bad idea. It's not about Wall Street derivatives; it's about artists and songwriters losing control of their work and not getting paid fairly when it is used. More of the same, I thought. It taught me that creators have to be vigilant and fight for their rights.

After that, I took a trip to D.C. where I met with a lot of important Congress members to let them know that that any time artists and songwriters lose the right over how their music is used, it is devastating to them. Many of these Congress people I spoke to were shocked to learn that this really bothered musicians and songwriters and some even changed their views, all because we made the effort to let them know how we feel.

In D.C., I met with Congressman Bob Goodlatte from Virginia. This guy really gets it! His district in the Blue Ridge Mountains is home to some great songwriters and artists. He really believes that the laws need to change so that songwriters and artists are paid fairly, and he is doing something about it. Goodlatte has personally overseen 20 hearings on copyright reform over the past two years, creating forum so that creators' voices can be heard.

On Wednesday, our voice will ring out again. Three hundred and fifty members of Congress will get a knock on their door from their music making constituents. They will be there to deliver a very clear message of themselves and creators all over America. It's time for change.

We know you love our music. Now is the time to show us some love by supporting the effort to reform outdated copyright laws, do away with government standard for artist compensation, and make sure creators are paid fairly when other business use our work.

Steven Tyler is an American singer-songwriter and the frontman for the band Aerosmith.

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