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David Lowery

A group of musicians, including the Eagles and Pharrell is threatening to sue YouTube over its use of the artists' songs and videos. To make sense of the complicated legal clash, CNN spoke to David Lowery, an outspoken advocate for artists' rights and lecturer in Terry's Music Business Program.

"Songwriting is bizarrely hyper-regulated by the government," Lowery said. "There is a Department of Justice process that you go through whereby you license your performance rights. This is because at ASCAP and BMI, which are organizations of songwriters (almost like unions of songwriters, but they're not unions), have been under a Department of Justice consent decree since 1941. What’s happened now is some songwriters have left and formed a new group, and are no longer under this consent decree. These artists, in my view, are rightfully claiming that there is no longer a license for YouTube to use these songs and they want to negotiate over this license."

So far, YouTube has not taken songs by artists in the newly organized Global Music Rights consortium off its site. Lowery pointed out that artists might be more receptive to YouTube if they were compensated at a greater rate. 

"Artists have complained about the rate they get from Spotify, and YouTube's is much lower," he said. "A lot of artists are unhappy with this. Why do we have to be a part of this service if they don’t pay us well?"

The full interview is available to watch online.