@KRSfow: Future of What Podcast on the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act

September 16, 2017 Leave a comment

Episode #94: Recently, a bill was introduced by Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner which calls for the creation of a comprehensive database of compositions and recordings. The “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act” claims to make things easier for coffee shops, bars and restaurants who want to license music to play in their establishments. To many in the music industry, the bill seems like a wolf in sheep’s clothing with the potential cause big problems. On this episode we dig deep into the bill with Future of Music Coalition’s Kevin Erickson and attorney Chris Castle.

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Google Sends in the Shills to Dodge Appearing at @SenRobPortman’s Hearing on Stopping Human Trafficking

September 14, 2017 Leave a comment

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a legislative hearing titled “S.1693, The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017” (authored by Senator Rob Portman and Senator Richard Blumenthal).  The hearing will be at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 19, 2017–but Google and Facebook won’t be there.

Why?  According to the committee website:

S. 1693, sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and 27 additional cosponsors, proposes amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to create new legal liability for internet companies whose sites knowingly facilitate sex trafficking and other crimes through content hosted on their platforms. While it does not affect federal criminal liability, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was written to protect internet platforms from civil and state criminal liability for content created by others, including liability arising from the actions of others who post unlawful content or use the platform for unlawful behavior.

As MTP readers will recall, Google has a long history of supporting human trafficking sites like Backpage.com through Google surrogates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Internet Association.  Sending surrogates works best when the people you are trying to deceive don’t figure out that you’re doing it.  Senator Portman isn’t fooled by shillery.  As reported in Politico:

Kevin Smith, communications director for Sen. Rob Portman , told MT that was less than ideal. “Senator Portman has made clear that companies that oppose this bipartisan bill should defend their position publicly and testify,” Smith said. “It’s disappointing that they chose to send up a trade association instead.”

Professor Goldman, a reliable defender of  Section 230, is also testifying.  Professor Goldman teaches at Santa Clara University–which received $500,000 from the controversial Google Buzz class action settlement.  I doubt that this payment had any direct affect on Professor Goldman’s views, however.  To his credit, he does not appear in the current version of the Google Academics, Inc. database, the definitive resource for Google-funded academics.

The incomparable Nicholas Kristof recently wrote an op-ed about Google’s sex trafficking problem in the New York Times:

Sex traffickers in America have the police and prosecutors pursuing them, but they do have one crucial (if secret) ally: Google.

Google’s motto has long been “Don’t be evil,” and I admire lots about the company. But organizations it funds have for years been quietly helping Backpage.com, the odious website where most American victims of human trafficking are sold, to battle lawsuits from children sold there for sex.

Now Google is using its enormous lobbying power in Washington to try to kill bipartisan legislation that would crack down on websites that promote sex trafficking.

It will be interesting to see if either the Internet Association or Professor Goldman tries to take the line adopted by Google lawyer Kent Walker (at the Google annual shareholder meeting) and try to get the Congress to believe that the Congress “was striking a blow for Good Samaritan review by Internet platforms” with CDA 230.  In other words, the Congress wanted to help Good Samaritans that are “quietly helping Backpage.com….to battle lawsuits from children sold there for sex.”

We shall see.  Live video will be on the Commerce Committee website.  You can call your Senator to express your views on the legislation at (202) 224-3121.

@hneidig: Yelp accuses Google of violating FTC settlement

September 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Yelp is accusing Google of violating a 2012 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission in which the internet search giant agreed to stop passing off third-party content as its own.

Luther Lowe, Yelp’s vice president of public policy, sent a letter to acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen on Monday saying that Google has been scraping images from Yelp to include in search results for certain local businesses.

“Google should be held accountable and subject to remedies sufficient to ensure its anticompetitive conduct does not continue to harm competition and consumers,” Lowe wrote.

An FTC spokeswoman confirmed that the agency had received the letter and would study it carefully, but declined to comment further.

The letter, which was also sent to all 50 state attorneys general and Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition chief, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Read the post on The Hill

Google Feels the Heat from Congress on Sex Trafficking–And Gaslights Public Opinion on @SenRobPortman’s and @RepAnnWagner’s Legislation

September 12, 2017 Leave a comment

 

I first called your attention to Dr. Robert Epstein in 2013.  Dr. Epstein’s work on Google’s power to throw elections by manipulating public opinion was startling to many, and I got the usual eye rolling about how mistrustful I was of Google.  (See “Democracy at Risk: Manipulating Search Rankings Can Shift Voting Preferences Substantially Without Voter Awareness”)  That doesn’t happen much after 2016.

But–the stakes don’t have to be as high as who controls the White House for the dominant global source of information to manipulate us.  Think not?  Who wants to live with the consequences of losing a bet on Google’s moral compass?

Senator Rob Portman and Rep. Ann Wagner are standing up to Google (and the Internet Association) with legislation to remove the law that allows the special people in the connected class to profit from human trafficking because they’re…well, special people.  Senator Portman’s bill is the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA) and has 27 cosponsors include Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).  Rep. Ann Wagner’s corresponding bill in the House of Representatives is titled the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 has 111 co-sponsors. Both would amend the safe harbor in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (aka “CDA”).

Just like Google loves them some DMCA, Google especially loves them some CDA 230 safe harbor that Google and their shills argue protects them from liability for letting pimps advertise on their platforms among other vileness.  (Which makes their fascination with forcing songwriters and artists to maintain a “global rights database” for Google’s protection ring even hollower.)  Taken together the DMCA and CDA safe harbors give Google so much crony capitalist protection that they rival other connected class sacred cows like farm subsidies and the oil depletion allowance.

Why should Google get these even safer harbors?  The answer is obvious.  Because the Internet.

But after Google’s several high profile losses in the post-Obama era, it looks like Google is about to lose on the CDA safe harbor.  We know this because it appears that Google is manipulating search results to affect public opinion on Google’s ability to profit from human trafficking.

According to Consumer Watchdog, which is about the only consumer group that is challenging Google’s stranglehold on the Congress not to mention reality, Google is manipulating search results to promote Google’s point of view on Section 230 reform.

This is a close analog to what Google was fined $2.7 billion for doing in Europe with commercial goods.  There’s no question that they do it, the only question is whether they are doing it to you all the time without your knowing it.

And since you are the product for Google, it should not be surprising that they are doing it to promote their legislative agenda.

Consumer Watchdog says:

Internet giant Google appears to be manipulating its search engine results to favor opposition to bipartisan efforts seeking to amend a key Internet law so websites like Backpage that facilitate online sex trafficking can be held accountable, Consumer Watchdog said today.

Three of the top four links returned under the news tab for the search term “Section 230” were to articles from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a staunch opponent of amending the Internet law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Consumer Watchdog found.

Searches for news results for “Section 230” on competing search engines Bing and DuckDuckGo gave links to articles presenting all sides of the issue.  View screenshots of the results from the three search engines here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/search_section_230.pdf

“Google is supposed to be an unbiased gatekeeper to information,” said John M. Simpson Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “Instead they appear to be stacking the deck to favor their own purposes. You can forget their motto; this is evil.”

Google is leading Tech industry efforts to block any amendment to Section 230, which protects websites from liability for material posted by third parties on their sites. The companies and other defenders of Section 230 claim it promotes and protects free expression on the Internet, but a U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations staff report shows that sites like Backpage aid and abet under-age sex traffickers using the blanket protection of the Act.  By one count 73% of child trafficking reports in the United States involve Backpage.com.

Needless to say, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a frequent recipient of Google’s largesse and was disclosed by Google in the Oracle case (on what came to be known as the “Google Shill List“) as a long-time beneficiary.

Here’s a video of Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson confronting Eric Schmidt about human trafficking and Google’s Backpage connection at the Google annual shareholder meeting (which is about the only place anyone can actually question Google’s top executives directly).  Schmidt appears to swallow his tongue, but was saved by his lawyer, Kent Walker (who was slated to give the keynote at the Recording Academy’s Entertainment Law Initiative a few years ago):

So much for don’t be evil.

Nicholas Kristof recently wrote an op-ed about Google’s sex trafficking problem in the New York Times:

Sex traffickers in America have the police and prosecutors pursuing them, but they do have one crucial (if secret) ally: Google.

Google’s motto has long been “Don’t be evil,” and I admire lots about the company. But organizations it funds have for years been quietly helping Backpage.com, the odious website where most American victims of human trafficking are sold, to battle lawsuits from children sold there for sex.

Now Google is using its enormous lobbying power in Washington to try to kill bipartisan legislation that would crack down on websites that promote sex trafficking.

Not only is Google using its lobbying power to protect its profits by manipulating the Congress, it is also using its control over information to manipulate public opinion against Sen. Portman’s and Rep. Wagner’s bills.  This should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention and it certainly would come as no surprise to Dr. Epstein (for more detail, read his paper co-written with Dr. Ronald Robertson on “search engine manipulation effect” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

Why?  Because as Google lawyer Kent Walker says in the video above, the Congress “was striking a blow for Good Samaritan review by Internet platforms” with CDA 230.  In other words, the Congress wanted to help Good Samaritans that are “quietly helping Backpage.com….to battle lawsuits from children sold there for sex.”  And Google likes their CDA just fine the way it is.

And no doubt they’ll produce some kind of survey results showing that the public thinks so, too–after Google apparently manipulates its search results for a while using its secret algorithm.

Here’s the really sick part–somebody in Google’s engineering team knows exactly what they are doing, and they are doing it in secret, in the dark, where no one can see, with deniability.  Gaslighting on steroids.  You know–just following orders.

But then, the Devil’s greatest trick is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.

Judge Rakoff’s Excellent Decision in Kinder Guides case

September 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Read Judge Rakoff’s excellent decision ruling against the infringing Kinder Guides on the infringer’s fair use defense.

 

The Government’s Music Database: What Would Monk Do?

September 7, 2017 Leave a comment

There is a fundamental difference between people with experience in the vagaries of copyright chain of title research and those who want their data served up in nice neat–very, very neat–packages.  So neat that you could eat your lunch off of those packages–one pea at a time arranged in a straight line, preferably.

Those who do not step on cracks have an especially difficult time understanding that song data is a dynamic process best left to the people who…well, who don’t mind the cracks.

Explaining this to our friends in the tech community is kind of like explaining the interpretation of a blood test to…well, to Monk.

Bruce Houghton: Why Didn’t Google Shut Down YouTube-MP3 Sooner? — Artist Rights Watch

September 7, 2017 Leave a comment

By many measures, YouTube streamripping became the #1 source of music piracy, widening the riff between the music industry and the online giant. But the shuttering of #1 ripper YouTube-MP3 came only after legal action from some injured parties – the major record labels.

via Bruce Houghton: Why Didn’t Google Shut Down YouTube-MP3 Sooner? — Artist Rights Watch

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