We’ve heard rumors for years of just how inconsistent the Rightsflow accounting data really is–“downright skanky” one might say. The bad news for songwriters is that really horrendously bad song data is not that unusual. As emphasized in the recent Amy Mann litigation against Medianet, some estimates are that 23% of songs on that service are unlicensed.
Google also has a horrendous reputation for bad data (which gives the lie to its public image) as Professor Geoffrey Nunberg observed about Google books (see “Google’s Book Search, a Disaster for Scholars“). And now that Google has acquired Rightsflow to continue organizing the world’s information whether the world likes it or not, it should not be surprising that Google is trying to get songwriters to fix their own data in Google’s systems. Why? So Google can send them a notice of intent to use under the compulsory license. That would be the compulsory license that was designed to protect monopolists like Google from the antitrust lusting of…songwriters.
But is this even possibly a correct process? Google is using your song but wants you to fix their databases so they can send you an NOI–that is to be sent 30 days before the use…. So Google tells songwriters, fix our data so we can screw you more accurately. For when it comes to the online companies like Google that “carpet bomb” the Notice of Intent to use the compulsory license, what the notice is really all about is protecting the online company from the accusation of unlicensed use, not getting the songwriter paid. Because there is no audit right under the compulsory license, there is no way for the songwriter to ever know whether they are being paid or paid accurately.
And the more data that Google collects, the sooner will come the day that they will want to replace ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and some parts of the U.S. Copyright Office. And what about Google’s involvement in the NSA scandal says “trust me” to you?
The question is–when Google bought Rightsflow, did they screw up the reps and indemnity the same way they did with the YouTube acquisition or will they be able to claw back at least some of the purchase price? Sounds like another class action brewing…