…there was lunch in the larger, first floor cafeteria where, in the corner, on a small stage there was a man, playing a guitar, who looked like an aging singer-songwriter Mae’s parents listened to.
“It is,” Annie said, not breaking her stride. “There’s someone every day. Musicians, comedians, writers….We book them a year ahead. We have to fight them off.”
The singer-songwriter was signing passionately…but the vast majority of the cafeteria was paying little to no attention.
“I can’t imagine the budget for that, ” Mae said.
“Oh god, we don’t pay them.”
The Circle, by Dave Eggers
Once again, Zoë Keating provides a leading voice for artists rights and leads by personal example. In her compelling viral blog post, “What Should I Do About YouTube,” Zoë describes a recent encounter with the demands of YouTube the definitive “new boss” monopoly video service owned by Google.
She asks her community for advice in making a decision about whether she should allow herself to be bullied by Google. The “decision” that she must make crystalizes what my friend Rick Carnes (President of the Songwriters Guild) meant in the phrase he coined to describe how Google uses the DMCA: Notice and Shakedown.
Why is this an issue? As Zoë tells us:
I am independent because I didn’t want a bunch of men in suits deciding how I should release my music. For 10 years I have managed to bushwhack a circuitous path around them but now I’ve got to find a away around the men in hoodies and crocs (I’m sorry, that was low, but that story was so funny).
Or as we say around MTP, meet the new boss, worse than the old boss.
Google is routinely and continually misusing the privileges that Congress provided in the now hopelessly outdated DMCA “notice and takedown” safe harbor. If the 345 million takedown notices Google received last year alone for search alone doesn’t confirm that to you, Zoë’s description of the YouTube shakedown should make it crystal clear.
By telling her personal story, Zoë identifies adroitly the future of YouTube. First, Zoë’s experience clearly demonstrates that Google learned nothing from its hugely bad press experience last year with the world’s independent record companies.
It also shows that Google fully intends to profit from the YouTube “bad acts” window–the period of time from when a video is posted and when Google ultimately take it down that gives “windowing” a whole new meaning. This bad acts window is not limited to copyright infringement; it can include videos selling illegal drugs, recruiting young women into prostitution or young men into the jihad, demonstrating how to shoot heroin, sex tourist home movies, holocaust denier videos (illegal in many countries where YouTube makes them available), or plain old skin head racist videos. MTP readers will require no citations for these videos, but if you are new to the blog just look under the “Bad Acts Videos” tab.
Moreover, Google’s treatment of Zoë is surely not limited to Zoë–it’s probably exactly what Google is doing to tens of thousands of artists. If anything, Zoë probably got the star treatment version. This is very Googlely–Google’s version of an “artist relations” team comes and tells you nicely how they are going to run roughshod over you (NP: Everything is Awesome).
Remember–the indie trade association IMPALA has filed an antitrust complaint against Google in Brussels over the way Google handled the MusicKey roll out which essentially involved the same deal. So does Google say, that didn’t really work out too well for us, maybe we should handle it differently with the independent artists?
Nope–Google says, unfortunately, the indie labels fought back, but the independent artists cannot. So Google says let’s screw them even harder. As Zoë concludes her blog post:
What should I do? As much as it makes me grind my teeth, does having all my music forced onto Youtube’s music service really just not matter all that much? Should I just close my eyes and think of England?
Maybe after writing this blog Google will make the choice for me. They will block my channel and I will have to decide whether to block those 9,696 videos….and anger 9,696 fans. The usual people will talk about it for a day or two (*5) and then it and I will be forgotten.
Anyone starting up a new video service?
We’ll see. Because what Zoë is really pointing to is the next step in the evolution of multichannel networks–leaving YouTube altogether and en masse. Why would you want to drive traffic to YouTube for free when all they do is jack you around? And speaking of “thinking of England”:
When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet, ‘In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’
Winston Churchill, Ottawa, Dec. 30, 1941