Archive for September, 2015

The Importance of Controlling Rights Data

September 18, 2015 Comments off

What’s the point of having good metadata and rights information for licensing?  It should be to actually know who owns a song and who owns recordings of the song so you can get permission and pay for usage or block it.

However, as we have seen with the disasters of Google Books and YouTube ContentID, there are people out there who use metadata to shield themselves from liability regardless of how inaccurate it is.  This is something to keep in mind when dealing with companies that want to collect your rights data and aggregate it into a database that they can then sell.  (An example might be a company like Loudr.)  As we saw with Rightsflow, the Copyright Office unknown copyright owner list includes a license request from Rightsflow for Gangnam Style–a rather bizarre result.

There’s an easy fix for this problem, though.  Make sure you have a written data confidentiality agreement that allows you to terminate any rights in the case of an assignment, sale or other transfer of the licensee’s company or assets.  Unless you like the idea of supporting spunky startup that is secretly hell bent on getting acquired by a Google or the highest bidder before they flip the keys to the company to the first bum on the street (aka an assignment for the benefit of creditors, orderly windup or the Founder’s Disappearing Act).

Girls of Silicon Valley With Spoiler Alert

September 17, 2015 Comments off

This is a pretty funny spoof of both “Girls” and “Silicon Valley”.  Spoiler alert–the part at the end where the ensemble encourages you to subscribe so they can get to 10,000 subscribers and get the YouTube studios for free?  That’s not a joke.  Even though it’s the funniest part of the bit.  I wonder if that means you have to pay for the YouTube studios if you have less than 10,000 subscribers.  With the cash these vultures are raking in, they should provide free studio time to anyone with a pulse to produce “content” for YouTube who has a willingness to work for Google…for free.

What’s Still Wrong With ISP Music Licensing? The Latest Victim is the Songwriters Association of Canada

September 16, 2015 6 comments

[Here’s a blast from the past on a bad idea that just won’t die.  Digital Music News has a story today about Verizon offering to pay “the music industry” $1 a month for each Internet subscriber, an idea that was floated by Berkman Center professor, ivory tower music rethinker and Lawrence Lester Lessig buddy Terry Fisher in his book Promises to Keep.  Unfortunately, like many ideas from Big Tech funded professors who want to “fix” the music industry, it’s all hat and no cowboy primarily designed to legalize piracy without changing behavior.  A typical goal of professors who want both to be popular with students and keep sucking on the teat of government funding.  But that didn’t stop it from getting traction with even some well-meaning people.  

Originally posted nearly five years ago to the day on Sept. 27, 2010, this post critiques the then-latest version of the story promoted by the Songwriter Association of Canada.  I would not be surprised to see the idea get discussed yet again at the upcoming Rethink Music conference.  You may also want to read a 2008 article I wrote with Amy Mitchell for the American Bar Association Entertainment & Sports Lawyer called “What’s Wrong with ISP Music Licensing?”  As noted in this post, I gave a lecture about the subject at Osgoode Hall law school in Toronto which I think is still available online if you’re really, really interested!  I would note in passing that none of these ideas ever gained traction whether it was the commercial idea that Terry Fisher was selling, the stillborn Choruss, the Isle of Wight’s close encounter, or this one by the SAC.  Note that what was really underlying the ISP side of the thinking was to legalize piracy.

Why is this resurfacing now?  Perhaps Google is getting the message that processing dozens of DMCA takedown notices per minute might look to some–perhaps even some in the Congress–like a design defect and not a feature set.]

The Songwriters Association of Canada is the latest victim of the yearning to find a solution to massive online theft. Unlike some who circulate disinformation on this subject, I gladly accept the SAC’s bona fides of sincerity on this subject (and those of the SAC President, Eddie Schwartz.) Unfortunately, sincerity does not make SAC any less wrong.

Canadian songwriters are certainly free to adopt any law they like for Canadian works exploited in Canada. Unfortunately, the SAC proposal is for online uses—and takes no precautions for works by international artists who can’t vote on the Canadian law, but whose works would be subject to it nonetheless.

Where is Bernie Madoff When You Need Him?

The biggest problem with the idea is very simple. It is predicated upon each user paying a flat fee. That flat fee is divided up amongst an increasing number of works or rights holders as there are constantly new works being released every year—even if you live in a perfect Lessig world of regurgitated art, the regurgitations themselves will be new.

This means that the share of the collections will likely decline every year with each creator getting paid less and less over time. That is, unless the number of users paying the monthly fee increases at a greater rate than the number of works—forever. If this sounds like a Ponzi scheme, you are not far off.

Even if all the assumptions could be satisfied and even if creators didn’t mind trading a market solution for an ever decreasing share of a pie, it should be clear where you want to be in the calculation—you either want to be an ISP (who will whack their bit off the top) or the collecting society (which will whack its bit off after the ISP). Nobody—and I mean nobody—would want to be the creator.

It is clear that going straight to a compulsory government mandated solution without even trying to implement a SNOCAP-type solution will never solve the basic problem—no reliable information is being produced and no auditable paper trail exists. All the creators (ALL—including movies, games, etc.) would have to blindly trust the system because there is no reliable proxy that isn’t just a wild guess and is itself not auditable unlike tracking audio fingerprints.

I don’t doubt that Eddie Schwartz is a good person and wants to see creators get paid. But he must not have thought much about this since we were on a panel together in 2007 at Canadian Music Week when I raised all these same points for which he had no answer then and doesn’t now.

So while I don’t question Eddie’s motives, I do wonder if he’s really thought this thing through. I also wonder who in the world he has been talking to. Because what he’s asking for is a guarantee that all creators will end up working for The Man 2.0.

What’s Wrong the SAC Proposal

So consider these specific comments on the SAC proposal:

The Songwriters Association of Canada has its own version of the EFF proposal which is kind of a combination of voluntary and compulsory, heavy on the compulsory:

1. New Right: SAC proposes to amend the Canadian Copyright Act to create a “Right to Remuneration for Music File Sharing”.

First of all, nothing in the SAC proposal limits this “right” to Canadian works. It seems pretty obvious that if Canadians want to do something with Canadian works in Canada, then more power to them. However, since this new “right” is by definition an Internet based distribution model, it does not appear that SAC intends to have the “right” apply to Canadians only.

And even if they did, how would anyone be able to distinguish one from the other?Second, there already is a “right to remuneration”, it’s called a price. The problem isn’t that there isn’t a right, and the problem isn’t that no one knows what to pay, the problem is that millions of people ignore the rights because they don’t want to pay—just like they will keep on doing until someone tells them otherwise.

Third, why would it just be limited to music? Why not every work that is stolen? Would SAC like to explain to ACTRA why it is that their actors rights aren’t as important as songwriters? Or explain to John Degen why his rights are not? Or James Cameron or Ivan Reitman? Shall I go on?

2. The Fallacy of Composition: The SAC proposal defines “file sharing” as “the sharing of a copy of a copyrighted musical work without motive of financial gain”. Set aside the fact that “sharing” is more accurately described as “bartering” (usually a taxable event a la swap meets), the “financial gain” is occurring at the company level, not necessarily the user level. Meaning that IsoHunt, Megaupload, Rapidshare sell advertising that is not directly connected to the massive download of unlicensed content. The SAC proposal apparently would give IsoHunt, Megavideo or The Pirate Bay at the company level the same defenses that SAC attributes to their users.

That is, SAC infers from the fact that every part of a whole has a given property that the whole also has that property. This is called the fallacy of composition.Aside from the fact that the proposition is itself fallacious it’s also just a little hard to understand. How in the world would anyone know what the “motive” of millions of people is? I’d say that their motive is not to pay for their music, movies, games or anything else they can get their paws on.

I have to confess I do love this line (reminiscent of Lessig’s “hybrid economy”): “[Because of the motivation of file “sharers”] this new right is distinct from rights licensed by legal music sites like iTunes and PureTracks….The new right would cover the sharing of music, between two or more parties, using any technology.”Nice try. The use is entirely commercial at the company level, and in my view it’s also commercial barter at the user level.

3. Voluntary Payment: SAC wants to have someone—presumably the ISP—allow its users to opt out of the remuneration payment if the user says they won’t file “share”. But if the user is “caught” file sharing they’ll pay a predetermined fine if they are caught. So—who’s going to do the catching, who’s going to issue the contract, and who’s going to enforce it? The ISP? Really? Think again.I like this part, especially: “Payment of this fee would remove the stigma of illegality from file sharing. In addition, it would represent excellent value to the consumer, since this fee would grant access to the majority of the world’s repertoire of music.” And so how is it that the authors of the world’s repertoire of music got to be part of this negotiation? Answer? They didn’t.

SAC’s response: “Creators or other persons entitled by this system to claim a portion of the licensing fees but who nevertheless do not wish to be compensated under such a system could similarly opt out. Acceptance of license fees would amount to a waiver of the right to sue for the unauthorized transmission by Canadian users.”

So if you don’t take the money for the deal that you never agreed to…you can still sue?

According to SAC: “This scheme would present a major financial improvement for the music industry. Since the license fee would be paid by most internet and wireless accounts, the amount of income generated annually could adequately compensate the industry for years of declining sales and lost revenues, and would dramatically enhance current legal digital music income. Sales of physical product would continue to earn substantial amounts, albeit gradually decreasing. Masters would continue to be licensed to movies and television. Radio would continue to sell advertising and pay royalties on music.”

There is absolutely no evidence that “most accounts” would pay anything voluntarily.

4. Global Solution: “We believe strongly that by giving Canadian music Creators a solid business model for the 21st century, this endeavor would initiate a golden era for music in Canada. Ultimately, we see this model being adopted internationally, and we are working with Creators groups around the world to effect a global system of remuneration for the sharing of music files.”That’s great—for Canadians who get to vote on the proposal. When SAC is able to block access to the works of those who do not want to participate, that would truly be the dawn of a “golden era”, albeit not for the reasons given. I wonder what “creator groups” SAC is talking about—presumably Creative Commons Corporation.

“Though fears have been expressed that this new system would “cannibalize” existing businesses like iTunes there is no proof of that. In fact there are studies that have found the opposite to be true.” The study that SAC cites in support of this absurd position actually was the British Music Rights survey that used a sample of 14-24 year olds and their preparedness to pay for music. Nothing to do with this scenario.

5. Endless Adminisration Fees: And this is my favorite part: “ISPs would receive an administrative fee for collecting and remitting license fees to the appropriate collective(s).” Ah. So the ISP will take their whack, the “collective(s)” will take their whack—I suspect that the ISPs bit is going to be similar to what the DSPs take on ringtones.

“As file sharing becomes a legal activity, ISPs would fill their servers with clean great sounding versions of all the popular socially distributed tracks keeping much of the activity within their own networks thereby drastically reducing expensive bandwidth demands. This would mean millions of dollars in savings for ISPs.”

Say what? How exactly does that work? Who would provide these “clean great sounding versions”? Who would pay for the copies and who would host them?

6. Accounting: “The collective would be responsible for tracking vast amounts of internet and mobile file sharing activity as well as distributing royalties to creators and rights holders. Tracking could be outsourced to one of the companies that currently does this work.” Exactly how does this work? Magic? Tracking mobile file sharing? What companies “currently” do this work? Whatever it is that SAC has in mind, this step is THE MOST important part of the whole process and as usual GETS THE LEAST ATTENTION.

That’s because they don’t have a solution.

What Is the Solution?

The problem of file-barter is not something for which there is a silver bullet solution and will die the death of 1000 cuts. We also have to accept the idea that there has never been a time in the creative industries that was 100% pirate free–there’s a market clearing level of piracy that we have to accept. Having said that, the answer that you can’t stop all piracy is not a reason to stop what you can.

But there are some concrete steps that can be taken to improve the likelihood of success for creators.

1. Prohibit Trading with Pirates

Companies like Google, i.e., otherwise legitimate companies especially those who trade on public stock exchanges, should not be allowed to sell advertising on pirate websites. How would you know a website is a pirate website? Easy–ask those people who you supposedly want to do business with in the entertainment industries if they’ve licensed Megavideo or LimeWire.

Companies like PayPal, Visa and Mastercard should not offer credit card merchant accounts to these people either.

These changes require law enforcement agencies to seize advertising, credit card and PayPal accounts of thieves and those who support them, as well as prosecute both pirates and employees of otherwise “legitimate” companies who give them succor.

Will that stop thieves? No, but it will make it very much harder to operate as it did in the case of absent government help.

2. Permit ISPs to Kick Pirates Off Their Network

Offer ISPs a safe harbor to never let these people on in the first place or to terminate them once they are discovered. I got your safe harbor right here.

3. Endorse Graduated Response

Although I don’t endorse disconnection as a punishment for individual users, I do think that a graduated response program should be available as well as a HADOPI style regime to bring the government’s resources to bear on bad actors.

I would prefer to see network operators charge users who upload the full unsubsidized rate for bandwidth usage, and heavy downloaders get substantially degraded service. (But see 2–the real solution is to avoid letting the pirates on the network at all.)

If these three tools were available, we could begin to build the rules in the market place for the digital society that would permit ideas like SAC’s to flourish.

4. Best Practices

ISPs and other legitimate companies should work with the government and stakeholders to determine a set of voluntary best practices for network management and the development of services and business models along with the network infrastructure to support them.

I gave a talk at Osgoode Hall in Toronto last year that covered much of this ground and offered a few other solutions. I’ve tried to keep this list of potential solutions shorter after having had another year to think about it and another year of experience in the space. I don’t necessarily reject anything I said last year, but I’m more convinced than ever that (a) the criminal enforcement arm of the government is necessary to go after the commercial operators (so I agree with John Morton’s approach at ICE), and (b) ISP cooperation is essential.

I do think that at long last there is the political will in the US to accomplish these four things in no small part due to the efforts of AFTRA, the AFM and the AFL-CIO, Vice President Biden, Senators Leahy and Hatch, Congressmen Conyers and Berman, and IPEC Victoria Espinel.

The Devil’s Greatest Trick: Google in Paris for the Great Art Heist

September 15, 2015 Comments off


…anybody could have worked for Soze.  You never knew.  That was his power.  The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

From The Usual Suspects, written by Christopher McQuarrie

We’ve all heard the “don’t be evil” mantra from Google.  But from an artist’s point of view, there is no greater corrupting power, no greater threat to their free expression and survival, than the commoditization of art, and there is no greater commoditizer of art than Google.  And in this way–among many–Google is the personification of a kind of evil done to artists that may not offer a quick death but is every bit the lethal threat to their very survival.

And yet Google wraps its evil in a kind of infantilism that is uniquely Googlely.  Why?  To be disarming.  To convince you that “evil Google” doesn’t exist.  Because it’s just so damn cute.

From Google’s Patent Application: “An anthropomorphic device, perhaps in the form factor of a doll or toy, may be configured to control one or more media devices. Upon reception or a detection of a social cue, such as movement and/or a spoken word or phrase, the anthropomorphic device may aim its gaze at the source of the social cue. In response to receiving a voice command, the anthropomorphic device may interpret the voice command and map it to a media device command. Then, the anthropomorphic device may transmit the media device command to a media device, instructing the media device to change state.”

Google Culture Comes to Paris

A couple years ago, Google brought its cultural commoditization engine to where else–Paris.  And fortunately we have an astute chronicler to give us a little tour.

The legendary columnist Maureen Dowd gives us her insight into the “Google Cultural Institute” in her recent column “The Google Art Heist“:

JUST seeing the Crayola colors painted on the tall iron fence of the 18th-century hotel particulier made me shiver. The big panda in flip flops in the lobby, arms up in greeting, scared me. And the petite ham sandwiches getting wheeled around to Google staffers looked positively menacing.

The more playful Google gets, the more paranoid I get.

And whyever would that be?  Pay no attention to the man behind the panda.   Remind you of anything?

The Google Cultural Institute essentially houses the “Google Art Project”.  Both are symptomatic of Google’s greater desire–to scan the world’s images whether the world likes it or not.  All wrapped in the Googlely images of innocence that hides the reality to convince you the evil doesn’t really exist.

R2D2 Was a Friend of Mine and You’re No R2D2

Take Android for example.  A cuddly rip-off of certain essential behaviors and visuals of R2D2, arguably the most famous droid in the history of mankind.

But Android is nothing like R2D2–Android wouldn’t do brave or chummy things with Luke Skywalker.  Android would track him and sell his GPS coordinates to the highest bidder as well as providing a copy of his voiceprint identification and cell phone metadata to the NSA.

Just remember what Android actually does–powers devices that allows Google to gather data from just about everything you do in what passes for a private life these days.  But instead Google bombards you with semiotic messaging that Android is this cute little fellow in the general shape of the heroic droid from Star Wars innocently doing cute stuff in a disarming fashion in Google’s advertising campaigns to sell Android.

Or Pandas with flip flops as Ms. Dowd encountered in Paris.

Aux Armes, Cityoens!

It’s also important to know that Ms. Dowd was not the first person to encounter the vileness of Google’s commoditization of art and artists in France.   Google Book Search is an older iteration of the Google Institute of Culture that predated the protracted litigation and bizarre result in the Google Books case–also widely despised by many other countries, especially France.

In his 2006 book that critiqued Google Book Search, Google and the Myth of Universal KnowledgeJean-Noël Jeanneney (then president of the Bibliotèque nationale de France, wrote:

What pays for the digitization of materials are linked advertisements from companies that have an interest in associating their image with old or recent works likely to promote that image. As a result, books will necessarily be hierarchized in favor of those best suited to satisfy the demands of advertisers, again, chosen according to the principal of the highest bidder [as is Google AdWords]. I wouldn’t want to see—although I’m amused by the thought—the text of Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit prince accompanied by an ad for a sheep merchant….

Google Book Search even though its leaders have not yet publicly defined the details of their practices, already appears to be a poor model for schools, since it seems to lack any kind of classification established according to reasoned principles….Unless a culture organizes [its] information, society is condemned to accept the mere dissemination of information, harmful to intellectual clarity and to a rich and harmonious public life.

Make no mistake: without [the determination to find a local solution], not only will the common interest be threatened, but we will also see the global scales, in this realm as in others, tip toward the hyperpower of a dominant [commercial] civilization.

And anyone wonders why Google has problems in Europe?

Ms. Dowd’s experience is a particularly illuminating description of Google’s sleight of hand:

Meeting the head of the institute, Amit Sood, a Bombay native in his mid-30s, made me suspicious at first. Looking cozy in a long gray cardigan and black sneakers, he’s a preternaturally perfect ambassador, like a high-powered Google algorithm designed to co-opt museums and foundations so charmingly that curators will barely know they’d been appropriated. But the guy seems sincere.

“This is our biggest battle, this constant misunderstanding of why the Cultural Institute actually exists,” he said. “In France obviously there was a lot of skepticism about why is Google entering this domain.”

Right.  Is “this constant misunderstanding” also known as hundreds of millions spent on lobbying and massaging public opinion?  Years and years of negotiation on a fake antitrust settlement?  Constant screwing of artists by YouTube all the while obfuscating how much money YouTube actually makes so that the music business won’t wake up one day and realize they’ve been completely lied to and reamed from the outset?

Why would anyone think that such evil could exist?

Maybe the devil made them do it.

ATX Music Office and TALA Host “Get Your Money!” From SoundExchange and the Union IP Funds

September 14, 2015 1 comment

If you live in Austin, the ATX Music Office and Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts are hosting a workshop to help you “Get Your Money!”  This workshop is focusing on SoundExchange and the union IP funds.  Both SoundExchange and the AFM/SAG-AFTRA IP Rights Distribution Fund make a big effort to encourage artists and musicians to sign up and claim money that each organization may already be holding for creatives.


The workshop is the first of a series co-sponsored by ATX Music, Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts and Capitol View Arts.

This is a “how to” event led by Don Pitts of the ATX Music Office, Sean Glover of SoundExchange and TALA volunteer attorney Chris Castle to help Austin artists sign up for SoundExchange and the union IP funds.  The idea for the workshop grew out of the ATX Music Office’s ground breaking Austin Music Census.

Who should attend?  Artists and musicians, indie labels, lawyers, managers, accountants and business managers.

When?  September 16!  Sean and Chris will present at 4:30 pm. and again at 6:30 pm, but will be available to help you with sign ups from 4-8pm.

Where? Entrepreneur Center of Austin, 4029 South Capitol of Texas Highway, Austin, TX 78704 (Brody Oaks Shopping Center Behind Toys R Us)

What to bring: Important! A list of your recordings  (try this SoundExchange Repertoire Template worksheet), completed IRS Form W-9, government ID and a photocopy, voided check for direct deposit.  At a minimum, the list of your recordings should have artist name and track name.

A completed AFM/SAG-AFTRA Participant Information Form available here.

Search the SoundExchange and IP Fund Sites:  SoundExchange and the unions may be holding money for you now!

ATX Music has a partial list of Austin-area artists who may be have money, and you can and should check yourself:

SoundExchange’s searchable lists are here (“Does SoundExchange Have Royalties for You?”) and the unions searchable list is here.


#irespectmusic And I Vote: The Good News is the Conventional Wisdom is Wrong

September 13, 2015 1 comment

MIC Coaltion 8-15

The MIC Coalition members listed above are the new alliance of big business against artists and songwriters.  The McCoalition (as I call them) is designed to intimidate creators.  Why?

The answer is easy–because their combined mountain of lobbying power gives them an unprecedented opportunity to pull the levers of corruption in Washington, DC.  The message to artists seeking fair compensation for radio play is to cower before this mountain of corruption.  Although I’m going to focus on the U.S., because artist pay for radio play is an American problem, remember that this coalition can turn on any issue that gets in their way–songwriters could be next.  In fact, songwriters have already been targeted by McCoalition’s letter to a former Google lawyer now at the U.S. Department of Justice seeking retribution against SESAC and HFA having the audacity to merge.

No Need To Hurry, It’s All Downhill to Hell

Let’s take artist pay for radio play as one example.  The myth about why the NAB always seems to win the battle for fair treatment for artists is that well, you know, there’s a radio station in every Congressional district and there’s music industry in only New York, Nashville and Los Angeles.

The conventional wisdom may offer an excuse for decades of ripping off artists but it doesn’t offer an explanation.  Unless you accept the idea that we will keep doing the same thing over again the same way.  Which produces no consequences for elected or appointed officials participating in this demonography.

Chop It Down With the Edge of My Hand

In order for the MIC Coalition to get you to buy into the conventional wisdom, you have to ignore some essential facts.  First, there are a lot of good working people in radio who are with us.  Evidence?  Remember that NPR was a member of the original configuration of the MIC Coalition, but NPR abruptly departed.  Why do you think that was?

What about Pandora, another McCoalition member?  Do you think that all Pandora employees are proud of the fact that their company stiffs pre-72 artists on some trumped up and sadistic legal theory?  I doubt it.

But the main reason that the conventional wisdom is wrong is that it entirely overlooks all the music fans, artists and songwriters (not to mention independent labels and publishers, venue owners, and production people) who live in cities all over America, not just the Big Three.  This doesn’t even count the DJs and dance clubs.  As one EDM proponent once chided me, every night there might be 50,000 people in America who go to hear live music.  500,000 go out dancing.

Artists criss-cross America every day playing to fans who care about music.  As Blake Morgan proved with the #IRespectMusic campaign, if you just ask music fans for their support, they will support us.

It also overlooks the fact that states and cities have created music offices as part of their economic development offices.  There are very creative city offices in Austin, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Seattle.  They’re not in the Big Three, either.  These cities also have a music commission as part of the city government.  Why do cities have these offices and commissions?

Because the people want them to.  People who the McCoalition members would do well to remember are known as consumers.

And who are also known as voters.

Getting Unelected Starts at Home

I will posit something very clear and crass: Nobody ever got nothing done in politics unless the politicians thought they might get unelected by ignoring it.

The more we can tie our issues into direct political action, the more likely it is that politicians will pay attention.  This is true at the city, state and national level.  I’m not making a statement about any particular political party affiliation.  There may certainly be lots of political diversity among artists, songwriters, musicians and vocalists.

But the one thing that I know is true is that we all have one thing in common:  The desire to survive.

If you consider all the music makers and music lovers in this country, that’s quite a lobbying group in the best sense of grassroots.  The sense that lets officials know the townspeople will bring the pitchforks for them.  The bell tolls for thee, baby.

All the corporate dollars in the world can’t compete with a group of even 1,000 committed voters in a Congressional district.  There is lots and lots of evidence of the effectiveness of grassroots organizing.

If somebody gets unelected even once, that will be a game changer.  There’s a big difference between lobbying a handful of elected officials when there’s no appreciable downside, and motivating a handful of committed voters facing dire straights.

When the ones doing the lobbying are your neighbors, that’s way different that an onslaught of essentially anonymous emails.

The Time to Hesitate is Through

That’s what the #irespectmusic and I Vote campaign in all about.  So what do you need to do?  First of all, get it straight that no one is going to do this for you.  You need to take ownership of your own destiny.

Get registered.  Get active.  Find out who your representatives are and ask them what they are doing on artist rights.  Ask them if they support Fair Play Fair Pay at the federal level, your local music issues for state and local officials.  For example, thanks to the Austin Music Office commissioning the Austin Music Census of 4,000 musicians, music business workers and venue owners, the City of Austin has stark proof of just how close the city is to losing Austin’s music community forever and they are taking action–thanks to the community rallying around issues like venue retention and cluster development.  You can find your rally point in your own community.

Don’t be scared by the McCoalition.  Remember–Goliath never learns.


Beware the BBC

September 10, 2015 1 comment

We all love BBC programming and most of it we see in this country through BBC America.  That’s the part of the BBC that licenses selected programming produced for broadcast in the UK.  Brits get to watch that programming inside the UK by paying the annual license fee for TV and radio, a license fee that pays for substantial amounts of production.

The BBC recently announced that it’s planning a new music service.  According to Compete Music Update (our favorite industry news source) the BBC reported that:

[BBC] have developed a digital music proposal with the music industry, which builds on BBC Music’s Playlister. It would make the 50,000 tracks the BBC broadcasts every month available to listen online, for a limited period. Audiences would be able to access this music via playlists curated by the BBC, and they would be able to build their own playlists based on the music they hear and love on the BBC”.

“Through this digital music offer, we would reinvent our role as a trusted guide, in partnership with our audience and with the UK music industry”, it adds. “Together, the BBC and its audiences would curate music in new ways, enabling the discovery of more of all the music we play across the schedules of our many radio stations and TV channels”.

The BBC is pretty good at licensing its own programming, but I’ve had some odd experiences with what passes for commercial urges at the Beeb.  A few years ago, I had a meeting with one of the senior technical folks at the BBC about trying to help them commercialize the BBC programming on file sharing networks like Bit Torrent.  He didn’t seem to understand that BBC programming was all over Bit Torrent and that was bad.  Not just bad for him, but bad for the British residents who pay their annual license fee with the understanding that uses of BBC programming outside the UK should be compensated.

The Beeb executive asked me why this was a problem.  After repeating the fact that seemed self-evidently true–that the BBC is being ripped off by Bit Torrent just like anyone else–I paused to get a reaction.  He said, “Yes, the BBC brand is well represented on Bit Torrent.”

He clearly had no idea what I was talking about.  You know, property rights, John Locke, etc. Surely the Beeb has a show about it.  One of the hundreds of shows it produces that air once, perhaps.

In this context, I fully understand why CMU is reporting that Geoff Taylor of BPI may not be exceptionally sanguine about the BBC properly licensing its music player.

“If the BBC is going to launch such a service, then it needs to bring the industry with it. The starting point for some of the BBC’s suggestions around how such a service might work, involved launching such a service but paying no money for it – and I just don’t think that’s viable … There will have to be a sensible deal behind it if it’s going to happen”.

Note–“if it’s going to happen.”  There’s a certain finality in that phrasing that the BBC probably just doesn’t grok.  Why? Maybe it’s the entitled nature of the BBC–mostly because nobody has ever called them on the Beeb’s failure to clear properly the vast amount of programming “in the vault” so it can be commercially exploited (which might–might–reduce the annual fee to the British people).

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