Archive for February, 2019

Article 13: Let the Investigations Begin

February 14, 2019 Leave a comment



It remains to be seen how the legislative process on Article 13 will play out but it’s very clear what the European Parliament’s next step is–investigate how American multinational corporations attacked a duly elected government.  The European Commission is foreshadowing this crucial next step in its official, undeniable and detailed condemnation of Google’s lobbying tactics.  (See The Copyright Directive: how the mob was told to save the dragon and slay the knight on the EC’s official blog.)

Bear in mind that these techniques have been used by Big Tech for many years as I have documented.  But it must be said that Google and Facebook have hit a new low with Article 13 and the Parliament should not let it go back to business as usual.  What is unusual about the Article 13 campaign was that it simply was repeated versions of Plan A–carpet bomb the MEPs with automated emails (aka spam) and pretend that these fakes were the voice of the people.

Bots 14-2-19 Edited

Many of these Twitter accounts behaved in a manner that is similar to the Russian bots that all these social media companies have told the U.S. Congress and the UK Parliament that they are taking steps to control.  If that’s true, it should be clear that when Jack Dorsey bats his stock options at the Congress about how seriously they take the problem, they don’t seem to take it very seriously when it is Big Tech’s interests on the line.

Twitter should have caught all this behavior given their supposed interest in stopping the Russian bot farms.  It’s hard to know exactly what the game was with these accounts the way that Twitter could tell the MEPs in, say, an investigation.  Under oath.  But we can guess based on the old Twitter ratioing techniques.

Bot 8 2-12-19 Edited

There are hundreds if not thousands of accounts that all have some common traits–very high numbers of likes, very low numbers of followers and all making a clear effort at riding an emotional contagion that social media is designed to exploit.

There is a real problem with governing-by-contagion and public officials are investigating this very thing with the Russian bots that bear a striking resemblance to Google’s Article 13 campaign.

But this problem isn’t news–for example, Cass Sunstein, then the Administrator of the Obama Office of Management and Budget, issued a memo in 2010 to the heads of executive branch departments and regulatory agencies which dealt with the use of social media and web-based interactive technologies.

Specifically, the Sunstein memo recognized the attraction to social media for policy making:

To engage the public, Federal agencies are expanding their use of social media and web- based interactive technologies. For example, agencies are increasingly using web-based technologies, such as blogs, wikis, and social networks, as a means of “publishing” solicitations for public comment and for conducting virtual public meetings.


But Sunstein called for exercising caution with public consultations.  He warned that “[b]ecause, in general, the results of online rankings, ratings, and tagging (e.g., number of votes or top rank) are not statistically generalizable, they should not be used as the basis for policy or planning.”

The European Parliament would do well to take a page from Sunstein’s thinking.

But the most important thing for the European Commission to take into account is that a company that is the target of multiple investigations is using the very market place monopoly that caused the competition investigations to begin with.

And Google is doing it to intimidate the European government into bending to its will on Article 13.  I’ll say it again–the European Commission needs to launch a full-blown criminal investigation into exactly what happened on Article 13.





You Furnish Alexa, and He’ll Furnish the War

February 10, 2019 Comments off

When Hearst Artist Frederic Remington, cabled from Cuba in 1897 that “there will be no war,” William Randolph Hearst cabled back: “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

Time Magazine

Many artists I speak to have a serious moral problem driving their fans to YouTube knowing that the artists are simply feeding Google’s data bombing with collateral damage in the form of their music and their fans.  Yet Google’s beachhead in the data apocalypse is nothing compared to Amazon–as far as I know, which I hesitate to say too categorically given that it’s Google.

But Amazon’s super groovy Alexa comes with many Intelligence Community connections that on balance are more destructive to society than the carbon footprint of Amazon trucks creating the inverse of the efficiency of the shopping center, brutalizing employees or destroying small retailers.

Amazon Retail.png

What does Amazon do with your fan’s Alexa data (or your data for that matter)?  Belle Lin reports in the Intercept:

At the beginning of October [2018], Amazon was quietly issued a patent that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to decipher a user’s physical characteristics and emotional state based on their voice. Characteristics, or “voice features,” like language accent, ethnic origin, emotion, gender, age, and background noise would be immediately extracted and tagged to the user’s data file to help deliver more targeted advertising.

The algorithm would also consider a customer’s physical location — based on their IP address, primary shipping address, and browser settings — to help determine their accent. Should Amazon’s patent become a reality, or if accent detection is already possible, it would introduce questions of surveillance and privacy violations, as well as possible discriminatory advertising, experts said.

The civil rights issues raised by the patent are similar to those around facial recognition, another technology Amazon has used as an anchor of its artificial intelligence strategy, and one that it controversially marketed to law enforcement. Like facial recognition, voice analysis underlines how existing laws and privacy safeguards simply aren’t capable of protecting users from new categories of data collection — or government spying, for that matter. Unlike facial recognition, voice analysis relies not on cameras in public spaces, but microphones inside smart speakers in our homes. [Emphasis mine]


What’s the connection to the Intelligence Community?  It’s all in the cloud, baby–according to Frank Konkel writing in The Atlantic:

The intelligence community is about to get the equivalent of an adrenaline shot to the chest. This summer, a $600 million computing cloud developed by Amazon Web Services for the Central Intelligence Agency over the past year will begin servicing all 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community.

And of course the next step after the old IC is the largest employer in Crystal City.  According to many sources, Amazon is competing to win a $10 billion–that’s with a  B–contract from the Department of Defense to provide cloud services to the entire U.S. military, called the Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative or “JEDI”.  (Oh, please.)  The Pentagon, by the way, is essentially next door to Amazon’s HQ2 site in Crystal City/Alexandria.  There are many interesting twists to this particular Amazon grab at the taxpayer’s money, but one story that caught my eye is Reuters’ reporting that Google dropped out of the competition–why you may ask?

Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Monday it was no longer vying for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the U.S. Defense Department, in part because the company’s new ethical guidelines do not align with the project, without elaborating.

Google said in a statement “we couldn’t be assured that [the JEDI deal] would align with our AI Principles and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications.”

Yes, that’s right.  Too corrupt even for Google.  (And CNN reports that Amazon is being investigated by the Pentagon for illegal government contracting practices.)  That’s right–Jeff Bezos, JEDI master, wants those big bucks from John Q. Public.

Amazon is looking more and more like Halliburton, and Jeff Bezos is looking more and more like the Charles Foster Kane of the data apocalypse.  YouTube looks tame by comparison, which tells you how bad it really is.

And then there’s this braying about Amazon’s “Rekognition” AI-driven facial recognition application:

Amazon Rekognition today announces three new features: detection and recognition of text in images, real-time face recognition across tens of millions of faces, and detection of up to 100 faces in challenging crowded photos. Customers who are already using Amazon Rekognition for face verification and identification will experience up to a 10% accuracy improvement in most cases.

And who among us will find it useful to use this tool for “detection of up to 100 faces in challenging crowded photos”.  Well…depends on who you mean by “us” as Ava Kofman reports in The Intercept:

Police in Lancashire, a county in northwest England, have rolled out a program to broadcast crime updates, photos of wanted and missing people, and safety notifications to Amazon Echo owners. Since February, the free app has been available to those using Alexa, a cloud-based voice assistant hooked up to the Echo smart speaker. The first of its kind in the U.K., the program was developed by the police force’s innovations manager in a partnership with Amazon developers.

The program marks the latest example of third parties aiding, automating, and in some cases, replacing, the functions of law enforcement agencies — and raises privacy questions about Amazon’s role as an intermediary. Lancashire County will store citizens’ crime reports on Amazon’s servers, rather than those operated by the police.

And once Amazon uses Alexa to collect this biometric and other data, who do you think has access to it, hmmm?  And then there’s Ring, but what happens when Ring meets Alexa is a story for another day, or perhaps an Amazon Prime original series.

So are you still sure you want to promote Alexa penetration?  Just ask “her”–“Alexa, deliver my file” and see what happens.



The MTP Podcast: Revenue? What Revenue? Don’t be fooled on royalty audits vs. financial audits

February 8, 2019 Comments off


Whoever you are…I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
From A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams

From Highlights of Managing Change under the Music Modernization Act’s Mechanical Licensing Collective (footnotes omitted.  A version of this article appears as How Will the Music Modernization Act’s Mechanical Licensing Collective Work? in 34 Entertainment Law & Finance 1 (No. 9, Dec. 2018.)

Audits: Only the MLC may audit the blanket licensees.  Only copyright owners may audit the MLC. However, audits must be conducted by certified public accountants and those auditors are obligated to look for overpayments—which probably violates a CPA’s duty of loyalty. As Warner Music Group’s Ron Wilcox testified to the CRJs, “Because royalty audits require exten- sive technical and industry-specific expertise, in WMG’s experience a CPA certification is not generally a requirement for con- ducting such audits. To my knowledge, some of the most experienced and knowledgeable royalty auditors in the music industry are not CPAs.”

It is also important to note that the collective may only audit once a year for the prior three years. Given that there will be bil- lions of transactions subject to audit (and eventually trillions in a three year period), it is unlikely that CPAs will be conducting census level audits. Projections and lump sum payments are likely, and lump sum payments tend to be distributed in the old- school method of market share distributions.

Is Self Auditing Hazardous to Your Health?…to-your-health/

Songwriter Liberty and Audit Rights Under Section 115: Music Licensing Study Filing…g-study-filing/

Attestation Agreements AICPA

Generally Accepted Auditing Standards AICPA

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles

How to Fix The Music Modernization Act’s Flawed “Audit” Clause…d-audit-clause/

Five Things Congress Could Do for Music Creators That Wouldn’t Cost the Taxpayer a Dime Part 3: Create an Audit Right for Songwriters…r-songwriters/

Guest Post by Keith Bernstein: Holy GAAP! Publishers Not Getting the Upside…ing-the-upside/


Not All Bots Are Created Equal

February 6, 2019 Comments off

@SusanWojcicki Thanks YouTube “Creators” for Making Her Rich

February 6, 2019 Comments off

#WholeLottaBots: Tracking the Meme Factory Against Article 13

February 5, 2019 Comments off

If you check these accounts, you may find that only a couple look real (including Doctorow).  Who knows, but looks weird.

reda tweet

Reelect Threat 1 2-5-19

Reelect Threat 2 2-5-19

Reelect Threat 3 2-5-19

Reelect Threat 4 2-5-19

Reelect Threat 5 2-5-19

Reelect Threat 6 2-5-19

Gotta Whole Lotta Likes: Social Media Oppo to Article 13 Continues

February 5, 2019 Comments off

Here’s a few examples of what the Twitter campaign against Article 13 looks like, draw your own conclusions:

Bot 4 1-5-19


Bot 3 1-5-19

BOT 2 1-5-19

Bot 1 1-5-19

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