Nobody rides for free…
Boulevard, written by Jackson Brown
Big Tech is using librarians as human shields AGAIN, this time moving against authors in New York of all places. Big Tech has used its massive lobbying budget to get a compulsory license through both houses of the New York legislature that establishes a state compulsory license for rates, allows the state to set the rate for that compulsory license using the “reasonable” wobble word, and requires the State Attorney General to prosecute violations–the perfect lawfare resolution that could result in thousands of claims against all authors and all publishers including self-published authors.
Yes, these people are that diabolical.
That bill (NY Assembly bill 5827B) is on its way to Governor Hochul and will become law if she doesn’t veto the bill on behalf of New York’s authors and publishers. Needless to say, fighting Big Tech’s lobbying muscle on this is a challenge, but as we’ve seen most recently in the UK, creators united are hard to ignore. You can make your voice heard, but you need to do it now.
So what’s in the New York bill and how did we get here? MTP readers will be familiar with Maryland’s decision to screw authors, but the New York bill tells us that this is becoming a pattern. Multiple state bills essentially doing the same thing don’t happen by coincidence–someone planned this out with a diabolical desire to crush authors. And that someone looks to be an astroturf group called “Library Futures”, a metashill group that appears to have been stood up by the American Library Association which itself is on Public Citizen’s list of Google shills. As Professor Jonathan Taplin tells us, the ALA regularly takes grants from Google and is routinely on the side of Google on authors rights issues. Which was confirmed by the Anonymous Librarian during the last Artist Rights Symposium–and she was anonymous for a reason. So I think that “Library Futures” is a shill of a shill, or a metashill.
Why would Big Tech be interested in books? As the Anonymous Librarian tells us, it is an effort that dates back to 1995 to populate the Internet with content. We know what they’ve done to music–most telcos can than peer-to-peer file sharing for driving Internet subscribers far faster than email or Gopher did. But they’ve also done the same with books in the early digitization projects headed by Google, Amazon and the Internet Archive. In other words, they had to have something for people to search for and books was one of those things (or as books are also known, “advertising keywords”). In other words, they did it for the money and the money made them rich. (Also realize the tremendous non-display commercial uses of the Google Books project–made legal fair use by one of the most misguided judicial opinions in a long time, such as corpus machine translation to name just one. Ever wonder why Google Translate is pretty accurate?)
Here’s what the New York bill actually does: First, just like what is now the law in Maryland, New York would create a state compulsory license for ebooks which is a blatantly unconstitutional end run around Congress’s exclusive domain over copyright. That exclusive domain requires no interpretation–it is enshrined in the Constitution and always has been. Plus when the federal government sets rates, it does so through an arcane process called the Copyright Royalty Board. It doesn’t just pick a number out of the air.
And don’t get the idea that the New York compulsory license is for some special class of libraries that require particular assistance–the license shall be to any library–not a public library or charitable library or even a brick and mortar library. It could easily be a library in the metaverse.
But the bill also includes draconian penalties for failing to (a) offer a license and (b) do so on terms the State of New York finds “reasonable”:
That’s right–the New York Attorney General is being pressed into service to enforce an illegal compulsory license, and a rateless one at that, all at taxpayer expense while large commercial interests hide behind the grand reputation of libraries.
The bill is sponsored by Member of the New York Assembly Kimberly Jean-Pierre and co-sponsored by Charles Levine, Josh Jensen, Judy Griffin and John T. McDonald III, Charles Barron, Carrie Woerner, Michaelle C. Solage, and Steven Engelbright. It’s too late for them, but you might want to keep those names in mind if you live in New York. How these politicians came to be interested in challenging the clear and longstanding law remains to be seen, but as we know, “nobody rides for free.”
What you can do right now is to reach out to Governor Kathy Hochul and ask her to veto AB 5837 (Assembly Bill A5837B). You can reach her directly through her website or you can sign the petition sponsored by the Copyright Alliance to help authors stop this unconstitutional end run around their rights. Remember–authors are the canary in the coal mine on this because if Big Tech can make it here, they can make it anywhere.