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The Geist in the Hen House

March 3, 2012 2 comments
[Editor Charlie says: This post originally appeared February 25, 2010.]

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I’ve got a little list — I’ve got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!

I Have A Little List, from The Mikado
By William Schwenck Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
Copyright 1885

Michael Geist gave his robust analysis of the Special 301 process, perhaps as part of one of his many lucrative Lawbytes, Inc. contracts from bureaucrats at the Canadian Ministry of Industry or perhaps not? That connection is probably classified SECRET, so maybe we’ll never know. But Geist seems to think that the person we should be asking about what the hens think about the strength of the hen house door–is the fox.

Specifically, in one of his blog/op-eds or repurposed versions of the same (I lose track) he treats us to this fine example of the “Kow-Tow Syndrome” as he trots out his little list of foxes trying their best to guard the hen house:

“As the U.S. prepares its 2010 edition [of the USTR’s Special 301 Report], for the first time it invited the public to provide their comments on the process and the link between intellectual property and trade policy. Among the hundreds of submissions, one from the Computer and Communications Industry Association [“CCIA“] stands out as critically important to Canada.

The CCIA represents a who’s who of the technology business world, with a membership roster that includes Microsoft, Google, T-Mobile, Fujitsu, AMD, eBay, Intuit, Oracle, and Yahoo. While critics of Canadian policy might expect these business heavyweights to chime in with their own criticisms, they took the opposite approach.

Rather than building on the tired narrative that the current law is an embarrassment, the message from the technology world was that Canada is actually doing just fine. The CCIA warned that including Canada on the list of countries that need reforms undermines the credibility of the process, adding ‘Canada’s current copyright law and practice clearly satisfy the statutory ‘adequate and effective’ standard. Indeed, in a number respects, Canada’s laws are more protective of creators than those of the United States.’…That the world’s leading technology companies are speaking out on this issue should send a strong signal to Industry Minister Tony Clement and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore about how Canadian law is actually viewed by [the mainly US and no Canadian] leading companies that sit at the heart of a Canadian digital strategy.”

Ever looking for his wedge issue, Geist now wants to try to pit the Special 301 process as a fight amongst “the world’s leading technology companies” and…someone. Now who might that someone be? I’d suggest that the people at the heart of any digital strategy–Canadian or otherwise–are not a slew of huge US corporations, but rather startups and investors. And when it comes to media based companies and policies, the creative community–artists, musicians, journalists, authors, all of whom have been roughly treated at best by some CCIA members such as Google. (Google is, of course, in a class by itself–no country is accusing the other CCIA members of “cultural rape.”)

Let me boldly state–the chicken comes before the egg. And if the worldwide condemnation of Google Books is any indication, if the chickens disappeared the eggs would be missed.

If you want to find out what the hens think about the strength of the door guarding the hen house that keeps out the foxes, who would you ask? Would you ask the hens what a hen thinks, or would you ask a fox what the hen thinks?

Geist is clearly someone who not only has never represented an artist, but I can’t imagine he could even know any or many. I can tell you from personal experience that the only thought I’ve ever heard anyone at CCIA express about what happens to artists in the face of the Google onslaught, is of the “they can always sell another T-shirt” species. These guys are lobbyists through and through and they do not give a hoot about the creative community. In fact, analogously to Geist’s “Yanks Under the Bed” approach, CCIA finds the “RIAA Under the Bed” at every turn. (Of course in Geist’s case it’s easy to find the Yanks, they’re at the US-backed Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, the Alcan of IP where Geist is an advisor–all part of the interconnected web of Silicon Valley boards, investors, consultants currently under investigation.)

In other words–they know nothing about the business they are doing their best to ruin. And then there’s Google. If CCIA does much to represent the interests of anyone but Google, I would be shocked.

I first experienced the Kow-Tow Syndrome with tech types in Silicon Valley. The fundamental characteristic of KTS is that the victim subsumes their own personality with the views of a larger entity–because the larger entity must be right because they are big. For example, when negotiating a contract with AOL in the pre-disaster days (i.e., before the merger with a perfectly good media company that AOL ran into the ground), I noticed the agreement did not have an audit clause and I put one in. When the draft was returned to me, the audit clause was gone.

I asked why did they take out my audit clause. I had a legitimate reason to ask for it as they were in control of certain information flows and we were not. I was told that AOL had decided that it was not a good use of AOL’s resources to allow themselves to be audited.

I tried to fight this a few times but was finally told to let it go by the client. They are a big company so we have to do what they want was the rationale.

My parting words to AOL: You can take it out but take some advice. Don’t ever buy a record company because you will never run that “*!X%” past artists. And a few weeks later they announced the merger. And that worked out so well for them.

Compare the Kow-Tow Syndrome to negotiating on behalf of artists. I can’t even venture a guess as to the expletives that would follow from an artist reacting to a recitation of the “we’re big so we’re right” scenario, and frankly any record company that wants to stay in business tries to avoid “policy” based negotiation responses. Whatever the rationale, the one thing a record company rarely ever says is the equivalent of “get on your knees because we’re big and big is right.”

So when Geist wants to find out what the hens think, he might do better to ask a hen, not ask the fox what the hens think. Because bigger is not better, might is not right, and artists need all the protection they can get when faced with the Bad Boys of CCIA. Which is really just a lobbying arm of Google, and I don’t for the life of me understand why the other members pay their dues, which have to be gigantic sums.

Don’t forget–artist rights are human rights, and if there’s one thing we know for certain, it is that CCIA member Google would not give a single Jimmy Chu from Marissa Meyer’s trousseau–a wardrobe worthy of a sartorial sister major label executive–to protect the human rights of the many creators who pay their part for the shoes.

If you two Gulfstream families disagree, you can just wobble your wings.

See also: A handy chart of Lawbytes government contracts
See also: A handy chart of Geist operations

See also: What do Canada, Vietnam, China, Russia, Ukraine and Romania have in common? (And, no, it’s not future sites of the Creative Commons Internationale)

See also: A closer look at Lawbytes, Inc. f/s/o Michael Geist

News from the Goolag: Just in time for Halloween, Dr. Smarty Pants sez "Just Move It"

October 26, 2010 Comments off

Just in time for Halloween, Eric Schmidt had yet another one of those slips that even his fans are finding hard to defend in Google’s quest to organize the world’s information whether the world likes it or not.

Schmidt tells the world–or at least Parker/Spitzer–that if you don’t like street view–just move it. “‘Street View, we drive exactly once,’ Schmidt said, referring to the vehicles mounted with cameras sent out to take photos for the service. ‘So, you can just move, right?’”

So creepy Dr. Smarty Pants does it again, and what’s interesting about this one is that no one from Google is trying to pass it off as a bad joke. No, no. Google is so arrogant that they can’t even make a joke out of their joke CEO when they need to. Sez the flack: “’The point Eric was making is that our Street View service provides only a static picture in time, and doesn’t provide real-time imagery or provide any information about where people are. Of course, we also allow users to request that their home be removed from Street View.’” Oh, I see. “Eric” was making a point. There was a rationale, an empirical truth, a “point” being made. And silly me, I just thought it was either colossal arrogance or a ham handed gaffe.

(Read that Google “correction” closely because you can bet that Google did: “we allow users to request that their home be removed from Street View”. How about asking homeowners if they will allow Google to include their homes in Street View in the first place? And just because you can request to have your home removed from Street View (maybe after your daughter is stalked, perhaps), doesn’t mean that Google will actually remove it.)

Google does not deny that Schmidt actually meant they’ll post pictures of your house on the Internet and if you don’t like it you can move. Once again, Google creates the impression in a whole lot of people (judging by the Twitter stream) that Google really is that arrogant–they don’t care about your little house and if you don’t like it try suing them. Anyone who has ever dealt with Google knows that they really are that arrogant, but now there’s proof that resonates with the average person.

In 30 countries.

So once again, creepy Dr. Smarty Pants demonstrates that he’s so creepy he can’t help himself.

If this cloven hoof in mouth problem was just a one-time thing, that would be different. But it happens so frequently, you have to wonder what’s up with the board. How much longer are they going to let this guy keep his job? What will it take to fire him? Will it take villagers with pitchforks bringing an analog solution to a digital problem?

And on the same day that Dr. Smarty Pants appeared on Parker/Spitzer, Reuters reported that:
“Google Inc acknowledged that a fleet of cars equipped with wireless equipment inadvertently collected emails and passwords of computer users in various countries, and said it was changing its privacy practices.

Google said it wants to delete the data as soon as possible. Google announced the data collection snafu in May, but said at the time the information it collected was typically limited to “fragments” of data because the cars were always moving. [Ah, of course. Just like you can’t use a cell phone in a moving car. OK journalists, nod your heads and back to sleep.]

Since then, regulators in several of the more than 30 countries where the cars operated have inspected the data.

‘It’s clear from those inspections that while most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords,’ said Google Vice President of Engineering and Research Alan Eustace in a post on Google’s blog on Friday.” (Emphasis mine.)

Let me rephrase that spin: Google got caught.

And in the places where they weren’t caught they didn’t stop collecting the data (or “warcharging” as some have called it). So attention privacy regulators: Google will play catch me if you can with privacy the same way they play “catch me if you can” with content. Their approach is the same whether it’s Street View or YouTube.

If you acquire the technological means to catch Google in the act and you have the litigation resources to make them stop–like the nation states that Google and their fellows would prefer to “geek around”–then to the extent they are caught, they will do the minimum they are forced to do to comply with the laws of the nation state doing the catching.

Meaning, in the world of Dr. Smarty Pants, might makes right.

Because after all–you can always opt out. You can always get away from Google.

You can always move.

Someplace.

And you can always change your name.

At least until they find you.

On Google Earth.

See also: The Creepiest TV Moments of Google’s CEO

See also: Google’s Schmidt Apologizes For Latest Weird Non-Joke

The Pure Unadulterated Stuff: YouTube Turns 5

May 23, 2010 Comments off

News from the Goolag:

In case you were wondering what pure, unadulterated BS looks like, consider the “thank you for making us rich, have a nice life” video from Li’l Steve and Li’l Chad. Then compare it to what we now know was being said inside YouTube at the time due to all the emails that managed to survive what the EFF would likely call YouTube’sdocument retention policy“.

Little did you know that as they were making this very celebratory video, Li’l Steve and Li’l Chad were suffering irreversible memory loss and all of their emails were being lost. Ain’t success tragic?

Where is Harvey Pitt when you need him, eh? Remember “Pitt’s Postulate”? “If you think you’ve destroyed the last copy of any document, one more exists, and it will surface at exactly the wrong time. (Exception: if you really need the document.)

You know who remembers Pitt’s Postulate? Jawed Karim, The Man Who Didn’t Lose His Email. Steve Chen: “we should just keep that stuff on the site. I really don’t see what will happen. what? someone from cnn sees it? he happens to be someone with power? he happens to want to take it down right away. he get in touch with cnn legal. 2 weeks later, we get a cease & desist letter. we take the video down.”

Jawed had this other email where he admonished the YouTube board of directors: “As of today episodes and clips of the following well-known shows can still be found: Family Guy, South Park, MTV Cribs, Daily Show, Reno 911, Dave Chapelle. This content is an easy target for critics who claim that copyrighted content is entirely responsible for YouTube’s popularity.”

See also: DOJ Criminal Resource Manual: Bedside Reading for YouTube Fans

See also: Does Google Adequately Reserve For Loses in YouTube Infringement Case?

See also: The Two Brats

See also: Google’s Blind Side

See also: Fire McLaughlin

Google Goggles: Thank you for your service, authors of the world

May 13, 2010 Comments off

So remember that hot start up, Goggle? This is the one that developed eyeware that could block all advertising?

Enter Google Goggles. Yep.

“Here’s how it works:

Point your [Droid] phone at a word or phrase. Use the region of interest button to draw a box around specific words

Press the shutter button

If Goggles recognizes the text, it will give you the option to translate

Press the translate button to select the source and destination languages”

Pretty nifty, right? Ask yourself this: Does Google’s Hoovering of all the books in the world have anything to do with these new translation devices? Do you think that stealing all the books in the world might might have a few benefits to Google other than just Google Books?

Does anyone know what happens to the scanned text once Google Hoovers it up?

Do you think that this has anything to do with why Google is scanning books like there’s no tomorrow?

Do you think that that if they lose the Google Books case they’re going to give it all back?

Do you think that they intend to pay the Google Books Registry for ancillary uses of the data?

Do you think anyone even knows what they are doing with all the scanned books, sheet music, illustrations, etc.?

Do you think that’s evil?

From the people who brought you "cultural rape"

May 7, 2010 Comments off

The Register reports that Google has sued “tiny indie blues label” Blues Destiny in order to obtain a ruling that would absolve Google of liability for including sites like the Pirate Bay, Rapidshare, Megavideo and the like in search results to make it ever more convenient for Google to profit from the kleptomania that has swept the world–particularly stealing from blues artists. Google of course filed the lawsuit in the Temporary Autonomous Zone known as the Northern District of California.

If you want a nice visual summary of this story, Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson obliges–his coverage features what appears to be a stock image of a older black guitar player with a frowning smiley drawn on in white face. A low blow, even for the Mollywood crowd.

And what was the offending act by Blues Destiny? Viddy well, little brother: they dared to fight back against the Leviathan of Mountain View and its droogs.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who understands Google’s history–the only search company whose executives have been both criminally convicted for refusing to remove a video of a child with Down syndrome being bullied and tried for “cultural rape“. If that doesn’t qualify them for eternal adulation by Lawrence Lessig and the Pirate Party, what else could?

And then there’s those YouTube emails–if YouTube isn’t criminal copyright infringement, exactly what other evidence do you need.

We have railed about Google’s “make me” litigation strategy as unseemly for a public company which can create what is essentially a rateless compulsory license given both its interpretation of the DMCA and the fact that it can essentially print money in the U.S. public financial markets to fund its bottomless litigation strategy to rip off America’s cultural treasures. Blues–like jazz–is one of America’s original contributions to music. And these people–and I use the term loosely–want to help thieves steal it. And profit from the stealing themselves.

The rationale for Google suit? Apparently it is because the little blues label had the temerity to refuse to dismiss their case with prejudice–meaning they weren’t stupid enough to believe that Google wouldn’t link to their records again as soon as the ink was dry on the settlement.

Well now, I guess you’d have to believe that Google wasn’t evil to buy into that argument. And then of course, Google saw a chance to use its stockholders vast cash holdings to crush the little guy and bring their case in the Temporary Autonomous Zone where the courts like to side with The Man 2.o.

If you ever needed a clearer demonstration of why all artists should loathe and fear Google, of why Google needs to be broken up for any of a host of reasons, of why Google is entirely, ontologically and existentially evil to its core–you now have it in this lawsuit. And you also have a clear illustration of why artists need the government to step in, and quickly. Remember, Google defied every government in the world with Google Books, and I’m sure they think they own the Obama administration. Erroneously, in my view, but I would not be surprised if they think it.

Another thing to remember is that all these decisions come from the top. Just like Eric Schmidt couldn’t find his YouTube emails, and the other founders had no recollection of anything having to do with their criminal enterprise when they finally got to court–they’ll all deny planning to use this underfunded defendant to advance their larceny. This is the mark of the bully. All full of brass when nobody is looking, then running for mommy when they get caught giving the weaker kid cigarette burns behind the garage.

Google needs to go down, and go down hard. No opportunity should be missed and no expense should be spared. If you are a part of the professional creative community, you have nothing more important to do today, tomorrow and for the foreseeable future than to do everything you can to stop these people.

If you want to read a truly pathetic example of “Vichy journalism” read the sickening apology for Google by Nate “Pétain” Anderson in Ars “don’t mess with Texas” Technica. Anderson really needs to stop what he’s doing and locate his manhood. And get rid of that racist picture. It may appeal to your psychophantic Google fanboys, but it is what it is, and what it is is racist.

See also: Artist rights are human rights

See also: AFL-CIO Comes Out For Artist Rights in Performance Rights Act

Google v Blue Destiny Complaint

Conflict Search Goes European: Brussels launches antitrust inquiry into Santa’s Toyshop (aka Googleplex)

February 24, 2010 Comments off

Remember this quote from Dana Wagner, then lead antitrust counsel for Google? “‘We want to be Santa Claus,” Mr. Wagner says. “We want to make lots of toys that people like playing with. But if you don’t want to play with our toys, you’ve got us. ‘We can’t really do evil things very easily – and if we did, you would leave.’”

But “[o]ne day in June 2006, search startup Foundem vanished from Google. Foundem is the developer of a “universal vertical search” technology, and currently offers comparison shopping across a range of consumer and travel categories by drilling down into vendor sites and returning details of actual flights and products. But on 26 June 2006, Google flipped a switch and all of the obvious comparison shopping keywords no longer applied for the company. Foundem had been effectively ‘disappeared’ from Google search results.” Thank you, El Reg.

“‘Google is in a position to pick the winners in just about every web-based market,’ says antitrust lawyer Gary Reback, who is part of the charge against Google Book Search. And, he adds, ‘it can do it without anyone even knowing.'”

And that is the point. Contrary to what Mr. Wagner says, Google can do evil things very easily. Just ask any company that has been “disappeared” by an adjustment to the Google algorithm (heavily protected by the IP rights that Google ignores when it comes to creators).

I’m sure that “disappeared” concept is not very popular at the Googleplex–kind of like Santa absconding with Mommy and the toys. Another place it’s not too popular is Brussels.

So how did the Smartest Guys in the Room prepare themselves for their first real Antitrust Beauty Pageant? First and foremost, by a lack of supervision. The first question you have to ask in this kind of meltdown is where was the board? Nowhere to be seen, apparently.

Second is, who programmed the algorithms to penalize competitors and push Google’s own products and services to the front of the line? Someone did. Just like YouTube would like you to believe that the direct infringement of other people’s work is “automatic”, someone had to decide that it could be automatic, just like some person had to decide to disappear Foundem to the back of the line in Google search results. Actually, Google can do evil things very easily–but they do it in the background to the proverbial “guys in the garage” – the next wave of innovators who have a difficult time fighting back, either because they are not as rich as Google (almost everyone) or because the harm is so massive that they would go broke trying to fight on Google’s litigation pitch. Particularly when Google can go to the public markets to raise litigation funds to perpetuate what polite company would call infringement. (Roughly like printing money.)

Some person told the machines what to do, just like some person perpetrated the bad acts that became the financial meltdown. And given the reputation of the Google leadership team for hands on involvement, it seems unlikely that a low level employee acting alone would be solely responsible. But if it gets that far, I’m sure we’ll find out to everyone’s shock and awe that there was one bad apple somewhere.

But most importantly for setting the tone for Google’s operations worldwide was Google Books. I guess there may be a more efficient way to alienate every creator on the planet all at once, but I frankly don’t know what it is. The bungling of the Google Books land grab has focused the governments of the world on Google and its activities–probably some of the WORST legal advice ever given.

As we have seen with Google Books in Europe and elsewhere, Google is a company that thinks nothing of attacking countries. History has shown that very few nations have been able to hold on by force to territories that they took by force. And taking someone’s national heritage by force is close enough, and Google Books is clearly an attempt to take whole swaths of national heritage and put it under the control of the Leviathan from Mountain View. And don’t forget–they have said that books are just the beginning. Movies and music are next. (They’ve actualy already started with movies on YouTube.)

And now–now we find in the Financial Times that “[t]he European Commission has launched a preliminary antitrust investigation into Google’s search engine and its search-advertising service [in response to complaints about its search practices] from Foundem, a UK price comparison service, and ejustice.fr, a French legal search engine, both of which had complained that they had been relegated to an unfairly low place in Google’s search rankings.”

The story of UK startup Foundem is quite interesting (see “When algorithms attack, does Google hear you scream?”: “One day in June 2006, search startup Foundem vanished from Google. Foundem is the developer of a “universal vertical search” technology, and currently offers comparison shopping across a range of consumer and travel categories by drilling down into vendor sites and returning details of actual flights and products. But on 26 June 2006, Google flipped a switch and all of the obvious comparison shopping keywords no longer applied for the company. Foundem had been effectively ‘disappeared’ from Google search results.”

“There is a widespread view that Google’s rankings are untouched by human hand, crafted impartially by machine, and machine alone. But there’s much more to it than that – Google’s verdicts on landing page quality are Google’s opinion, and the company even says as much, sometimes. The algorithms play a part in the verdict, certainly, but algorithms are produced by humans working to policies, so you could view them as a prism through which Google’s opinions are projected.”

We previously introduced the concept of “Conflict Search“. A good definition of Conflict Search is:

“Over several years…we’ve built the infrastructure, search algorithms, and presentation mechanisms to provide what we see as just the first step in the evolution toward universal search…using it to blend content from [Google] Images, [Google] Maps, [Google] Books, [Google] Video, and [Google] News into our web results.”

And who said that? Marissa Mayer, VP Search Products, Santa’s Workshop, quoted on her description of Google’s “Universal Search” initiative.

As Foundem says in their eye-popping complaint filed with the FCC:

“Universal Search transforms Google’s ostensibly neutral search engine into an immensely powerful marketing channel for Google’s other services. When coupled with Google’s 85% share of the global search market, this gives Google an unparalleled and virtually unassailable competitive advantage, reaching far beyond the confines of search. Universal Search allows Google to leverage its search engine monopoly into virtually any field it chooses. Wherever it does so, competitors will beharmed, new entrants will be discouraged, and innovation will inevitably be suppressed. These are not hypothetical risks. Although Universal Search is still in its infancy, there are already compelling examples of the harm it has done to competitors across a range of markets.”

In a word, Conflict Search. Santa is not neutral.

Foundem is fighting back. The best way to fight bullies is to fight bullies.

Like the man said, “the harder they come the harder they fall.”

Why we love Paul Williams

February 14, 2010 Comments off

An excellent post on Huffing & Puffington by Paul Williams, ASCAP president and gifted songwriter. Here’s a key part:

“A growing number of creative people — those talking from experience as songwriters or performing artists — are speaking up. They’re sharing legitimate perspectives on why taking content and ignoring copyright hurts those creating the music more than anyone else.

The list of these talented, respected and often critically-admired individuals constantly grows. Check out the thoughts of folks like Billy Bragg, Prince, Lily Allen, Bono or Krist Novoselic. Reach back to Metallica’s stance at the dawn of Napster. (And it’s not just songwriters or performing artists talking; digital pioneer, Jaron Lanier, makes many similar points in his new book, You Are Not a Gadget).”

A long time ago, when I lived in Frank Lucas’s New York (see Ridley Scott’s American Gangster), I got mugged one night by a junkie. During the attempted mugging I thought to myself that New York was in a nose dive of permanent decline and that there was no pulling out. They may as well just push it into the sea. Even so, there were sparks of people fighting back–which is why it was an attempted mugging–and looked to their civic leaders for guidance. None came, and it was that supreme disconnect between the street and City Hall that I think I was responding to. That all changed a few years later, and looking back I realized that I was wrong to lose hope that the situation would ever turn around.

Having survived Frank Lucas’s New York, I think I’m better prepared to survive Eric Schmidt’s Internet. One day, decent people will rise up and this blight will become “youthful indiscretion”, something people did in college, like wide ties and platform shoes. They’ll all deny actually downloading, just streamed did they, like they didn’t inhale.

The exact path is a bit fuzzy, but what I do know is that we need to all lead each other out of the problem. Trust me–the government won’t do it until we do. Until this behavior becomes a confirmation question, it will not have risen to a level of appropriate seriousness. We will continue to be told “Don’t Be Moral“, nothing to see here, move along.

As long as the government allows Google to print money in the public markets to fund litigation over its massive infringements, artist’s can’t fight Google’s money with money–not even other countries can win that battle–so we will have to do it by other means. And that doesn’t even count Megavideo, Rapidshare and the other Children of the Lessig God.

I commend Paul Williams for taking a leadership role in speaking out on these problems.

See also: Why We Love Lily Allen, Bono and Krist Novoselec

See also: An Inconvenient Truth: Songwriters Guild President Rick Carnes talks about the effect of piracy on American songwriters

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