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Google Says Don’t Break the Internet–Again–this time to Oracle at SCOTUS

December 26, 2019 Comments off

His Master had told him to call for help should a Wolf attack the flock, and the Villagers would drive it away. So now, though he had not seen anything that even looked like a Wolf, he ran toward the village shouting at the top of his voice, “Wolf! Wolf!”

As he expected, the Villagers who heard the cry dropped their work and ran in great excitement to the pasture. But when they got there they found the Boy doubled up with laughter at the trick he had played on them.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Aesop’s Fables No. 210

DBTI Lemley

Quick–how many times have you heard Google try to beat back challenges to their bad behavior with the old “Don’t Break the Internet” meme?  We’ve seen it many times, of course, but repetition doesn’t make it right and it definitely doesn’t make it true.

DBTI EFF

The EU Copyright Directive is a “Looming Catastrophe”

If there’s legislation, a lawsuit or some policy action that Google finds a commercial threat to their vast riches, especially including ill-gotten gains, it’s only a matter of time until they summon the academic and NGO chorus of Cassandras to bemoan, wail and rend garments over the single most important existential threat to humanity since the plagues of Egypt–breaking the Internet.

DBTI Orlowski

Breaking the Internet takes a few different forms including crushing innovation (or in the Googleplex, stealing everything that they can get away with).  And yet after a decade or more of this bunk, the Internet still trundles on, some how squeaking to get by despite Google’s breathless warnings.  Not to mention the multi, multi million dollar megaphone they use to broadcast their message far and wide from the halls of Congress to the children of Members of the European Parliament.

Google’s at it again, this time as part of the litigation involving its theft of copyrights from Oracle.  The problem for Google is that they can’t just run roughshod over Oracle the way they can practically everyone else, including governments.  We should be paying attention because for once Google may actually get punished in a way that hurts unlike the multi-billion fines in Europe that they absorb as a cost of doing business.

Here’s the story this time.  Google was getting their lunch eaten by Apple’s iPhone and needed to get Android up and running fast.  Google wanted to license a bunch of Java applications that were owned by Oracle.  You may say, what about Sun Microsystems which created Java?  Correct, but Oracle bought Sun so that’s how Oracle got involved.  And extra points if you remember who used to work at Sun Microsystems?  That’s right–UNCLE SUGAR!  Eric Schmidt his bad self.  Strange coincidence, yes?  The same Uncle Sugar who mysteriously resigned as Google’s executive chairman.  Uncle Sugar says, “Me, too!”  Boy we miss you Unk.

of-all-the-ceos-google-interviewed-eric-schmidt-was-the-only-one-that-had-been-to-burning-man-which-was-a-major-plus

The masked man says “Me, too!”

But I digress.  So Google supposedly creates some of its own Java-related software.  Let’s get this straight–Google could have developed their own platform with identical functions to Oracle’s Java as did Apple and Microsoft.  But–and this is really what I think the case is all about–Google made verbatim copies of several Java APIs that they couldn’t reverse engineer…sorry, I mean work around.  This all to avoid getting a license.  And you know how they argue that they got around those verbatim copies?

DBTI Shapiro

You guessed it–fair use.  Laughable, but no more laughable that Google’s whack a mole DMCA fake license practices they are fighting us on with their opposition to the CASE Act based on..you guessed it, fair use.  Breaking the Internet, etc.  It’s funny until you realize they are not kidding.

DBTI Internet Society

Google lost twice against Oracle in the case, but appealed its most recent failure to the Supreme Court of the United States, or “SCOTUS” as it’s known.  So Google’s big strong line in their papers is this:

Given the ubiquity of smartphones today, it is easy to forget the challenges that developers initially faced in building the operating systems that allow modern smartphones to perform their myriad functions. Among other things, developers had to account for smaller processors, limited memory and battery life, and the need to support mobile communications and interactive applications….[If Google loses the case, the ruling] will upend the longstanding expectation of software developers that they are free to use existing software interfaces to build new computer programs. Developers who have invested in learning free and open programming languages such as Java will be unable to use those skills to create programs for new platforms—a result that will undermine both competition and innovation.

Yep…law and order every time, marshal.  Google wants to wrap itself in the flag of those plucky “developers” who are just incapable of speaking for themselves so Google must do it for them as well as truth, justice and the American Way.  This is about as believable as Google positioning themselves to be on the side of artists because they paid some YouTubers to make propaganda against the European Copyright Directive.

censorship_square_of_doom1

Will innovation survive?  Will the Internet be broken?  Or did the boy cry wolf one too many times?  Will justice be done for once and done to Google?

Stay tuned.  There may be another Wreck-It Ralph sequel in the works .

 

Must Read: @realrobcopeland: Google’s ‘Project Nightingale’ Gathers Personal Health Data on Millions of Americans

November 13, 2019 Comments off

Wall Street Journal reporter Rob Copeland has unearthed another Google data scraping scandal, this time your private health information.  As usual, Google doesn’t want you to focus on how they use this data in the background for data profiling in ways that you don’t know is happening and that you were never asked to consent to.

The scandal isn’t that it’s illegal, the scandal is that it isn’t illegal.  Yet.

Remember that where Google gets into trouble is not necessarily because of what you can see, it’s what they do with the data that you can’t see.  For example, Google uses Google Books as a corpus to teach their translation algorithm in the background through a process of machine learning.  That was what the Google Books case was about–not the “Digital Library of Alexandria” BS.

Just like many Google products, the company uses the old head fake to get you thinking the deal is about one thing, but it’s actually about something else you wouldn’t like.

 

 

 

 

Dirty Data: Google’s Embarrassing #ClimateStrike Charm Offensive is a Lesson in Propaganda

September 22, 2019 Comments off

As any journalist can tell you (probably off the record), Google’s press police hammers the message of the day very aggressively.  We have a perfect example of those Googlely antics with their latest charm offensive on new data centers in Europe.

Here’s the headline from The Street, which is very likely actual reporting on the story:

thestreet google data centers in EU

Not a word in the story about “clean” anything, probably because the reporters know better and are probably insulated from Google’s press police.

But–here’s the same story from TechCrunch:

techcrunch google eu datacenters.png

This TechCrunch headline ran over a huge photo of wind turbines–which has little to do with the story which is not about wind farms but about data farms.  Data farms that hog huge amounts of electricity.

us-data-center-power-consumption

Google typically requires a state–or in the EU’s case a nation–to provide a mix of energy sources, about 1/3 of which Google would like to derive from “green” sources.  But not all.  However, the TechCrunch story makes it sound like the whole point of the data centers isn’t to hog electricity and crowd out local power users but instead for Google to somehow “answer the call” by climate strikers by doing something Google would have done anyway–when Google KNOW they are burdening the local power grid.

Google announced today that it was investing €3 billion (approximately US$3.3 billion) to expand its data center presence in Europe. What’s more, the company pledged the data centers would be environmentally friendly….

It’s obviously not a coincidence that the company is making an announcement related to clean energy on Global Climate Strike Day, a day when people from around the world are walking out of schools and off their jobs to encourage world leaders and businesses to take action on the climate crisis. Google is attempting to answer the call with these announcements.

Source: HPC Wire

 

It has been baffling to me how the Green New Deal proponents haven’t focused on Google as a major polluter and electricity hog.  YouTube alone snorts down about as much power as it takes to operate the city of Cincinnati every day–if not more.  It’s hard to get straight answers about Google’s power needs.  And then there’s Facebook.
Data Centers

It should not be lost on anyone that Google and Facebook gain major political clout from placing data centers in states or European countries.  Based on Google’s most recent environmental report (2018) you have to tease out what Google’s actual carbon emissions is (in footnote 32):

  1. Google emits less than 8 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per day to serve an active Google user—defined as someone who performs 25 searches and watches 60 minutes of YouTube a day, has a Gmail account, and uses our other key services.

In Google-speak “less than 8” usually means 7.9999999999.  So let’s call it 8.  As of 2016 there were 1 billion active gmail users.  So rough justice, Google acknowledges that it emits about 8 billion grams of carbon dioxide daily, or 9,000 tons.  And based on the characteristically tricky way Google framed the measurement, that doesn’t count the users who don’t have a gmail account, don’t use “our other key services” and may watch more than an hour a day of YouTube.  You know, like kids for example.

lux-research-data-centers-electricity-use

Nature magazine sums it up:

Upload your latest holiday photos to Facebook, and there’s a chance they’ll end up stored in Prineville, Oregon, a small town where the firm has built three giant data centres and is planning two more. [Hello, Senator Wyden.] Inside these vast factories, bigger than aircraft carriers, tens of thousands of circuit boards are racked row upon row, stretching down windowless halls so long that staff ride through the corridors on scooters.

These huge buildings are the treasuries of the new industrial kings: the information traders.The five biggest global companies by market capitalization this year are currently Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook, replacing titans such as Shell and ExxonMobil. Although information factories might not spew out black smoke or grind greasy cogs, they are not bereft of environmental impact. As demand for Internet and mobile-phone traffic skyrockets, the information industry could lead to an explosion in energy use.

According to the National Resources Defense Council:

Data centers are the backbone of the modern economy — from the server rooms that power small- to medium-sized organizations to the enterprise data centers that support American corporations and the server farms that run cloud computing services hosted by Amazon, Facebook, Google, and others. However, the explosion of digital content, big data, e-commerce, and Internet traffic is also making data centers one of the fastest-growing consumers of electricity in developed countries, and one of the key drivers in the construction of new power plants.

Why might that be?  Here’s some 2011 data from the famous “The Internet is Killing the Planet” infographic inspired by Greenpeace’s “Dirty Data” research (that seems to have been forgotten in the Green New Deal):

Google co2 1

Again from Nature:

Already, data centres use an estimated 200 terawatt hours (TWh) each year. That is more than the national energy consumption of some countries, including Iran, but half of the electricity used for transport worldwide, and just 1% of global electricity demand (see ‘Energy scale’). Data centres contribute around 0.3% to overall carbon emissions, whereas the information and communications technology (ICT) ecosystem as a whole — under a sweeping definition that encompasses personal digital devices, mobile-phone networks and televisions — accounts for more than 2% of global emissions. That puts ICT’s carbon footprint on a par with the aviation industry’s emissions from fuel.

heres-steam-shooting-out-of-the-dalles-data-center-in-oregon-as-its-cooling-down

What does this have to do with music?  Actually, more than you might think.  YouTube is one of the biggest carbon producers in the Google system.  What’s consumed the most on YouTube?  Cat videos?  How-to screw in a lightbulb videos?  No.

Music videos.

And then there’s streaming.  However you might have felt about plastic discs, billions upon billions of streams uses up a lot of processing power.  And it’s like all the world’s music is hosted in the cloud, sometimes literally.  Remember “Own Nothing, Have Everything”?  I don’t know if anyone could have thought of a more inefficient delivery method from a climate point of view, but I suppose it’s possible.

The fact is we are the forced enablers of what may end up being one of the biggest energy scams in the entire climate disaster, and it’s time to put the foot down.  First of all, artists need to start asking questions of services like YouTube and the advertisers who support them.

So when Google says they’re spending $3.3 billion on data centers in Europe, don’t think for a minute that the “call” they are answering is anything except the call for more profits and political clout.

And they will feed you all the propaganda they can to make you believe that they’re just good guys answering the call to save the planet.  Which is bunk.

An Insult to the Heart: Lobbyists Organize Big Tech Rallies in Europe

March 24, 2019 Comments off

The ghost of Edward Bernays walks the streets of the ancient capitols of Europe.  As the man who wrote the book on propaganda (literally) Bernays made a chilling observation:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.

In a post-Cambridge Analytica world, the battle for humanity will be fought over the equivocation of “freedom”—the basic human freedom of expression will be coopted by the corporate freedom from regulation to profit from surveillance by machines.  It is the ad-man’s old challenge–make you think something that will kill you is actually good for you.

joecamel

Descendant of Bernays’ “Torches of Freedom” Campaign

In turning the machines loose on the humans who are their product, corporations will use tools that Bernays foreshadowed–but these “men we have never heard of” will be playing with the very foundations of democratic institutions of the nation state.  Who wins this battle is up for grabs right now and nowhere are we seeing this struggle for humanity more clearly rendered than in Europe in the battle over Article 13.

In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.

Bernays described Google some 70 years before its time.

google-android-3-gingerbread

The offspring of Joe Camel proudly displayed at the Googleplex

We should understand that the “value gap” that sparked this extraordinary lobbying effort by American multinational corporations to bring Europe to heel was symptomatic of a more fundamental sickness.  That commercial symptom could, and perhaps should, be more readily understood as a “values gap”–the perverse voyeurism of the surveillance capitalists to commoditize all that touched their networks and use artists to lure the humans whose data could be scraped, whose behavior could be monitored and eventually manipulated for even greater profit.

helga google interfere

I’d suggest that is why this struggle in Europe resonates so deeply with artists around the world.  It’s not just the commercial insult.  It’s not the metaphorical Room 101 app where the winning answer is 2+2=5.

It is an insult to humanity.  It is an insult to the heart.

What’s the Agenda at @TheAgenda?

November 13, 2018 Comments off

Google’s European charm offensive on “Article 13” has come to Canada in search of earned media.  They got it last night on a previously-credible news show called The Agenda in the “Struggling Artists and Copyright Rules” episode.  (For readers outside of Canada, the Agenda is one of the top news magazine television programs in Canada, hosted by the erudite Steve Paikin.)

Both Canada and the European Union are going through very different copyright reform policy revisions which could not be more different, but The Agenda was determined to hold up Big Tech’s objections to the European Copyright Directive as some kind of example for the Canadian review of its 2012 Copyright Modernization Act which is being conducted largely in the normal course as required by statute.  

By contrast, the Copyright Directive for the Single Digital Market (often called “Article 13”) bears little resemblance to the Canadian review.

If you watched The Agenda last night with the EFF’s Cory Doctorow, the Canadian science fiction author, and Canadian artists Miranda Mulholland and Donald Quan, you really would not have much of an idea.  

I’ve actually appeared on The Agenda and was very impressed with the amount of objective preparation the show’s producers put in and the thoroughness with which they approached the subject.  This kind of staff work is critical to preserving Steve Paikin’s credibility and how he conducts interviews with multiple persons, sometimes phoning in from out of the studio.

Given my experience with the program, I was quite taken aback by the sloppiness of the questioning that verged on propaganda from multinational corporations at several moments despite Miranda and Donald’s best efforts.  What I saw was the complete opposite of my own experience.  Here’s a few examples, more to come.

—Julia Reda represents Germany in the European Parliament?  Let us be clear—Julia Reda may have a German constituency, but Julia Reda hardly “represents Germany” if the implication is—and I think it was—that Julia Reda’s views are representative of Germany as a whole.  She is the sole Member of the European Parliament from the Pirate Party and her views are not only very pirate, but were also voted down by substantial majorities.  

—the use of neuvoo.ca, which appears to be a crowd sourced job site as evidence of creator “annual income”.  I’ve quickly looked over the neuvoo site and can’t find the name of a live person attached to it, so we don’t really know much about it.  The site appears to be aggregating job postings from other sites (like Uber), so I’d really like to see the methodology.  Having said that, the neuvoo annual income numbers (like $61,798 for a writer compared to the Writers Union of Canada number of $9,380) seem greatly inflated and counterintuitive.  If there’s a good reason to believe a job aggregator as opposed to the union representing job categories, I’m all ears.  But the real question I have is why The Agenda didn’t use government statistics as the comparison, or at least mention some of the research work done by the industry or other countries or cities (such as the Austin Music Census).

—the failure by Steve Paikin to mention Cory Doctorow’s long time involvement with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  The EFF lobbying group was not only disclosed by Google in court documents as a recipient of corporate donations but benefited to the tune of $1 million in a cy pres award that is of the type that is currently under review by the United States Supreme Court.  Google, of course, is on Julia Reda’s side of the Article 13 vote and is today lobbying the European Parliament against Article 13, making many of the same arguments as Cory Doctorow did on The Agenda.

We’ll be looking into this deeper, but it doesn’t take much of a cynic to question why Steve Paikin would allow his program to be coopted in the effort to oppose Article 13.  I for one don’t believe Mr. Paikin is that kind of guy, and I think that he’s very careful about being used.  I know he certainly was careful when I was on the show.

This leads one to the inescapable conclusion that either his producer was in the tank for Google or was incredibly sloppy.  Either conclusion is equally unfortunate.

We’ll come back to this soon.

Is YouTube The Lyor Show?

June 21, 2018 Comments off

MIKE

Christof, let me ask you, why do you think that Truman has never come close to discovering the true nature of his world until now?

CHRISTOF

We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented. It’s as simple as that.

from The Truman Show, written by Andrew Niccol

You’ll hear a lot of trash talk about Lyor Cohen, but credit where it’s due–he gave an interview that interested me about how he sees his role at YouTube.  I actually think he’s got some old school ideas that may be fundamentally sound, but are not connected to the Google reality.

I submit that his problem is that either he’s getting paid so much money he doesn’t need to be attached to reality or he doesn’t understand that Google does not give a rip about us.  Or maybe it’s a little of both.

Lyor’s main problem is that he either doesn’t understand or chooses to ignore Google’s exploitative business model.  MTP readers will recall a prescient 2008 book review of Nicholas Carr’s The Google Enigma (entitled “Google the Destroyer“), by antitrust scholar Jim DeLong that gives an elegant explanation of Google’s mindset:

Carr’s Google Enigma made a familiar business strategy point: companies that provide one component of a system love to commoditize the other components, the complements to their own products, because that leaves more of the value of the total stack available for the commoditizer….Carr noted that Google is unusual because of the large number of products and services that can be complements to the search function, including basic production of content and its distribution, along with anything else that can be used to gather eyeballs for advertising. Google’s incentives to reduce the costs of complements so as to harvest more eyeballs to view advertising are immense….This point is indeed true, and so is an additional point. In most circumstances, the commoditizer’s goal is restrained by knowledge that enough money must be left in the system to support the creation of the complements….

Google is in a different position. Its major complements already exist, and it need not worry in the short term about continuing the flow. For content, we have decades of music and movies that can be digitized and then distributed, with advertising attached. A wealth of other works await digitizing – [music,] books, maps, visual arts, and so on. If these run out, Google and other Internet companies have hit on the concept of user-generated content and social networks, in which the users are sold to each other, with yet more advertising attached.

So, on the whole, Google can continue to do well even if leaves providers of its complements gasping like fish on a beach.

And that was the truth in 2008 and its still true of Google ten years later because that’s their business model.  So when Irving Azoff says of Google that YouTube doesn’t pay artists and songwriters adequately–even the top songwriters in the world who are members of Irving’s Global Music Rights–that’s entirely consistent with the predatory business model Jim DeLong identified.

And when Lyor tries to flatter and deflect his way around Irving’s criticism, he’s missing the point entirely which is not surprising given that he works there.  But it doesn’t change the fact that Irving is right—Google is built on an exploitative business model that depends on using the DMCA safe harbor to undermine basic private property concepts and complete one of the biggest income transfers of all time to the great detriment of artists and songwriters.

MTP readers will also remember my 2007 post, The DMCA is Not an Alibi, now called “the value gap.”  That was the one that really started criticisms that I had a Google problem.  I can’t tell you the number of times that people have come up to me and confessed that they didn’t see what I was driving at until years after.  Not that it matters, but important years were lost when people in positions to marshal resources to combat them simply failed to do so.

Nothing has changed since Jim and I wrote those pieces and nothing will change until there are tectonic shifts in how Google is permitted to operate and the loopholes it relies on.  We’re thankful of the victory in Europe, but as one loophole closes in Europe, another opens in the US through the Music Modernization Act’s inexplicable and likely unconsitutional reachback safe harbor.

In a recent Billboard interview, Lyor said:

“Prior, [YouTube would] make a deal with the industry, go away for a few years and then come back. And that, to me, is where misunderstandings happen,” he explains. “It’s really hard to find an artist and break that artist — I mean, it’s almost impossible. So if Google and YouTube understand how difficult it is, maybe they could think about ways to improve that part of the business….”

How did you alleviate the disconnect between YouTube and the music industry?

Just going back to back with them. Demystifying our intent. Understanding how hard it is to break artists and to go to work on behalf of the creative community and the labels.

I think Lyor is essentially correct in his old school assessment of Google’s “new boss” problem, but he’s treating the wrong symptom.  It’s not that Google doesn’t understand anything, they understand just fine how hard we think it is to break an artist in the music business.  They just don’t care and to the extent they think about it at all, they think that we don’t understand because they think they “break” YouTube “stars” when those “stars” get corporate sponsorships.

And that is because their business model is based on manipulating loopholes and not on “breaking artists,” if “breaking artists” means establishing artists as able to have successful careers apart from YouTube.  And that dependency has become clearer in the years since Jim wrote his “flopping on the beach” post which makes Google’s commoditization even more insidious.

So while we’re happy that the Europeans have seen the light on the “value gap,” the DMCA is still not an alibi–unless the U.S. government continues to fail to address the underlying cause of the new algorithmic Darwinian music business that is gradually asphyxiating artists and songwriters.

And while we can appreciate Lyor’s old school view of his role in the Google Nation, no one should be persuaded that his approach will change anything as long as one of the largest corporations in commercial history is allowed to weaponize the DMCA safe harbor.  The artists Lyor is focused on “helping” aren’t just flopping on any beach, they are flopping on Google’s beach, one way or another.

@scleland: The Huge Hidden Public Costs (>$1.5T) of U.S. Internet Industrial Policy — Artist Rights Watch

April 16, 2018 Comments off

[Editor Charlie sez: Scott Cleland takes an excellent deep dive into the “leechonomics” of the safe harbors afforded to the special people who are members of the Internet Association and the Digital Media Association. This corporate welfare was most recently replicated in the punitive Music Modernization Act retroactive safe harbor bolstering profits from copyright infringement for the special people which passed the House Judiciary Committee on the same day that the Congress cut back the CDA 230 safe harbor for many of the same special companies and cut their profits from sex trafficking.]

via @scleland: The Huge Hidden Public Costs (>$1.5T) of U.S. Internet Industrial Policy — Artist Rights Watch

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