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Must Read: @oliviasolon: Ashamed to Work in Silicon Valley: how techies became the new bankers

November 11, 2017 Leave a comment

[Editor Charlie sez:  Meet the 1% of the 1%]

When Danny Greg first moved to San Francisco to work at Github in 2012, he used to get high-fives in the street from strangers when he wore his company hoodie.

These days, unless he’s at an investor event, he’s cautious about wearing branded clothing that might indicate he’s a techie. He’s worried about the message it sends.

Greg is one of many people working in tech who are increasingly self-conscious about how the industry – represented by consumer-facing tech titans like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Twitter and Uber – is perceived: as underregulated, overly powerful companies filled with wealthy tech bros and “brilliant assholes” with little regard for the local communities they occupy. Silicon Valley has taken over from Wall Street as the political bogeyman of choice, turning tech workers – like it or not – into public ambassadors for the 1% [of the 1%].

“I would never say I worked at Facebook,” said one 30-year-old software engineer who left the company last year to pursue an alternative career. Instead, at dinner parties he would give purposefully vague responses and change the subject. “There’s this song and dance you learn to play because people are quick to judge.”

Like Wall Street before, the tech industry is a justifiable punchbag. “MBA jerks used to go and work for Wall Street, now wealthy white geeks go to Stanford and then waltz into a VC or tech firm.”

Read the post on The Guardian

Goliath Never Learns: Tone Deaf Google Takes Down a True Parody by Content Creators Coalition

October 31, 2017 1 comment

If you’ve ever heard some of the truly muddled gibberish from YouTubers or Facebookers justifying counternotifications after being hit with a copyright claim, you’ll know that what seems like 99.9% of them have no idea what a parody is (thanks in part to the unholy alliance of Google and its too close for comfort marriage to the Electronic Frontier Foundation).  So it’s particularly galling when YouTube actually takes down a real parody, and gall goes supernova when YouTube takes down a parody of…YouTube.  Yes, that’s right…dumb, dumber AND dumbest in the same place at the same time, a veritable threefer of dumbassery, or stupidity cubed.

Recall that the Content Creators Coalition produced a couple videos that parodied the main two issues that the creative community has with YouTube:  YouTube’s absurdly low royalties and YouTube’s absurd abuse of the DMCA safe harbor.  The videos are also a bit of an homage to Apple’s classic Mac. vs. PC ad campaign from 2006.

According to Richard Morgan writing in the New York Post, YouTube responded by unilaterally taking down the C3 videos because it violated YouTube’s terms of service.  MTP readers will recall that the fastest way to get a video of illegal drugs for sale, jihadi recruiters, pimp apps, war porn and a host of other nasty stuff is for me to post the video on MTP.  Little did I know that the same would happen to C3!

While videos of ISIS beheadings somehow slipped past YouTube censors, the video streaming site didn’t have any problems finding a playful ad campaign by some indie musicians — and promptly pulling the plug on it.

The campaign, called “YouTube Can Do Better,” featuring a “square” businessman as “YouTube,” was created by the Content Creators Coalition as an attempt to get the Google property to increase the ad revenue split with musicians.

The campaign’s lead spot, “Pennies vs. Dollars,” was uploaded to YouTube on Oct. 25 around 11:30 a.m. — and was pulled from the video-sharing site less than 48 hours later, the group, known as
c3, told The Post. YouTube said it pulled the video “due to violation of terms & conditions.”

The artist-led coalition, whose members include David Byrne, Roseanne Cash and T Bone Burnett, fired back at the Google unit within an hour.

“After two days of widespread press coverage of our artist-driven campaign to pressure Google into treating artists more fairly,” c3 complained, “you suspended and are now censoring our account.”

It really is true–Goliath NEVER learns.

 

Must Read: @zvirosen Critiques Florida Flo & Eddie Ruling: Another Season, Another Common-Law Copyright Opinion — Artist Rights Watch

October 30, 2017 Comments off

The Turtles state law case in Florida on pre-72 case against SiriusXM gets a road bump from a results-oriented decision from the Florida Supreme Court.

via Must Read: @zvirosen Critiques Florida Flo & Eddie Ruling: Another Season, Another Common-Law Copyright Opinion — Artist Rights Watch

The Google Toilet Redux: Humor for the Value Compromised

October 26, 2017 Comments off

HITS shows us that YouTube is the perfect medium for messaging about….YouTube.

C3 Uses Fire to Fight Fire — Artist Rights Watch

October 26, 2017 Comments off

[Editor Charlie sez: What’s more fun than using Facebook to expose Facebook? What’s more fun than hosting a blog on Blogger to expose Google? What’s more fun is posting a video on YouTube exposing YouTube!]

via C3 Uses Fire to Fight Fire — Artist Rights Watch

Successes in Artist and Songwriter Advocacy Show the Importance of Fighting Back

October 22, 2017 3 comments

“Why does Rice play Texas?”

President John F. Kennedy, Sept. 12, 1962, Rice University

Google White House Meetings

It should be clear by now that when it comes to sheer lobbying power expressed in terms of money and access, Big Tech has put the creative community up against it.  And not only has Big Tech put their collective boots on our necks, they have joined in the MIC Coalition cartel for the express purpose of crushing any opposition.

We must properly and grimly assess the opposition and our resources.  I would not say that the odds are in our favor, but the odds are what they are and I don’t think any of us are ready to roll over and show the belly in surrender.

We actually have made significant progress over the last few years with both legacy types of lobbying as well as grassroots organizing.  Both are absolutely essential.

The music community’s “value gap” campaign in Europe started when Google had a lock on the White House and Congress.  It should not be surprising that the value gap campaign has gained traction with these countries that historically support their culture and independence from American multinational neo-colonialism and are not afraid to strike back against Google’s monopoly.

Blake Morgan and the #irespectmusic campaign was the foremost grassroots organizing effort in the music industry and has become a case study for doing it right.  As Blake told me for this post, “Again and again, when we music makers––and our representative organizations––take action by rolling up our sleeves instead of wringing our hands, we win. Individually and together, when we continue to stand up and speak out, we demonstrate how powerful we really are.”

Another example of creators fighting back is the Recording Academy’s recent “District Advocacy Day” in which more than 1,000 performers in all 50 states visited their Congressional and Senate offices to advocate on the Fair Play Fair Pay Act (artist pay for radio play), the CLASSICs Act (pay artists on digital royalties for pre-72 recordings), the AMP Act (pay producers for digital royalties) and other legislation.

#irespectmusic and District Advocacy Day should put to rest forever the myth that the music industry only exists in New York, Nashville and Los Angeles.  This is a common trope that our opponents use against us.  Leveraging the grass roots is a long term process.  Members of Congress outside of the “centers” are discovering for the first time that songwriters and musicians actually live in their districts.  Creators are discovering, some for the first time, that they will be heard if they show up.

The Content Creators Coalition is still another example of artists joining together and working to make their voices heard in Washington.  C3 President Melvin Gibbs articulates the artist and songwriter perspective to defend the encroachment by the massive multinational corporations in the MIC Coalition specifically and Big Tech in general.

 

I’ve also been impressed with how artists rally to each other’s aid when attacked, the most recent example being the artists who came to the defense of Miranda Mulholland after she was gratuitously slimed by Google in Canada.

Artists and songwriters have made great strides in getting their voices heard over the corporate insiders and crony capitalists in the connected class.

This is not the time to give up.  It’s the time to dig in.

IRMAIV Large

Will Congress Bring Songwriters a Lump of Coal or Justice?

October 17, 2017 3 comments

It is axiomatic that as government expands, liberty contracts. Songwriters are among the most highly regulated workers in America, so on the continuum of liberty, guess where songwriters score? Most people are surprised by that unadulterated, and rather bleak, fact. After all, songwriters don’t make anything toxic or build in places they shouldn’t or dump chemicals in a waterway. Songwriters don’t have monopoly power. Songwriters don’t even get to set their own prices—the government largely does that in a very expensive and Kafka-esque process. They just write songs.

Not only are songwriters highly regulated workers and are forced by the government (or to use a term from political theory, “the Sovereign”) to bend a knee, the Sovereign has abdicated the enforcement of the laws protecting songwriters to the songwriters themselves except in rare criminal cases. Not only has the Sovereign failed to afford songwriters the same level of protection as the desert tortoise, the Sovereign actually requires songwriters to enforce the laws themselves. Sounds like a reality show.

So rather than getting even more government, songwriters are due for either getting the Sovereign out of their commercial lives, or if justice fails them yet again, at least getting the Sovereign to actually enforce the law.

Why is this important now? Because the Congress has conducted a “review” of the laws affecting songwriters and it’s possible that the Congress now is about to actually do something in the waning days of the current session of Congress. For songwriters, the holiday season is a good time to remember the most terrifying words in the English language: I’m from Washington and I’m here to help.

The Royalty that Time Forgot

The Sovereign compels songwriters to license their songs in two principal ways: The compulsory license for “mechanical” copies (Section 115 of the Copyright Act) and the rate courts (under a 1941 consent decree for ASCAP, the longest running consent decree in history, and a comparable one for BMI dating from 1964). The government set the mechanical royalty rate for the compulsory license at two cents per song per copy in 1909 and then forgot to raise it until 1976 when in its largesse, the Sovereign raised the rate to 2.75 cents per copy—inflation alone would have put the mechanical at 12 cents in 1976. That shadow of that injustice has dogged songwriters ever since and to this day.

Imagine for a moment if the Sovereign had set any other wage in 1909 and then forgotten to raise it for 67 years.

Today that same rate is 9.1 cents where it was set and forgotten in 2006—eleven years ago. So songwriters live in the shadow of that “minimum” statutory rate for which they never got relief from the Sovereign.

The Current Landscape

The main threats to songwriters from Washington come from one bill and the failed administration of two agencies: The Copyright Office and the Department of Justice. All these threats emanate from what is likely the largest lobbying cartel in history, the “MIC Coalition” an organization created for one purpose in my view: to crush songwriters once and for all. The MIC Coalition seems devoted to fixing prices for songwriters at zero or as close to zero as they can get them as far as I can tell.

The bill in Congress is the proposed Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act (HR 3350) which is fully backed by the biggest of big businesses (MIC Coalition) to the detriment of the smallest of small businesses (songwriters). This legislation would impose yet another formality on songwriters by creating a massive database that would supersede the current copyright registration system for one purpose—denying songwriters the right to sue for statutory damages and attorneys fees in cases of copyright infringement. According to this legislation, if your song is not on the government’s list, then you can’t use the one big stick to drive compliance with the Sovereign’s own rules governing compulsory mechanical licenses.

Why is that? Because you are most likely to be suing a member of the MIC Coalition, or more precisely suing a member of one of the several trade association members of the MIC Coaltion—the DIgital Media Association (or “DiMA” in the logo above). The Digital Media Association is comprised of Amazon, YouTube, Apple and Spotify among others and has long been a stake in the side of the creative community. That’s right—one trade association member of the MIC Coalition represents three of the biggest corporations in the commercial history of the United States.

One alternative to statutory damages would be for the Department of Justice to assume a greater role in the enforcement of the copyright law. But the MIC Coalition has no intention of allowing that. No, no, no. The plan is to create a Gargantuan “gotcha” in order to take away statutory damages and attorneys fees as a right of any copyright owner to sue and replace it with….nothing.

Agency Failures

It is well to remember that the U.S. Copyright Office is a pre-New Deal legislative branch agency that has none of the civil or criminal enforcement powers we have come to associate with post-New Deal regulatory executive branch agencies. While the Copyright Office issues regulations, the Sovereign predominately leaves the enforcement of these rules to creators, publishers and labels to enforce at great expense. This is the one place that the Sovereign seems to want the market to work—the part where the Sovereign abdicates its primary purpose, that of protecting the people. Like I said, the desert tortoise fares better than the songwriter.

The Copyright Office does have power to affect the market by refusing or failing to act, however. For the last two years or so, the Copyright Office has permitted over 50 million and counting “address unknown” notices to be filed on compulsory song licenses using a backwater loophole of the Copyright Act. The loophole deems a song owner to be “unknown” if the owner’s contact information and song ownership is not available in the public records of the Copyright Office. This means that unless you have gone through the expensive and lengthy formality of registering with the Copyright Office for all your songs, you are “unknown”. If a cover recording of your song appears on a digital music service, then rather than track you down before using the song, the service can simply file—at great expense—an “address unknown” notice with the Copyright Office. This has resulted in approximately $5 million in filing fees to the Copyright Office to date according to an estimate from Paperchain.

And who is filing these notices and paying these fees? Google, Spotify, Amazon, iHeart, Pandora—all members of the MIC Coalition price fixing cartel. Think that’s a coincidence? Using this loophole, these corporate giants pay a zero royalty for their compulsory licenses. Hence, the cartel attempts to fix the price for songs at zero or as close to it as they can.

The Copyright Office permits these filings to occur and to my knowledge has raised no objection to it. They are unmovable on this point while they watch songwriters burn down. (I have a longer article on this “address unknown” issue here.)

The Department of Justice is currently engaged in a massive charade called “100% licensing”. This new and abrupt change in the way the DOJ interprets the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees was brought about under the auspices of a former outside lawyer for Google who was installed as a senior official in the antitrust division of the DOJ. What this interpretation means is that on co-written songs, the longstanding practice of each songwriter on a co-write administering their share of the song is thrown out the window. Instead, each songwriter is required to license 100% of the song, including their co-writer’s share. (Recall that Irving Azoff challenged Google by forming Global Music Rights and requiring a separate license for his writers who withdrew from the government-regulated PROs.)

The BMI rate court judge ruled against the DOJ—but the Sovereign is now appealing that ruling. The DOJ’s handling of the situation was so bad that songwriters actually sued the DOJ.

What is to be Done?

First—the DOJ should drop the appeal of the BMI rate court ruling against 100% licensing.  It’s a waste of time and creates substantial hostility among songwriters.

Second—the Copyright Office should stop accepting address unknown filings and refer the matter to the Congress to close the loophole. Digital services could also refuse to post recordings for which they have no publisher information, which is action most likely to produce unknown information from the market.

Most importantly—the Congress should not introduce yet another distortion in the market with some unicorn database that will never work.

As we approach the season of hope, it is well to echo what songwriters and publishers have told Congress for years: Songwriters need more liberty, not less.

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