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@TaylorSwift13 Thinks Outside the Stream to Bridge the Value Gap

November 25, 2017 Comments off

There are several myths about streaming, but none so prevalent as the “savior” trope, which streaming services are doing their best to splice into the DNA of the music business.  Without streaming, we are told, then piracy: “Streaming stops piracy”.  Piracy, of course, is a constant, and is factored into sales these days as a limiting factor.  Also factored in is the cost of the faux legality of piracy on DMCA-protected services which also must be managed in order for windowing to work.

Streaming is now baked into the charts, which is the first step to becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy: “Streaming is radio”.  Artists must stream or be lost:  “Windowing punishes fans” (just like selling albums “punishes” fans).

All these myths ignore the basic proposition that windowing, exclusives and other contract based rights are simply ways to divide up our property rights–no more, no less.  And contracts take two to tango–if the deal is bad, no one will take it which undermines the myth.  And like all myths that fall apart when reality diverges from dogma, the curia fights back.

Given Spotify’s monopoly, or certainly dominant, position in their streaming market, it should not surprise that they push all of these myths, and they seem to do it like clockwork whenever Taylor Swift releases a new album.  Why?  Because Taylor Swift has four–count ’em–four albums that sold over one million copies in their first week of US release.  And–she’s the only artist ever to have done so.  And–she windowed every one of them, pre and post Spotify’s US launch.

Title Year Sales
Reputation 2017 1,290,000
1989 2014 1,287,000
Red 2012 1,208,000
Speak Now 2010 1,046,000

Let’s be clear–any distributor getting a Taylor Swift record in the fourth quarter sure makes up for a multitude of commercial sins in their year.  At least that’s true of profit-making companies whose executives actually have consequences for commercial sins.  Loss-making companies, on the other hand, are not motivated by pesky things like profits if they are on the “get big fast and exit” track.  You may say, oh, that’s so 1999, surely they have learned their lessons from the Dot Bomb debacle.

Nah.

The exit is still the thing for these venture backed tech companies.  The problem with exits is that the people who are only in it for the money move on to self-driving cars, climate default swaps, bitcoin or whatever.  People who are in it because they love it are stuck with the consequences.  The music business will be picking up the pieces from the streaming exit for decades because of a simple logic:  You cannot take away something that sold at a $10 price point and replace it with something that “sells” at a $0.005 price point and expect to have a business.  Remember–the trendline since 2008 is predominantly flat so while streaming may be a bigger piece of the pie, the pie itself is not growing much.  That’s cannibalization.  We’ll see how much that trend changes this year–and how much of that change is Taylor Swift.

Recorded Music 1973-2016

Source: RIAA

It must be said that there’s a real question of how many Taylor Swifts the business will sustain going forward if we don’t listen to the lesson she is teaching for those who care to pay attention and think outside the stream.

Remember that salted in the 1,290,000 units that reputation sold in week 1 are quite a few units that were sold as a fan package on an exclusive–there’s that word again–at a higher price point than the general release CD.  That should mean that the gross revenue to the distributor conservatively averages around $8 after discounts or something like $10 million in distributor gross for the week (in the US alone).

Producing that amount of streaming revenue would require approximately 2,000,000,000 streams in a week depending on whose average streaming royalty you buy into.  “Call It What You Want”, Taylor’s first single from reputation, entered HITS song revenue chart at #4 with 9,259,698 streams earning $66,186 (a chart with revenue metrics I have a quibble with due to averaging of free/sub streaming revenue, but that’s another subject).

Regardless of the underlying math, you can see that there is no way that streaming is going to put much of a dent in the revenue from the physical release.  If you are in a future oriented profit making business and not an exit oriented loss making business, you like those numbers.  Why?

Because it tells you that you could probably keep doing this for a while.  That’s called a career, and it’s what managers were supposed to foster.

How was this received at the dominant streaming platform?  Spotify hired the former Lady Gaga manager, Troy Carter, as its “global head of creative services” reporting to one Stefan Blom.  (Mr. Blom was formerly chairman at EMI Nordic, but songwriters will recognize Mr. Blom as the Spotify executive who can’t seem to find millions of songwriters despite Spotify’s vast technical abilities and signs Spotify’s “address unknown NOI” filings with the Copyright Office denying royalties to millions of songs.)

Mr. Carter did not take well to Taylor Swift’s decision to hold the reputation album off of Spotify (notwithstanding reports of Spotify’s recent agreement to accept windowing as a condition of closing its Universal license).  Variety reports:

Taylor Swift’s decision to keep her new album “Reputation” off streaming services like Spotify will drive people back to piracy, said Spotify’s global head of creator services Troy Carter at the Internet Association’s Virtuous Circle Summit Monday morning. [The Internet Association is antagonistic to artists as a general proposition.]  “A lot of it is going to be pirated,” he said. “It kind of sets the industry back a little bit.”

However, Carter also said that he understood Swift’s decision: “Taylor is super smart. We are not mad at her for the decision she made,” he said. Swift and Adele, who sold millions of copies of her “25” album while waiting seven months to release it to streaming services, are among the few artists who can withhold an album from such platforms without significantly impairing its exposure.  [Emphasis mine–note the “among the few” rationalization of the “streaming is inevitable” narrative.  If you shame everyone away from windowing, how will you ever know that it’s a “few”?]

Carter, who managed artists including Lady Gaga and Meghan Trainor before joining Spotify in 2016, was also critical about the music industry’s past business model. “We screwed over consumers for years,” he said, arguing that consumers were forced to buy highly priced albums for years that only included one or two songs they wanted. Carter drew a direct line from this attitude to exclusives on streaming services.

So we have Mr. Carter trotting out several myths at once here–although it must be said that Mr. Carter’s former employer from 2007-2013 is herself not without experience in the rarified air of the First Week Million Club–Lady Gaga herself has one record in that group with her 2011 release, Born This Way.  Of course, with its May 23, 2011 release, Lady Gaga did not have to address the Spotify new release windowing issue as the service had not yet launched in the US at that time.

Even though Mr. Carter was clearly wide of the mark with his advice to Taylor Swift, his messaging was a vast improvement over Daniel Ek’s mansplaining to Taylor on 1989 which was one of the more bizarre public encounters between an artist and a retailer in history.  Can you imagine Tower Records chief Ross Solomon saying any of these things in public?

I still hold the view that the windowing issue changes depending on whether the artist concerned has a fan base that wants their physical record.  If they do, then streaming services become like record clubs.  Nobody ever wanted the clubs to get their record until they’d had at least a 90 day holdback, more frequently 6 months or even a year.  So it is with streaming services, including Spotify.

The bigger questions are what effect windowing has on the ability to sell physical at all.  I’m still waiting to see the consumer research suggesting one drives the other, and based on industry revenues over time, it seems far more likely that streaming cannibalizes physical.  Another question is how much elasticity is there in the subscription price?  If we are expected to welcome low margin streaming as a replacement for higher margin physical and downloads, please don’t tell me that the answer is we’ll make it up on volume, t-shirts or touring.

For now, we have to acknowledge that for artists who anticipate large sales of physical and permanent downloads, singles-only streaming releases combined with physical sales is probably the principal way their distributor can afford to breach the value gap and send enough DMCA notices to keep the album off of YouTube.

 

 

 

The UnitedMasters, the Latest Tone-deaf Artist Exploitation Scam from Silicon Valley

November 24, 2017 2 comments

Yes, they really did brand it the “United Masters”, and no, that’s not a subplot out of Game of Thrones and no, it’s not the MIC Coalition price fixing cartel.

You may have heard about the United Masters, the label services company that Google along with the Silicon Valley VC Andreessen-Horowitz is backing.  “United Masters” which is designed to “upend record companies,” or so the story goes.

The launch was covered extensively in TechCrunch and I confess I stopped reading after this:

UnitedMasters is ready to give musicians an alternative to exploitative record label deals. Artists pay UnitedMasters a competitive rate to distribute their music across the internet from Spotify to YouTube to SoundCloud, and they [meaning the United Masters and the artists] split the royalties while the artist retains the rights to the master recordings.

Ah yes.  The artists take all the risk and on top of that payment they split royalties with the “United Masters”.  Sounds like those notoriously fair venture capital deals, right?  They just left out the warrant coverage and 3x liquidation preference.

Tunecore pioneered shifting 100% of the distribution risk from the distributor to the artist by requiring an upfront payment from their distributed artists.  Tunecore did not have the additional brass to take an additional revenue share from the artist’s earnings on top of what the United Masters call a “competitive rate”.

The narrative was something like why should you share your future earnings with your distributor when you can pay Tunecore upfront?  And, in fairness, cap your distribution fees.  That deal works out better for artists who sell enough to drive that upfront payment below 20% or less of their earnings (usually artists who sell enough to make a tidy profit but not enough to justify an advance from a distributor).  However, for artists who don’t sell that much, it drives the distribution fee well over 20% of earnings and, I would imagine, in some cases 100% of earnings.

But even so, the fee-based distribution model didn’t ALSO take a percentage of revenue which is evidently the plan with the UnitedMasters.  Even though we don’t know exactly what the United Masters terms are yet, we can still find the deal structure nauseating.

Good news:  VC Horowitz brought in a tech team to the UnitedMasters party!  Yay!  Because, you know–it’s all about the data, right?

[W]e recruited a phenomenal technology team with members from distinguished companies such as Facebook, Dropbox, and Pandora. I think that the UnitedMasters engineering team is one of the best in the technology industry, but you can judge for yourself.

This from the VC firm that invested in Rap Genius, or as Marc Andreesson, the partner of Mr. Horowitz reportedly called Rap Genius, the “Talmud of the Internet.”  So these are people who have a very positive view of themselves and who have the answers for how to run the music business.

So naturally, such people would reach out to royalty deadbeats Facebook and Dropbox and Pandora, who most songwriters know as their alter ego–“Plaintiff”.  Pandora who screwed the legends of R&B out of performance royalties in their other alter ego–“Defendant”.

Now imagine this phone call–your band reaches out to a talent buyer in a town you’ve never been to before and you tell that buyer that they should give your band a Friday night because—the United Masters have divined from the data that you’d draw.

Right.

There’s a reason why Amazon is getting out of the ticketing business.

As usual, Google misses the point entirely.  Robert Levine observes in Billboard that the main thing that record companies do that the UnitedMasters evidently will not do is actually write a check to invest in artists:

So far, startups haven’t really replaced record labels because none of them really do what labels do. Almost two decades ago, Napster said that it would replace labels by distributing music, but labels aren’t exactly in the distribution business — truck drivers are. (No one gets invited to cool parties by disrupting long-haul trucking.) Several startups help artists market directly to fans, which is becoming an important part of the music business, but labels never really did that — they’ve always sold music to retailers. From a business perspective, labels invest in artists — which very few technology companies have shown any interest in doing. Because it’s a risky business.

And that’s what labels really do for artists — they amortize risk.

And while you think about that, have a listen to the incomparable Marc Ribot and Ceramic Dog performing his ode to the data lords, “Masters of the Internet”.  I don’t think that was quite the meaning of “masters” that the tone deaf “United Masters” and the data lords intended.

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: Weapons of Math Destruction

July 14, 2017 Comments off

If you’re looking for longreads…you know, books…for your summer reading list, I’d strongly suggest Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil.  The author is a confirmed quant who has extraordinary insight into both the beneficial and the destructive power of algorithms.

Here’s an except:

The math-powered applications powering the data economy [are] based on choices made by fallible human beings.  Some of these choices were no doubt made with the best intentions.  Nevertheless, many of these models encoded human prejudice, misunderstanding, and bias into the software systems that increasingly managed our lives.  Like gods, these mathematical models were opaque, their workings invisible to all but the highest priests in their domain:  mathematicians and computer scientists.  There verdicts, even when wrong or harmful, were beyond dispute or appeal.  And they tended to punish the poor and the oppressed in our society, while making the rich richer.

I came up with a name for these harmful kinds of models:  Weapons of Math Destruction, or WMDs for short.

Needless to say, the one algorithm we all are affected by is Google’s search WMD.  What Google shows you in search results, how much Google knows about you and how much that affects which search results Google shows you, are each examples of mathematical models that encode human prejudice and make choices that the highest priests at Google decide you would want based on a given set of inputs scraped from your Gmail, Google Voice, YouTube viewing and what you search for online among other things.

Facebook knows a phenomenal amount of information about you, profiles you and tracks your every move on Facebook as well as off of Facebook to the extent possible.  And remember–if Mark Zuckerberg wants to run for President, we will have a true data lord in the campaign as a candidate for the first time.

When Spotify programs a playlist, they very consciously use scraped data about your listening habits and those of other Spotify users to create an algorithm that includes–and excludes–recordings.  We’re a long way from “it has a nice beat and you can dance to it” now.

When Amazon lets you search books they’ll only show you all the search results if you “sign in”–meaning identify yourself to Amazon’s algorithm.  And Alexa?  Ah, Alexa.  A little box that sits in the corner listening to you.  Google may send cars around to take pictures of your house and put them on the Internet, but Amazon’s algorithms actually run inside your house.

Algorithms, especially Google’s algorithms and what Facebook includes as news, can have a profound effect on democracy itself.  When Dr. Robert Epstein first wrote of how Google’s algorithm could rig elections in 2013 (and discussed on PBS Newshour), he was frequently attacked as something of a quack by Google executives who denied that such a thing were even possible.  Given the sudden discovery of fake news, the secret workings of Google’s algorithm to shape what we read has some pretty real interest.  I think this background makes Cathy O’Neil’s writing all the more compelling.

Here’s a talk on the subject she gave at the Personal Democracy Forum:

 

Just Say No: Will Spotify Still Be Seeking Forgiveness During Its IPO?     

June 5, 2017 Comments off

[A version of this post appeared in last month’s MusicTechPolicy Monthly.]

While Spotify’s technocrats may be breathing a sigh of relief after the company’s most recent multimillion dollar settlement with songwriters, it is well to remember that the company is probably not anywhere close to out of the woods.  As others have learned the hard way, once you replace the rights of songwriters and artists with your own lust for IPO riches, the lawsuits can go on for a very long time indeed.  You would think that after nearly 20 years of massive infringement online, the obvious answer would suggest itself to the “get big fast” group:  Don’t use music you don’t have rights to use.

Yes, that’s right.  Just say no.

The typical reason given by interactive services about why their need to offer unlicensed music exceeds their desire to offer only licensed music is because of competitive pressure from YouTube.  Why do they feel this competitive pressure?  Because their investors tell them at every board meeting that they should feel it.  But let’s be clear–I doubt that Tim Cook gets Eddie Cue in a headlock over the issue over at the Infinite Loop.  If you agree, then that kind of narrows it down.

But entertain that idea for a moment, however ill founded.  Why is YouTube able to sustain this competitive position that supposedly makes otherwise licensed services soil themselves with fear of being undercut and overrun by YouTube?

That’s right–the “DMCA license”, or YouTube’s absurd use of the “safe harbors” granted to them under the U.S. Copyright Act which YouTube likes to think makes them bullet proof.  (Which is also what Cox Communications thought until they weren’t and is probably what Facebook thinks, too.)

So get that straight–some would say that The Golden Child (aka Spotify) is to be allowed to limp their way to the increasingly inexplicable goal of some kind of big financial reward (or “exit”) in an IPO of whatever stripe while we are all asked to look the other way and allow them the same shite arrangements that YouTube enforces through lobbying, litigation and unprecedented monopoly position (aka crony capitalism).

And you thought it was all about the “Value Gap”?  Apparently not.

We are being told that the licensing practices of interactive services should be allowed to look more like YouTube’s widely loathed safe harbor and YouTube tries to make us believe that they are really pro-artist.  We are asked to hold the proposition “A” and the proposition “not A” in our heads simultaneously.  It can be done, but it is rather uncomfortable and it is uncomfortable because in this case it is unnatural.  Not to mention, it is, of course, all bull.  Irving Azoff crystalizes the view no doubt held by everyone who has ever dealt with any of these people:

“The truth is that, despite having to compete with services like YouTube who hide behind outdated, safe harbor protections, legitimate services like Spotify and Apple Music are attracting more subscribers than ever,” he continued. “If YouTube had the same level of commitment, their subscription service would be more than a head fake—and they’d be working hard, like Spotify does, to convert users to the paid tier for unlimited music. Maybe Google should do a study on that.”

The difference is that Irving is actually looking out for the best interests of his clients and is not afraid to tell the truth.  The one clarification I have to his assessment is that Apple doesn’t seem particularly worried about their competitive position–it is Spotify that runs to the Nanny State at every turn and files mass “address unknown” NOIs all the livelong day.

And then, of course, the whole “Value Gap” concept is only half right–it should really be called the Pinto Gap, because it’s not just that Google decided to make money off the backs of artists and songwriters through a distorted loophole.  Google also made that choice to be a knowing mass infringer the same way Ford decided to knowingly sell consumers its Pinto model with an exploding gas tank.  It profited them to do so, just like it profits them to trade in terror recruiting videos.

So the Pinto Gap is not much of an excuse for either a competitor service, the DMCA safe harbor, or as a policy the industry should support.  (And that goes for Facebook, too.)

Spotify CO May 12

As it stands now, it would at least potentially be a big mistake to assume that Spotify has done sufficient ameliorative work to be prepared for the big bucks to roll in (for everyone except the songwriters and artists).  All that these songwriter settlements have done is allow songwriters the chance to earn a royalty from Spotify that starts two or maybe three or maybe four decimal places to the right, depending on the month and which of Spotify’s two main services are serving the song or recording.  This is not particularly exciting news for songwriters once the bloom is off the class action rose.

It’s entirely possible that a lawsuit could be brought by any songwriters who are not part of the latest class action or a private settlement.   That certainly would explain why Spotify showed a sudden interest in serving hundreds of thousands of notices on the Copyright Office using the “address unknown” NOI loophole.  The company has probably been advised this tactic would fend off future infringement lawsuits and allow Spotify to use songs under the compulsory license.  It might, but there is a telling section of the settlement document (at p.4) that echoes my own criticism of the mass NOIs (so naturally it caught my eye):

Spotify will invest time and resources to initiate and support an industry-wide
effort (to include representatives of composers, publishers, streaming services,
labels, and others) with the goal of obtaining and digitizing all U.S. Copyright
Office registration records for musical works registered before January 1, 1978,
 and making that information far more accessible to the Class. (my emphasis)

Why is that language intriguing?  Because it is likely there for a reason the language dances around–the public records of the Copyright Office are only searchable online for registrations or recordations after January 1, 1978 and are paper records before that date.  We have long believed that digital services are not going to search the paper records of pre-78 works but are going to file mass NOIs based on “address unknown” status on pre-78 works without actually checking to see if the address is in the Copyright Office records.  Why?  Because when you’re born digital you don’t stoop to looking through paper.  And because it is consistent with their “seek forgiveness not permission” approach that is proving so costly.  Even if they get sued faster than a three finger swipe.

That’s also not going to help them with any stream rips of live shows that have found their way into the extremely porous aggregators that distribute to these services or any other illegal distributions of sound recordings for which a compulsory license isn’t available in the first place.

In other words, if Spotify (or any other service) relies on the mass “address unknown” NOI loophole for pre-78 works without doing the proper research, they are potentially right back where they started–if not worse, because they potentially have misfiled their mass NOIs on a grand scale.  And you know who is good at looking into things done on a grand scale is a grand jury.

So it comes down to the same issue–if the service really is all that valuable, then wouldn’t the fastest way of identifying song owners be by refusing to post their songs until there’s a license in place?  Particularly if you don’t buy into the Pinto Gap excuse?  Isn’t the market much more likely to produce that information in an efficient way through the exercise of leverage and rules?  You know, like the Copyright Act?

 

Guest Post by @schneidermaria: Google’s Self-driven “Carma”

May 17, 2017 1 comment

Maria 17

[Editor Charlie sez: We’re pleased to publish this guest post written by Maria Schneider, a five-time GRAMMY-winning composer and bandleader, a board member of the Council of Music Creators, and an active supporter of MusicAnswers.org. Her GRAMMY awards including two 2016 GRAMMY Awards, Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocal for “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” recorded by the Maria Schneider Orchestra and David Bowie, and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for “The Thompson Fields”.  Maria’s posts on MTP can be found here.]

Written by Maria Schneider

It’s the height of irony that Google finds itself in court suing Uber over the piracy of documents and creative works it believes should be protected as its intellectual property (IP).  The lawsuit is a battle royale between two mean-spirited data lords, each wrestling to secure its world domination over self-driven cars.

My short summary of their self-driven car case goes like this:  Google offered Anthony Levandowski a whopping 120 million dollars to head their self-driving car development.  Loyalty not being his strong suit, Lewandowski left Google after a few short years, and not before pirating 14,000 drawings, plans, and other creative works Google had spent a ton of time and money to create.  He then used those 14,000 stolen digital files to start his own company, Otto.  Within a year, Uber made Levandowski insanely rich when it bought Otto from him for 680 million dollars.

Google alleges that Uber and Levandowski have “illegally downloaded” Google’s creative works and distributed them to others.  Google is outraged to find its valuable IP in the hands of hundreds of Uber engineers and employees, none of whom have any obligation to Google.  Realizing that their valuable creations will now surely spread to others and devalue Google’s investment even further, Google’s attorney, Mr. Verhoeven, insists that the damage to Google is “irreparable,” exclaiming, “you really can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube!”

Ah yes, karma is a bitch.

Whatever sting Google is feeling, it’s but a mosquito bite compared to the wounds Google has inflicted upon creative artists: composers, songwriters, recording artists, authors, filmmakers, journalists, cartoonists, photographers, the list goes on.  It’s an incalculable number of individual livelihoods, deeply damaged, if not destroyed by IP theft, not only in the United States, but worldwide, all at Google’s greedy hand.

If Google’s claims come to bear in court, Levandowski could go to jail.  Uber’s attorneys and managers could be fired for buying what was obviously “hot merchandise.”  And Google’s attorneys and management will surely be reprimanded for not having better protections in place to protect Google’s valuable IP.  But should anything about all of this surprise Google?  The highly coveted, wildly overpaid man-boy, Levandowski was just a bad apple that didn’t fall far from the tree.  He was only paying forward the general culture Google itself created – a culture Google has imposed on the entire world through its monopoly on information, its massive market power, and its incessant lobbying to destroy others’ intellectual property rights for its own financial gain.

Let’s go back to 2006.  Back then, Google was kicking the tires of YouTube, trying to decide if Google should acquire it.  In trying to make that decision, these following statements were made by Google’s management:

“I can’t believe you’re recommending buying YouTube . . . they’re 80% illegal pirated content.”

YouTube is a “rogue enabler of content theft.” 

YouTube’s business model is completely sustained by pirated content.”

Even armed with that corporate knowledge, Google gave a big thumbs-up to what they clearly recognized as theft, and went ahead and bought YouTube for 1.65 billion dollars.  And since then, Google has ridden the YouTube train, loaded with its massive cargo of stolen goods, to become the most powerful company the world has ever known.

Google’s culture of disrespecting and exploiting other people’s IP is finally coming home to roost.  With some sort of perverse poetic justice, Levandowski has now done unto Google what Google has done unto others.

Buddha offers the world very powerful words about bad karma: “One who previously made bad karma, but who reforms and creates good karma, brightens the world like the moon appearing from behind a cloud.”

It’s time for gargantuan data lord companies like Google to turn away from darkness and reform, to generate a different karma that brightens the world around them.  It’s time for these companies to stop enabling piracy, to stop making revenue off it, and to stop making revenue off of terrorism, pornography, and fake news, as well.  It’s time they pay a fair amount to acquire content, and pay fair taxes on the valuable data they extract from their billions of worldwide users.  It’s time these companies accept responsibility for the daily crimes that occur on their platforms, instead of hiding behind their weaselly, “we’re not accountable under the DMCA” approach.

It’s high time these companies stop “moving fast and breaking things,” and start driving a little slower and more respectfully, obeying the basic rules of the road.  It’s time for them to make a complete U-turn on our information highway, and steer in the direction of nurturing an internet community based on respect and fairness.  More than needing judges, regulators, lobbyists, lawmakers, or even “moonshots” like self-driving cars, what companies like Google most need, is a shiny brand new karma.

_________

To see more of Maria Schneider’s writing, go to Advocacy for Musicians at Maria Schneider’s Wikipedia page.

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