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Happy Holidays and David’s Copyright Office Comments — The Trichordist

December 29, 2019 Comments off

We wanted to wish all our readers happy holidays and thank you again for supporting the Trichordist! As some of you may know, the Copyright Office comment period for MLC regulations just closed. We will be posting David’s comments and selected other commenters here for some holiday reading starting tomorrow. We want to thank the […]

via Happy Holidays and David’s Copyright Office Comments — The Trichordist

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 .

 

Churchill and Roosevelt Christmas 1941

December 24, 2019 Comments off

Christmas of 1941 were some of the darkest days in modern history for lovers of freedom.  After the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan, Winston Churchill came to Washington for meetings with Franklin Roosevelt that cemented the bond between the two and consequently the special relationship.

This Christmas Day message from the White House shot from a backstage angle tells you a lot about the two men and how hope springs eternal.

Are US Trade Negotiating Objectives Regarding Digital Responsibility and Copyright Protection Evolving? (What the 800 Pound Gorilla Really Wants is Important for the Trade Partners of the US) — Hugh Stephens Blog

December 13, 2019 Comments off

When you negotiate with the 800 pound gorilla, the gorilla usually gets what it wants. Therefore exactly what it wants can be very important. In case you were wondering, from a trade policy perspective the 800 pound gorilla is the United States, the world’s largest economy and a largely open market, although increasingly less so […]

via Are US Trade Negotiating Objectives Regarding Digital Responsibility and Copyright Protection Evolving? (What the 800 Pound Gorilla Really Wants is Important for the Trade Partners of the US) — Hugh Stephens Blog

Why Creators Should Care About Google v. Oracle in the Supreme Court–@artistrights Watch

November 26, 2019 Comments off

There’s a case shaping up in the U.S. Supreme Court that I haven’t paid too much attention to–but suddenly realized it’s something we should all care about because it could set precedent for fair use cases for decades to come:  Google v. Oracle.

[MTP readers will remember the Oracle case because Judge William Alsop required the parties (provoked by Google shills) to file with the Court a list of the then-current “advocacy” groups Google paid that were also engaged in commentary about the case to affect public opinion.  We styled this filing the “Google Shill List” and it has been a useful resource that includes many of the same amici in the current SCOTUS appeal such as EFF, Jonathan Band, Public Knowledge, Engine Advocacy, CCIA, and so on to include the cozy and dedicated group of likeminded people dancing to Google’s tune.]

On the surface, the case is about the Java software code and certain Java libraries developed by Sun Microsystems, later acquired by Oracle.  But digging a little deeper it is also about Google’s obsession with “permissionless innovation”, Newspeak for “theft.”  And when I say “Google”, I don’t really mean Google as a company.  I mean the insiders.  This because of Google’s governance and dual class structure that gives Larry Page, Sergei Brin and Eric Schmidt control over the company and the ability to waste the shareholders money settling claims for their bad behavior and terrible management (such as $500 million for violating the Controlled Substances Act and billions in fines for competition law violations around the world)–and now this Oracle case.

So we will refer to “Google” but really we’re talking about the Google ruling class with 10:1 voting power: Larry, Sergei and Eric.

How did Google get sued by Oracle and not Sun?  According to Google’s SCOTUS brief (at 3):

Sun originally applauded Google for using the Java language. But after Oracle acquired Sun, it sued Google for copyright infringement.

Let’s not just blow past that statement.  (First of all, it’s not really true.)  That one sounds like Google would like to cut back the ability of a copyright owner to decide when and where to enforce their rights, including a subsequent purchaser of copyrights.  Because Sun, you see, were behaving like right thinking boys and girls, and then the evil ones came along to challenge Google the Sun God…or something like that.  Or said another way, 2+2=5.  And don’t you forget it.

You can see that Google would like to push that angle.

If, for example, a music publisher lacking the means to sue Google for infringing their catalog was later acquired by someone with the means to do.  That buyer then sues Google for those pre-acquisition infringements.  A ruling for Google in the current SCOTUS appeal could easily send a message that protects Google’s massive infringement through search, YouTube and God knows what else.

But at the heart of the Google infringement of Oracle’s copyrights is the “verbatim” copying of certain Java code into the Java-based Android systems.  As the amicus brief by the United States  tells us, one of the questions presented to SCOTUS is:

Whether the court of appeals correctly held that no reasonable jury could find that petitioner’s verbatim copying of respondent’s original computer code into a competing commercial product was fair use….

[Google] created much of the Android library from scratch. For 37 of the 168 packages included in the Android library, however, [Google] copied the Java declaring code verbatim, while writing its own implementing code.

As we have joked for years, Google thinks a fair use is when a YouTube user makes a verbatim copy of a television program or concert and posts it on YouTube in a different file format–you know, transformative.  Which is, of course, fair use.  Or was it a parody, I forget.

The brief by the United States disagrees, and so do I.

So let’s be clear:  This case is about Google getting away with verbatim copying that they then commercially exploit as only Google can.  And then scream fair use.

You have to wonder why SCOTUS took this case.  I suspect it has something to do with this absurd “transformative use” theme we have seen Google use again and again and again.

 

The Return of 100% Licensing and the Expansion of the Blanket License

November 21, 2019 Comments off

Who can forget the nightmare of the Justice Department’s counterproductive flirtation with 100% licensing the last time the DOJ reviewed the consent decrees.  (We covered the 100% licensing head fake in a podcast and a guide to 100% licensing.)

Since then, the Congress passed the Music Modernization Act, which includes a massive overhaul of the mechanical licensing system which is currently the subject of an implementing rule making.  What does the MMA have to do with the PRO consent decrees?

More than you might think.  If you recall, one of the big justifications for supporting the MMA legislation that did not include a terrestrial performance right for sound recordings was due to the lobbying firepower opposing the terrestrial right.  We were told that artists were never going to win the terrestrial right (which is what the #irespectmusic campaign is all about) so we should just give up and think of England, so to speak.  Or more precisely, support the MMA.

If you drill down on Title I of the MMA (which creates the Mechanical Licensing Collective, etc.), what it does at a high level is create a compulsory license for certain activities, a global rights database, and a regulatory authority for all of the above.

Note–“certain activities.”  At the moment, those activities are limited to digital phonorecord deliveries, including on demand streaming, limited and permanent downloads.

But–guess what?  Those activities could be expanded to include compulsory blanket licenses for other exploitation rights of songs, like general licensing (bars, hotels, restaurants), broadcasting and anything else the lobbyists can jam through.  All administered by the Mechanical Licensing Collective, which if such an amendment comes to pass probably would have to change its name to something catchier like, you know, Skynet.

And remember, we don’t stand a chance against these lobbyists, right?  Remember?  Now whoever saw that coming?  And how might the lobbyists get involved with a DOJ consent decree review?  Well, because of what I call “Title IV,” which is the provisions of Title I that relate to Congressional approval of any consent decree reform for the PROs and a couple other things the PROs wanted.  (Congressional review because you have to keep an eye on the anticompetitive leanings of those pesky songwriters against MIC Coalition members with a $5 trillion market cap.)  So who are these masterminds and lobbyists?  (There is no actual Title IV by the way, that’s just a teaching tool.)

MIC Coaltion Members 2019

The MIC Coalition

Billboard reports that we’re not the only ones worrying about this angle:

Sources further say the PROs and some songwriter groups both fear that if the issue goes to Congress [under Title IV], the music business will face several industries with more lobbying power than themselves, all intent on getting legislation for a compulsory license. Even worse, music licensees would also likely push for the law to include 100% licensing — meaning only one songwriter’s consent would be needed for a song to be used— an outcome which publishers, songwriters and PROs have described in the past as a disaster.

But don’t worry, the smart people will figure this out.  Don’t bogart the popcorn.

@musictechsolve: Defiance or Collaboration? The Role of the Presidential Signing Statement in MLC Board Appointments

November 20, 2019 Comments off

[This post first appeared on MusicTech.Solutions]

Even though they have a long history, Presidential Signing Statements are not exactly front and center in every civics class or constitutional public law class in America.  You may be hearing about them for the first time now.  But that doesn’t mean they have not been an important part of Constitutional law-making and jurisprudence.

Presidential Signing Statements were first used by President James Monroe in 1822 in the form of a “special message” to the Senate. Presidents Andrew Jackson, John Tyler and Ulysses Grant also issued signing statements, but they were used infrequently until the 20th Century.  Then their use picked up quite a bit starting with President Theodore Roosevelt and continuing to the present day.  So the use of Signing Statements is quite bipartisan.  While Signing Statements may not themselves have any actionable legal effect, they should not be ignored, either.  As the MMA’s Signing Statement relates directly to corporate governance and accountability (one of our pet topics on MTP as applied to what SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson called “corporate royalty” at Spotify, Google, WeWork, Facebook and others), this post may be of interest on an issue that has not been covered by the music press.

The MMA Presidential Signing Statement

Not surprisingly, there is a Presidential Signing Statement accompanying the Music Modernization Act (“MMA”) specifically relating to Title I and at that specifically relating to the MLC board appointments.  The relevant language is:

One provision, section 102, authorizes the board of directors of the designated mechanical licensing collective to adopt bylaws for the selection of new directors subsequent to the initial designation of the collective and its directors by the Register of Copyrights and with the approval of the Librarian of Congress (Librarian). Because the directors are inferior officers under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, the Librarian must approve each subsequent selection of a new director. I expect that the Register of Copyrights will work with the collective, once it has been designated, to ensure that the Librarian retains the ultimate authority, as required by the Constitution, to appoint and remove all directors.

Let’s explore why we should care about this guidance.

According to Digital Music News, there have been changes at the Mechanical Licensing Collective, Inc. (“MLCI”) the private non-profit permitted under Title I of the MMA:

[I]t appears that two separate MLC board members are jumping ship.  The details are just emerging and remain unconfirmed, though it appears that two members — one representing indie songwriters and the other on the publishing side — are out of the organization.

Because the board composition of MLCI is preemptively set by the U.S. Copyright Act along with many other aspects of MLCI’s operating mandate, the question of replacing board members may be arising sooner than anyone expected.  As MLCI is a creature of statute, it should not be controversial that law-makers play an ongoing role in its governance.

The Copyright Office Weighs In

The Copyright Office addressed board appointments for MLCI in its first request for information for the designation of the Mechanical Licensing Collective (83 CFR 65747, 65750 (December 21, 2018) available at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2018-12-21/pdf/2018-27743.pdf):

The MLC board is authorized to adopt bylaws for the selection of new directors subsequent to the initial designation of the MLC. The Presidential Signing Statement accompanying enactment of the MMA states that directors of the MLC are inferior officers under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, and that the Librarian of Congress must approve each subsequent selection of a new director. It also suggests that the Register work with the MLC, once designated, to address issues related to board succession.

When you consider that MLCI is, for all practical purposes, a kind of hybrid quasi-governmental organization (or what the Brits might call a “quango”), the stated position of the President, the Librarian of Congress and the Copyright Office should not be surprising.

Why the Controversy?

As the Songwriters Guild of America notes in comments to the Copyright Office in part relating to the Presidential Signing Statement (my emphasis):

Further, it seems of particular importance that the Executive Branch also regards the careful, post-designation oversight of the Mechanical Collective board and committee members by the Librarian of Congress and the Register as a crucial prerequisite to ensuring that conflicts of interest and bias among such members not poison the ability of the Collective to fulfill its statutory obligations for fairness, transparency and accountability.

The Presidential Signing Statement, in fact, asserts unequivocally that “I expect that the Register of Copyrights will work with the collective, once it has been designated, to ensure that the Librarian retains the ultimate authority, as required by the Constitution, to appoint and remove all directors.”

SGA regards it as a significant red flag that the NMPA-MLC submission to the Copyright Office devotes the equivalent of ten full pages of text principally in attempting to refute this governmental oversight authority, and regards the expression of such a position by NMPA/MLC as arguably indicative of an organization more inclined towards opaque, insider management control than one devoted to fairness, transparency and accountability.

So the Presidential Signing Statement to the MMA is obviously of great import given the amount of ink that has been spilled on the subject.  Let’s spill some more.

How might this oversight be given effect and will it be in the public record or an informal process behind closed doors?  Presumably it should be done in the normal course by a cooperative and voluntary collaboration between the MLC and ultimately the Librarian.  Minutes of such collaboration could easily be placed in the Federal Register or some other public record on the Copyright Office website.  Failing that collaboration, it could be done by either the Department of Justice (unlikely) or by individuals (more likely) asking an Article III court to rule on the issue.

Of course, the issue should not delay the Copyright Royalty Judges from proceeding with their assessment determination to fund the MLC pursuant to the controversial voluntary settlement or otherwise.  One could imagine an oversight role for the CRJs given that Congress charged them with watching the purse strings and the quantitative implies the qualitative.  The CRJs have until until July 2020 to rule on the initial administrative assessment and appeal seems less likely today given the voluntary settlement and the elimination of any potential objectors.

Since the Title I proponents drafted the bill to require a certain number of board seats to be filled by certain categories of persons approved by Congress in a Madisonian balance of power, the Presidential Signing Statement seems well grounded and furthers the Congressional mandate.

Yet there is this conflict over the Presidential Signing Statement.  What are the implications?

A Page of History is Worth A Volume of Logic

The President’s relationship to legislation is binary—sign it or veto it.  Presidential Signing Statements are historically used as an alternative to the exercise of the President’s veto power and there’s the rub.

Signing Statements effectively give the President the last word on legislation as the President signs a bill into law.   Two competing policies are at work in Presidential Signing Statements—the veto power (set forth in the presentment clause, Article I, Sec. 7, clause 2), and the separation of powers. 

Unlike some governors, the President does not enjoy the “line item veto” which permits an executive to blue pencil the bits she doesn’t like in legislation presented for signature.  (But they tried–Line Item Veto Act ruled unconstitutional violation of presentment clause in Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998).) The President can’t rewrite the laws passed by Congress, but must veto the bill altogether.  Attempting to both reject a provision of a new law as unconstitutional, announce the President’s intention not to enforce that provision AND sign the bill without vetoing it is where presidents typically run into trouble.

Broadly speaking, Presidential Signing Statements can either be a President’s controversial objection to a bill or prospective interpretive guidance.  Signing Statements that create controversy are usually a refusal by the President to enforce the law the President just signed because the President doesn’t like it but doesn’t want to veto it.  Or to declare that the President thinks the law is unconstitutional and will not enforce it for that reason—but signed it anyway.

The President can also use the Signing Statement to define or interpret a key term in legislation in a particular way that benefits the President’s policy goals or political allies.  President Truman, for example, interpreted a statutory definition in a way that benefited organized labor which was later enforced by courts in line with the Signing Statement.  President Carter used funds for the benefit of Vietnam resisters in defiance of Congress, but courts later upheld the practice—in cases defended by the Carter Justice Department.  The practice of using Presidential Signing Statements is now routine and has been criticized to no avail for every administration in the 21st Century including Bush II, Obama and now Trump.

Since the 1980s, it has become common for Presidents to issue dozens if not hundreds of Presidential Signing Statements during their Administration.  So it should come as no surprise if the Department of Justice drafted up the statement for the MMA prior to it being presented to the President to be signed into law.  (See the American Presidency Project archives https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/presidential-documents-archive-guidebook/presidential-signing-statements-hoover-1929-obama)

Defiance or Collaboration?

What does this mean for the MMA?  The President certainly did not call out the statutorily required board membership of the MLC as an unconstitutional overreach that he would not enforce.  To the contrary, the MMA Signing Statement expresses the President’s desire that the legislation comply with the requirements of the Constitution.

Moreover,  the MMA Presidential Signing Statement is not a declaration about what the President will or won’t enforce but rather interprets a particular section of a long and winding piece of legislation.  (Title I principally amended Section 115 of the Copyright Act—now longer than the entire 1909 Copyright Act.)  This kind of interpretation seems to be consistent with the practices of prior Presidents of both parties, not an end-run around either the veto power or separation of powers.

Failing to acknowledge the admonition of the signing statement would seem an unnecessary collision both with long-standing jurisprudence and with a sensible recommendation from the President of how the Librarian, the Copyright Office and the Justice Department expect to approach the issue in collaboration with the MLCI.  That’s possibly why the Copyright Office restated the Signing Statement in the RFP.

Title I of the MMA is a highly technical amendment to a highly technical statute.  A little interpretive guidance is probably a good thing.  Collaboration certainly makes more sense than defiance.

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