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RIP Tom Petty

October 4, 2017 Leave a comment

The Shelter Records office in Hollywood was in the 5000 block (a very unfashionable block) of Hollywood Boulevard.  When you went in the door the first thing you saw was a huge portrait of Tom Petty.  I remember thinking that was what every record company should be like.

Professor Goldman Puts His Finger on the Problem With the CDA Safe Harbor for Sex Trafficking

September 21, 2017 Comments off

The Senate Commerce Committee held hearings this week on amending the tech industry’s safe harbor in the Communications Decency Act that protects pimps and other human traffickers who use the Internet to facilitate child rape.  As became apparent in the hearing, the Internet Association (aka Google) is very much opposed to any change in its safe harbor protection.  (Big Tech’s main safe harbors (aside from having the money to beat the litigation bejesus out of anybody including governments) are Section 230 of the Orwellian Communications Decency Act and the safe harbors in Section 512 of the Copyright Act often called the “DMCA” or the faux “DMCA license.)

One less obvious issue of great importance in Senator Portman and Senator Blumenthal’s bill (S.1693, The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017, called “SESTA”) is amending CDA 230 to permit state prosecutors from bringing criminal complaints (and victims from bringing civil complaints) under the duly enacted laws of their states.  This gives Big Tech considerable pause because The Little People (aka their users who make them rich) might be more likely to have their day in state court for these bad acts.

Let’s be clear–even if this were a 51 jurisdiction issue, the state laws aren’t going to be that different or complex.  The state would prosecute Pimp X for selling Jane Doe into child sex slavery which is bad.  The state prosecutors have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  On the civil side, a parent like Ms. Ambrose (who testified at the hearing) could bring a case because her child was trafficked and murdered.  She’d still have to win her case based on the applicable evidence standard, carry her burdens and overcome any affirmative defenses, as would living victims who sue for their harms.

These elements are unlikely to vary much from state to state.

Given the unimaginable number of these cases that occur every hour of every day and mostly online, it is just too vast a problem for federal prosecutors to shoulder alone.  Indeed, state prosecutors have a duty to bring cases under their state’s laws but perps can get away with their depraved oppression of young women and men by conducting their business online where prosecution is less likely to occur.  Courts block state law prosecutions because the federal law has been interpreted to pre-empt any state prosecutions.  The SESTA legislation would fix this loophole.

So why wouldn’t we want our children to have all the help they can get?  Why wouldn’t we want state prosecutors to be able to make these cases and why would we want the pimps to be able to hide in the shadows of the oxymoronic Communications Decency Act?

Thank goodness we have Professor Eric Goldman to enlighten us in this exchange (at about 1:42:00) with Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV):

SENATOR CORTEZ MASTO

MR. GOLDMAN, I’VE ONLY GOT ABOUT 1:26 LEFT. I UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE CONCERNS WITH STATES HAVING THAT AUTHORITY. I ASK WHY.

PROFESSOR GOLDMAN

CORRECT. THANK YOU. SO THE QUESTION IS WHY DO I HAVE TO THE RESERVATION THAT STATE ATTORNEY GENERALS ENFORCING THE LAW, THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT ISSUES IN THE BILL. ONE IS THE BILL WOULD AUTHORIZE STATE CRIMES TO BE NEWLY ENFORCED IN ADDITION TO FEDERAL CRIME, THERE’S SOME OVERLAP BETWEEN THE TWO. NOW, WE OPEN UP THE DOOR TO A WHOLE BUNCH OF NEW LAWS NOT PREVIOUSLY ENFORCED AGAINST THE INTERNET COMMUNITY. THOSE LAWS HAVEN’T BEEN APPROVED BY THE REST OF THE INTERNET, EFFORT TO IMPOSE THESE OTHER CRIMES ON THE REST OF THE INTERNET CREATES A POSSIBILITY THE STATE ITSELF, THE PEOPLE THAT AREN’T IN THAT STATE ARE HAVING THE LAWS APPLIED AGAINST THEM IN WAYS THEY MAY NOT HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO VOTE ON….

So glad he cleared that up.  The Internet hasn’t approved state laws against child rape, so the 50 state attorneys general who back the SESTA legislation can go pound sand.  You know who also didn’t get to approve either the state or federal laws against human trafficking?

Desiree Robinson, the daughter of witness Yvonne Ambrose.  She was 16 and she was  trafficked, raped and murdered. She never got to vote.

So forgive me if I don’t shed a tear for whether “the Internet” approves of laws that would call Desiree Robinson’s abusers to justice.

As her mother told the Committee:

Be the change you want to see in this world. Not only for justice for Desiree, but for all the countless Jane Does out here and the other little girls to come who don’t have a voice. We have to be the change now to protect our babies from websites like backpage.com that open the door for predators without any accountability.

Google Feels the Heat from Congress on Sex Trafficking–And Gaslights Public Opinion on @SenRobPortman’s and @RepAnnWagner’s Legislation

September 12, 2017 1 comment

 

I first called your attention to Dr. Robert Epstein in 2013.  Dr. Epstein’s work on Google’s power to throw elections by manipulating public opinion was startling to many, and I got the usual eye rolling about how mistrustful I was of Google.  (See “Democracy at Risk: Manipulating Search Rankings Can Shift Voting Preferences Substantially Without Voter Awareness”)  That doesn’t happen much after 2016.

But–the stakes don’t have to be as high as who controls the White House for the dominant global source of information to manipulate us.  Think not?  Who wants to live with the consequences of losing a bet on Google’s moral compass?

Senator Rob Portman and Rep. Ann Wagner are standing up to Google (and the Internet Association) with legislation to remove the law that allows the special people in the connected class to profit from human trafficking because they’re…well, special people.  Senator Portman’s bill is the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA) and has 27 cosponsors include Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).  Rep. Ann Wagner’s corresponding bill in the House of Representatives is titled the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 has 111 co-sponsors. Both would amend the safe harbor in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (aka “CDA”).

Just like Google loves them some DMCA, Google especially loves them some CDA 230 safe harbor that Google and their shills argue protects them from liability for letting pimps advertise on their platforms among other vileness.  (Which makes their fascination with forcing songwriters and artists to maintain a “global rights database” for Google’s protection ring even hollower.)  Taken together the DMCA and CDA safe harbors give Google so much crony capitalist protection that they rival other connected class sacred cows like farm subsidies and the oil depletion allowance.

Why should Google get these even safer harbors?  The answer is obvious.  Because the Internet.

But after Google’s several high profile losses in the post-Obama era, it looks like Google is about to lose on the CDA safe harbor.  We know this because it appears that Google is manipulating search results to affect public opinion on Google’s ability to profit from human trafficking.

According to Consumer Watchdog, which is about the only consumer group that is challenging Google’s stranglehold on the Congress not to mention reality, Google is manipulating search results to promote Google’s point of view on Section 230 reform.

This is a close analog to what Google was fined $2.7 billion for doing in Europe with commercial goods.  There’s no question that they do it, the only question is whether they are doing it to you all the time without your knowing it.

And since you are the product for Google, it should not be surprising that they are doing it to promote their legislative agenda.

Consumer Watchdog says:

Internet giant Google appears to be manipulating its search engine results to favor opposition to bipartisan efforts seeking to amend a key Internet law so websites like Backpage that facilitate online sex trafficking can be held accountable, Consumer Watchdog said today.

Three of the top four links returned under the news tab for the search term “Section 230” were to articles from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a staunch opponent of amending the Internet law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Consumer Watchdog found.

Searches for news results for “Section 230” on competing search engines Bing and DuckDuckGo gave links to articles presenting all sides of the issue.  View screenshots of the results from the three search engines here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/search_section_230.pdf

“Google is supposed to be an unbiased gatekeeper to information,” said John M. Simpson Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “Instead they appear to be stacking the deck to favor their own purposes. You can forget their motto; this is evil.”

Google is leading Tech industry efforts to block any amendment to Section 230, which protects websites from liability for material posted by third parties on their sites. The companies and other defenders of Section 230 claim it promotes and protects free expression on the Internet, but a U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations staff report shows that sites like Backpage aid and abet under-age sex traffickers using the blanket protection of the Act.  By one count 73% of child trafficking reports in the United States involve Backpage.com.

Needless to say, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a frequent recipient of Google’s largesse and was disclosed by Google in the Oracle case (on what came to be known as the “Google Shill List“) as a long-time beneficiary.

Here’s a video of Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson confronting Eric Schmidt about human trafficking and Google’s Backpage connection at the Google annual shareholder meeting (which is about the only place anyone can actually question Google’s top executives directly).  Schmidt appears to swallow his tongue, but was saved by his lawyer, Kent Walker (who was slated to give the keynote at the Recording Academy’s Entertainment Law Initiative a few years ago):

So much for don’t be evil.

Nicholas Kristof recently wrote an op-ed about Google’s sex trafficking problem in the New York Times:

Sex traffickers in America have the police and prosecutors pursuing them, but they do have one crucial (if secret) ally: Google.

Google’s motto has long been “Don’t be evil,” and I admire lots about the company. But organizations it funds have for years been quietly helping Backpage.com, the odious website where most American victims of human trafficking are sold, to battle lawsuits from children sold there for sex.

Now Google is using its enormous lobbying power in Washington to try to kill bipartisan legislation that would crack down on websites that promote sex trafficking.

Not only is Google using its lobbying power to protect its profits by manipulating the Congress, it is also using its control over information to manipulate public opinion against Sen. Portman’s and Rep. Wagner’s bills.  This should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention and it certainly would come as no surprise to Dr. Epstein (for more detail, read his paper co-written with Dr. Ronald Robertson on “search engine manipulation effect” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

Why?  Because as Google lawyer Kent Walker says in the video above, the Congress “was striking a blow for Good Samaritan review by Internet platforms” with CDA 230.  In other words, the Congress wanted to help Good Samaritans that are “quietly helping Backpage.com….to battle lawsuits from children sold there for sex.”  And Google likes their CDA just fine the way it is.

And no doubt they’ll produce some kind of survey results showing that the public thinks so, too–after Google apparently manipulates its search results for a while using its secret algorithm.

Here’s the really sick part–somebody in Google’s engineering team knows exactly what they are doing, and they are doing it in secret, in the dark, where no one can see, with deniability.  Gaslighting on steroids.  You know–just following orders.

But then, the Devil’s greatest trick is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.

The Government’s Music Database: What Would Monk Do?

September 7, 2017 Comments off

There is a fundamental difference between people with experience in the vagaries of copyright chain of title research and those who want their data served up in nice neat–very, very neat–packages.  So neat that you could eat your lunch off of those packages–one pea at a time arranged in a straight line, preferably.

Those who do not step on cracks have an especially difficult time understanding that song data is a dynamic process best left to the people who…well, who don’t mind the cracks.

Explaining this to our friends in the tech community is kind of like explaining the interpretation of a blood test to…well, to Monk.

@cc_songwriters: Corpus Christi Songwriters Hurricane Relief Benefit

September 2, 2017 Comments off

SoundExchange Reaches Out to Help Texas Flood Victims

August 30, 2017 Comments off

Press Release

For SoundExchange members based in Houston and throughout the Gulf Coast, SoundExchange wants to make sure you receive your royalties in this time of tragedy.

sound exchange logo

SoundExchange’s Senior Director of Artist and Industry Relations Linda Bloss-Baum sent the Texas Music Office a statement today that reads:

“Our next royalty distribution will be made in late September.  If you currently receive your SoundExchange royalties via physical checks, you can update your account so we can send you your royalties via Direct Deposit. We hope this makes it easier for you to access your royalties at this difficult time. To update your account, please complete our Direct Deposit form.

“We will also need either a voided check OR a bank authorization letter. If you use a bank authorization letter, the bank authorization letter should be on bank letterhead with your account information (routing number and account number). It should indicate the name on the account, and be signed by a bank official.

“We have a dedicated member of our industry relations team standing by to expedite getting our artists and rights holders set up to receive their royalties via direct deposit.  Please send the form and support document to tiarap@soundexchange.com and we will rush to get it processed for you.”

Spotify to be Represented by Christopher Sprigman in Nashville Case

August 20, 2017 Comments off

In what I perceive to be a defining move, Spotify evidently has engaged Professor Christopher Sprigman to represent the company in the Nashville litigation (just the Bluewater case so far).  Professor Sprigman’s appearance may signify how Spotify really feels about copyright, but we shall see.

Those familiar with Professor Sprigman’s views will understand what I mean.  I take butter on my popcorn.

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