Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Irving Azoff’

The Ennui of Learned Helplessness: Article 13 and the Five Lies in YouTube’s Content ID

March 29, 2019 Comments off

youtube-logo-parody-1

According to Wired (“Don’t believe the hype: Article 13 is great news for YouTube“), YouTube is positioned to be a big winner due to the Article 13 requirement for “upload filters”.  If you’re keeping your brackets for “Most Googlely Journalist” in the post-Article 13 March Madness spin, Wired gets the three point play on this post–there are no upload filters in Article 13, so not quite sure what Wired is getting at here.  But I digress.

Wired tells us:

[Article 13’s upload filters are] likely to be disruptive, for YouTube as for everyone else. There will be mistakes, disgruntled creators and meme-posters, protests against this or that algorithmic decision. But if anyone is going to eventually benefit from this, in the long run, that is YouTube.

Leaving aside the fact that Alphabet, YouTube’s owner, would probably have enough money to invest in licensing agreements with media companies and music labels – YouTube is uniquely positioned to capitalise on the internet’s sudden need for copyright filters. The platform itself has been using a type of copyright filter, its home-brewed Content ID, for over a decade. The algorithm compares newly uploaded footage against a database of registered videos, and demonetises (or takes down) any post containing matching content [which is also not quite right–it allows the user of Content ID to elect to block or monetize, with heavy pressure to monetize and not block].

While there have been instances of manipulation and egregious mistakes, Alphabet has invested more than $100 million in Content ID’s development, and the technology is already used by more than 9,000 broadcasters, movie studios, and music producers globally. [And there it is–we’ll come back to that] A vast number of other companies – virtually, every single platform and website that does not want to fall foul of Article 13 – could soon swell the ranks of Content ID’s users. Rather than an existential threat, Article 13 could wind up being a fillip to YouTube’s finances.

First, let’s dispense with an implication of that last assertion–that YouTube would profit from ContentID by licensing Content ID to third parties.  There is absolutely no evidence that YouTube would do anything remotely like that, and even if they did, Google would likely still control who gets to put their works into ContentID in the first place.  Wired doesn’t actually say this, but a reader might get that implication.

What is more clear is that Wired asserts YouTube would have a competitive advantage over other, smaller perhaps, platforms–not like they already do as the result of Google’s illegal favoring of its own products for which it is being fined billions in Europe.  This due to the nonexistent “upload filters” that are not in the Copyright Directive (aka Article 13) but that the tech press keeps asserting are really there in one of the great gaslighting exercises of all time.

Remember–ContentID has a lot more to do with preserving YouTube’s US-based DMCA safe harbor and getting licenses for premium content (with higher advertising revenue, i.e., CPMs) than it does with some desire to do the right thing.  That sentiment arguably does not exist at Google, YouTube, Facebook or any other Silicon Valley company with the notable exception of Apple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wired blows past the two key facts it its own story.  First, the number of participants in ContentID:  “the technology is already used by more than 9,000 broadcasters, movie studios, and music producers globally”.

This statistic comes from YouTube itself:

Number of Content ID Users

But strangely according to a 2016 story in the New York Times:

YouTube says that about 8,000 companies and organizations have access to Content ID and that independents may get access through affiliated companies and industry groups.

That’s right–the number of users of ContentID has increased–worldwide–by 1,000 in four years.  Any idea how many new videos were uploaded to YouTube in that time?  We may not have that exact number, but we do know this again according to YouTube’s own statistics:

youtube number of views

That’s billion with a B.  So just rough justice, don’t you think that if there are that many videos being viewed on YouTube there would be more than 9,000 worldwide users of ContentID?

The other relevant fact is that Wired breathlessly repeats that YouTube spent $100,000,000 on developing Content ID.  According to Wikipedia (which I tend to believe in this case because it’s their benefactor Google), ContentID cost $60 million to develop by 2016 and as of 2018 Google had spent $100 million on the system.

Allow me to posit that $100 million for a system that can handle the volume on YouTube is chump change.  One reason that it cost so little is that it is working for purpose–it is not intended to catch everything, it is only intended to catch works by the people who sign YouTube’s chump deal or people who are “important” (in the best traditions of YouTube’s founders).

Remember this line from the 2016 NYT story?  “[I]ndependents may get access [to ContentID] through affiliated companies and industry groups.”

So you mean that some artists are more equal than others?

Exactly.

YouTube’s theory according to the NYT is that independent artists (such as five time Grammy-winner Maria Schneider who graced our pages with her groundbreaking essay on YouTube’s sleaze) are not harmed by YouTube’s “catch me if you can” DMCA shakedown because Content ID is widely available.  The implication being if those pesky artists would just use the tools YouTube provides, there would be peace in the valley with sunshine, gum drops and puppy dog tails for everyone with happiness among the subjects of the Unicorn Kings.

The clear implication is that “independents” have nothing to complain about because they can get “access” to ContentID through “affiliated companies and industry groups”.  “Affiliated” in this case means affiliated with YouTube (laughably called “partners”), and that means that the “companies and industry groups” have signed a ContentID license agreement which is essentially a nonnegotiable form contract imposed by Google.

Because Google wants to have the rights to use their IP all tied down.

Ahem.

This is another reason why Wired should not write to the Google press release.

So let’s start with what YouTube actually says about who gets ContentID:

Content ID UseAnd what are the “specific criteria” that copyright owners have to meet for their “substantial body of original material”?

qualifications content id

So that quote from YouTube’s website arguably explains why there’s only 9,000 entities that have access to Content ID on a worldwide basis across all copyright categories (assuming that’s even true).

There’s at least five lies underlying Content ID, all of which you’d miss if you didn’t have the inside baseball insight into the unnecessarily complex Content ID system–and as we know, complexity almost always hides fraud.

Lie #1: Show Me Where I Signed Your Social Contract

The first point is why should artists be required to even deal with Content ID or YouTube at all?  If an artist never consented to being on the site in the first place, why should Google be able to just exploit their work without consent?  Why shouldn’t Google have to have a contract with the artists to exploit their IP?  You know, the way you have to be approved and have a license to use Content ID.  This is a core property rights concept underlying the new Copyright Directive in Europe–we hope that the US follows suit with DMCA reform.

There is tremendous cost associated with engaging with YouTube at all whether you qualify for Content ID or  you don’t.  In fact, as the Trichordist’s Streaming Price Bible demonstrates, YouTube’s royalties are so crappy that it’s entirely possible that the total cost of doing business with YouTube exceeds any royalties you could make–because the cost of dealing with YouTube varies directly with the size of your catalog.

So why shouldn’t artists be able to just say no and keep all of their music (or other work product) off of YouTube?  Every penny spent trying to block unauthorized videos is a penny spent for YouTube’s benefit.  And why is it we have to pay for this?

The truth is that it is not at all apparent that declining the opportunity to license YouTube wouldn’t actually be more profitable than dealing with the incredibly screwed up Content ID and CMS system.

So let’s not assume that Content ID and notice and shakedown are the only possible outcomes here.

Lie #2: Using Content ID Is Not Free

Even though Google doesn’t charge for Content ID, using the system is hardly free, especially for “independents”.  In order to get “access” to Content ID, an independent artist needs to contract with a claiming company–and pay that company anywhere from 20% to 50% of their YouTube revenue.

And let’s be clear–claiming companies exist to fix YouTube’s mistakes imposed on the world due to YouTube’s legacy and highly inefficient DMCA notice and shakedown business.  Every penny spent by an artist through giving a claiming company a revenue share is a penny spent for YouTube’s benefit by an artist capitulating to the notice and shakedown onslaught.

So saying that “independents” have “access” to Content ID through a claiming company “affiliated” with YouTube is a grotesque oversimplification.  There are claiming companies that operate at the more lucrative end of the YouTube doing channel management and MCN or near-MCN business for which they may operate their own in-house advertising sales staff.

The claiming companies in reach of “independents” necessarily have to take a larger share of a smaller revenue stream in order to operate.  And here’s what they don’t do:

Block.

Why do they only monetize?  Because that’s what a revenue share means–revenue.  Using Content ID to just block videos (especially UGC) would only be available for a fee (since there’s no revenue if you block everything).  Independent artists can’t afford to pay a fee to block on YouTube so they typically will capitulate and monetize.

And who benefits from that?  YouTube.

Why would blocking require a fee for service?  If an artist just wants to bail out altogether, then that artist would set the automated controls of CMS to block worldwide.  In order to make that blocking meaningful, there would need to be a lot of manual care and feeding to account for UGC leakage through the very porous Content ID.

That would include techniques like pitch bending to use the curious speed controls on the YouTube player which seem to have one purpose–defeating Content ID.

This is what’s called a royal pain in the trade, so anyone doing that work would have to be paid for the hours and hours and hours it would take to accomplish it.  Since the artist can’t afford to pay someone else to do that work, the artist would need to do it in all their spare time.  Which of course will not be very effective or may not happen at all.

I call this the ennui of learned helplessness.

Lie #3: Artists Cannot Access Content ID

By using the word “access” when it comes to Content ID, YouTube is equivocating yet again.   If you are an independent artist and your distributor has a CMS account (and that’s a small group), do you have access to Content ID?

No.  At best, you can tell your distributor what you do and do not want monetized.  They will only devote so much time to you, however, and they won’t do the manual claiming on UGC, etc., at least not until you get some pretty significant traction on YouTube (meaning over 5,000 views or so on a particular video).

Your distributor will not allow you to get your hands on their CMS or Content ID dashboards.  There’s a good reason for this, which is that the way Google licenses Content ID there’s a good chance that the distributor (such as Tunecore or CD Baby) could never get enough seats for its particular CMS license to allow all the distributed artists to have individual access, and there’s no view in Content ID that would show one artist’s tracks without showing that user all the other artist’s tracks handled by that distributor.

Why?  Because YouTube doesn’t design the system for “independents”.

Lie #4:  Independent Songwriters are SOL

Notice YouTube never talks about independent songwriters having “access” to Content ID.    The closest that an independent songwriter comes to getting access to Content ID is if they opted into the HFA YouTube license connected to the out of court settlement of the class action against YouTube that was a companion case to Viacom v. YouTube (and which wasn’t certified as a class, but is often referred to as a class action by people wishing to avoid using the legal term “putative”).

So ask independent songwriters who opted in to the HFA license how that “access” is working out for them.

Lie #5:  Content ID Is Another Nondisplay Use of Other People’s Stuff

Google has made a subspecialty of acquiring data for one use and actually using it for other purposes–undisclosed purposes.

Remember “GOOG-411”?  This Google product was the “free” Google directory assistance (very similar to Google Voice). Former Googler (and former Yahoo!er) Marissa Meyer told  Info World years ago that GOOG-411 was not intended to be what it appeared to be:

You may have heard about our [directory assistance] 1-800-GOOG-411 service. Whether or not free 411 is a profitable business unto itself is yet to be seen. I myself am somewhat skeptical. The reason we really did it is because we need to build a great speech-to-text model … that we can use for all kinds of different things, including video search.

The speech recognition experts that we have say: If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken by a particular voice with a particular intonation. So we need a lot of people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that. … So 1-800-GOOG-411 is about that: Getting a bunch of different speech samples so that when you call up or we’re trying to get the voice out of video [such as from YouTube], we can do it with high accuracy.

That’s right–Google told you the product was doing one thing, but in actual fact it was always intended to be something entirely different.  The real action was in the background where users couldn’t see it.  If Marissa Meyer hadn’t let it slip in an interview, you might never have known.

If you have a Content ID contract, check out this language in paragraph 2:

By providing Reference Files, you grant Google a non-exclusive, royalty-free, limited license to (a) store, copy (including the right to make temporary cache and storage copies), modify or reformat, excerpt, analyze, use to create algorithms and binary representations, create ID Files and otherwise use those Reference Files, the ID Files and the associated metadata in connection with the System

And there it is:  “otherwise use”.  Pretty broad grant of rights, eh?  You could say that “in connection with the System” is limiting, but how would you ever know what “in connection with” means?

Remember Google Books?  Ever heard of “corpus machine translation“?  Google uses the scans of the tens of millions of books it stole from authors in the background to improve its translation algorithms.  If the authors had brought their case about that, do you think the court would have been so quick to find this obviously massively commercial application a fair use?

Bevo ≠ Unicorn King

Once again, YouTube has scammed their way past artist objections such as those in Maria Schneider’s post and Irving Azoff’s open letter.  I think this is partly because the whole Content ID system is such inside baseball–once you accept the idea that requiring artists to use these legacy DMCA tools is even acceptable, which I don’t.  Reporters just don’t know what questions to ask.

Now they do.

(Some of this post previously appeared on MTP in other posts.)

Funny How that Works: @edchristman reports: Irving Azoff, Top Radio Groups Reach Temporary Licensing Agreement

December 27, 2016 Comments off
mic-coalition-rmlc

The MIC Coalition

When two rational actors are economically interdependent on one another, disputes tend to get solved at a market clearing price.  So it is with Global Music Rights and the goliath Radio Music License Committee that itself is a member of the even bigger goliath MIC Coalition.  (My bet is that the Google-backed MIC Coalition is behind the bizarre push for 100% licensing by soon-to-be-former head of the US Department of Justice Antitrust Division, but that’s another story.)

As Ed Christman reports in Billboard:

While the Radio Music Licensing Committee and Global Music Rights continue to pursue anti-trust litigation against each other, the boutique performance rights organization started by Irving Azoff is offering temporary licenses that will allow radio stations to continue playing GMR songs without worrying about copyright infringement lawsuits.

According to a statement issued on behalf of GMR by lawyer Dan Petrocelli of O’Melveny & Myers, representing the PRO in the antitrust litigation; and a letter to RMLC members from RMLC chairman Ed Christian, radio stations have until Jan. 31 to sign an interim license agreement with GMR, which will cover them for playing the PROs songs through Sept. 30, 2017.

Each station willing to enter into the interim license has to contact GMR to see what their fee will be. However, the interim licensing agreement will leave each party the right to seek a retroactive fee adjustment, which could be based on a future licensing agreement subsequent to the interim license; the outcome of the antitrust litigation between the RMLC and GMR; or a possible rate settlement between the RMLC and GMR….

In fact, some music from songwriters in the Who, the Eagles, and by John Lennon and Drake, are no longer covered by ASCAP or BMI, and radio has been playing that music all along during 2016. But people familiar with GMR say they had no intention of suing for copyright infringement as long as RMLC was negotiating rates with the PRO.

Instead, they claim, the RMLC ambushed them with an antitrust lawsuit filed on Nov. 18  in the U.S. Eastern District of Pennsylvania Court by the law firm of Latham & Watkins. GMR filed its own anti-trust lawsuit, via O’Melveny & Myers, against the RMLC in California Federal Court on Dec. 6.

The songs at issue appear to be for GMR writers who left ASCAP in the last couple years, but arguably remain covered by ASCAP (and BMI) agreements expiring at the end of 2016–you know, next week.

What this comes down to, of course, is the one thing that the MIC Coalition doesn’t seem to think songwriters are much entitled to–property rights.  As my old law and economics professor Armen Alchien has written:

A property right is the exclusive authority to determine how a resource is used…One [attribute of private property] is the exclusive right to the services of the resource. Thus, for example, the owner of an apartment with complete property rights to the apartment has the right to determine whether to rent it out and, if so, which tenant to rent to; to live in it himself; or to use it in any other peaceful way. That is the right to determine the use. If the owner rents out the apartment, he also has the right to all the rental income from the property. That is the right to the services of the resources (the rent).

Finally, a private property right includes the right to delegate, rent, or sell any portion of the rights by exchange or gift at whatever price the owner determines (provided someone is willing to pay that price). If I am not allowed [or not required] to buy some rights from you and you therefore are not allowed to sell rights to me, private property rights are reduced. Thus, the three basic elements of private property are (1) exclusivity of rights to choose the use of a resource, (2) exclusivity of rights to the services of a resource, and (3) rights to exchange the resource at mutually agreeable terms….

Private property rights do not conflict with human rights. They are human rights. Private property rights are the rights of humans to use specified goods and to exchange them. Any restraint on private property rights shifts the balance of power from impersonal attributes toward personal attributes and toward behavior that political authorities approve. That is a fundamental reason for preference of a system of strong private property rights: private property rights protect individual liberty.

Or as Gloria Steinem put it, artist rights are human rights.  A host of human rights documents are consonant with this view, starting with Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which, incidentally, was itself the inspiration for MTP):

Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

The MIC Coalition routinely runs over the rights of recording artists to fair compensation for the use of their recordings, so it’s a fair assumption that they are used to riding rough on creators and intend to do so with GMRs writers.  We can all be thankful that GMR is both standing up for their songwriters and acting reasonably to allow business to get done.  Hopefully, mega media corporations will decide that their resources are better spent paying a fair royalty to the songwriters that drive their business rather than unproductive litigation.

 

What if Legacy YouTube Licenses Went Away? Will Artist and Songwriter Opposition to YouTube Make it Easier for Labels and Publishers to Step Away from Licensing?

June 8, 2016 3 comments

[This post first appeared in the MusicTechPolicy Monthly Newsletter for subscribers to MTP]

As manager Irving Azoff noted in his “Open Letter to YouTube“, the music community has never been more united against Google’s misuse and abuse of the government mandated “safe harbors”.  When mixed with Google’s dominant market position, highly litigious business practices and massive lobbying effort, negotiating with Google is not really negotiating–one of the main reasons all such activities are cloaked in nondisclosure agreements.

In response to Mr. Azoff, one of the few in the music industry who has stood up to Google, a YouTube star asked why does the music industry keep taking the money from YouTube if it’s so awful.

That’s a very, very good question and I’m so glad he brought that up.

What typically happens in the last few YouTube negotiations is that Google gradually ratchets up the advances and eventually the labels and publishers acquiesce.  What’s different this time is that the deals are being made in a highly public way–the artists and songwriters who ultimately call the shots contrary to popular myth are going to have a hard time relinquishing their public positions against Google and YouTube in return for thirty pieces of silver.

The changes that artists and songwriters require at Google go far beyond money.  What is needed is for Google to change its behavior, something that Google refuses to do because it’s business model is built on an extreme interpretation of the outmoded “notice and takedown” provisions of a 1998 statute that is a massive failure largely because of Google’s misuse of those provisions to Google’s great profit.

To the extent that lawmakers know the details of YouTube’s operations at all (and many don’t know the fundamental fact that Google owns YouTube), many lawmakers believe that Google provides the tools to block the unauthorized use of music on YouTube.  This is principally through Google’s “ContentID” and “Content Management System” applications.

These applications do not work very well, despite Google’s well cultivated reputation for solving Internet problems.  DMCA abuse is a problem that Google created due to its selection of a legacy business model.

What some lawmakers are now finding out for the first time is that Google does not make these tools available to everyone, but instead YouTube has a chicken-and-egg definition of who gets these tools that tiptoes around an essential fact–you only get ContentID if you grant a license to YouTube.  And if you don’t?

Then thanks to Google’s interpretation of the safe harbor, you have to monitor YouTube 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if you want to stop the infringing use of your work.  And don’t forget–even if a copyright owner grants the license, they have little control over how it is used in “user generated content.”  For example, Jack White’s music was used in what appears to be a sex tourist home video monetized by Google with ads from an asian “dating” site, Prudential Insurance and the band Apocalyptica:

If YouTube negotiations fall apart this time, Google will no doubt try to spin the failure away from its misuse of the DMCA safe harbor to extract the payment of shakedown money to “copyright misuse” of the major labels and publishers responding to the desires of their artists and songwriters.

The truth is there is no amount of money that Google can pay that will make up for the costs of enforcing the DMCA notice and takedown, most of which have to be borne anyway, license or no license.

Given the commitment of the artist and songwriter community to stopping DMCA abuse, particularly by Google due to its dominant market position and the legacy businesses it has built that are dependent on a compliant artist community (not to mention compliant lawmakers who look the other way), I wonder if the labels and publishers think that taking the king’s shilling is worth spending the political capital to offend their artists and songwriters who have gone all in on opposing Google’s legacy business practices.

On the other hand, if Google promotes ContentID and CMS as solutions, shouldn’t Google make these tools available to all creators?  Should Congress require Google to not only make the tools available to everyone, and even expand the application of these tools to search results to counter the massive infringement Google enables through search?

It is not quite too late for Congress to fix this mess.  The safe harbors were intended to give a little latitude to reasonable people acting reasonably.  The DMCA was never intended to be an alibi.

%d bloggers like this: