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Carbon Clouds: Should Artists Ask Why Aren’t Google, Amazon and Facebook in the Green New Deal?

December 18, 2018 Comments off

Let’s start out with a basic gut check–when you plug in an electric car to charge up the batteries, where do you think that electricity comes from?  Magic elves or the same coal burning power plant or nuclear power station that the rest of the world uses?

Sure, you can have a renewable element to the energy mix, but let’s all remember that any activity that sucks down significant amounts of energy has a carbon footprint like anything else. If you really like the Green New Deal, you’ll probably feel like there’s a policy position that has at least the basics covered.

There’s just one problem–one of the biggest users of electricity is not on the list.  No, they’re just not included at all in the Green New Deal.  And who might that be?

Data centers.  And not just any data centers–these are massive facilities owned by Google, Facebook, Amazon and others.  Listen up Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Ben Sasse.  This is for you.

Data Centers

Nature magazine sums it up:

Upload your latest holiday photos to Facebook, and there’s a chance they’ll end up stored in Prineville, Oregon, a small town where the firm has built three giant data centres and is planning two more. [Hello, Senator Wyden.] Inside these vast factories, bigger than aircraft carriers, tens of thousands of circuit boards are racked row upon row, stretching down windowless halls so long that staff ride through the corridors on scooters.

These huge buildings are the treasuries of the new industrial kings: the information traders. The five biggest global companies by market capitalization this year are currently Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook, replacing titans such as Shell and ExxonMobil. Although information factories might not spew out black smoke or grind greasy cogs, they are not bereft of environmental impact. As demand for Internet and mobile-phone traffic skyrockets, the information industry could lead to an explosion in energy use.

According to the National Resources Defense Council:

Data centers are the backbone of the modern economy — from the server rooms that power small- to medium-sized organizations to the enterprise data centers that support American corporations and the server farms that run cloud computing services hosted by Amazon, Facebook, Google, and others. However, the explosion of digital content, big data, e-commerce, and Internet traffic is also making data centers one of the fastest-growing consumers of electricity in developed countries, and one of the key drivers in the construction of new power plants.

Why might that be?  Here’s some 2011 data from the famous “The Internet is Killing the Planet” infographic inspired by Greenpeace’s “Dirty Data” research (that seems to have been forgotten in the GND):

Google co2 1

Based on Google’s most recent environmental report (2018) you have to tease out what Google’s actual carbon emissions is (in footnote 32):

  1. Google emits less than 8 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per day to serve an active Google user—defined as someone who performs 25 searches and watches 60 minutes of YouTube a day, has a Gmail account, and uses our other key services.

In Google-speak “less than 8” usually means 7.9999999999.  So let’s call it 8.  As of 2016 there were 1 billion active gmail users.  So rough justice, Google acknowledges that it emits about 8 billion grams of carbon dioxide daily, or 9,000 tons.  And based on the characteristically tricky way Google framed the measurement, that doesn’t count the users who don’t have a gmail account, don’t use “our other key services” and may watch more than an hour a day of YouTube.  You know, like kids for example.

And that’s just Google.  Again from Nature:

Already, data centres use an estimated 200 terawatt hours (TWh) each year. That is more than the national energy consumption of some countries, including Iran, but half of the electricity used for transport worldwide, and just 1% of global electricity demand (see ‘Energy scale’). Data centres contribute around 0.3% to overall carbon emissions, whereas the information and communications technology (ICT) ecosystem as a whole — under a sweeping definition that encompasses personal digital devices, mobile-phone networks and televisions — accounts for more than 2% of global emissions. That puts ICT’s carbon footprint on a par with the aviation industry’s emissions from fuel.

heres-steam-shooting-out-of-the-dalles-data-center-in-oregon-as-its-cooling-down

Google Data Center in The Dalles, Oregon

What does this have to do with music?  Actually, more than you might think.  YouTube is one of the biggest carbon producers in the Google system.  What’s consumed the most on YouTube?  Cat videos?  How-to screw in a lightbulb videos?  No.

Music videos.

And then there’s streaming.  However you might have felt about plastic discs, billions upon billions of streams uses up a lot of processing power.  And it’s like all the world’s music is hosted in the cloud, sometimes literally.  Remember “Own Nothing, Have Everything”?  I don’t know if anyone could have thought of a more inefficient delivery method from a climate point of view, but I suppose it’s possible.

The fact is we are the forced enablers of what may end up being one of the biggest energy scams in the entire climate disaster, and it’s time to put the foot down.  First of all, artists need to start asking questions of services like YouTube and the advertisers who support them.

And clearly, the Green New Deal needs to take a close look at this entire subject.

The Education of Senator Wyden: Don’t break the artists…You can’t get away with the old RIAA Booga Booga Booga or that you’ll make it up on volume

November 14, 2012 Comments off

Senator Ron Wyden revealed his well intentioned but startling lack of education about the dynamics of the opposition to the Internet Radio Fairness Act during his speech at the Future of Music Policy Summit yesterday, and it started with more of the same old whine:

You’ll hear the record labels oppose this legislation, spend lots of money saying – number one – Western civilization is going to end if we have fairness in these rates.  And they’re going to offer all sorts of arguments for why royalty rate discrimination is okay.  I personally think that if the royalty rates are lower, the internet broadcasting market becomes larger, and that’s a strategy for creating more income for artists, and more music choices for consumers, and a broader array of music.  And that sounds to me like a worthy outcome.

This is, of course not what is happening and it is definitely not what happened to Senator Wyden yesterday.  It was artists who complained about his version of “trickle down innovation”, not the record companies.   In fact, there was not one major label on the IRFA panel–his main opposition came from Patricia Polloch of the American Federation of Musicians and David Lowery of Cracker and Camper Van Beethovan.

The artists don’t want his bill.  Senator Wyden’s speech writers wrote a speech for him to give in 1999.  It does not play in 2012.

He also committed the fatal error of trying to obfuscate the really nasty parts of his bill–the censorship part and the court packing part.  David Lowery called this “newspeak” referring to George Orwell’s iconic 1984–Big Tech and Big Media want to get control over these pesky artists and put them in their place–sue them for antitrust conspiracy if they speak up and completely capture the Copyright Royalty Judges–what David Lowery called “agency capture”.

Senator Wyden said that SOPA and PIPA had the laudable goal of fighting piracy, so everyone expected–perhaps naively–that Senator Wyden would be coming with serious legislation that addressed this issue in a serious way.

Instead, we got legislation designed to break the artists.

Whether it’s just irresponsible or a calculated ploy, it still stinks just as badly and I don’t think there’s a way to “fix it” as they say in Washington.  It’s a lot harder to get language out of a bill than to put language into a bill.  That’s why the whole thing must go, and the Gang of Four and their cohorts in the so-called Internet Radio Fairness Coalition need to go back to the rate court like they did to get the rates they crowed about in 2009 but don’t like now that companies like Pandora have had a public offering.

You know, the rate court that they tried to gut.

PS If you want to voice your opinion on IRFA, Senator Ron Wyden has a comment page on his Senate website click here.

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In Which We Find Out What IRFA Author Jason Chaffetz Really Thinks About Artists

November 4, 2012 2 comments

Ben Sisario has an excellent article about the Internet Radio Fairness Act in the New York Times.  I have to commend Mr. Sisario–he wrote a mistake-free analysis of the rights involved.  That’s a first, at least for me.  Never seen a journalist from outside the music business write an article about IRFA who took the time to actually understand the subject they were writing on.

You should read the article yourself but here are a few choice quotes that kind of sum up the attitudes of the IRFAs.

First we have an attitude check from the author of IRFA, Representative Jason Chaffetz, he from whose intellectual loins sprang this monstrosity.  Given the inherent viciousness of the bill and the punishment it will exact from artists, musicians and background vocalists who don’t have the money to hire as many lobbyists as Google, Clear Channel, Sirius XM and Pandora–you won’t be surprised at this quote:

Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Republican of Utah who co-sponsored the bill, said in a phone interview that the bill was meant to encourage growth in the streaming business. But when Mr. Chaffetz, whose campaign committee has received $2,000 from Pandora, was asked to respond to complaints that the changes would hurt musicians, he could not resist taunting a bit.

The old-school dinosaurs are trying to help, but they’re stuck in the tar,’ he said. ‘They can go talk to the pterodactyls.’”

Really.  “A bit”?  And why should we “go talk to the pterodactyls?  Because an army of lobbyists are about to roll over us?  Or because we don’t want to hand over money to a coalition of Big Tech and Big Media?  (aka the Internet Radio Fairness Coalition)

And then there’s this very interesting quote from Clear Channel’s Robert Pittman:

“’It’s not so much about rates as about how much dollars you spend,’ Mr. Pittman said. ‘The amount of dollars to artists is rate times volume. If the rate suppresses the volume, there’s less money. If it encourages volume, there’s more money.’”

Now that’s a very interesting way to look at it–particularly if you are an FCC licensee (unlike Sirius or Pandora).  Why is that interesting from an FCC perspective?  Well, there’s this thing called payola.  And if I were Robert Pittman, I would be much more careful what I said about “volume” (i.e., number of plays) increasing based on the payment of money.

Remember that Clear Channel and Sirius XM have been interested in pursuing direct licenses with indie labels–licenses that are designed to pay artists less money.  As the Sirius CFO said of these direct deals in sworn testimony:

“Among other things, [labels] recognized that by entering into direct licenses with Sirius XM, they gained the potential for enhanced airplay and greater exposure for their recording artists.

You know, if the royalty rate encourages volume, there’s more airplay and more money.  For Clear Channel and Sirius–who control the airplay.

And then there’s this classic non-denial denial from Tim Westergren:

The music industry says that if Pandora needs to improve its bottom line, it should sell more ads. When asked to respond, Mr. Westergren makes a gesture of banging his head on a table.

“It’s an easy thing to say,” he said. “But no one has yet explained to us why Internet radio is under a different standard. No one responds to that fundamental premise.”

I’ll respond to it–because that’s the deal you made, Tim.  After you got your panties tied so tight you were screaming.  And now you don’t like the deal you made because you want to make more money off the backs of musicians.

So don’t say we don’t respond.

And if he doesn’t like the rates, why does he have to gut the Copyright Royalty Judges and all the other bad stuff in the Chaffetz bill?  He and the Honorable Mr. Neanderthal Pterodactyl Hunter can legislate profits just fine without touching the judges.

But Westergren told Ben Sisario one other very important fact: “This is not an argument about going out of business.”

Thanks, Tim.  I’ll hold you to that.

If you want to voice your opinion on IRFA, Senator Ron Wyden has a comment page on his Senate website click here.

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The Tide Has Risen: Five Simple Facts About the “Internet Radio Fairness Act”

October 28, 2012 1 comment

Big Tech and Big Media have joined forces in the “Internet Radio Fairness Coalition” which includes Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, Computer and Communications Industry Association (Google), Consumer Electronics Association (Google), Digital Media Association (Google) and…Pandora.

So you see, the way this works is the group put Tim Westergren out with the long face and the sad eyes to talk about how Pandora was having such a hard time and that artists and fans just had to support Internet radio and his $1 million a month or so in stock sales from his company with (what was then) a $2 billion valuation.  Oh,no sorry–just support Internet radio because Tim used to be in a band.  Once Tim began to realize that just like his days in a band, objects in the rear view mirror were smaller than they appear, guess who jumps out from behind the curtain?

The Great Oz–Google and Clear Channel.

And so much for Pandora’s commitment to independent artists–Did Clear Channel ever make good on their indie radio promise out of the last payola investigation?  And what’s the threat if you disagree with them?  Same one it always is with Big Media–if you get in the way, you won’t get played.

So let’s be clear–it’s not about “Internet Radio”, the Internet or Fairness.  It’s about money, power and lobbying, although I guess you could say it’s an act.  But it’s not just about the rates paid to artists–if that’s all it were about, then there would be no need for the court packing and chilling effects in the bill.  What court packing and chilling effects, you say?  You’d never know that stuff was in the bill if you just listened to Tim Westergren or read the pro-IRFA press releases.

The Tide Has Risen and Pandora is Throwing You Overboard

Here’s five reasons why artists should be very concerned about the “Internet Radio Fairness Act”:

1.  Reverse Payola to Monopolies for “Music Discovery”: The Internet Radio Fairness Coalition is backed by some of the biggest monopolies in the world: Google and Clear Channel–it’s Big Tech and Big Media combined.  Is it reverse payola?  If you make us pay you more money, we won’t play your records?

Remember all the good things Clear Channel was supposed to do after they got slammed for payola in 2007?  What did they actually do?  Clear Channel tried to get artists to waive both their songwriter’s performance royalties and their artist royalty collected by SoundExchange–in other words, the same direct licensing that artists now oppose.

[Following Clear Channel’s recent settlement of a payola investigation with the FCC, Clear Channel (and other broadcasters) agreed to air 4,200 hours of indie music.  The Future of Music Coalition commented at the time:]

Clear Channel is giving indie artists a raw deal by forcing them to give up performance royalties as a condition of getting airplay on its hundreds of stations. Remember, as a condition of its settlement with the FCC over payola allegations, Clear Channel and other broadcasters were required to play 4,200 hours of local and indie music. It’s replacing one form of a payola with another.

Sneaky. Greedy. Egregious. Any number of pejoratives could be used to describe the move, but it is especially troubling because digital performance royalties are becoming an ever more important source of revenue for artists as technological changes drive the way music is delivered….This is a company that is not — and has never been — on the side of artists.

[According to FOMC’s former executive director,] “’The fact that Clear Channel would require artists to waive royalties to get consideration for airplay clearly shows they’ve learned little from the payola scandal of the last couple years,’ said Jenny Toomey, executive director of the Future of Music Coalition. ‘Clear Channel is playing the same old tune.’”

2.  Pandora Wants to Legislate Profits on the Backs of Artists:  Now that Pandora has a $2 billion valuation, the simple truth is that Pandora is trying to legislate its profits on the backs of artists and so does Google and Sirius XM–a company that has $1.5 billion in cash on their balance sheet.   This is just about money, it’s not about music.

But for musicians, the salary remains the same.

3.  Look Musicians in the Eye and Explain Trickle Down Innovation:  Musicians gave Pandora and Sirius a discount on royalties in 2009–and helped save their businesses.  Pandora and Sirius have billions dollar valuations today and their executives–including Tim Westergren–are millionaires.  Obviously, Google and Clear Channel also have multibillion dollar valuations.

So now these companies have joined together to tell artists, musicians and vocalists that a rising tide carries all boats and that the benefits from making Big Tech and Big Media richer still will trickle down to creators.

The tide has already risen.  Not only has it not carried all the boats, the Internet Radio Fairness Coalition want to throw creators overboard.

4.  IRFA is Censorship Hiding Behind Fairness:  IRFA allows monopolists like Clear Channel, Google and Sirius to threaten any artist organization with an antitrust law lawsuit if the artists “impede” Big Media’s lust for direct licensing.

Yes–you read that right.  Monopolists threatening an antitrust lawsuit against artists who organize.  Go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect your $200.  Using this government mandated gag rule, Clear Channel could have tried to silence that statement about them from the Future of Music Coalition’s Jenny Toomey.  Coalition, get it?  Or the Recording Artist Coalition, or any one of a number of artist advocacy groups.

What Clear Channel and Sirius really want is artist-by-artist direct deals to pick off artists one-by-one.   Google has already demonstrated a desire for the same treatment with the Authors Guild.

Google attorney Daralyn Durie told Judge Denny Chin [the presiding judge in the Google Books case] in federal court in Manhattan that [millions of] authors and photographers would be better off fending for themselves because their circumstances varied widely, especially since the copyright issue for authors involves the display of small snippets of text. (emphasis mine)

Did Tim Westergren tell you about this part?   Does the “Internet Radio Fairness Coalition”?

Nope.  Read the bill, it’s right there under Section 5(a): “Limitation of antitrust exemptions”.

And if there’s no intent to chill artists, then why doesn’t Tim Westergren say so since he so identifies with being in a band?

5.  Payback is a Bear:  IFRA Guts the Copyright Royalty Judges:   Big Tech and Big Media want the Congress to get rid of the Copyright Royalty Judges who set the rates for Internet radio.  That’s right–they want the Congress to fire the current judges and replace them with political appointees.  Read the bill–Section 6 “Proceedings of the Copyright Royalty Judges and judicial review”.

This is simply payback for the current judges having the temerity to refuse to bow to the money.  It’s called “court packing”.  Get rid of judges you don’t like and replace them with judges you can control.

Not only that–notice the other part of that titles: “and judicial review”.  Big Tech even wants to control what previous rulings the new judges can take into account as precedent in later rulings.  That means their judges start with a clean slate and can do whatever they like.  He who doesn’t like history drools over erasing it.

Tim Westergren isn’t talking about this either.

And by the way–don’t let them tell you that somehow the judges are in the pocket of “Hollywood” (whoever that is)–all the current rates were highly negotiated by some of the very people who are complaining of them now.

Remember, Westergren declared “the royalty crisis is over!” in July of 2009.  Barely 3 years later they’re back?

And now they want scorched earth.

The tide has risen and artists need to keep their heads above water.   If Google, Clear Channel and Pandora haven’t made that an antitrust violation.

Google and Clear Channel Send Their Shills Out for IRFA Lobby Fest

October 25, 2012 Comments off

So we were wondering how long this would take, and it took no time at all.  Not only do you have Pandora’s Tim Westergren shilling for Clear Channel, you now have Google shills the Computer and Communications Industry Association (funders of several bizarre “studies”), the Digital Media Association and the Consumer Electronics Association, all coming to the party.

Yes, all these wankers have come together in the “Internet Radio Fairness Coalition” and why?  According to their press release, “Internet Radio Fairness Coalition Launches to Help Accelerate Growth and Innovation in Internet Radio To Benefit Artists, Consumers and the Recording Industry“.

Ah, of course.  Trickle down innovation, led by Mr. Million a Month, Tim Westergren.  Well–after what Pandora’s stock did today (trading was halted), not so much.  Tim probably won’t be clearing $1 million a month if that keeps up, bless his heart.

Let’s be clear about something:  Google hates the music business.  The Computer and Communications Industry Association hates the music business.  The Consumer Electronics Association hates the music business–especially the head of the CEA, Gary Shapiro who really loathes the music business.

And let’s also be clear about something else:  Tim Westergren is not your friend.  Maybe he was once, but he has sold his soul, he has picked his side and he is taking his stand.  And it’s not with you.

Westergren is with The Man 2.0 and on the side of the money.  And they want to take your money.

So heads up artists:  The fight is on.  All these people intend to make sure you are screwed, blued and tattooed if you let them. They are out to eat your lunch.  This is not a dog whistle, it is a battle cry.  They mean to run us over.

If you let them. Who will stand up to them?  And as the man said, if not now, then when?  If not here, then where?  If not us, then who?  Our cause is just and the time is now.

Who will take a stand?

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