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Must Read Guest Post by @kerrymuzzey: YouTube’s Latest Deceptive Tactic

August 14, 2019 Comments off

[We’re thrilled to have a chance to publish an important Twitter thread by composer Kerry Muzzey that crystalizes a number of phenomena:  How Kerry caught YouTube using Content ID as a tool to extend the period of time that they can profit from infringement (or the “piracy profit window”), how draining it is for indies to chase YouTube (the “ennui of learned helplessness”), and how the cost of chasing YouTube reduces (or erases) any income from the video monopolist (the “Great Streaming Disappointment”). Kerry also provides a timely illustration of both why we need copyright small claims and one reason Google is sending in their proxies to fight it.  We appreciate Kerry giving us permission to post his thread and for being “here for the long haul”.]

I’m an indie guy.  I would love to just spend my time making more music, pitching, demo’ing for jobs. But like all indies, I have to make a choice—do I let YouTube and others just rip me off or do I try to stop it despite the burdens.

Here’s a new YouTube tactic that I first thought was a mistake when it happened recently, but they tried it again today, so now I think it’s pretty much just “the new stall tactic.” 

I recently found a bunch of unlicensed uses of my music on a Chinese broadcaster’s channel: these were TV shows where my tunes were used as underscore and then the series were put on YouTube and monetized. 

It took a couple years for Content ID to locate these uses and  during that time both YouTube and the broadcaster were able to co-monetize a couple million views of these shows. 

When I caught on to what was happening, I did my takedowns through the Content ID dashboard (meaning that YouTube itself located the uses and presented them to me in my Content ID dashboard) but they didn’t process my takedowns, which was weird.

I emailed YouTube Copyright (there are no names and no direct contacts at Copyright/Legal & you can’t get a name or direct contact person).  “YouTube Copyright” said they needed confirmation of the titles of my works because there was something wrong with my metadata with these particular titles in Content ID. 

Spoiler alert: there was nothing wrong with my metadata: these same works have been active just fine for 6.5 years now, and suddenly when I have claims against a massive China broadcaster YouTube finds there’s a problem with the accuracy of my titles & my metadata when they never have before?? 

Back to my claim—the Music Department at YouTube confirmed that my metadata was fine and accurate after all, and deferred to YouTube Copyright. I sent YT Copyright my copyright registrations for the works in question, reaffirmed that my metadata was fine and reaffirmed the accuracy of my claims: 24 hours later those infringing videos finally came down. 

I thought this was a one-off thing: a glitch. Until this morning when I got a batch of the same emails  from YouTube Copyright saying that there was a problem with my titles and metadata relating to the particular songs that I had struck on another Chinese broadcaster yesterday: videos that have a collective 4,000,000 heavily-monetized views on them from a different one  of China’s largest broadcasters.

But there’s nothing wrong with my metadata or my titles.  These works have been just fine since Feb 2013. So suddenly, 6 years later, there’s a problem with these songs…on the same day when I catch a huge TV network in China having used my music in their shows that were then put on YouTube and co-monetized by YouTube for 2.5 years to the tune of 4,000,000 views, with forced pre-roll ads, forced intermittent ad breaks, bannering, and video-adjacent page advertising, all on a channel in China that has 3,500,000 subscribers and more than 400,000,000 channel views on it. 

I just replied to all of their “problem w/title+metadata” emails with my copyright registrations attached and a re-affirmation of my claims and asked them to lay off the stall tactics and just process my takedowns. Which is NOT gonna go over well with this heavily-monetized channel in China and they’ll probably falsely counter-notify on everything because that’s what usually happens with China. 

But you know what? YouTube has a China problem. And they know it. And they look the other way because they can make a ton of money on those infringing videos. 

The asterisk here, and the “watch this space” moment is something I’ve long suspected and now feel like must be true: YouTube says that it has the same detection thresholds for music in Content ID worldwide, but I don’t believe it.

I think that my continuing discovery of my music in these ex-US programs, years after the fact and only after millions of monetized views have happened, is building up a body of proof towards that theory. 

And if that’s the case – YouTube has a problem.  What happens if YouTube tightens detection thresholds in big ad-sales territories like China with major broadcasters for the purpose of avoiding detection so as to increase ability to monetize what they know is content with 100% unlicensed music? Then YouTube is violating the DMCA and eventually they’re gonna get busted. 

So if you’re a tech person or journalist who’s interested in this sort of thing, here’s the question I would pose directly to YouTube the next time you talk to one of their execs: Does YouTube set different music detection thresholds based on territory, channel subscribership and degree of monetization on a channel? 

Get them on the record. Record their answer, write it down, put it in your article, publish it. Eventually someone has to hold their feet to the fire.  Step 1 is getting them to go on-the-record with their lies or their admission of gaming the system for the sake of ad revenue. 

I’m an indie guy and would love to just spend my time making more music. But until YouTube stops making it OK for giant corporations to steal my stuff and co-monetize it with YouTube itself, I’m stuck in this muck. 

Here for the long haul, – Kerry

Victory in Europe: The Two Years War over the Copyright Directive has Begun

May 30, 2019 Comments off

[This post originally appeared in the MusicTechPolicy Monthly Newsletter.]

If you’ve heard about the new copyright law in Europe, you’ve probably heard that the new rules with either break the Internet or bring Big Tech to heel.  I’d suggest neither proposition is true but not for the reasons you might think.  The reason is that Big Tech has absolutely no intention of complying with the law unless they are made to do so and few-if any- governments have the stomach to make them.

Cynical much, you may think?  Not really.  Hardly a day goes by that some new horror story doesn’t break about some awful business practice at Google, Facebook, Amazon or Twitter.  Lawmakers wring their hands, maybe fine the company concerned and everyone goes back to sleep until the next eruption.  Those fines are in the billions, but the bad behavior continues.

There’s a simple explanation for why.  It should be obvious by now that relying on good corporate citizenship is no more likely to produce a good outcome with Big Tech than it has  been with Big Anything Else.  You can dress them up in hoodies, they can tell you to lean in and that they won’t be evil, but “trust me” has not worked out very well so far.

Not only has “trust me” not worked out in terms of outcomes, it also hasn’t resulted in compliance with the law.  And this is the real reason why the bad behavior continues.  It’s not that these horror stories are “glitches”–no, the platforms that produce the inhuman results are working exactly as they are designed to do.  Do you really think that companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon aren’t able to control their platforms, algorithms and applications?

No, these companies make things that work very, very well.  For them.  They wrap them in extraordinary spin and mythology and deceive their users into increasingly addictive behaviors.  At their core, all these platforms are in two business lines–surveillance capitalism and addiction.  They use access to music and movies and journalism as a honeypot to draw in users whose data they can scrape and resell in an unvirtuous circle.

Face it–the Amazon shopping jones is not that different that a Home Shopping Network addiction, and none of the engineered behavior addictions from Silicon Valley are that different that Brown & Williamson Tobacco chemically engineering their product to be physically addictive to smokers with the messaging to match.

Nowhere is the unvirtuous circle more obvious than in Europe during the run up to and final passage of the new European Copyright Directive.  It cannot be overlooked that the European Commission fined Google billions of dollars twice during the period that overlapped with the ultimate passing of the Directive, for a total of $6.8 billion.  Those fines seem large, but were barely discussed compared to the braying from YouTube over the Copyright Directive.

According to leading European newspapers, Google and Facebook in particular fought the Directive with tactics that are reminiscent of Russia’s Internet Research Agency that we have all become too familiar with.  Bots, spam, interference lobbying and outright threats to Members of the European Parliament, the lot.  YouTube used its platform to spread misinformation about the directive through “YouTube creators” and reportedly targeted the children of MEPs who supported the Directive.

In the end, Google and Facebook were able to turn certain parts of the Directive their way but understand this–the Directive is simply that.  A directive at the “federal” level of the European Union.  That directive now has to be put into national laws by each legislature in the 28 countries that are members of the EU before it has any legal effect.  This can take up to two years  Therein lies the rub.

If past is prologue, Google, Facebook and their Big Tech fellow travelers have absolutely no intention of ever complying with the Directive.  They will lobby away as much of the Directive as possible at the member state level–that effort was already under way before the dust had settled much less the just concluded voting for Members of the European Parliament.

They then will sit back and wait to be sued.  The courtroom is where Big Tech most excels in tying the wishes of voters into knots.  By the time there is a final non appealable judgement from the highest court of competent jurisdiction in each member state including forms of appeal that no one has even thought of yet, Google will have probably backed new legislation and collected political IOUs that Google plans to use to reverse all ground gained in the Directive.

And in the meantime, the greatest income transfer of all time will continue as Google and Facebook suck the life out of creators for their fast buck profits and stock market largesse.

The only thing that will get their attention is action that affects their behavior-breaking up these companies in particular.  But understand that any government that takes them on is essentially going to war with a corporate country that is probably better funded and nastier than any government.

Getting justice from Silicon Valley will be an apocalyptic story worthy of Skynet.  But don’t think you can affect their behavior with your so-called laws that they have no intention of obeying.  Kyle Reese is not coming.

Don’t get me wrong–I’d rather have the Directive than not.  Just don’t deceive yourself into thinking the fight is over.

The fight is just beginning.

Vevo Shows YouTube Advertisers How You Do It

March 30, 2017 Comments off

If you’ve been following the YouTube advertising debacle, you may have seen reports that YouTube is planning on offering discounts (aka refunds) to the advertising accounts it burned by showing ads on terror, hate and other videos in violation of Google’s promises (aka contracts) with those advertisers.  What kind of videos would those advertising discounts be on, you may ask?

“Premium content”.  Also known as the official music videos.

So why is YouTube having this problem?  Because they forgot the basic rule of advertising–context is everything.  You may be able to target a user based on the goals of your advertising client, but if the video against which your ad is published is simply awful, the context damages the brand.  You know, like brand sponsored piracy that was under such discussion with SOPA, aka the apotheosis of bullshit.

That’s why YouTube promised not to serve ads in those places in the first place.

What’s intriguing about the advertisers’ problems with context on YouTube is that there is one place on YouTube where accounts can get only premium videos.  That’s called Vevo (a joint venture of Sony, Universal, Warner, Abu Dhabi Media…and, oh, yes, Google).

Vevo’s Kevin McGurn (head of sales) posted a reminder about this to advertising accounts.  In a nutshell:

With over 350,000 pieces of content, Vevo makes up less than 0.5% of all videos on YouTube, yet according to data from comScore, 43% of YouTube’s monthly audience is watching Vevo content. With Vevo content, a brand can more effectively target where, when, and what it associates with in reaching an audience on YouTube.  Vevo’s content is not UGC, it’s premium, licensed, and professionally produced, with an enormous and unique global reach. In fact, when we looked at an average video buy on Vevo and YouTube, we saw less than 10% duplication across the audiences reached. 

The content is vetted through multiple layers of quality control to ensure the safest environment possible for advertisers including:

  • Automatic categorization if the word “explicit” is in the title or content tags.
  • Manual categorization if the content includes any of the following:

    • Vulgar language
    • Violence and disturbing imagery
    • Nudity and sexually suggestive content
    • Portrayal of harmful or dangerous activities 

What this categorization process does is give brands greater transparency into where and how their campaigns run, and the ability to customize how they target. With Vevo, a client’s advertising only runs on premium content, and can be targeted specifically to over 55,000 artists in our catalog. Our customers also have the option to exclude explicit content. Overall, we believe our clients are better served in the safer environment that Vevo offers on YouTube and other platforms. This approach allows them to maximize reach and minimize risk as they tap into the enormous audience consuming music videos online.

Or as Charlie Daniels might say, that’s how you do it, son.

@tpoletti: Google’s YouTube ad controversy should scare investors

March 29, 2017 Comments off

When is an “ad credit” actually a refund? As Chris wrote on MusicTech.Solutions, Google advertisers should be entitled to refunds stretching back years for Google’s failure to live up to its promises to protect advertisers from their ads appearing in terror videos.

via @tpoletti: Google’s YouTube ad controversy should scare investors — Artist Rights Watch

Understanding Google’s Advertising Problem

March 25, 2017 Comments off

“Why does Rice play Texas?”

President John F. Kennedy, the “Moon Speech” Sept. 12, 1962

If you’ve been aghast at the reporting on Google’s advertising problem, it’s important to distinguish which is more shocking–that they did it, that they got caught, or that anyone thought it serious enough to report on.  Because it is an entirely predictable problem.

We wrote about the problem on MTP starting around 2012 or so with our coverage of the beginning of “programmatic trading” (“A New Meaning for Real Time Bidding: An artist’s guide to how the brands and ad agencies profit from advertising supported piracy“) with a link to this graphic from Advertising Perspectives post titled “Are Ad Exchanges and Real Time Bidding the Next Big Thing” (http://www.advertisingperspectives.com/adblog/media-technology/are-ad-exchanges-and-real-time-bidding-the-next-big-thing/).  The 2017 answer to that rhetorical question asked five years ago is obviously “yes”:

 

The issue for Google is that ads are served to users and not to the websites that share the revenue.  As the Wall Street Journal reported today:

When marketers or advertising agencies buy ads from Google and other online ad providers, those ads are typically targeted to people with certain interests or demographic profiles. In other words, they are buying a target audience, not space on particular websites. It is up to Google to target ads at the desired people. Even when ads appear on sites and videos marketers don’t want to be associated with, there’s every chance they’ve been delivered to people matching the desired profile.

The problem for ad networks utilizing this method is that when it comes to advertising, the context is everything.  (That’s why hundreds of the biggest brands in the world are bailing on YouTube.)

Just because you can target the audience doesn’t give much value if the context is wrong.  Even though the brand may not technically be buying space on particular websites, Google is serving the ad to an ad publisher which is why ads for certain goods seem to follow you around from site to site in Google’s vast network.  (Which is also how Google knows who to share the revenue with.)

In the case of YouTube, Google is serving the ad to itself through its own network–so Google has about as much control over the context as it seems likely anyone could have.

Yet Google is telling brands (and everyone else who will listen) that it’s just too hard to deliver both targeted users and acceptable context.  So is everyone just supposed to give up and let Google make the money because winning is hard and Google has a monopoly on digital advertising?

Why does Rice play Texas?

(by Chris Castle)

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