City of Austin Music Office Launches Ground Breaking Census for the Austin Music Economy

September 30, 2014 Leave a comment

If you live outside of New York, Nashville or Los Angeles, how much do you really know about the needs of your local music community?  (And, frankly–who are we kidding.  Even if you live in one of those “centers”.)  Artists, songwriters, producers, live music–and all of the folks who make up our local business and contribute to the local economy.  Good luck figuring this out from the federal government or trade association sources.

The Austin Music Office has commissioned a real census to get a meaningful handle on who contributes to the $1.6 billion annual music economy in Austin and what ATX Music and the City of Austin can do to help them be successful.  Here’s the press release:

City of Austin to Conduct First-Ever Music Industry Census

and Market Research Study

This market research study will look at Austin’s music industry, workers.

Austin, TX – The Music & Entertainment Division of the Economic Development Department is proud to announce the launch of a new market research study of Austin’s music industry and its workers.  The purpose of the project is to capture an in-depth look at Austin’s music industry workers and its economic issues and opportunities. The City has hired Titan Music Group to conduct the study and deliver a final report upon completion.

This is the first time such a study has been undertaken in Austin, and the City hopes to gather thousands of respondents in what will be a city-wide data collection effort.

The study is designed to obtain detailed information about the composition and needs of the industry, such as:

-   Number of people working in each sector of the music industry at a local level;

-   How well those sectors and its workers are doing, including any identifiable barriers to economic growth;

-   Identifying underutilized opportunities for growth that can be leveraged at a local level;

-   Identifying sectors that may be best poised for future growth, and other trend information that may help shape future policy decisions.

Data will be gathered from focus groups and an in-depth survey that will be disseminated across the city. Focus groups will begin next week, and the survey will be launched on October 30.  Music &Entertainment Division staff will canvas Austin Music Businesses in an effort to acquire survey responses.

The music industry contributes more than $1.6 billion dollars annually to the Austin economy, placing it in the Top 10 highest contributors. The Music & Entertainment Division will use the information collected from the study to optimize future City strategy and program planning for industry growth.

Don Pitts, Music Program Manager for the City of Austin states, “As important a contribution as music makes to Austin, there has never been a comprehensive study done from a City viewpoint to evaluate what’s working well at a local level, where the gaps might be, and where our future growth sectors are. Results of this survey will provide valuable information and allow the Music & Entertainment Division to assist the Austin music industry in the most effective ways possible.”

Nikki Rowling, president of Titan Music Group, adds “This study will serve as a tool to benchmark both current assets and needs in our City’s music industry in a way that has not been captured before.  Titan is thrilled to partner with the City of Austin and work with the community’s music population to collect data that will be used to improve and grow Austin’s music economy.”

Who Should Participate?

Workers in all sectors of the music and entertainment industry will be asked to complete a survey. This includes all musicians, managers, agents, equipment and music retailers, producers, and anyone employed in a music venue, bar, tavern, or nightclub.

Information gathered in this study will be complied, analyzed and presented to the City of Austin next spring.

 ###

About the City of Austin Music & Entertainment Division –The Music & Entertainment Division, based in the City of Austin’s Economic Development Department, is highly engaged in developing and executing initiatives that help accelerate the growth of the music industry infrastructure by focusing on job creation, talent export, trade development, and industry revenue growth. ATX Music has organically developed an important role for the Austin music industry by facilitating introductions, communication, and shaping discussions between music business operators who may not otherwise have knowledge of each other, resulting in new business and connections. For more information about the ATX Music Office: http://www.atxmusic.org

About Titan Music Group, LLC – Titan Music Group, LLC is a commercial music industry consulting company founded in 2007 and based in Austin, Texas. Titan’s clients include municipal and state government departments, trade associations, and private sector companies. Titan Music Group specializes in commercial music economic development studies and industrial strategy development; public policy development; data-driven market research, benchmarking, surveys, and analytics. For more information about Titan Music Group: www.titanmusicgroup.com

#irespectmusic and Fasten Your Seatbelts: Where Do We Go From Here on Pre-72?

September 25, 2014 Comments off

This has been a good week for artist rights–the Turtles struck a major blow in the struggle against the new boss in their case against Sirius to protect the rights of artists who recorded prior to 1972.  What should we expect now from new boss companies like Pandora, Sirius, YouTube and Clear Channel?  When we remember that the new boss is far, far worse than the old boss, there are certain events we can anticipate.  No money, bigger alliances against us and crony capitalism on steroids.  I’d love to be wrong, but don’t be surprised if I’m right.

1.  No Payments and Scortched Earth Litigation:  While it would be the right thing to do, my prediction is that it will be a frosty day in Hell before the new boss will ever pay a penny to pre-72 artists, musicians or background vocalists without a final nonappealable judgement following absolute scorched earth litigation.  The one advantage to artists about this is that the new boss litigation will bring into sharp focus exactly who these people are and whose side they’re on.  Artists will get a reminder of who they’re dealing with every single day of the lawsuits–that could go on for many years.  Yes–they have that much disdain for artist rights.  You have to ask yourself when does disdain cross over into something much darker.

2.  Alliance of Big Tech and Big Radio:  Don’t forget that broadcast radio is directly implicated by the Turtles decision.  Even though a Clear Channel was not a defendant, the decision could easily be interpreted to require a public performance license for pre-72 recordings at terrestrial broadcast radio.  This is the very issue that the National Association of Broadcasters has been fighting for decades, spending probably over $100 million to stop artists getting paid for radio play–which just happens to be the damages award that the Turtles asked for in their case against Sirius.  (So you have to ask, what if they just paid the royalty like every other country except a handful such as North Korea and Rwanda.)

As we saw with Pandora and Sirius’s disastrous adventure with the Internet Radio Fairness Act (“IRFA”) and the Internet Radio Fairness Coalition, the NAB no longer has to fight artists by themselves.  No, they have company.  Pandora is a member of the Digital Media Association (DiMA) for starters, which includes Amazon, Google and Apple as members.  I would bet that the market cap fluctuation of DiMA members on a brisk trading day exceeds the worldwide market capitalization of the entire music business.

And this doesn’t include DiMA’s alliances with the Computer and Communications Industry Association and the Consumer Electronics Association.  Here’s the panel at a recent “invitation only” DiMA “Congressional seminar” on Capitol Hill:Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 3.23.11 PM

Expect to see the IRFA alliance reanimated to oppose us in litigation and especially in lobbying.  And remember–friends don’t let friends get IRFA’d.

3.  Crony Capitalist Lobbying:  I would expect to see Pandora and Sirius trot out the old standbys of “platform parity” and “full federalization” seasoned with incantations of “innovation” and “don’t break the [FILL IN BLANK]“.  It likely will be phrased like this:  “We would be happy to pay if all platforms were treated the same to preserve innovation and consumer choice.” (It’s unlikely that any royalty payment increase will be passed on to consumers.) In the case of the Turtles, this will mean that broadcast radio has to pay for pre-72 on terrestrial.  These statements will be greeted by tech industry lobbyists and publications as though someone had presented some self-evident wisdom.  Google Shill Listers will likely trumpet this as an issue of fundamental fairness, don’t break the [FILL IN BLANK] yadda yadda.  Or perhaps in the positive as in “Break the free market”, the DIMA mantra.  A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY AS WE KNOW IT.

Because it’s so fair to take advantage of a self-defined loophole that at least one judge thinks is a mirage.  And it’s so democratic to lobby your way to commercial advantage.  (So I don’t want to hear a peep from any of these people about Citizens United or campaign finance reform.)

You can also expect to see the combined lobbying brainpower of companies with over a trillion dollars in market value introduce legislation written by their lobbyists that will compete with the Internet Radio Fairness Act for cruelty.  This may well be an amendment to the RESPECT Act that will effectively gut it under the guise of “platform parity” or “full federalization”.

Understand what “full federalization” means.  Pandora has been saying they’d support the RESPECT Act if it only provided for “full federalization” of pre-72 recordings.  What that means is that Pandora wants the federal government to preempt any state law sound recording copyright protection.  This would effectively “federalize” and gut state law so that all the federal defenses to copyright infringement would be available.  Companies like Google would love that to no end.  This is because Google does not get DMCA safe harbors on pre-72 recordings (I predict this is the next big artist lawsuit).  How this helps Pandora, I don’t quite see, but then Google’s Doubleclick handles all their advertising–that is, controls their revenue–so go figure.

Dima Panel

So when you hear “full federalization” think “fully formed opportunity to screw you over”.  They will pass this off as supporting artist rights, by which they mean the “termination rights”–the rights of authors to terminate transfers and licenses established under the 1976 revision of the U.S. Copyright Act.  (Specifically pursuant to Sections 203 and 304(c) for those who are reading along.)  They won’t tell you that most recording artists will have a tough time qualifying for termination rights for a host of reasons starting with work for hire, the termination applies in the US only, and a few other things.  Like they’ve never met an artist right they didn’t want to gut.  Not that it’s not worth dealing with the termination issue for pre-72 at some point–it is.  It’s just not worth giving up all the compensation rights for 50 years or so of recorded music in order to maybe get a handful of those artists covered.  That issue can be dealt with in regular order and separately.

In other words–pre72 artists don’t have a termination right now, but they do have a right to be compensated.  Like the bully in the playground stealing your lunch money, they want you to feel like they really do have your nutritional interests at heart if you’d just lick their boots clean.

Also known as ice in winter.  Because whatever it is that Pandora and Sirius choose to do, we know from past performance it will not be the right thing to do.

So fasten your seat belts, kids, it’s going to be a bumpy night.

Register in September. Vote in November.

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Hold On, I’m Coming: Reactions to the Turtles/Sirius Ruling on Unlicensed Use of Pre-72 Recordings #respectallmusic

September 24, 2014 3 comments

Reactions to the Turtles crushing defeat of Sirius are coming in, here are a few:

Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave) said it best:

Winners never quit and quitters never win.  The recording artists of the pre-72 era are winners and we are not quitting until it’s all made right for every single one of us.

It’s a good day for artists, musicians, songwriters and labels whose life’s work was infringed by Sirius.

Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield):

“Today we are one step closer to pre-1972 music creators receiving fair pay. The ruling against Sirius XM for playing, but not paying Flo & Eddie (aka The Turtles), is a victory in music licensing history.”

T Bone Burnett:

“It is good that a federal judge made clear that online and mobile music services that have pre- 1972 recordings on their playlists should pay the artists who created these recordings. This decision puts in high relief how arbitrary the idea of 1972 is as a dividing line. If Aretha Franklin is driving listeners to a digital music service, she should share in the revenue that is generated.”

The incomparable Martha Reeves:

“This music is our legacy, and we are grateful that the court in California has acknowledged that artists have the right to be compensated when it is used by digital radio services.”

And Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad:

“The Court’s ruling in favor of the Turtles makes it clear that all recordings are worthy of protection.  It’s a matter of simple fairness and I am delighted that legacy artists are being heard by our justice system. Thanks to the Turtles for bringing this issue front and center.  Now more than ever it’s clear that Congress should pass the RESPECT Act, which clearly and fairly makes sure that ALL artists are treated fairly by digital radio.”

Earlier this year, SoundExchange joined with a coalition of artists in launching Project72, a campaign to ensure fair compensation for those who recorded music before 1972 and in support of H.R. 4772, the RESPECT Act. We’ve discussed Project 72 and the RESPECT Act previously on MTP:

Mike Huppe, CEO of SoundExchange:

“This decision in California confirms what we have always known: all sound recordings have value, and all artists deserve to be paid fairly for the use of their music. It does not – and should not — matter whether those recordings are protected by state or federal law.

While we are thrilled with the Turtles’ legal victory, it’s unfortunate that artists and labels were forced to pursue litigation just to receive fair payment for their art. Legacy artists like the Turtles built the foundation of music today – music that helps Sirius XM make billions of dollars a year – and it is outrageous that some digital radio services believe they can use the music of legacy artists for free.

It is clear now more than ever that Congress should quickly move to pass the RESPECT Act.  The bill, introduced by Representatives George Holding (R-NC) and John Conyers (D-MI), would require digital radio services to pay royalties to pre-1972 artists when their music is played. The RESPECT Act would also give Sirius XM, Pandora, and other services an easy and efficient way to get the rights that the federal court in the Turtles case has confirmed they need – and to give the artists the payment they deserve.”

It’s as well to remember an important passage from the Copyright Office’s report on pre-72 sound recordings:

The [Copyright] Office thinks it is unreasonable for the age of a sound recording to dictate whether royalties are paid on public performances by means of digital audio transmissions, so long as copyright subsists in that sound recording.

Looks like the Turtles made that so.

#IRespectMusic: California Court Rules for The Turtles, Deals Crushing Blow to Sirius in Victory for Artist Rights on pre-72

September 23, 2014 3 comments

Score Round One for the Duke, the Count and Satchmo–Flo & Eddie pka The Turtles have won a crushing victory over Sirius XM requiring Sirius to license and pay royalties for Flo & Eddie’s recordings published before 1972.  Sirius had taken the position that because the Congress did not expressly include pre-1972 recordings when it established the performance right for sound recordings in 1995, Sirius did not have to pay royalties on pre-72 recordings it used on its service.  This is a position held by Pandora and the Digital Media Association which includes Google among its membership.  More about that later.

The case was brilliantly argued for Flo & Eddie by Henry Gradstein and Harvey Geller, two long time artist advocates (the firm is also representing Aimee Mann in her lawsuit against MediaNet).  The theory is actually very simple, even biblical–thou shalt not steal.  But then I’m an Old Testament kind of guy.

However, the case is based on a complex set of legal principles that need to be mastered and presented just so in order to prevail.  Because Flo & Eddie managed to get back ownership of their masters years ago, they were able to bring the case themselves without any record company involvement.  (After the artists led the way, the major labels also sued Sirius.)  And Gradstein and Geller made a very effective and compelling argument to the Court that resulted in victory, a victory that will be available to artists and copyright owners everywhere seeking to correct the “Pandora loophole.”

Not only will this defeat for Sirius, Pandora and DiMA be encouraging to artists wishing to take action, it also provides what must be a tremendous sense of satisfaction to the sponsors of the RESPECT Act (HR 4772), introduced by Rep. George Holding and Rep. John Conyers.  The cosponsors are a bipartisan group seeking to right the wrong of the Pandora loophole: Reps. Coble, Blackburn, Chu, Cooper, Deutch, Gohmert, Jeffries, Peterson, Rangel, Lowenthal, Collins, Rooney and Fincher.

The Pandora loophole is an effort to justify denying artists their right to satellite radio and webcasting royalties by playing with dates.  Those dates are 1972, 1995 and 1998.  (In Flo and Eddie’s California case, another date was 1982.)  1972 is important because that was the first year that Congress extended the federal copyright law to sound recordings.  Before 1972, sound recordings are governed by state common law, sometimes included statutes as is the case in California that has an extensive state copyright act directly on point as one might expect.  1995 is important because that was the year that Congress established a limited public performance right in sound recordings transmitted digitally (including satellite radio and webcasting) and 1998 is important because that was the year that Congress fleshed out the law that established the compulsory license under Section 114(g), the royalty rate setting and put the finishing touches on establishing SoundExchange.

The Pandora loophole is some version of this argument:  Because state law applies to pre-72 sound recordings and because Congress did not intend to extend the performance right to sound recordings in 1995, pre-72 artists and copyright owners (as well as the non featured singers and musicians) get none of the royalties established in 1998 under the compulsory license.  But here’s the truly weird part:  Sirius rejected the safety of the compulsory license established in 1998 to commercialize the limited performance rights established in 1995 in favor of no license at all under state law.

Yes, that’s right:  Grown men thought this was a good idea.

The case boils down to a very simple concept:  California has a carefully crafted state copyright law that the Court ruled includes the public performance right (and does not exclude it):

The Court finds that copyright ownership of a sound recording under § 980(a)(2) [the California copyright statute] includes the exclusive right to publicly perform that recording. See Cal. Civ. Code § 980(a)(2).  Accordingly, the Court GRANTS summary judgment on copyright infringement in violation of §980(a)(2) in favor of Flo & Eddie.

The point–and one made recently by David Lowery–is that there is no language in either the California state law or in the 1995 amendment to the federal Copyright Law that excludes public performance royalties for pre72 recordings.  So the RESPECT Act can be thought of as almost a technical amendment to fix this Pandora loophole.

Neither Pandora nor Sirius exactly trumpet to their users the fact that these companies are using the pre-72 recordings in multiple channels to their profit–but none of the fees paid by fans ever gets to the artists.  Pandora even misappropriates the artist’s name in the music genome and uses association with artists by name in order to sell their service–and that’s not covered by the compulsory license, either.  (And neither is the derivative work created by the music genome–but that’s another lawsuit.)

So you have to ask yourself–what were they thinking?  Wouldn’t it have been better if Sirius really wanted to stiff old guys and dead cats that they paid the royalties and sought declaratory relief before cutting off America’s musical treasures?

Pandora and Sirius have a chance now to openly reject the bad advice they got (apparently from DiMA) and start paying on pre-72 IMMEDIATELY.  Throw their support behind the RESPECT Act.  Disassociate themselves from DiMA, CCIA, CES or whoever is giving them this horrible advice that it’s worth the downside liability risk and yet more bad PR to “save” a few bucks and stiff Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Neil Young and so many greats who are responsible for putting American music on the map.

But if past behavior is any prediction of future action, they won’t.  You get into these scrapes by being pig-headed, and you can’t waive a magic wand and make a pig into something else.  You can fire them, however.

And when Wall Street gets a load of the level of liability that these companies have taken on without a care in the world, the reaction will be interesting.

Apparently Pandora’s CFO would like Pandora to be a better partner to artists.  That’s easy.

All he has to do is act like it.

 Register in September.  Vote in November.

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More Nondenial Denials from Google, the “Platform for Piracy”

September 21, 2014 Leave a comment

Used to worry about the starving children of India
You know what I say about the starving children of India?
I say, “Oh mama”
It’s money that I love

It’s Money That I Love by Randy Newman

As noted last week, News Corp sent a letter to the competition authority for the European Union that is currently investigating Google for a host of violations.  Not surprisingly–and I mean that cynically–Google has been given extraordinary latitude by the outgoing competition oversight chief in Brussels.  Google is now on the fourth iteration of its own settlement agreement with the EU, an agreement that allows Google to write its own deal.  Ultimately that deal has to be approved by the European Commission, but no one–no one–has ever been allowed as much latitude as has been afforded Google in this investigation.

This kid gloves treatment has brought howls of complaints from consumer groups, small business, big business, and especially from content creators and producers.  The latest is from News Corp, whose CEO called even more attention to Google’s crony treatment by the European Commission (according to the BBC):

The chief executive of NewsCorp has written to the European Commission calling for a tougher approach to search giant Google.

In the strongly worded letter, Robert Thomson says “the shining vision of Google’s founders has been replaced by a cynical management”.
It calls Google a “platform for piracy” whose power “increases with each passing day”.

I believe that NewsCorp was the first to bring up Google’s profit from piracy.  When coupled with Google’s dominant position in the search business, it’s pretty easy to see the benefit to Google from supporting pirate sites through its Adsense and Doubleclick advertising business.

Google’s response?  First, the company issued a statement to Business Insider that the website called a “bizarre hamster statement” that played on a headline from The Sun (a NewsCorp tabloid):

Phew! What a scorcher! Murdoch accuses Google of eating his hamster!

While we were trying to figure that one out, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric “Uncle Sugar” Schmidt that was more of a point by point response to NewsCorp–ish.

Guess which point that NewsCorp brought up that Uncle Sugar glossed right over?  That’s right.  They way they use piracy to drive down music and movie industry revenue to weaken the only speed bumps on the Road to Commodity-dom.

With Google’s usual sanctimony, Uncle Sugar told us that Google really is better than all of us.  In his denial that Google favors its own products in search (as former Googler Marissa Meyer expressly stated it did), Schmidt said this:

 We show the results at the top that answer the user’s queries directly (after all we built Google for users, not websites).

Actually, Google built Google for the money.  Google sold ads for illegal pharmacies for the money.  Google sells ads for jihadi recruiting videos on YouTube for the money.  Google sold ads for counterfeit Olympics tickets for the money.  Google sells ads on pirate sites for the money.

This is likely why Eric Schmidt fails to mention any of this, and particularly NewsCorp’s “platform for piracy” allegation.  Schmidt just ignores it.  Schmidt simply recites Google’s standard response to selected criticism, but Schmidt does not answer the question that he can’t answer the way he wants to.

Take the jihadi recruitment videos, for example.  According to The Guardian, Google won’t even use the tools it has to take down Isis videos–that Google monetizes:

Content ID is used to spot people uploading copyrighted songs, for example, and to ensure the copyright holder gets some repayment. Could content ID be used on the Isis video? Apparently so – but Google is reluctant to because of the “news/education” exceptions. However, that wouldn’t prevent it from flagging such content and running it through pre-moderation.

So why doesn’t Google do that? “We just don’t,” says a source. Even so, given the success that the record industry has had in getting content ID, the Home Office might find it a fruitful discussion.

But if you can’t find Isis’s would-be recruitment video on YouTube, you could find its 3’10” (preceded by a 30-second pre-roll advert) in the middle of a Daily Mail story – explaining that there was “outrage” that the film was still available on YouTube.

youtube-logo-parody

Google is a platform for piracy and YouTube is packed with vileness that would never see the light of day on television such as television programs produced and broadcast by NewsCorp among others.  Schmidt knows it, and he’s condoning the biggest income transfer of all time–for the money.  And both Schmidt’s post and Google’s bizarre hamster comment are what are known as “nondenial denials.”

There are a few other people who made this mistake.  There’s this guy:

 And this guy:

Not to forget this one:

And then there’s her:

ee859-martha-stewart-jail-criminal

Sooooo…

He’s not really fooling anyone.

google protesters

A Teachable Moment: Google’s Insulting Reply to News Corp Tells the New Regime in Brussels What It Needs to Know

September 19, 2014 Leave a comment

As MTP readers will recall, Google is locked in the proverbial death struggle with the European Commission over antitrust complaints of Google’s anticompetitive behavior.  Those complaints resulted in an antitrust investigation going back several years.  For Google, winning that investigation would look like palming off as real change some ice in winter changes to their business practices as part of a bureaucratic charm offensive.  That charm offensive resulted in the embarrassing image of Eric “Uncle Sugar” Schmidt cozying up to his new BFF the Competition Commissioner of the European Commission, Joaquín Almunia.

Commissioner Almunia gave Google not one, not two, but an unprecedented three opportunities to negotiate a settlement on Google’s own terms–and Google is desperately trying for a fourth before Mr. Almunia’s term expires in October, and yes I do expect an October surprise from Mr. Almunia.  Every time Google got a chance to renegotiate rather than getting fined or sued by the European Commission, two things happened:  The deal looked shadier and shadier to a wider and wider group of consumers, small business and competitors, and the clock was ticking on Commissioner Almunia’s term in office–a term that ends in October with a new commissioner replacing him in November.

Not only is it ever more apparent, and embarrassingly so, that Mr. Almunia ain’t exactly a steely eyed missile man, he’s been put in the very awkward position of looking like he’s been conned just as the clock runs out.  That almost surely means that Google will not only have to start over again with Almunia’s successor, but will also put the successor on guard for the buddy act from Uncle Sugar and Google’s other smarmy lobbyists–who are legion.  Not only does Google risk a $5 billion fine, the US multinational behemoth is looking at lots of other regulatory oversight.

And the contours of that oversight have yet to be determined because Mr. Almunia was so distracted by Schmidt.  What’s happened during Mr. Almunia’s investigation may yet inform the next competition commissioner’s investigation and rulings.

The Piracy Platform

As Complete Music Update observes:

Google is increasingly seen as a big enabler of piracy by the copyright industries, for failing to de-list blatantly copyright infringing websites from its search results, even when courts have ordered said websites be blocked on infringement grounds. And on launching her organisation’s ‘Measuring Music’ report yesterday, UK Music boss Jo Dipple noted that a top priority for the industry’s lobbyists is getting “help to ensure the many legal music services we licence are given priority in online search results”.

By using its dominant search engine to drive traffic to pirate sites (many of which publish advertising served by Google’s advertising shops Adsense and DoubleClick), Google is arguably able to drive down pricing for its legitimate music services because the alternative is zero.  Ask yourself how many times you’ve heard someone say that YouTube’s abysmal royalty is “better than nothing”, meaning better than being ripped off.

News Corp’s CEO Robert Thompson wrote a complaint to Mr. Almunia regarding Google’s position in the piracy food chain among other things.  This letter is particularly compelling because of a few factors.  Just as Mr. Almunia’s investigation into Google was really falling apart a few months ago, YouTube launched its attack against indie labels resulting in IMPALA filing a complaint against YouTube with the EU–that is, Mr. Almunia–regarding YouTube’s cartoon-like treatment of indie labels.  While the timing of the IMPALA complaint was outside of Mr. Almunia’s investigation of Google, it merits an investigation of its own.  This is why YouTube was being particularly idiotic, even for them.  It is hard to explain why YouTube’s senior executive team thought that this was a good plan except for the usual reason.  Blood lust for beating up the weaker kid blinded them from seeing that the weaker kid was about to land a haymaker.

But that’s almost too easy an explanation, however accurate.  There must have been something else, we’re just all failing to see what it was.  Just not smart enough, you know how it is.

Mr. Thompson made a couple key points about Google from the point of view of News Corp as a content creator.  What’s interesting about that is how it connects the current investigation to Google’s profit from piracy and use of piracy as a competitive advantage that allows it to dominate online music search, including video search with YouTube.  Even Fred “Shred ‘Em if You Got “Em” Von Lohman will have a hard time spinning this one.

Mr. Thompson said:

“A company that boasts about its ability to track traffic chooses to ignore the unlawful and unsavoury content that surfaces after the simplest of searches. Google has been remarkably successful in its ability to monetize users, but has not shown the willingness, even though it clearly has the ability, to respect fundamental property rights.”

“The internet should be a canvas for freedom of expression and for high-quality content of enduring value. Undermining the basic business model of professional content creators will lead to a less informed, more vexatious level of dialogue in our society. Your decision to reconsider Google’s settlement offer comes at a crucial moment in the history of the free flow of information and of a healthy media in Europe and beyond”.

We’ve had Google’s sunshine blown up our skirts for over a decade and as Mr. Thomson suggests it just doesn’t explain this:

Goog Transparency

And it also doesn’t explain why Google doesn’t comply with the many promises it has broken to creators, producing results like this:

myfreemp3

As Complete Music Update said:

Thomson’s letter confirms that Murdoch’s newspaper and book empire is an ally of those in the music business who reckon that Google – while on one level a partner and revenue generator – is also an enemy of the content industries. And while Thomson’s specific focus is the allegedly anti-competitive business practices rather than the intellectual property issues usually raised by the labels, firstly it’s anti-competitive behaviour being alleged by the indie label community against Google in the ongoing YouTube dispute, and secondly Thomson makes sure Almunia is also aware of the copyright concerns in his letter too.

The Teachable Moment

The unlikely allies of IMPALA and News Corp can help the new competition commissioner understand that they have identified the real hook for the next investigation of the competition commission–not only does Google profit from piracy and lie about it, Google uses piracy to give their own products a competitive advantage.  There are an increasing number of studies showing a link between search and piracy–the most recent from Professors Sivan, Smith and Telang, Do Search Engines Influence Media Piracy?  (extending the work of Professors Danaher, Smith, Telang and Chen.) There’s very little difference between the anticompetitive practices for which Google was investigated by the EU over the last several years and those that they employ daily to drive traffic to pirate sites.  Traffic that profits Google’s advertising sales while driving royalty prices lower because of both their market dominance (such as with YouTube) and the “it’s better than nothing” hopelessness Google engenders with its defective search policies that it could change overnight, but won’t.

Google’s Nondenial Denial

How does Google respond to News Corp?  The Guardian reports:

Google chose to use language the Sun would understand in response toNews Corp’s complaint to the European Commission that it was a “platform for piracy”. In one of the less likely corporate responses of recent years, Google issued the following statement: “Phew what a scorcher! Murdoch accuses Google of eating his hamster.” And that was that, Google deciding an homage to the paper’s famous Freddie Starr front page was more effective than a point-by-point rebuttal of News Corp chief executive’s Robert Thomson’s complaint. Google fans (and otherwise) keen to explore the issues further were pointed to a recent blogpost by its executive chairman Eric Schmidt. No word yet on whether News Corp will respond in kind. “Up yours, Google” maybe? Or “Will the last person not to use Google as a search engine please turn off their computer?”

This is what is called a nondenial denial that could have been written by one of the sophomoric Google fanboys.  (In fact, it would not surprise me if that were literally true.)

It’s still a nondenial denial, but it tells you that Google doesn’t give a rats patootie about the consequences of its role in promoting piracy to its own advantage, doesn’t respect the EU investigation and really does not care about creators.

It also doesn’t really care much about governments, either.  And when it comes to individual creators struggling against a gigantic American multinational media empire–like Google–we all need the government to do its part to protect creators and consumers from these rogue companies profiting from outright theft in the biggest income transfer of all time.

News Corp Opposed Google’s European Commission Settlement Offer; Welcomed Competition Commission Reconsideration

September 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Chris Castle:

Regardless of how you feel about News Corp, it helps when they take the side of creators against Google. I think you’ll find this letter to the European Commission very insightful for creators struggling against the Google Leviathan.

Originally posted on News Corp:

News Corp Opposed Google’s European Commission Settlement Offer; Welcomed Competition Commission Reconsideration

In letter to Competition Commissioner last week, Chief Executive Robert Thomson Said Google “…willing to exploit its dominant market position to stifle competition.”

New York (September 17, 2014) – Early last week, in a letter to European Commissioner for Competition Joaquín Almunia, News Corp Chief Executive Robert Thomson opposed Google’s settlement offer with the European Commission, saying the internet giant is “willing to exploit its dominant market position to stifle competition.”

Mr. Thomson said News Corp also opposed the proposed five year term of a settlement, noting that “five years is an eternity in internet time.”

Citing Google’s “egregious aggregation” of content, Mr. Thomson said that, along with serious commercial damage, there is a “profound social cost” to Google’s actions.  “The internet should be a canvas for freedom of expression and for high quality content of enduring…

View original 1,260 more words

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