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The Future for Television or Google Wants to Burn Your Remote: More Google Union-Busting

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Chris Castle:

How little has changed…

Originally posted on MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY:

Google Backed Net Coalition’s Anti-Union Dirty Tricks Campaign

Google’s Attack on Unions Means the United Message is Working

This flyer was circulated by the Net Coalition lobby shop in Washington recently.  As you will see it clearly refers to a “host of union thugs” who had the temerity to oppose Net Coalition backer Google and other giant consumer electronics companies.  Who is in the “host of union thugs”?  The American Federation of Musicians, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Directors Guild of America, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and the Screen Actors Guild.  (Net Coalition is the astroturf lobby group managed by well-known Washington lobbyist  Markham Erickson. Net Coalition includes Google and Wikipedia, and a big sponsor of Politico, home to many Google apologists.  To be complete, when they were caught with this flyer, Net Coalition blamed someone who worked for them instead of manning up.)

Union bashing…

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Did Google Flacks Use A Journalist’s Glass to Try Censoring the News?

April 20, 2014 Comments off

Matt Labash is one of the great journalists writing today.  His extraordinarily insightful piece, Through A Google Glass, Darkly is yet another example of why the guy should write a longread.  (You know, a book.)

Labash documents his initial experience with Google Glass as a “Glass Explorer” and it is both funny and sad which of course makes the funny parts even funnier and the insightful parts even more meaningful, kind of like Studs Terkel meets H.L. Mencken in a movie based on a William Gibson novel directed by Stanley Kubrick.

But–and no MTP reader will be surprised by this–the part of Labash’s piece that really caught my eye was this encounter with a Google flack:

Weirdly, my own trust rating already seems to have taken a hit with Google. In the middle of reporting this piece, I get an unsolicited email from Chris Dale, who heads Glass’s communications shop. He says he “heard through the grapevine” I was working on a story, and would love to help out. Fair enough. I’ve had proactive flacks do that before. But a week later, when I email him to ask some anodyne questions about the mechanics of the Explorer program, he expresses concern.

His concern is “that some folks who ran into you while you were wearing Glass out in public remarked that they felt you were being obnoxious and confrontational and a little evasive in terms of who you were and what outlet you were representing.” Strange. I thought nearly all of my interviews were friendly. And even if I partially played the role of the Glasshole, I nearly always let people know who I am and what I was up to. But even if I didn’t​—​how does he know? I didn’t speak with anyone in the field who worked for Google. Who would go through the trouble of tracking down some flack in Mountain View, Calif., to report me? And anyone to whom I was being even marginally “confrontational” likely would have seen it that way because I’d sometimes argue on behalf of their privacy, even as they seemed perfectly willing to abdicate it.

Like a principal summoning a wayward student to the office, Dale, who in addition to heading Glass’s communications outfit seems to think he’s my editor, asks me to call him. I pass, telling him I’d just as soon keep our exchange in print, so I have a clear record of what gets said. After disabusing him of whatever he is “hearing second-hand” (his words) and explaining my reporting style, I ask him six more questions about Glass. But not before telling him I’d also love to hear who his “mysterious second-hand informer” is, while he should keep in mind that “I likely have better documentation of what was said than they do.” Unless, that is, Google has hacked my Glass. Have they? No, they wouldn’t do that. Especially not after two researchers at Cal Poly came up with an app that would allow others to hijack your camera, just to see if they could. That seemed to displease Google, so I don’t think Google would do that, I jab (sending Dale a link to the Cal Poly story).

But the truth is, Google wouldn’t have had to hack my camera. Could they have seen a testy interview that I taped on Glass? Wouldn’t they have access to that data, the same way they have access to my Gmail account, to my search requests, to God knows what else? Were they spying on me? All interesting questions. But it doesn’t look like I’ll ever know the answer. Even weeks later, Dale hasn’t responded. [Emphasis mine.]

Well…you know what I think.

Here’s a trick I learned from a friend who uses Google Voice with an Android phone.  Say “Machu Picchu” about 10 times while wearing Glass.  Then log into your Google account on your laptop and time how long it takes before travel ads for Peru start showing up.

I want to wish all those Glassholes happy exploring.

And remember: If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

The Ethics of the Unethical Google Glass: @stopthecyborgs Makes A Great Argument for Ethics Class at Computer School

April 18, 2014 1 comment

If you do a review of computer science and electrical engineering classes at leading universities, you will find many interesting classes.  One you will not find is the ethics of technology.

We are now told that “wearables” are inevitable and if you question the ethics of products like Google Glass, you get the usual epithet that’s soooo 1999:  “Luddite” or the trendier “Neoluddite”.  This line of thinking is based on a long, uninterrupted training that utterly fails to question itself that can be summed up as “the technology made me do it” or “if it can be done, it ought to be done.”

In a thoughtful Salon article,  “The Bay is burning!  Google Glass, techno-rage and the battle for San Francisco’s soul,”  Andrew Leonard addresses the ethics of technology.  If you’ve seen the “Stop the Cyborgs” stickers around and about posted by restaurants, bars and stores letting the public know that Google Glass is not welcome in their establishments, you’ll have seen manifestations of the “techno-rage” that accompanies Glass in particular (hence the pejorative “Glasshole”) and at least in San Francisco, Google in general.

Leonard’s article includes his interview with a member of Stop the Cyborgs who sums it up:

I contacted StopTheCyborgs by email and asked them how they responded to being called “neoluddites.”

“If ‘neoluddism’ means blindly being anti-technology then we refute the charge,” said Jack Winters, who described himself as a Scala and Java developer. If ‘neoluddism’ means not being blindly pro-technology then guilty as charged.”

“We are technologically sophisticated enough to realize that technology is politics and code is law,” continued Winters. “Technology isn’t some external force of nature. It is created and used by people. It has an effect on power relations. It can be good, it can be bad. We can choose what kind of society we want rather than passively accepting that ‘the future’ is whatever data-mining corporations want.”

“Basically anyone who views critics of particular technologies as ‘luddites’ fundamentally misunderstands what technology is. There is no such thing as ‘technology.’ Rather there are specific technologies, produced by specific economic and political actors, and deployed in specific economic and social contexts. You can be anti-nukes without being anti-antibiotics. You can be pro-surveillance of powerful institutions without being pro-surveillance of individual people. You can work on machine vision for medical applications while campaigning against the use of the same technology for automatically identifying and tracking people. How? Because you take a moral view of the likely consequences of a technology in a particular context.” [Emphasis added.]

And this is exactly the point:  How is it that Google made Glass without taking safeguards into account–or perhaps not making it at all.  Because someone else will so why shouldn’t Google make the money?

Pretty much.

That is also pretty much what all of Google’s problems boil down to–they could have made a choice not to get down into the muck of the Internet but they didn’t.  The kind of thinking that drove them to produce a device whose very purpose is to surveil, that appeals to the voyeur, that clearly endangers the public as much as texting and driving.  The kind of thinking that allows them to justify selling advertising for illegal products and keeping the money, promoting the sale of illegal drugs to children and being the leading inducer of piracy in the known universe.  Building YouTube so that they can’t keep the rape videos off of it or the “how to shoot heroin” lessons.

Or using $500,000,000 of the stockholders money to keep their senior executive team out of jail.

They did not ask themselves whether they ought to do something that technology enabled them to do.

Everyone has a voice in their head that is the voice of their mother, father, priest or rabbi, teacher, sergeant or chief petty officer–that’s the voice that tells you “Don’t do that because it is wrong.”  It is this voice in your head that keeps society together.  Not the police and not the prosecutors.  The law derives from this voice, not the other way around.  This voice is the shared values of thousands of years of human moral development.  That voice doesn’t give you a pass on the consequences of a machine you build whether it is a Ford Pinto, a search engine or a “wearable”.  That’s what the Luddites were largely about.  And it would be nice if universities taught the ethics of technology before they turned these people loose on the world.

In the irony of ironies, Bill Gates is on the team that recently filed a patent for an “UNAUTHORIZED VIEWER DETECTION SYSTEM AND METHOD”:

ABSTRACT

A system for detecting and responding to an intruding camera. The system includes an electronic media display device having a screen configured to display content, a sensor, and a processing circuit. The processing circuit is configured to obtain information from the sensor, analyze the information to determine a presence of a camera, and edit any displayed content in response to the presence of the camera.

In other words, Neoglass.

YouTube Still Serving Ads on Hate Rock Videos.

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Originally posted on The Trichordist:

In the wake of the Jewish Community center shootings Sunday we would just like to remind everyone that YouTube/Google is still serving ads on hate rock and neo nazi videos.  Maybe there is a case for free speech here, but there is no excuse for profiting from this garbage.

Also many of these video channels are actively engaged in recruiting members for hate groups.    You can verify this yourself.   Here is a list of Hate Rock bands compiled by the ADL.  Search Youtube for these bands videos and then look at what is going on in the comments.

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If Google Can Successfully Lobby the FTC on Antitrust, Just Think What They Think They Can Do To Us

April 15, 2014 Comments off
“You asked me if I am in the Meth Business or the Money Business. It’s neither. I am in the Empire Business.” – Walter White – See more at: http://www.top-ten.tv/usa-tv-series/top-ten-best-quotes-from-breaking-bad/#sthash.4sE4yQ5b.dpuf
“You asked me if I am in the Meth Business or the Money Business. It’s neither. I am in the Empire Business.” – Walter White – See more at: http://www.top-ten.tv/usa-tv-series/top-ten-best-quotes-from-breaking-bad/#sthash.4sE4yQ5b.dpuf

You asked me if I am in the meth business or the money business.  It’s neither.  I am in the empire business.

Walter White, Breaking Bad

Right after Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post last year, Timothy B. Lee joined the Dot Com version of the venerable paper to write a blog called The Switch.  Almost immediately, Mr. Lee got into hot water with the Columbia Journalism Review for failing to disclose conflicts of interest in a blog post promoting the views of Google as expressed by Jerry Brito of the Google-funded Cato Institute.

The Columbia Journalism Review immediately posted a story on Mr. Lee that called attention to a few major holes in Mr. Lee’s “story”, holes that Mr. Lee could have himself caught had he engaged in a practice called “fact checking”, well-known to the pre-Bezos Washington Post.

In its front page story from the Sunday edition, the Washington Post redeemed itself from Mr. Lee’s Google+ Hangout (aka the ash heap of history).  Yes, while the Post‘s feature story, “Google, once disdainful of lobbying, now a master of Washington influence” by Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold, restores faith that the Post wishes to distinguish itself once again with hard hitting reporting on the latest attack on the Republic if not democracy itself. The Cato Institute–a bastion of democracy, just ask them–seems to have sucked down the Koolaid and asked for more.  According to the Post:

Cato was not always in sync with Google’s policy agenda. In previous years, the think tank’s bloggers and scholars had been sharply critical of the company’s support for government rules limiting the ways providers such as Comcast and Verizon could charge for Internet services….[But] like many institutions in Washington, Cato has since found common ground with Google.

And the think tank has benefited from the company’s investments, receiving $480,000 worth of in-kind “ad words” from Google last year, according to people familiar with the donation.

And the thing about the “in-kind” donations of Adwords to Cato or, oh, say a political campaign–Bitcoin is easier to trace.

While one must pity the young journalists who work on The Switch with Mr. Lee and hope that they have not been metastasized themselves, the Post seems to have made an editorial decision to redeem itself after Mr. Lee got such an early start on tarnishing its reputation.  So we can all breathe a little easier–until Bezos fires the current editors and puts the like of Mr. Lee in charge.  The over under is 24 months in–you know–Internet time.

But in order to fully grasp the implications for artists of the Post‘s story of Google’s massive influence peddling, a quick review of some highlights from the recent past is in order.  And where better to begin than with the nasty case of Google drugs–the closest that Google has come to completely unraveling.

The Old News, or Walter White Goes to Washington

Yes, Google is a lot more like the Breaking Bad story line than you might think.  It’s no news that Google got a wake up call after it was investigated for selling ads for illegal drugs and had to pay $500,000,000 of the stockholders’ money to keep its executive team (then including Sheryl Sandberg) from being indicted for violating the Controlled Substances Act.  The largest fine in U.S. corporate history, it was still cheap at the price for the magnitude of the crime Google had gleefully committed based on the available evidence and to which the company admitted in its nonprosecution agreement.  (See Wired, How a Career Con Man Led a Federal Sting that Cost Google $500 Million.)

This case was a very near miss, and resulted in a substantial grand jury investigation during which Google produced over 4,000,000 documents–which themselves became an issue in one of the many shareholder suits over how Google was able to use corporate cash to pay a fine more properly paid by their executives in their individual capacity.  Particularly since those executives were accused of crimes that were outside the scope of their authority.  (But since Google is actually run as a closely held organization by the voting power of the executives most prominently accused of crimes, perhaps the easier explanation is that a large part of Google is a racketeer influenced corrupt organization.  You know–RICO.)

This large cash payment was paid shortly before the SOPA burnout.  I have always viewed SOPA in the larger historical context of the drug payment.  Ask yourself–who do you think is running the sites that Google sold advertising for that got it into the sights of the Food & Drug Administration, the Bush Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation?  Probably the same people that Interpol investigates in its Operation Pangea.  These are not misguided college kids selling Ambien hits from their mom’s medicine cabinet.

But in the course of the shareholder suit, something happened that confirmed what many believed, but that foreshadowed the extent of the disclosures in the Washington Post.  The Wall Street Journal raised a question based on a statement made by Google’s lawyer Boris Feldman in open court (“Did DOJ Apologize to Google for US Attorney’s Comments?”):

“The U.S. attorney in Rhode Island went off the reservation and gave a long interview about all the evidence [a reference to the 4,000,000 documents that Google produced in the grand jury proceeding] and why it was he was so excited about the case,” lawyer Boris Feldman told the judge at a Delaware state court. “It ended up being so far off the reservation that the Justice Department apologized to Google for it and muzzled him.”

Given what the Post tells us about Google’s cozy relationship with law enforcement agencies, it is entirely believable that the Justice Department would have apologized to Google for one of the US Attorneys having the brass to actually prosecute Google for anything that ended up in any kind of meaningful punishment for Google.  However, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Justice Department (i.e., “main Justice” in Washington) denied apologizing:

Maybe the Justice Department apologized on his behalf? “We did not apologize,” a department spokeswoman said.

And the reaction from Rhode Island (which kept about half of the $500,000,000 to offset law enforcement costs in the state)?

“The U.S. attorney has never issued apologies to anyone in this matter,” a spokesman said. “As far as the suggestion that the U.S. attorney has been ‘muzzled,’ I can only point to the fact that we recently held a widely attended press conference” at which he answered media questions about the case.

For its part, Google declined to comment, saying: “Google does not comment on its discussions with regulators.”

I bet they don’t.  Google didn’t comment on the Washington Post story, either.

Google would have you believe that its interest in Washington came out of fighting against censorship for user rights.  That’s bullshit.  How did Google gloss over its unprecedented $500,000,000 fine for really nasty stuff?  Through political connections, of course.  And if you’ve read the Post story, all of this will sound very familiar to you.

Manipulating the People’s House

Google’s nonprosecution agreement was signed by Google on August 17, 2011.  Given the magnitude of this case and the fine involved, it’s likely that by December 2010 Google had a pretty good idea that they were going to buy their way out of a criminal trial, and perhaps jail time for their senior executives. Before a U.S. Attorney can bring an indictment, particularly against a company that is as well-connected as Google, the U.S. Attorney must send a memo justifying the indictment up the chain to at least the Deputy Attorney General, or more likely in this case, Attorney General Eric Holder (who succeeded Jamie Gorelick in the Clinton Justice Department–Gorelick being the former Deputy Attorney General who has represented Google particularly in Google’s negotiations with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.)

Attorney General Eric Holder presided over a December 14, 2010 meeting at the White House requested by Google during the DOJ’s drug investigation into Google’s bad acts.  What, if anything, did this meeting have to do with the prosecution of Google?  Did the Attorney General find it appropriate to make this statement while at the same time prosecuting Google, a participant in the very White House meeting at which he was speaking?

[W]e successfully prosecuted a defendant who was selling fake cancer medications to patients in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The drugs – which he marketed as a rare, experimental treatment – were manufactured in Canada, but advertised and sold globally over the Internet. With assistance from Canadian and German authorities, this individual was apprehended and extradited to the United States. He is now behind bars and has been sentenced to almost three years in prison.

Given that at the time of the White House meeting (December 14, 2010), Google executives were no doubt close to being criminally prosecuted themselves, don’t you think that news of Google’s prosecution would have been relevant and surprising to participants in the White House meeting?  Particularly since the Attorney General of the United States was giving a speech about the very crimes of which Google was accused, a speech made at a meeting held under the auspices of the President of the United States concerning the very subject of that prosecution?

When the Google plea bargain was announced a few months after the December White House meeting (reported in the Wall Street Journal on May 13, 2011), would it not have been reasonable for the public to be at least a little surprised if not shocked by the Attorney General’s comments or lack thereof?

As CNET reported on May 19, 2011 (six months after the White House meeting at which General Holder spoke):

No one may have been more surprised than Victoria A. Espinel, the U.S. intellectual-property enforcement coordinator. Just six months earlier, Espinel, who’s leading the Obama administration’s efforts to thwart rogue pharmacies, commended Google’s help in the battle at [the December 14] White House meeting.

The December White House meeting was also the occasion to announce the formation of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies.  Again, according to CNET:

There are plenty of others surprised by the news. At that same December meeting at the White House, Google was joined by Microsoft, Yahoo, Go Daddy, and a few other companies in announcing the creation of a nonprofit organization called the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies. The purpose of the group is to share information about illegitimate online pharmacies in order to root them out and shut them down.

“It was a surprise to me because I didn’t know the investigation was going on and because a half a billion dollars is a big number, even for Google,” said Christine Jones, general counsel, executive vice president, and corporate secretary at Go Daddy, the giant domain registration and Web hosting company that spearheaded the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies effort.

The formation of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies is one of Google’s customary defenses to why the company isn’t simply running a RICO-predicate criminal enterprise–and it is a type of ruse that Google uses repeatedly as described in the Post‘s reporting.

As recently as April 19, 2013, John Burchett, one of the legion of revolving door types in Google’s Washington DC in-house lobby shop, cited Google’s participation in the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies in response to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s inquiry into Google’s compliance with the DOJ plea deal.  (See page 13, AG Hood Exhibits.  Burchett joined Google in 2007 (“Google: As Cool as it Seems and More“) just before Eric Schmidt received a prophetic letter from Joseph A. Califano, Jr. warning that Google was inducing the sale of drugs to kids.  Burchett is a board member of Andean Health and Development and is the former Chief of Staff for Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.  Governor Granhom was an Obama campaign debate surrogate you will recall from many, many appearances on Sunday shows during the 2012 presidential campaign.  Before joining the staff of Harvard Law School classmate Granholm, Burchett “worked as a business consultant to governments across the country” including Detroit’s Little Caesar’s.)

Very Googlely.

Getting into the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies industry group apparently was–and continues to be–a very important strategic move for Google.  (Or what good Catholics will recognize as an “indulgence” for their sins.)

It also must have been important to Google that their motives for joining the group be concealed and not tainted by the fact that Google–at the very time they were being deceptively portrayed in the People’s House as one of the good guys–was either being criminally prosecuted by the US Government at the time, or was then currently negotiating a way to pay a $500,000,000 fine with the stockholders’ money and be handed a get out of jail free card by the US Government.

Imagine if instead of having this political plum handed to them on a silver platter inside the People’s House (albeit in the dark and without the knowledge of all–well, nearly all–the participants in the White House meeting) the press instead was all about why Google was allowed to join the group without at least disclosing its own felony prosecution for the very crimes at issue in the meeting.

Now remember–Google’s response to brand sponsored piracy driven by search is to form up with the Internet Advertising Bureau to develop “best practices”.  Best practices that are even more complex and whack a mole than the DMCA notice and shakedown.  And Google has done the same for human trafficking and many other areas of vulnerability for them.

Make no mistake–like Walter White, Google is in the empire business.

The New New Thing and Why This Matters for Artists and the Music Business

Given that Google is both ripping us off through search, jamming us on essentially unauditable royalties on compulsory and direct licenses, and outspending the music, movie, book and probably broadcasters on lobbying money soft and hard, it’s important to understand the kind of people we are dealing with when we are forced to deal with Google.  It’s also important to realize that the people who we think are in our corner may well be taking the king’s shilling–for shilling for the King of the Internet.  Let’s take another look at Timothy Lee’s debut at WaPo (remembering that Lee himself worked for Google until 2010 and gets his own section in the Google shill list.)

Timothy B. Lee debuted his WashingtonPost.com blog with a story that was pure Google–”Hollywood” (whoever that is) brought its piracy problems on itself.  While that may have been true in 1999, it’s really just unadulterated bunk today.  This ridiculous post did not go unnoticed by the Columbia Journalism Review (A Piracy Defense Walks the Plank by Ryan Chittum):

There are many problems with Timothy B. Lee’s Washington Post blog post on Hollywood’s supposed culpability for the theft of its own movies, beginning with the morally unserious jujitsu deployed in arguing that Hollywood is culpable for the theft of its own movies.

The Mercatus- and Cato-connected editor of the Washington Post tech blog that aims “to be indispensable to telecom lobbyists and IT professionals alike, while also being compelling and provocative to the average iPhone-toting commuter” also had a major correction that undermines the entire premise of the piece and reveals its one-sided reporting….

Lee based his argument on bad data from PiracyData.org, which was co-founded by a couple of researchers at the Koch [yes, that Koch]-funded anti-government think tank the Mercatus Center to document whether “people turn to piracy when the movies they want to watch are not available legally.”

Left unmentioned: That Lee himself contributed a chapter to a Mercatus book with the researchers (at least one of whom is his friend) called “Copyright Unbalanced: From Incentive to Excess.” That would have been worth disclosing in the post. Readers would have had more reason to be skeptical….

So what about those additional comments from the MPAA Lee refers to in his correction? This is how his rewritten post now ends (emphasis mine):

But [MPAA comms director Kate] Bedingfield counters that films get heavily pirated even when they’re made available in online formats. “The Walking Dead was pirated 500,000 times within 16 hours despite the fact that it is available to stream for free for the next 27 days on AMC’s website and distributed in 125 countries around the world the day after it aired,” she says. “Our industry is working hard to bring content to audiences when they want it, where they want it, but content theft is a complex problem that requires comprehensive, voluntary solutions from all stakeholders involved.”

Finally, Bedingfield points out that the Mercatus Center counts Google among its funders.

Boom.

The Washington Post now seems to have taken Mr. Chittum’s critique to heart, and provides us with some hard hitting journalism in contrast to whatever it was that Mr. Lee wrote.

In May 2012, the law school at George Mason University hosted a forum billed as a “vibrant discussion” about Internet search competition. Many of the major players in the field were there — regulators from the Federal Trade Commission, federal and state prosecutors, top congressional staffers.

What the guests had not been told was that the day-long academic conference was in large part the work of Google, which maneuvered behind the scenes with GMU’s Law & Economics Center to put on the event. At the time, the company was under FTC investigation over concerns about the dominance of its famed search engine, a case that threatened Google’s core business.

In the weeks leading up to the GMU event, Google executives suggested potential speakers and guests, sending the center’s staff a detailed spreadsheet listing members of Congress, FTC commissioners, and senior officials with the Justice Department and state attorney general’s offices.

Google’s practices are not, of course, limited to using political influence to stop legal processes against them at the regulatory level.  This business of sponsoring conferences through intermediaries should be quite familiar to everyone in the music business.  Think of all the places that Google or one of its surrogates (or, like the Nashville-based astroturf group “Creator Freedom”, a surrogate of a surrogate) shows up as a sponsor of a music industry event.  Most recently, we had a sudden and out of character appearance by Google General Counsel Kent Walker (and nonprosecution agreement signer) scheduled for the Entertainment Law Initiative luncheon during Grammy Week, replaced by an executive from YouTube, the well known Google affiliate and curator of ad supported music video ripping software, rape videos, steroid reseller testimonials and sex tourist home movies.

Then there was the rather odd participation of Google in the World Creators Summit, and of course the Future of Music Policy Summit where Google went from a major named sponsor in 2012 to sponsoring a dinner in 2013.  The sponsors for the 2012 summit were New America Foundation (of which Google’s Eric Schmidt is a director), the Open Technology Institute (which shares a website with the New America Foundation), Google itself, Public Knowledge (which is funded in part by Google as Google acknowledged on the now famous Google shill list) and the Consumer Electronics Association (of which Google is a member).  There are other sponsors, like Pandora, for example, but one is struck by just how many Google connections there were to the main conference event.

Those connections were largely gone by 2013 except that Google hosted part of the FMC “honors” dinner:

google FMC

But Google may find that a bunch of disgruntled musicians are not going to bend over and take it–YouTube executives were booed at MIDEM and are generally having a rough time this year.  That’s nothing compared to the reception YouTube will get once artists realize that Google’s participation at any music conference is part of a colossal shell game of influence peddling.

Ask yourself how many times you’ve seen Google surrogates listed on panels or trying to tell you that the sky is rising?  If it’s any consolation, the Washington Post has confirmed it’s not just us.  Although, the Post didn’t focus on the fact that it’s not just the United States, either.

Google’s influence peddling is global.

More in Part 2.

#irespectmusic Update: The Hope Train Arrives in Washington Union Station With Your Petition

April 11, 2014 Comments off

MTP readers will remember the #irespectmusic campaign has brought together over 10,000 music makers and music lovers who let the U.S. Congress know that they’d like Congress to get artists paid for radio play.  Three members of our community–artists, Blake Morgan and Janita along with booking agent Tommy Merrill–brought that positive grass roots message to Capitol Hill this week in meetings with key members of the Washington community charged with looking after artist rights in the U.S.

We’ll have more about this watershed event soon, but everyone who signed the petition needs to know that the #irespectmusic team delivered on their promise to take the I Respect Music message to Washington and make sure you were heard.

Starting with a constituent meeting for the Greenwich Village crew with their Congressman, Representative Jerry Nadler, who also happens to be the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet.

nadler

L-R: Tommy Merrill, Rep. Nadler, Blake Morgan, Your Petition and Janita

Make it so, Mr. Nadler, make it so.

You may also be interested in my interview with Blake Morgan tracing the history of the #irespectmusic campaign:

YouTube’s Monopoly Effects and Keeping an Eye on Those Songwriters

April 8, 2014 Comments off

In case you didn’t believe there was a reason why YouTube executives were booed at this year’s MIDEM global music industry trade conference, you may find this reporting from the Music Tank meeting in London this week as reported by Complete Music Update:

Last night’s MusicTank debate…was…generally optimistic….And though the debate was technically initiated by Thom Yorke’s Spotify-bashing of last year, the DSPs were generally portrayed as good partners for artists and rights owners. With perhaps one exception – any DSP bashing last night was reserved for YouTube.

The Google-owned platform is an important partner for the music industry everyone agreed, but the music community’s relationship with the content giant – skewed by the firm’s opt-out rather than opt-in approach to dealing with rights owners – needs to change.

There has been a real swing against YouTube in the music community in the last year, with growing resentment over the particularly low royalties the platform pays out, and the limited control it offers artists and rights owners over their content. There’s also a growing fear that the market-leading content service will prevent other more industry-friendly platforms from ever going into profit.

“Market leading”?   That’s very kind.  The fact is that YouTube is a horizontal extension of Google’s monopoly over ad supported search and is essentially a horizontal extension into ad supported video search that was itself subsidized for years by Google’s monopoly profits from search, not to mention Google’s massive “dark fiber” purchases and the federal and state subsidies Google gets in State of Oregon, home to Palo Alto High’s favorite son, Senator Ron Wyden.

In case Mr. Almunia was looking for some evidence of Google’s abuse of its market power in Europe, he might be interested in interviewing some of the European based indie labels that suffer from the “benefits” of Google’s monopoly.

We could say the same of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, but we know they can’t be bothered to lift a finger.

The songwriters, however–now, the songwriters have to have every move they make scrutinized by the federal government in the U.S.  Yes, the FTC cannot be bothered with the politically influential Google–it can acquire whoever it likes.  True, the Google executives (including Sheryl Sandberg) leaned in to a close call with a federal grand jury on those seedy drug charges, but that was before Google manipulated an election…sorry, learned how the lobbying game actually works.

Songwriters, however, have to live under a consent decree with each PRO being ruled by a single judge in Manhattan–both of whom render extremely results oriented decisions while trying to set a market price for use of music for songwriters.

Songwriters have to live under a mechanical royalty regime dating back to 1909 in which the government set and artificially suppressed the royalty for songwriters for 70 years at the same 2¢.  That’s right–$0.02.  Only in 1976 did the government deign to allow songwriters a cost of living adjustment and let the rate float upward to the current 9.1¢.

Had the government decided to apply the inflation adjustment retroactively to 1909 and prospectively from 1976 to compensate the generations of songwriters it screwed–sorry, that were subject to the price fixing–the current mechanical royalty rate would be approximately 50¢.

That’s right–songwriters have not enjoyed the unfettered freedom to bargain in their lifetimes.

But the no government seems interested in YouTube’s market dominance and unfair royalties, and the U.S. government is not interested in reparations to correct the wrong visited on songwriters.  No, we still have the grotesque situation where Google gets free reign over consumers and a free ride over songwriters.

No wonder people hate YouTube.

So here’s the question for Mr. Almunia and the U.S. government–do you want to fix it now that the townspeople with the pitchforks are going after YouTube, or do you want to wait until they’re coming after you?

Last night’s MusicTank debate also threw the spotlight on the often hidden costs associated with digital content, which while perhaps not as high as pressing, storing and distributing CDs, are still significant, not least the investment needed to develop technology that can cope with and process the mountain of data generated by digital services, some of which is relevant to royalty payments, and some of which is needed for marketing and campaign evaluation.

Despite all this, there was a generally optimistic mood on the panel last night – the music industry was facing big challenges in adjusting to a consumption-based future, but these were challenges that artists, labels and digital service providers could rise to. And though the debate was technically initiated by Thom Yorke’s Spotify-bashing of last year, the DSPs were generally portrayed as good partners for artists and rights owners. With perhaps one exception – any DSP bashing last night was reserved for YouTube.

The Google-owned platform is an important partner for the music industry everyone agreed, but the music community’s relationship with the content giant – skewed by the firm’s opt-out rather than opt-in approach to dealing with rights owners – needs to change.

There has been a real swing against YouTube in the music community in the last year, with growing resentment over the particularly low royalties the platform pays out, and the limited control it offers artists and rights owners over their content. There’s also a growing fear that the market-leading content service will prevent other more industry-friendly platforms from ever going into profit.

- See more at: http://www.completemusicupdate.com/article/beggars-reviewing-5050-streaming-split-with-artists/#sthash.R6soHLvg.dpuf

Last night’s MusicTank debate also threw the spotlight on the often hidden costs associated with digital content, which while perhaps not as high as pressing, storing and distributing CDs, are still significant, not least the investment needed to develop technology that can cope with and process the mountain of data generated by digital services, some of which is relevant to royalty payments, and some of which is needed for marketing and campaign evaluation.

Despite all this, there was a generally optimistic mood on the panel last night – the music industry was facing big challenges in adjusting to a consumption-based future, but these were challenges that artists, labels and digital service providers could rise to. And though the debate was technically initiated by Thom Yorke’s Spotify-bashing of last year, the DSPs were generally portrayed as good partners for artists and rights owners. With perhaps one exception – any DSP bashing last night was reserved for YouTube.

The Google-owned platform is an important partner for the music industry everyone agreed, but the music community’s relationship with the content giant – skewed by the firm’s opt-out rather than opt-in approach to dealing with rights owners – needs to change.

There has been a real swing against YouTube in the music community in the last year, with growing resentment over the particularly low royalties the platform pays out, and the limited control it offers artists and rights owners over their content. There’s also a growing fear that the market-leading content service will prevent other more industry-friendly platforms from ever going into profit.

- See more at: http://www.completemusicupdate.com/article/beggars-reviewing-5050-streaming-split-with-artists/#sthash.R6soHLvg.dpuf

Last night’s MusicTank debate also threw the spotlight on the often hidden costs associated with digital content, which while perhaps not as high as pressing, storing and distributing CDs, are still significant, not least the investment needed to develop technology that can cope with and process the mountain of data generated by digital services, some of which is relevant to royalty payments, and some of which is needed for marketing and campaign evaluation.

Despite all this, there was a generally optimistic mood on the panel last night – the music industry was facing big challenges in adjusting to a consumption-based future, but these were challenges that artists, labels and digital service providers could rise to. And though the debate was technically initiated by Thom Yorke’s Spotify-bashing of last year, the DSPs were generally portrayed as good partners for artists and rights owners. With perhaps one exception – any DSP bashing last night was reserved for YouTube.

The Google-owned platform is an important partner for the music industry everyone agreed, but the music community’s relationship with the content giant – skewed by the firm’s opt-out rather than opt-in approach to dealing with rights owners – needs to change.

There has been a real swing against YouTube in the music community in the last year, with growing resentment over the particularly low royalties the platform pays out, and the limited control it offers artists and rights owners over their content. There’s also a growing fear that the market-leading content service will prevent other more industry-friendly platforms from ever going into profit.

- See more at: http://www.completemusicupdate.com/article/beggars-reviewing-5050-streaming-split-with-artists/#sthash.R6soHLvg.dpuf

David Lowery’s Panel at Future of Music Policy Conference Brings Out the Spinners

April 6, 2014 Comments off

Chris Castle:

Let’s revisit David Lowery’s panel at the height of IRFA madness–it’s very likely we will see a new bill introduced soon as Son of IRFA. The video demonstrates just how far Pandora executives have chosen to align the company against artists and musicians–but how much their shills have to–shall we say shade the truth–in order to trick Congressmen into supporting their Big Nanny legislation.

Originally posted on MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY:

By the way, the first question to the panel from the floor comes from Pandora’s lobbyist Elizabeth W. Frazee, top spinner from Washington shillery Twin Logic Strategies–who also spins for the Computer & Communications Industry Association, the Consumer Electronics Association, Net Coalition, Yahoo!–all of which MTP readers will recognize.  (Nearly $1.5 million in lobbying money so far this year.)  Ms. Frazee’s revolving door profile is interesting as well.

Kudos to fellow spinner Michael Petricone from the trade bot Consumer Electronics Association in the role of “Never Seen Her Before” who is competing with Kurt Hansen’s cat for the nomination for “Best Feigned Surprise at Shillery Gibberish”!

A couple of questions seem to keep coming up that spreads disinformation about the rate side of the so-called “Internet Radio Fairness Act”:

1.  The “labels” won’t negotiate with Pandora prior to a Copyright Royalty Board hearing:

False Assumption #1:  First, it’s not “the labels”…

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Is Your Band Registered to Vote in 2014?

April 4, 2014 Comments off

Is your band registered to vote?  You ride in the van with these people, you probably know way more about them than you ever wanted to know, but do you know whether they are registered to vote?

You can find out what the rules are in your area on this website “Can I Vote?” (click here)  The site is run by the National Association of Secretaries of State and it has a complete guide to every US state.  Each state includes its voter registration website that will allow you to check in your home state to see if you (or your band) are registered already, and if you’re not, it will tell you how to get registered.  You can also use the National Mail Voter Registration Form available through the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

We really don’t care which party you favor, that’s not what this is about at all.  We’re not partisan here at MTP.  (And having been in those vans, I don’t advise you to get into your band mates political business, either.)

But what we do care about is just that you vote, and you can’t vote if you don’t register.  And if you’re going to vote for a candidate, you should make sure that (1) you know what that candidate stands for, (2) the candidate knows that you’ll be in their district or state (their “constituent”), and (3) that the candidate knows what you stand for.

How do you let the candidate know what you stand for?  This depends on how much time you have and how active you want to be.  But you can sign up for mailing lists and get active.

At the end of the day though–you need to vote and you need to be registered by your state’s voter registration deadlines in order to vote in this November’s election and any other elections in your area before that.  Those voter registration deadlines are coming up sooner than you think, so get it done now.

The next step after that is to get smart about your state’s absentee voter rules–these are special rules that allow you to vote from home and mail in your ballot if you’ll be on the road on election day.  Your ballot will be counted just like everyone else.  The voting function of state government is usually handled by the state “Secretary of State,” and that office keeps a website with this kind of information.

Try a search for “[YOUR STATE] absentee voter rules” and then look for the search result for “secretary of state” often abbreviated to “SOS”.  If you lived in Texas, a search for “texas absentee voter rules” resulted in this link for the Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry’s website and this link that tells you how to do it if you live in Texas.  That page also has a link to an online absentee ballot application: http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/reqabbm.shtml/ There are definitely rules for how far in advance of an election you can apply for an absentee ballot, so get smart about those deadlines if you want to go this route.  Like everything else with voter registration–don’t wait, do it now.

After you get your band registered, you’ll be able to vote (in person or absentee), so check the election calendar for your state to see what elections are coming up.

Get your nation-wide election calendar here, or see it below.

And don’t forget–elections matter.  If you find yourself represented by someone who opposes artist rights, you’ll feel extra pissed if you didn’t register and or if you registered but didn’t vote.

2014 Election Calendar

The calendar uses a set of codes to describe deadlines and elections and uses your state’s postal code abbreviation to identify the state where the entry applies.  We’ve reproduced the calendars for April, May and June, but the full election calendar has every month this year

2014 Election Calendar Codes

2014 Election Calendar.revised_Page_042014 Election Calendar.revised_Page_05

2014 Election Calendar.revised_Page_06

A Lesson in Machine Ethics: More bunk from Google’s PR Department on the YouTube MP3 Ripper

April 4, 2014 Comments off

Originally posted on MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY:

Here’s the Google duck of the day:  According to PC World :

The free ride may ending for people who rip YouTube music videos to MP3s through youtube-mp3.org and similar sites.

YouTube’s lawyers have sent cease-and-desist letters to the sites, threatening “legal consequences” to those that don’t comply, TorrentFreak reports. Youtube-mp3.org also claims that its servers have been blocked by YouTube, preventing any more conversions. (At the time of this writing, however, the site’s MP3 extraction tool worked for me.)

Always be wary of anything from the tech press that begins “the free ride may be ending” because that is never true.   Did Google block the search terms from search results?  No, you can still find the sites serving the software and promoting it through Google search and the autocomplete search terms.

And on YouTube itself what happens with the same search?  Helpful autocomplete terms:

Which leads you to pages…

View original 64 more words

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