The Trichordist’s commentary on YouTube’s Music Video Awards called attention to a variety of horrendous videos readily available on Google’s crown jewel, but none were quite as disturbing as the DIY videos of how to prepare a variety of illegal drugs for injection (“cooking”) and tips on how to inject these drugs.
First, we find “How I Inject Testosterone and Overcome Anxiety” brought to you buy Chevrolet and the CPAP shop:
And here’s the video:
Then we have “How to Cook Crack”, brought to you by National Geographic:
and here’s the video:
And then there’s “Shooting Up Morphine and Oxycontin” brought to you by the Minnesota Department of Health Services:
And here’s the video:
Not to be outdone by “Shooting Up Dilaudid” sponsored by Intervention Canada
and here’s the video:
If this bothers you, think about this. Google tries to pawn off YouTube as a competitor to television. Turn on your television and see if you can find DIY videos for cooking and injecting crack, oxy, morphine and dilaudid.
If you’ve been in the music business for very long, you have undoubtedly encountered addicts. We don’t think this is funny and we don’t think it can be rationalized.
We do think it should be stopped and the artists participating in the YouTube video awards or who are YouTube users are in a position to influence Google.
This is evil and it should be stopped.
The Jihad Will Be Monetized: How the New Boss Duped the White House (Again) to Protect Intermediaries and Brand Sponsored Piracy, Part 2
Americans are freedom loving people, and nothing says freedom like getting away with it.
From “Long, Long Time” by Guy Forsyth.
(Continued from Part 1)
As we have seen time and again, Google will sell advertising against everything from jihadi war porn, to ads for illegal drug sites, sex tourism and pirate sites of one species or another–and that’s just on the sainted YouTube.
Once you roll off of the YouTube site, nothing changes much except the labyrinth of referring sights, bridging pages and the like gets much, much more complicated. Whether it’s on a Google publisher or a third party or fourth party site, Google dupes brands from Honda to Gatorade to local businesses into facilitating the company’s enrichment at the cost of degrading their brands.
This came up before with the Google drug settlement–the $500,000,000 fine that Google paid to the US Government, and it’s a tribute to the power of the world’s largest media company that you’ve probably never heard about that payment. But we have, so now you will. Google ran a fake hand off with Google Drugs where they had some really serious downside potential that they might not have been able to buy their way out of–also known as jail time. They constructed a fake out by using their government connections–possibly through present members of the senior Justice Department staff as well as Clinton-era intermediaries. And so far, they have gotten away with it.
And I hope to persuade you that Google just ran the Drugs play again to distance themselves from brand sponsored piracy–you might call it the naked bootleg.
Whether they get away with it or not remains to be seen.
Naked Bootleg I
MTP readers will recall the infamous Google Drugs settlement. Google was the subject of several sting operations over a multiyear period conducted by a variety of Federal criminal investigators as well as a federal grand jury in Rhode Island. This was no small thing–Google produced over 4,000,000 documents in the grand jury proceeding.
There are a few other reasons why it is no small thing. Google signed a nonprosecution agreement with the federal government that was remarkably favorable to Google, but still cost the company $500,000,000. And they got off very cheap if you ask me. It takes Google about 48 hours to make $500,000,000, so while that may sound like a lot of money, it really isn’t.
This was in 2011–knowing what we now know about Google’s connections to the Administration, untold data mining on behalf of the government through cozy relationships with the National Security Agency, the Department of Justice and FBI, are you surprised that Google got off lightly on something as serious as violations of the Controlled Substances Act?
Also remember that the issue wasn’t that Google itself was actually fulfilling drug sales–the issue was that they were accused of selling advertising that promoted drug sales they knew to be illegal. Also known as profiting from human misery.
It’s also not surprising that when Google Chairman Eric Schmidt testified at a hearing of the US Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, he invoked his right to refuse to answer on the advice of counsel–some might call that invoking his right against criminal self-incrimination–under questioning from Senator John Cornyn. Senator Cornyn was rightfully not happy. (I’m reminded of Samuel Jackson’s question regarding Mr. Wallace in Pulp Fiction: “Does he look like a bitch?”)
Schmidt clearly looked and sounded like…someone who had something to hide as he repeatedly deflected Senator Cornyn’s question with what he had to know was a lie before Schmidt lawyered up. (The next time this happens–and there will be a next time–it might be worth asking Schmidt to clarify that he’s “taking the 5th”.)
Google is also being sued by many of its stockholders as a result of the Google Drugs prosecution, essentially for defrauding investors by failing to disclose this $500,000,000 forfeiture in a timely way, and using the company’s money to pay what is essentially a fine for the personal bad behavior of the senior management team.
And here is where the plot sickens: The Wall Street Journal noted a statement made by Google’s lawyer Boris Feldman in an official court transcript from a hearing in Delaware on one of the many stockholder lawsuits, a statement regarding the drug case prosecuted against Google by Peter F. Neronha, the US Attorney for Rhode Island (“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 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 we now know about Google’s cozy relationship with law enforcement agencies and past and present DOJ appointees, 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.
Of course, Google likes to enjoy all the benefits of having access to the US public financial markets while accepting only the burdens it is forced to bear:
For its part, Google declined to comment, saying: “Google does not comment on its discussions with regulators.”
“Regulators”? Do you call the cops “regulators”? Maybe in Young Guns, but not since the 19th Century.
I think it is insulting that Google did not back up its lawyer–Boris Feldman has a sterling reputation and is one of the top litigators in the world. That–by the way–should have been the reason he was appearing for Google in the stockholder lawsuit in the first place. The idea that Mr. Feldman somehow misspoke on such a fundamental point or is not worthy of being backed up by his client is laughable.
Calling the Naked Bootleg
What does this have to do with the brand sponsored piracy “best practices”? Here’s where Google calls the naked bootleg.
It also appears that General Holder presided over a December 14, 2010 meeting for invited media at the White House requested by Google during the DOJ’s drug investigation into Google’s bad acts. Rather, nearing the conclusion of the 7-year long 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 the following statement while at the same time prosecuting Google, a participant in the very White House meeting at which he was speaking, a meeting called to promote Google’s activities to cover over its bad acts?
[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 (a major political supporter of the Obama Administration) was accused 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? If anyone bothered to report the story?
CNET was the only news organization I could find that actually pointed out this bizarre pageant. 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 [at the announcement of Google's $500,000,000 settlment] 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. Remember this part of the pageant–it will return with the IAB “best practices” announcement.
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. 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.)
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.
Not very Googlely.
And they got away with it.
And according to Mr. Burchett, they are still getting away with it.
Next: The Return of the Naked Bootleg.
This is an honest house.
That’s why we’d like to see your husband.
Facing certain criminal charges that might be brought against some
people that are innocent, we just feel that it would be…
It’s really for his benefit.
No, it’s not.
No, it’s not.
HUGH SLOAN JR.
Debbie, tell them to come in.
From All The President’s Men, by William Goldman
I’ve spoken about brand sponsored piracy to a lot of people in the online advertising business. These are the worker bees, not the people who make the millions or more and have the big Google or Omnicom jobs. I talk to the people who are being set up for a fall by the people who make the millions and by the people for whom the giant Omnicom and Publicis merger is probably their last liquidity event in their exit strategy. Their last get out of jail free card in the game of brand sponsored Monopoly.
I notice a couple of things about these conversations that are common. First, the employees are petrified that anyone will ever find out that they talked. So until they want to come forward, they will remain anonymous. And of late we’ve all seen how well whistleblowers fare.
But this is more than just an average fear of losing their jobs. No one has actually said this, but some of them, the ones with the firsthand knowledge exhibit what I would characterize as an existential dread.
Then there are others that know exactly what the mechanics are behind the curtain and have more of what I would call a practical dread—they know exactly what to do to fix the problem and could do it, but they don’t have the full support of their companies and don’t want to be first.
And when I see the destruction of the world’s creators being perpetuated by some of the richest people in the world, and certainly the richest people in the online advertising space, I share with the worker bees another belief that they all have to one degree or another: These are all contemptible people who deserve to be punished. It is this self-loathing that they all have some of that will eventually lead to a true whistleblower who will just not be able to live with themselves anymore. And that person will come forward—not because they think it will advance themselves, and not because of riches, certainly.
They will come forward because we all have a voice inside our heads that is our mother, father, pastor, rabbi, teacher, scout master or coach—whoever it is that is who helped us cast our our moral compass. A voice that tells us that there is something bigger than ourselves that we are a part of, and a voice that blocks out threats from bad guys.
And for these people, there’s going to come a moment when that voice will be the only guide they have in an otherwise rudderless moral sea. And that voice will be what drives that person to come forward and tell the truth. And like Debbie and Hugh Sloane, it will not be because it’s to their advantage to do so or for fear of not doing so. It will be for another reason, a much simpler reason.
Because theirs is an honest house.
Let the Duping Begin Again
For those of you coming to the issue of brand sponsored piracy for the first time, it is important that you understand a bit about the online advertising ecosystem and how it differs from offline advertising.
One of the constraints on offline advertising is that brands are limited in the available channels for advertising—just the legal ones run by (relatively) reputable advertising publishers. For example, when McDonald’s wants to launch a campaign in the traditional offline channels, they buy advertising space from television networks, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards, a host of outlets. These outlets are by and large devoted to a legitimate business.
McDonald’s would not tell their ad agency to buy ad space near drug dealers to encourage users with the munchies to buy a Big Mac. They might think about it–but they would need to find a way to mask that campaign.
This is not to say that criminals do not watch, listen to or read these media outlets and no one tries to prevent them from doing so. But these are not criminal enterprises.
The ABC network of television and radio stations buy, produce or license programming. They are all based in the US and are regulated by the FCC. We know where to find them and if they were to start profiting from unlicensed programming, they’d get sued and they know it.
The use of legitimate advertising publishers causes scarcity and that causes prices to be higher as advertisers fight over that scarcity—the Superbowl is a case in point. At least for now.
Online advertising is a vastly more complex system that looks roughly like this:
Online advertising has many benefits, including microtargeting of consumers and the fact that any video online invariably comes with an advertisement in the pre-roll or a popup add on the video itself. Advertising on sites like YouTube should—should–have the added benefit of knowing what a user is searching for on YouTube through keywords.
Yet, it doesn’t seem to work that way. For example, a YouTube search for “thai teen girls” served this ad for President Obama’s reelection campaign:
A YouTube search for Anwar Al Awlaki returned this ad for Mazda:
And a YouTube search for “jailbait” returned this ad of highly suggestive dancing by a girl of indeterminate teenage years for Senator Cornyn’s campaign against Obamacare:
Then there is this ad for both Honda and The Tile Shop served against a video of “748 Cute Girls Kissing” also in response to the search term “jailbait”:
Each of these examples of online advertising comes from the highly controlled YouTube environment, the showpiece of Google’s advertising model and Google’s prized extension of its search monopoly into the video search vertical. Google actively promotes YouTube as a replacement for television. YouTube is also promoted as the epitome of targeted advertising, an advertising model that Google would have advertisers believe will replace the current advertising model in traditional media.
Yet as an increasing body of research shows—if you don’t want to believe your own eyes—what keeps the YouTube advertising model going is that brands have little or no control over where their ads are placed. And these ads are served to YouTube by Google’s ad exchanges—the very companies that are part of the Internet Advertising Bureau’s “best practices” for online advertising.
Let’s Get this Party Started
It should start becoming clear that the ad exchange really doesn’t care what they sell with the brand’s advertising or what they do to attract an audience–even ads served by Google’s own DoubleClick on Google’s own YouTube platform.
It should start being clear that the IAB’s “best practices” are designed to protect all the gatekeepers and intermediaries–everyone in the advertising chain except the brand and consumers.
Because what keeps the online advertising ecosystem chugging out profits for companies like Google is the fact that companies like Google have convinced advertisers to agree that ad exchanges can serve ads based on one overarching criteria—the ad will be served to the publisher that produces the greatest profit for the ad exchange at the moment the ad can be served, wherever the ad is served, regardless of the context. That is certainly true on YouTube where Google has total control. Imagine what it will be like when we look at unlicensed sites where Google has much less control.
And it is to this end that the IAB’s “best practices” devote themselves. Not to getting value for their advertising clients, not for avoiding unsavory associations between Honda and “jailbait”, not for keeping the brand’s money out of the hands of criminals and God knows not to impose any accountability on those in the advertising chain who brands entrust to get it right—not for any of these worthy reasons.
No, the IAB’s “best practices” are designed for one purpose—keep the party going.
Who Do They Think They Are Fooling?
The UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency has been very interested in that party for quite a while. (SOCA is roughly the equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.) As SOCA noted in a recent “Amber Alert” warning to international advertisers (Criminal Finance from Third Party Advertising on the Internet, SOCA Alert A2A725N, Nov. 2012):
It is highly likely that [brands are] unaware that [your] advertising was placed on [unlicensed sites] due to the way that internet advertising operates. The aggregation of advertising from various companies by advertising networks [and advertising exchanges], and the contracting of advertising to “fourth parties” (who may be less reputable or simply less thorough in their verifications) all serve to complicate the audit trail for advertisements….[I]llicit website[s], underpinned by the theft of [creators’ works]…used the income stream from online advertising space as its sole source of revenue. This revenue support[s] the criminal activitiy of the site.
SOCA then identifies one of the biggest, and certainly the most serious, problems with online advertising—the large number of criminal enterprises posing as advertising publishers. This is particularly true with unlicensed sites featuring music, motion pictures, television programs and broadcast television streams as well as books and other creative media.
Google’s UK Policy Manager is quoted as acknowledging the role of criminal enterprises in a recent debate on brand sponsored piracy:
“[M]ost people doing piracy are not some guy in his bedroom altruistically sharing music with his friends. It’s people making money out of piracy, and it’s big business: some of these sites have 2m visitors regularly, and they’re not doing a bad business from advertising.”
It is important to understand that “most people doing piracy” are in it for the money—not because they want to be in the media distribution business. I know this to be true because many of the top illegal p2p sites (including Limewire) rejected an opportunity to “come in from the cold” using SNOCAP—both immediately before and immediately after the Supreme Court ruling in the Google-backed Grokster appeal that was a huge loss for the criminal class. Why? Because at least three of them told me straight up that they couldn’t afford to pay royalties at the prices they got for their “high risk” advertising. Plus they couldn’t be bothered to bear the accounting burden.
So to Google’s credit, they did try to get a court ruling in their favor (through Lessig and the EFF). But when they couldn’t do it legally, they just did it illegally (remember that the Grokster ruling came down at roughly the same time that Google’s Adsense supplied advertising to Megavideo that they continued to do until the site was shut down–easy to understand why it would be important that Kim Dotcom never be brought to trial in the US with all that awkward discovery.)
Remember—when unlicensed and brand sponsored sites offer media to the public for free, they are willing to sell advertising at lower rates to the same accounts reaching the same audience as the licensed sites.
Fast forward to earlier this year, and you will see the negative effects on the legitimate market reported by Spotify’s Will Page, who echoed the statement attributed to Google’s UK policy manager:
“Copyright infringing websites are big businesses … 2/3 of piracy sites have advertising, and 1/3 also include credit card logons. This competition is real: consider how ad pricing is distorted by those unlicensed sites who offer more scale and no content costs.”
So creators are harmed twice: First when their works are used as a honeypot by the unlicensed site to induce users who are duped by the presence of legitimate advertising. This is not lost on the Serious Organised Crime Agency:
[I]llicit website[s], underpinned by the theft of [creators’ works]…used the income stream from online advertising space as its sole source of revenue. This revenue support[s] the criminal activitiy of the site. Ultimately this revenue was acquired from brands whose advertising appeared on [unlicensed]. By incorporating the advertising of recognised brands the website[s]…[attempt] to make the site appear legitimate. Conversely, the implied association between the site and legitimate brands may be damaging to the latter’s brand reputation.
But second when legitimate licensed services like Spotify have to compete with unlicensed sites in a race to the bottom on advertising pricing—a race that is a cynical attempt on the part of all in the advertising chain to profit from human misery by duping consumers. The artist’s share of gross revenue is inevitably smaller because the gross is lower, or the service asks the artist to take a lower royalty because advertising prices are driven down by unlicensed sites offering the artist’s music with no royalty cost.
The Internet Advertising Bureau had an opportunity to produce a set of “best practices” that would have actually protected Internet advertisers and consumers alike. Suggestions are not hard to find—Professor Ben Edelman of the Harvard Business School has a very well thought out “advertiser’s bill of rights” that would have worked just fine.
If your goal was to stop crime. That was certainly a popular view when Professor Edelman presented his ideas at the summer meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General.
Instead—as I hope to demonstrate—the IAB did the opposite.
They produced a way to keep the party going.
Some of you may have seen the “best practices” circulated yesterday by the White House–also known as Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s B&B on the Potomac. (See the hysterical satire on “Father Knows Best” by Harry Shearer on Le Show: “Mr. Eric Knows Best” based on an imaginary dinner at the White House foreshadowing the dismissal of the FTC antitrust investigation of Google led by an outside lawyer with Google connections–Beth Wilkinson.)
We wanted to post a few thoughts about this latest debacle before a more detailed analysis.
1. The best practices were released by the White House around the time of the Joint Strategic Plan. This could give the impression that somehow the IAB’s best practices are part of the Joint Strategic Plan. Not true. The plan is subject to interagency review. The best practices are simply a project and process that has been convened in part through the White House. It is a one-sided agreement among businesses that profit from making the “best practices” not too difficult and as porous as possible. A private agreement with no force of law. Aside from market power–but we forgot, Google is not a monopolist according to the Federal Trade Commission.
2. There were no creators involved in developing the “best practices.” Not one. This is another unilateral attempt by the advertising networks to continue profiting from theft at the expense of artists.
3. The big companies involved in the announcement are AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo and…Google. Which of these is not like the others? Which of these paid a $500,000,000 fine for drug profiteering? Which of these has a nonprosecution agreement preventing it from being criminally prosecuted for aiding and abetting the sale of drugs to children? Only one–Google.
4. The “best practices” concerns itself solely with trademark and copyright infringement–not drugs, human trafficking, terror propaganda. It appears that Google–clearly the leader of the pack on this issue–is trying to deflect attention away from its bad behavior, particularly with the timing of the release of the statement. That timing is odd–after Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood called out Google for continued drug profiteering and right before Google’s nonprosecution agreement with the Department of Justice is about to expire.
5. This isn’t the first time that Google used the White House to dupe Americans–the company did the same thing with the drug issue, convening an industry-wide meeting at the White House to develop best practices for drug advertising while at the same time negotiating their way out of a Rhode Island grand jury prosecution by paying a $500,000,000 fine. Despite the Attorney General’s active participation in that White House meeting, the subject of Google’s prosecution and subsequent fine never came up, Google was praised by one and all for being proactive and left the impression in quotable press reports that Google was doing the right thing on drugs. Press reports they rely on to this day–except for the CNET story, of course.
6. The best practices only apply to third party websites, not to web properties controlled by affiliates of the ad networks. Like, oh say, YouTube advertising Google Chrome on jihadi propaganda.
Or Duped Advertiser Numero Uno on YouTube searches for “thai teen girls” that return search results for sex tourist videos. No, the “best practices” don’t require any action against Google properties. Presumably this will also protect Google from Dr. Strangelove type actions against itself when it launches the new Moto X cell phone (or the “motox” as we call it around MTP–rhymes with “botox”…sort of).
7. The most ludicrous part of the best practices is that it requires yet more notices be sent to ad networks–when Google already receives 20 million notices a month for search alone and publishes them in the Google Transparency Report. Google says it finds 99% of its piracy problems on its own–if you think you find things on your own after people tell you about your problems 20,000,000 times a month or 240,000,000 times a year for search alone. The total number of DMCA notices Google receives has got to be much higher than that. But even so, if you miss 1% of those notices that still leaves 2,400,000 infringements.
So we love this “Masters of the Internet” track around MTP–which answers the musical question, is Google a commoditizer? The track by Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog is also a nice bookend from Bonfire of the Vanities to the watershed interview in the Guardian by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke where Yorke sums up Radiohead’s realizations about what David Lowery calls the “New Boss” reality:
“[Big Tech] have to keep commodifying things to keep the share price up, but in doing so they have made all content, including music and newspapers, worthless, in order to make their billions. And this is what we want? I still think it will be undermined in some way. It doesn’t make sense to me. Anyway, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. The commodification of human relationships through social networks. Amazing!”
“Masters of the Internet” is also a cool play on Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Nixonian “Gang of Four” reference to the Internet oligarchs of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. But–no monopoly there says the FTC.
Here’s Marc’s critique of brand-sponsored culture (aka “free culture”) from SPIN.com:
A number of people have asked us what’s up with Masters of the Internet. Do we hate our fans? Are we Luddites? Well, no and no. Here’s what we think: We don’t really expect much from asking people who are downloading stuff for free to voluntaristically pay up- although, yeah, we could use that dollar right about now, and we support Trichordist’s Principles for an Ethical and Sustainable Internet.
We don’t know what the ultimate solution is- but we know it isn’t the impoverishment of musicians and defunding music. And we know it isn’t pretending that no-one is being hurt.
Corporations are making huge profits from the ads on ‘free’ sites, from selling the hard and software that make illegal downloading possible. They need to give back a portion of their billions to the people who do the work: hey, we love our tech toys too, but an empty i-Pod is just a crappy paper-weight. Giving us back part of the value we create would make a real FREE culture possible- one where fans get what they need, AND creative community workers get paid. Bread and Roses, baby!
If you’re in NYC on May 5 (next Sunday), Ceramic Dog will celebrate the release of Your Turn as part of the Undead Music Festival at (Le) Poisson Rouge, downbeat 8 pm. These cats deserve your support!
Interesting Letter about USC-Annenberg Innovation Lab Brand Sponsored Piracy Study to Internet Advertising Bureau from Reps. Goodlatte and Schiff and Senators Hatch and Whitehouse
It’s always great when the government follows up on an important issue to artists. Representatives Goodlatte and Schiff and Senators Hatch and Whitehouse sent this letter to Mr. Randall Rothenberg of the Internet Advertising Bureau that had this choice passage:
We were pleased that your November 1, 2011 letter highlighted the IAB’s Network and Exchanges Quality Assurance Guidelines (Quality Assurance Guidelines), which “strictly prohibit” the sale of ad inventory on sites with “content in violation of U.S. law, and more specifically, Warez including P2P, torrent sites, illegal downloads, pirated software, Spyware and Malware, and sites that host or stream infringing content.” We understand from your letter that IAB has promoted the Quality Assurance Guidelines to help address this problem, and we further understand that IAB is currently in the process of updating them.
As you may have seen, the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab has released three “Advertising Transparency Reports,” listing the “top 1 O” ad networks that it found placing ads on sites engaged in piracy. Without endorsing the methodology employed, we note that IAB member companies that are “certified” under the Quality Assurance Guidelines are named in the reports.
We would welcome an update on your progress in implementing and updating the Quality Assurance Guidelines, and promoting the industry’s adoption and – most importantly operationalization of such measures.
Oh, wouldn’t we just.
Right after Google bought YouTube, Google lawyer Zahavah Levine spoke on a panel at the Beverly Hills Bar Association during which she described the “whack a mole” aspect of how infringing content is posted, reposted, and reposted again on YouTube–unless you want to make a deal with YouTube. (I happened to be speaking at the OECD’s digital future conference right before Google bought YouTube and got the distinct impression that the concept of UGC as a way to both steal copyrights and add another of the 1,000 cuts to the industry litigation budget sprang from the depths of the imagination of one Fred Von Lohman and one Terry Fisher–meaning this was all part of Google’s acquisition strategy–but that’s another story.)
So what exactly are you agreeing to as a songwriter when you agree to relax and enjoy it as it sounded like Ms. Levine suggested? What are you authorizing when you agree to “monetize” your “content” on YouTube? By the look of it, far more than you bargained for! (Or didn’t bargain for)
Take this example of a YouTube ad for “health-seller.com”. And by the way–I don’t mean pre-roll ads for other products on this particular video, I mean the video is itself an advertisement. Against which other ads are sold. What is it an ad for? “Buy Pills Online Without Prescription”. And what kind of pills? Cialis, Arcoxia, Levitra, Cardizem (heart relaxer), Casodex (prostate cancer treatment), Cloud9 Human Growth Hormone, Cytoxan (cancer treatment), and of course more different species of Viagra than Carter has…ah…pills.
Google, as MTP readers will recall, is no stranger to the world of no-prescription pharmacies–the company’s senior management team (apparently going up to Larry Page and Eric Schmidt) were nearly indicted in a multiyear sting operation for which it paid $500,000,000 of the stockholders’ money. So it’s not like they don’t know what they are doing when they allow these pill pusher ads onto YouTube. In fact, this type of YouTube video may themselves violate the Google Nonprosecution Agreement that allowed them to get out of jail free (to the executives involved). OPM, man.
And guess what is being advertised next to the drugs?
Yes, Google Chrome. You don’t suppose that YouTube serves Chrome ads based on the keyword “tablet” do you?
So this is how we know that the “no prescription” drug ad is “monetized”. How is this relevant to songwriters? I’d suggest that it’s yet another version of whack a mole, Google’s favorite game that Ms. Levine, Mr. Von Lohman and Professor Fisher foreshadowed way back when.
Listen to the music bed of the video:
Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the Theme from House–it’s actually a song by Massive Attack called “Teardrop,” but these days everyone knows it from its very close identification with the House television show.
When music is “licensed” on YouTube its usually in two licensing buckets–user generated content and music videos. (Unless of course it’s in the YouTube “partner” multichannel networks, in which case it’s not licensed at all the vast majority of the time. Don’t forget that YouTube describes these MCNs as “partners”. We’ll come back to that in another post.)
Music is not licensed for use as commercials, particularly not commercials for illegal pharmacies (that run for 4:22). Any guesses for how much a commercial use of “Teardrop” would set you back? If the writers even agreed to license it for a drug commercial?
But what has probably happened in the case of the drug advertisement on YouTube is that the song was authorized for “monetization” but YouTube failed to tell anyone that the song was being used in the bed of a commercial made for YouTube. A drug commercial. In other words, they can tell you that the song is being used, they just can’t tell you what for.
This is pretty clearly the exact conduct that is prohibited by Google’s nonprosecution agreement as YouTube becomes the leading music source of choice for kids. You know–the kids that Health and Human Services Secretary Joseph Califano was concerned about when he wrote to Eric Schmidt in 2008 to implore Schmidt to stop the drug ads. That Schmidt ignored.
So when you “monetize” a song on YouTube, just remember that you are giving up control of where your song appears because YouTube’s ContentID will not block these ads and no human will either. And as we know from the Google sting that resulted in the $500,000,000 fine to keep its executives out of jail, Google will actually look for ways to get around its own filters.
How hard is it to automatically flag anything with the line “buy pills online without prescription” on a site largely devoted to kids? Is that so very hard to figure out?
As Ms. Levine indicated back in 2006, there’s nothing you can do to actually stop Google from promoting dope on YouTube. Not even fine them $500,000,000. Maybe some day there will be a government that won’t let them buy their way out of jail, because that’s probably what it’s going to take to get their attention.
But until then–what YouTube will likely say is that by deciding to monetize your music, you have authorized using it in the bed of an ad pushing drugs to kids and desperate people, even addicts. And they’ll be all happy and smug about that.
It’s time to start demanding far greater accountability from Google. If they’re going to be using your music whether you like it or not, you should at least have the same control over the “new boss” that you would have over the “old boss.” And it would be a cold day in hell that the old boss ever approved a sync for an ad for an illegal pharmacy.
Monetize, monetize, monetize. This is the constant mantra from YouTube to all copyright owners but especially to songwriters. YouTube gives all kinds of assurances about how they can block songs, recordings and movies with their superduper “ContentID” and “Content Management System.” While these proprietary Google technologies get all kinds of props in the no-nothing press, anyone who uses these systems routinely knows that it requires a staff at each content owner in order to manage all the glitches and mistakes in ContentID and CMS–in order for either of these systems to function properly.
Why? Because at the end of the day, running a large content database that involves registering content requires human intervention. Costly human intervention. One customer service call can destroy profits. And YouTube has essentially outsourced this expensive part of their business to copyright owners. If you work at a major publisher, you know exactly what I mean. If you are an independent songwriter you probably don’t because you have resigned yourself to YouTube’s screw ups.
And this from a company that won’t let you audit?
Case in point–here’s a video from what appears to be an illegal pharmacy site that was uploaded to YouTube before the Google drugs case (see the 2011 nonprosecution agreement between Google and the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice by which Google avoided being indicted for violations of the Controlled Substances Act by paying a $500,000,000 fine and promising good behavior).
Note three things: The video is “user generated content” (“user” in this context means a YouTube user not a drug user. We think.)
Second, the video has a music bed. Ironically, it is “Teardrop” by Massive Attack which is also the theme from the House television show. I seriously doubt that Massive Attack has any idea that their song is being used to sell drugs through this sketchy video.
We know that YouTube knows the song in the video because they have a link to it by name on Google Play.
Finally, the video is monetized–ads are playing on the page, pre-roll before the video, and inside the video–in fact, the same ads are in each, so the campaign is coordinated.
This ad is for Southwest Montana–the State of Montana is buying ads to promote a drugs site and Google. These ads are served by Google–note the credit “Ads by Google”.
And then there’s this ad for Eakin Kia in Killeen, Texas. I doubt seriously whether Mr. Eakin has any idea that he’s promoting the sale of drugs on YouTube.
Not to be outdone, Google itself advertises its Google Chrome product, probably due to the keyword “tablet”.
Why is it that Massive Attack, the House television program and Eakin Kia are in this situation?
Because YouTube doesn’t give them the choice to block individual video uses. And this video has been in place for 3 years.
Because YouTube wants to make the money–even when it involves practices that nearly put the company’s top executives in jail, was the subject of a lengthy grand jury investigation and for which Google shareholders paid $500,000,000.
They can pay $500,000,000 in punishment to the government, but they can’t quite manage to find a way to tell advertisers or songwriters that their songs or ads are being used to push drugs to YouTube’s young audience.
Digital Music News: British ISPs Orderd to Block File Sharing Websites (including H33T, advertising partner of @united)
Helienne Lindvall’s column in Digital Music News tells us that:
Late last week BSkyB, BT, Virgin Media and three other UK broadband providers were ordered by the high court to block access to the music and movie file-sharing websites Kickass Torrents (KAT), H33T and Fenopy. As the ISPs named in the court order account for about 94 percent of the market, this means these sites will be unavailable to the vast majority of the British population.
Of course, MTP readers will remember Willard’s little friends at H33T:
I guess United Airlines will have to find someplace else to advertise. Do you think this court order might convince them that H33T are bad guys?
When you have a hit record, everyone is your friend. And they all have figured out how to use your hit record in a new and innovative way. No matter how revolting the innovation, no matter how philistine the approach, the commoditizers (aka “special markets”) press ahead.
And when it comes to compensation, no matter how little money you make from the obscene commerciality of the commoditized use, you know that the reason they are asking is because they are making more money than your artist or you one way or another—free riding on someone else’s hit record while doing little to contribute to its success. Either they are building a catalog that they will sell one day (and in which you will not participate like YouTube’s $1.65 billion sale price), they are getting a fee or other benefit that your artist does not participate in, or something.
Two examples: Tampon premiums and YouTube.
Back in the days of the “international hit record”, there was a record called “Everything I Do, I Do it For You.” Let’s take an anecdote from the life of that record because the anecdote really happened and those huge records don’t come along every day, Lil Poopy notwithstanding. (Plus it’s far enough in the past that it’s easier to keep the example from revealing too much.)
In those days, I had to deal with incoming “special markets” requests from other labels (and eventually from our own distributor which was really maddening). I had all the incoming special markets requests put in a special file. That made it easier to burn them later. My strategy with special markets was to negotiate by attrition—meaning that if you just ignored the request, the important ones would result in a phone call. Why? Because we were busy signing artists, making records, and selling those records to fans. This is the “real” revenue and “incremental” revenue from the typical sources will always cannibalize front line sales and bring home pennies on the dollar the “incremental” income incrementally destroys.
That special markets phone call almost always started out with this kind of argument directed at me:
[Laughing/yelling/Vomiting] is not a response to a request for a [horrendously offensive] license request because while you may not like the request, your job is to make money for the artist [and the special markets division] and however much you [laugh/yell/vomit] over the license request it results in [BIG FINISH] INCREMENTAL REVENUE for you. It is money you would not have had but for the genius of the innovative use proposed.
For example, during the middle of the 8 week or so period that “Everything I Do” was #1 on the worldwide radio charts, I got a request to let a special markets department manufacture a cheap cassette (which they would make money on manufacturing) that would be put in millions of boxes of tampons like a charm in a box of Cracker Jack.
And sure enough, I got a call from the oily cretin at the special markets department complaining—complaining—that I did not understand my job. But he did, you see. My job, you see, was to create incremental revenue for the company (and, of course, for him). To which I replied that he misunderstood my job.
My job was to sell lots of records by happy artists. My job was to keep people like him from whoring our artists. And the reason I didn’t give a damn about the supposed “incremental revenue” is because there never would be enough money to pay our artist—who we had spent millions in promoting and cultivating over years and years—to do something truly vile.
So we said pass, and the use wasn’t made.
Remember that—we passed and the use was not made. This is how an orderly market works. God help us all if special markets departments ever qualify for the DMCA safe harbor.
If you are an artist, what should be apparent to you from this exchange is that there are people–rarely the people who sign you–who sit around and dream up ways to whore you out. I can tell you that the worst of these people frequently come labels that have a poor front line A&R strategy—the reason they want our hits is because they have few to none of their own.
Where are these people? The 10th circle of Hell. But wait, you say–there were only 9 circles of Hell in the Inferno. Right, but so they’d have somewhere to go after commoditizing Circle 9, Dante would have to create a 10th Circle of Hell for these people where they could walk around in circles chanting “incremental revenue”—sponsored by Brylcream.
To be continued….
Is Your Band Registered to Vote? Find out here!
National Voter Registration Form and Instructions
- Clair Brothers' Gene Clair Passes Away December 5, 2013
- Meyer Sound Introduces MJF-210 Self-Powered Stage Monitor December 5, 2013
- JoeCo Releases New BlackBox Software Update December 5, 2013
- Trinity AVL Chooses Community VERIS Loudspeakers for Worship Spaces December 4, 2013
- C. Vilar Rolls Out Adamson E15s for Justin Bieber Concert in Colombia December 4, 2013
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- August 2007
- July 2007
- June 2007
- May 2007
- April 2007
- March 2007
- February 2007
- December 2006
- November 2006
- October 2006
- September 2006
- August 2006
- July 2006