Wasn’t too long ago that pundits predicted the end of physical storefronts.
Now, in an ironic twist, the very forces of digital commerce that were supposed to do in brick-and-mortar have become hot for commercial real estate.
Two of the biggest proponents are smart-home contenders Amazon and Google. The e-tailer has opened bookstores, pop-up shops and in-store Kohl’s sections across the country, while the search engine giant is plying its proprietary Home products via temporary holiday stores in New York and Los Angeles.
TWICE visited two of these physical manifestations, which provide further proof that the corner store is here to stay.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Record labels are irrelevant because they’ve been disrupted by a venture-funded technology start-up. The major labels exploit artists, who can now distribute their music directly to consumers online, plus get the data they need to make money playing concerts, selling merch or doing sponsorships. Sound familiar?
It’s an old joke — on creators.
The latest telling involves UnitedMasters, a startup run by Steve Stoute, CEO of the marketing company Translation, and funded with $70 million by Google parent company Alphabet, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and 21st Century Fox. UnitedMasters will distribute artists’ music online, apparently without requiring them to sign over copyright. It will use the data it gathers to better target consumers with ads, while artists can use it to better target fans with offers for tickets or t-shirts.
It’s a great story. An old business gets disrupted, a new company is built and artists grow more empowered. Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Ben Horowitztold the Journal that the idea came together at a “Google Camp” event in Italy. And why not? Google co-founder Larry Page “has a deep sensitivity for the artist,” as Stoute told TechCrunch. Artists worried about how little YouTube pays will be happy to hear this.
It’s hard to tell what, exactly, is new here.
Facebook pays no royalties for the music that gives significant value to the platform. That’s often a surprising proposition for artists and songwriters, much less the general public.
Yet it is true—hitmakers and new artists, pros and amateurs alike do not get a penny from Facebook and the company doesn’t even attempt to license their work. Why should a multibillion dollar multinational corporation that anchors a large piece of the Internet economy and whose founder is planning on running for President of the United States get to pay music makers in exposure bucks?
The answer is that Facebook, like YouTube and many other user-generated content platforms hide behind the legacy DMCA “safe harbor” and its nonnegotiable, unconscionable, adhesion contract that controls the use of its platform.
Rumor has it that Facebook is evidently coming to the table and is in at least semi-active negotiations with at least some labels and publishers.
One may well ask what took so long—but if it were not for Universal Music Group’s pursuit of Facebook’s infringements through DMCA notices, it’s likely that Facebook would be blithely rolling on its monopolist juggernaut.
On the other hand, this is actually a good time to be negotiating these deals give the Congressional scrutiny of Facebook’s involvement in the 2016 Presidential election campaigns. We have the benefit of public statements by Facebook representatives under oath regarding what they can do and what they so far refuse to do which may come in handy in licensing negotiations.
These negotiations with rights owners may result in what will seem like a very big pop of up-front cash—but is it? And whatever the number, how will that money be distributed to the artists and songwriters that make it happen?
The dossier that has fueled investigations into Russian connections to Donald Trump’s team got a lot right. Indeed, congressional probes and the first guilty plea in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation have shown the document’s suggestions that the Kremlin sought for years to cultivate Trump, that it cozied up to key Trump campaign officials, that it worked to sow division in the U.S. electorate and that the campaign had contacts with Wikileaks have all been on target.
Yet among the 35-page dossier’s claims stands one – on the very last page – that is still vexing investigators. It’s the accusation that a company called XBT and its U.S. subsidiary Webzilla hacked the emails of Democratic Party leaders.
“[O]ver the period March-September 2016 a company called XBT/Webzilla and its affiliates had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’” against them, according to the dossier, which was prepared by a former British spy who specialized in Russia.
XBT and web-hosting company Webzilla, while not well known to the American public, have long been the targets of lawyers who fight Internet piracy. They have claimed, in several lawsuits and regulatory filings, that Webzilla looks the other way while its customers flagrantly steal copyrighted materials.
Read the post in McClatchy papers
GARCIN: …So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the “burning marl.” Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is—other people!
In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s prophetic farewell address famously warned of the growing “military industrial complex”:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Given Eisenhower’s history as a military officer of the highest rank, Ike knew of what he spoke only too well.
In 2017, President Barack Obama may well have given his own prophetic warning of a different unholy alliance between government and industry, but this time there won’t be a song written about it called “Masters of War,” except maybe “Masters of the Internet” (by Ceramic Dog/Marc Ribot) or “March of the Billionaires” by Cracker (written by Faragher-Hickman- Lowery-Urbano).
The President warned in his farewell address (“the great sorting”):
For too many of us, it has become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods, or on college campuses, or places of worship, or especially our social media feeds. Surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship and increasing economic and regional stratification, the splitting of our media into a channel for every taste. All this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. Increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we start only accepting information, whether its true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the information that is out there.
As Maya Kosoff reflects on President Obama’s warning in Vanity Fair:
Today, 62 percent of U.S. adults say they get their news from social media, often relying on news stories shared within their own self-selected digital bubbles. Facebook, which has finally accepted some culpability for its role in disseminating unchecked misinformation, is still experiencing growing pains as it evolves, whether willingly or not, from a social network into a media company. But the problem runs deeper. Studies in recent years suggest media fragmentation has increased partisanship—that is, paradoxically, the vast array of news outlets at our disposal today have given way to more explicitly ideological ones and have helped contribute to an increase in partisanship and polarized political opinion. [Emphasis mine]
Facebook’s own internal studies developed in Facebook’s “Core Data Science Team” as well as medical research into Internet addiction confirms what Sean Parker revealed this week–Facebook intentionally profits from addiction. And as Professor Adam Alter teaches us about behavioral addictions, the addiction that Sean Parker tells the world was perfected by Facebook is every bit as addictive as substance addiction:
People have been addicted to substances for thousands of years, but for the past two decades, we’ve also been hooked on technologies, like Instagram, Netflix, Facebook, Fitbit, Twitter, and email—platforms we’ve adopted because we assume they’ll make our lives better. These inventions have profound upsides, but their appeal isn’t an accident. Technology companies and marketers have teams of engineers and researchers devoted to keeping us engaged. They know how to push our buttons, and how to coax us into using their products for hours, days, and weeks on end.
Mark Zuckerberg would have us believe that the true purpose of Facebook is to bring the world closer together. I’m a skeptic, and here’s why.
The good thing about Facebook is that it brings people together in new communities. The bad thing about Facebook is that some of those people previously only met on Death Row. And as Sartre said, hell is other people.
The billionaire and former Facebook president Sean Parker now says he regrets helping turn the social network into a global phenomenon. The site grew by “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology” with its greed for attention and the careful reward system it created to keep users addicted.
“We need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever… It’s a social-validation feedback loop… a vulnerability in human psychology,” he admitted to news site Axios.
Parker’s backing was instrumental in turning the Harvard campus-only software into a global phenomenon by introducing Zuckerberg to Silicon Valley venture capital. (Parker [“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars”] was played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network.)
[According to Spotify board member and Facebook president Sean Parker] All the sharing and liking [on Facebook] Iwere used like a drug to get people hooked on checking Facebook non-stop. “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible,” said Parker, referring to Facebook’s earliest mission.
“God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” Parker said.
The candid interview wasn’t the first time a Silicon Valley insider had sounded the alarm on the digital dangers of social media and the internet. However, in light of the mass disinformation dump on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and everywhere online during the election, the real-world consequences have become more clear and frightening.