[Editor Charlie sez: Looks like song data is becoming all the rage. We were on this years ago–here’s a 2011 interview from MusicTechPolicy with Keith Bernstein, CEO of Crunch Digital, about the importance of maintaining and controlling song data.]
MTP: Why would you care about the unrestricted transfer of metadata to an online retailer?
Bernstein: If you don’t restrict what can be done with your metadata, digital retailers can possibly compile it and resell it without your knowledge, perhaps to competitors or to other databases that will also make it available.
MTP: Why is that a problem?
Bernstein: Aside from someone free riding on your asset?
MTP: Well, that is a problem that they tried to get at in the European database protection statutes to let firms capture the value of these assets in a property right. But, yes, beyond free riding.
Bernstein: It can lead to confusion in the marketplace which can result in mistakes in payments and credits under a license. If you control your own metadata you will have an incentive to keep it current, at least to include new acquisitions or sales. It can also allow competitors to map your metadata to other databases, such as which songs have been registered for copyright and that information can be used competitively to the disadvantage of the copyright owner.
MTP: So there is a direct connection between the rights granted and the need for confidential treatment of the metadata and database?
Bernstein: I think that’s pretty clearly the case.
MTP: Does it matter which kind of digital retailer gets your metadata? Compare a pureplay retailer with a retailer that’s part of a larger company, like a larger company that has a search engine.
Bernstein: If the retailer also has a search engine, then there’s the immediate question of whether there’s any restriction on the retailer making your metadata available to its affiliates, like to its search engine affiliate.
MTP: Why would that matter?
Bernstein: Because the search engine could use it in the background to train its search algorithm to map your metadata to illegal search results from lyric sites, cyberlockers or bit torrent trackers. Or other purposes you didn’t authorize.
MTP: I think they call that non-display uses, like what Google is rumored to be doing with all the books it scanned before it lost the Google Books case.
Bernstein: That sounds right, things they could be doing in the background without you ever knowing they were doing it. They could also have a greater ability to sell keywords based on your metadata.
MTP: In Europe, the database right also covers updates to the database. I wonder how updates would get disseminated once the metadata is sold?
Bernstein: They probably wouldn’t. And then you would have people using search engines to find information that was stale.
MTP: That sounds like a real mess.
Bernstein: At Crunch Digital we call it “Songageddon”.
MTP: Right. These problems could be reduced if there was a confidentiality provision in the license. I remember you used to see those in digital phonorecord delivery licenses starting in the late 1990s.
Bernstein: That’s right, I remember those, too. We still see confidentiality clauses, but sometimes it’s overlooked, and other times it’s an afterthought.
MTP: If I recall, those clauses typically dealt with what the service could do with the information with third parties, not so much with affiliates.
Bernstein: Times have changed.
MTP: Wakey wakey.
MTP: Right. Something else to look forward to. Thanks, Keith, very uplifting.
Bernstein: It’s a good news, bad news situation.
MTP: The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.