@nickconfessore: The Unlikely Activists Who Took On Silicon Valley — and Won

[A teachable moment in activism that’s an important read to see all the swamp monster machinations that Silicon Valley puts us all through.  The post is extremely well-written but does take a bit of a commitment to read to the end.  Highly recommended that you stick with it to the end of the story.]

The way Alastair Mactaggart usually tells the story of his awakening — the way he told it even before he became the most improbable, and perhaps the most important, privacy activist in America — begins with wine and pizza in the hills above Oakland, Calif. It was a few years ago, on a night Mactaggart and his wife had invited some friends over for dinner. One was a software engineer at Google, whose search and video sites are visited by over a billion people a month. As evening settled in, Mactaggart asked his friend, half-seriously, if he should be worried about everything Google knew about him. “I expected one of those answers you get from airline pilots about plane crashes,” Mactaggart recalled recently. “You know — ‘Oh, there’s nothing to worry about.’ ” Instead, his friend told him there was plenty to worry about. If people really knew what we had on them, the Google engineer said, they would flip out….

Facebook and Google were following people around the rest of the internet…using an elaborate and invisible network of browsing bugs — they had, within little more than a decade, created a private surveillance apparatus of extraordinary reach and sophistication. Mactaggart thought that something ought to be done. He began to wonder whether he should be the one to do it….

Almost by accident, though, Mactaggart had thrust himself into the greatest resource grab of the 21st century. To Silicon Valley, personal information had become a kind of limitless natural deposit, formed in the digital ether by ordinary people as they browsed, used apps and messaged their friends. Like the oil barons before them, they had collected and refined that resource to build some of the most valuable companies in the world, including Facebook and Google, an emerging duopoly that today controls more than half of the worldwide market in online advertising. But the entire business model — what the philosopher and business theorist Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism” — rests on untrammeled access to your personal data. The tech industry didn’t want to give up its powers of surveillance. It wanted to entrench them. And as Mactaggart would soon learn, Silicon Valley almost always got what it wanted.

Read the post on The New York Times.

Must Read: @AnneMarieSteele: An insightful interview with Jody Gerson about songwriting and breaking artists

[This interview is one of the best statements of what signing and breaking a songwriter or an artist is all about.  When I was reading Jody Gerson’s interview I remember when I asked David Anderle once why we didn’t do bidding wars at A&M.   He said quite simply that A&M helped compelling artists make great records and then stuck with them until they found an audience.  They didn’t all work out but it wasn’t for lack of trying.  That had nothing to do with bidding wars.]

I think it is a difficult time for songwriters who aren’t writing massive hit songs. When I first came into the industry, you could write a cut on a big album, like for Whitney Houston, and it would sell a lot of records, and you could make a lot of money as a songwriter. But unless you’re writing hit singles or you have pieces of songs on enormous numbers of streamed product, it is very difficult right now….

A lot of people are relying on data today. I don’t go in that direction. I judge music based on what I feel. Does it move me? Is that a lyric that articulates a feeling that I have better than I can articulate it? Is there a driving beat that makes me want to move? Is there a melody that makes me want to sing along? I have found in my career anytime that I have trusted my instinct, I’m right….

What everybody’s missing is the role of the record company. There’s talk about whether artists need to be signed to a record company. I would like you to show me one streaming platform that has broken an artist, made a major investment in breaking an artist. It is not easy.

Just because a song is on a digital platform doesn’t mean you’re breaking that artist. The companies that put the most into the development of artists are still record companies. The investment in breaking artists still is something that we can’t underestimate, and platforms do not do that.

Hit artists, superstars, are never flukes. It just doesn’t happen that way. It takes a village to break an artist.

Read the post from the Wall Street Journal

Labels Follow BMG Rights with Lawsuit Against Cox Communications for Massive Infringement of Sound Recordings

Some of you may recall the resounding victory scored by BMG Rights against Cox Communications challenging the gaping holes in Cox’s alleged repeat infringer policy as documented by Rightscorp.  (Read the hilarious transcript from BMG v. Cox case denying EFF’s amicus brief as quoted in the Supreme Court amicus brief filed by David Lowery, Blake Morgan, East Bay Ray and Guy Forsyth in the current cy pres case brought by Ted Frank.)

In a follow on from the BMG Rights case, a group of record companies are essentially drafting behind BMG on the sound recording side in their own lawsuit against Cox.  This, of course, was to be expected since the evidence unearthed by BMG reflected such a cavalier disregard for the company’s repeat infringer policy and what infringes the song also infringes the sound recording.

Why is that repeat infringer policy so important?  In an oversimplified (but accurate) interpretation, no repeat infringer policy, no safe harbor.  That is enough to send the shredders humming all over the world and explains why the EFF was so interested in trying to influence the outcome of the case.  It also explains why Rightsflow’s investigative services are so important to rights holders as they were instrumental in proving the basic case (although Cox did a very good job of measuring the rope and testing their own noose all by themselves).

It also must be said that Cox never participated in the Copyright Alert System (to my knowledge) which could have gone a long way to helping them getting their repeat infringer policy in line with something that existed in the known universe.  They had a chance.  One final point is that it is an odd thing that BMG is to date the only publisher to enforce their rights against an ISP that I know of, although I’m happy to be educated otherwise.

If you think lions are lying down with lambs, think again.

According to Celebrity Access:

The plaintiffs allege in their suit that Cox is not effectively policing their subscribers who are violating copyrights, even when those alleged violators are brought to their attention by rights holders.

Per the lawsuit:

“Cox deliberately refused to take reasonable measures to curb its customers from using its Internet services to infringe on others’ copyrights—even once Cox became aware of particular customers engaging in specific, repeated acts of infringement. Plaintiffs’ representatives (as well as others) sent hundreds of thousands of statutory infringement notices to Cox, under penalty of perjury, advising Cox of its subscribers’ blatant and systematic use of Cox’s Internet service to illegally download, copy, and distribute Plaintiffs’ copyrighted music through BitTorrent and other online file-sharing services.”

The lawsuit takes issue with a provision of the DMCA, a law passed in 1998 that creates a safe harbor for online service providers such as Cox against copyright infringement liability, provided that they have an effective plan in place to deal with infringers.

The lawsuit cites a previous suit brought against Cox by a group of labels led by BMG. In that case, BMG Rights Mgmt. LLC v. Cox Communications, Inc. and CoxCom, LLC, BMG made substantially similar accusations against Cox, claiming that the company did little to deter rampant copyright infringement taking place via its service.

In 2015, a jury agreed with BMG Et Al. and awarded them a $25 million dollar judgment in that case. The judgment was later overturned on appeal, but the appeals court largely sided with the label’s challenge to Cox’s implementation of the DCMA rules.

Must Read: @WebSchauder: Anatomy of an Assault on Politics

[Appropos of the MTP post: Factiness EU Style: A Dedicated Group of Like Minded People Carpet Bombs The European Parliament (which gave historical context to the latest manipulation of governments by Google), Volker Rieck at WebShauder gives the view from the ground in Europe of how the assault was manipulated.  In a post-Cambridge Analytical world, no one with a brain can believe this was just spontaneous.  Plus, the methods are nearly identical to those we have seen in “protests” going back to 2009 at least and pointing to the Obama Administration’s practices on not basing policy choices on unreplecatable and unreliable casual polling, anonymous email campaigns and social media.]

The battle cries of “upload filter” deployed in opposition to Article 13 of the directive were not much better. Upload filters were not and are still not mentioned in the directive, but the term is eminently suited to stoking fear. And Reda [the sole Pirate Party MEP] did indeed succeed in her efforts to fool some of her supporters into believing that EVERYTHING on the internet will be filtered in the future if the directive is adopted in its current form and that memes – yes, even people’s much-beloved memes – will all be banned.

While this was completely at variance with the actual content of the directive, that appeared to be of merely tangential interest. What the directive proposed was that platforms (and only platforms) would be strongly encouraged to enter into license agreements with rightsholders covering user uploaded content.

Responsibility for taking out licenses would rest with the platforms, and end-users would be completely in the clear. The idea was simply that platforms would have a duty to maintain transparency to ensure correct licensing and the proper distribution of payments made for licenses to rightsholders. Under the directive, operators of a platform which had not concluded a licensing agreement would have been liable for unlicensed content on their platforms. How operators chose to keep their platforms clean would have been up to them. But preventing copyright violations would have come within their remit of responsibility.

And which platform would be most affected by Article 13?

[C]ontent-sharing platforms [are] the real issue here, let us look at one of the most successful ones, YouTube. The directive is interested only in regulating platforms like this, not in open-source platforms or sales platforms.

For years now, YouTube has been using its Content ID system. This system allows rightsholders who submit content to determine what should happen when users view it. The available options span the gamut from monetization (an end user uploads a video with music, for example, and the rightsholder gets a share of any advertising revenue generated) all the way to – please be brave now, Sascha Lobo and Julia Reda – blocking the video. The primary purpose of this system is to prevent third parties from generating revenue with content they have no entitlement to exploit.

But what about the protests?

This brings us nicely to the issue of the rallies against the new directive. A demonstration was held, of course. It took place on 24 June 2018 in Berlin. Rather unfortunately for the protesters, it rained that day; otherwise they would have been able to count the usual hordes of tourists at the Brandenburg Gate among their numbers. Under the circumstances, only those who had turned up to protest were counted, an estimated 150 people. As with an earlier demonstration focused on the ancillary copyright of press publishers, the turnout was so low that there were presumably more press photographers than activists in attendance.

This is of course exactly what we have seen with so many “protests” mobilized by groups like Fight for the Future and the EFF.  Nobody shows up.  That’s why they need the bots.

And here is where the investigation is required.

What came now was the hour of the bots, the automatically generated emails, the automatically placed phone calls and the miraculous multiplication of protest, or rather its simulation….[T]he inboxes of EU parliamentarians were flooded with automatically generated emails. Some EU parliamentarians reported having received 60,000 emails. In total, 6 million emails appear to have been dispatched to EU parliamentarians in this fashion. Compare that number to the handful of protesters in Berlin.

Almost all the emails were identical in content, phrasing and formatting, and many even came from one and the same sender, presumably following the logic that more is better. A very large number of them were sent from the domain Opendata.eu.
This site has no content. It was registered by an English limited company which is in turn a majority holding of a US Inc. that trades in domains and provides services. No civil rights initiative appears to be involved.

Did accepting responsibility for the relentless online bombardment of parliamentarians seem too risky?

The picture was repeated on Twitter, where accounts were flooded with spam, but also threats.

What had happened? Sites such as Saveyourinternet.eu had made tools available that enable this kind of email carpet bombing.  The supporters of this site include an array of internet lobby groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Anyone who believes that the EFF are a grassroots civil rights movement should take a look at this report.

Same stuff, different day.

And this is why, of course, the Google Shillery is on the attack from multiple corners.  The talking points email has already gone out, no doubt.

This is a must read post by Volker Rieck, and should prompt a complete investigation of the attack.  The crimes, if any, were not committed by the handful of real citizens communicating with their government with good intentions.

The crimes were committed, no doubt, by multinational corporations using the well-intentioned as human shields by manipulating the democratic process in Cambridge Anaytica-fashion.  And the one corporation that stands the most to lose is Google and they should be the first ones under the microscope, particularly since they just got socked with another multi-billion dollar fine by the European Commission.

Read the English translation of the post on WebShauder for even more justification.

ERRATA:  Unfortunately, we didn’t correctly attribute the post to Volker Rieck in the initial draft but thanks to a reader we got the correct information and deeply apologize for the oversight.

Are Data Centers The New Cornhusker Kickback and the Facebook Fakeout?

In case you were scratching your head about why Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse decided to stick his beak into trying to continue discrimination against recording artists who had the misfortune to record before 1972–here’s a possible explanation.  Maybe he was just getting his beak wet?

Remember, Senator Sasse introduced an amendment to the Music Modernization Act in the dead of night the day before the markup of MMA in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  While Senator Ron Wyden–another data center beneficiary of Amazon, Facebook and Google–was at least trying to dress up his complicity in a Chanel suit and Louboutin shoes.  Senator Sasse went the more direct route:

Sasse Amendement

Now why might he be so interested, particuarly given Nebraska’s musical history?  It turns out that there is quite the competition between Nebraska and Iowa for Silicon Valley’s data center business, particularly given the rewewable energy profile of each state (wind is 37% of Iowa’s electricity production and about 20% of Nebraska (including hydro).  That checks the box for Silicon Valley.

Of course, as we see from Senator Sasse’s tone deaf foray into copyright lobbying, Silicon Valley thinks they can play the rubes in return for building data centers in their state, just like they did with Senator Ron Wyden and the people of Oregon.  What does stiffing pre-72 artists have to do with data centers?  Nothing.  What does it have to do with playing footsie with royalty deadbeats like Google and Facebook?

Everything.

And rumor has it that there is a deal in the wings for a new Google data center in Nebraska.  Which also explains a lot.

But somehow, Facebook knows that its Silicon Valleyness may not be that popular with the rubes.

According to Data Center Dynamics, Facebook has been going to great lengths to hide its involvement in massive data centers being built in Nebraska, which gives “Cornhusker Kickback” a whole new meaning:

Operating under the alias Raven Northbrook, Facebook has its eyes on Nebraska, DCDcan exclusively reveal

Late last year, local council officials granted approval for a large data center project in Sarpy County, Nebraska, but the company behind the huge facility was kept a secret.

Now, DCD can confirm that the corporation hoping to build four 610,000 square foot (56,670 sq m) data center halls at the Sarpy Power Park is Facebook.

You can run servers, but you cannot hide them

SHOW FULLSCREEN

Raven Northbrook, certificate of authority, Facebook

Source: Nebraska Secretary of State

Sarpy County documents reveal that the company, which is publicly represented by infrastructure engineering and design solutions company Olsson Associates, goes by the name Raven Northbrook.

Read the post on Data Center Dynamics

@hkonnath: ‘We want to move fast’: Facebook’s new data center near Papillion should be online by 2020

[Now we begin to understand why Senator Ben Sasse is carrying the MIC Coalition and the Internet Association’s water on fixing the pre-72 loophole in the Music Modernization Act.  Maybe Michael Beckerman promised to take him shoe shopping?  Is this the New Cornhusker Kickback?

As state and city leaders shared congratulatory handshakes and posed for photos with shiny blue Facebook shovels Tuesday morning, construction was already beginning on the social media giant’s new data center south of Papillion.

“We want to move fast,” said Tom Furlong, vice president of infrastructure for Facebook.

Timing is key for Facebook when it comes to site selection, Furlong said after the announcement at Papillion’s City Hall. He was joined by Gov. Pete Ricketts, Papillion Mayor David Black and other state and county leaders, who took turns standing in front of a backdrop featuring Facebook’s logo intermingled with the Greater Omaha Chamber’s “We Don’t Coast” slogan.

Nebraska leaders say the deal was years in the making.

Must Read: @ChrisRizik: How Spotify Is Killing Jazz, Soul, Classical Music

[This is a must read post on the growing revolt against Spotify as the first known example of Orwell’s versificator.  As Chris Rizik notes, Spotify and its ilk are hardly saviors of music, more like destroyers of music and any popular culture that is more than a foot wide and an inch deep and a few years old.  There’s a reason why 10% of the music accounts for 90% of the revenue–and I think it’s more like 5% acccounts for 95%.]

Two events happened recently that caught my attention:

  • Lil Pump, a 17 year old Miami rapper, signed an $8 million recording deal with Warner Bros.
  • Around the same time, one of the leading modern soul singers in the US celebrated on social media the one millionth stream of her latest song on Spotify. Her financial haul on it? Likely around $3,000.

Though these two stories appeared unrelated, they are instructive of the strange new world of music streaming payments, and the inherent bias against soul, jazz, classical and other genres of music aimed at adult listeners….

And while there has been a lot of press about how streaming initially reduced the overall payments to record companies and artists (which has since turned around), what hasn’t been addressed as much is how streaming has changed which artists get paid. And, without a doubt, streaming has stacked the deck toward hip-hop, pop, and other genres whose listeners are teenagers and twenty-somethings.

Read the post on Hypebot