If you’ll be in Dallas, Texas on November 28, I will be discussing the Music Modernization Act at a luncheon sponsored by the Dallas Bar Association Entertainment & Sports Law Section. The meeting is scheduled for noon at the Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross Avenue in Dallas.
It’s hard to believe that after a good ten years of being called out, YouTube still–still–cannot manage to stop neo-Nazi and white supremacist material from getting posted on its network. We’ve been calling out YouTube for these inexcusable failures again and again and again. And yet they keep recycling the safe harbor as an alibi–and they’re doing it again in Europe on Article 13.
I can understand that YouTube doesn’t want to “censor” users and there may be close cases from time to time. For example, I could understand why YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki might not want to take down videos from Seeking Arrangement that encourages young women into a “sugar daddy” relationship to pay for college and health care.
Sure, one of her Google colleagues was murdered by a woman he met through Seeking Arrangement. Maybe Seeking Arrangement is a close case, particularly for a company that opposed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act.
But you know what’s not a close case? It’s right there in the title of the song–“Who Likes a N—“. You would think that one would get picked up in a simple text filter of debased language. But it wasn’t ten years ago and it still isn’t. Not a close case.
And then there’s “Stand Up and Be Counted” by the White Riders. It’s not that hard to figure out by listening to any of the many versions of this song that it’s a recruiting song for the Klu Klux Klan. And it’s not that YouTube doesn’t know it–this version of the hate song has clearly been filtered by YouTube–oh, sorry. Not by YouTube, but by the “YouTube community.” But why is it that a KKK recruiting song doesn’t violate YouTube’s terms of service if it doesn’t shock Susan Wojcicki’s conscience?
Today David Lowery called out YouTube and CD Baby for allowing hate rock to be distributed on their platforms. Within hours, CD Baby pulled the account. But not YouTube.
Let’s understand a couple things. First, this is not hard. The Anti Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have actual lists of these bands. Both Music Tech Policy and The Trichordist have been hammering this issue for years. Simple word searches could accomplish a large percentage of the task–the N word, KKK recruiting and images of Adolph Hitler are not close cases.
And let’s understand something else. When users post movies, television shows and recorded music on YouTube, all of those materials have gone through some kind of legal review for standards and practices. That doesn’t mean there’s no fair use or that there are no parodies. It does mean that a human has thought about it because free expression is a judgement call.
Free expression is deserving of human examination. You cannot create a machine that will do this for you. You cannot rely on crowd sourcing to stop all uses of these vile terms and images–because in every crowd there’s someone who thinks it’s all just fine. That’s why they’re called mobs.
YouTube, Facebook and all the Article 13 opponents actually are using a complete spectrum of review. The problem is that they are cost shifting the human review onto artists and to a lesser extent their users for two reasons. First and foremost is that they hope not to be caught. That’s what the safe harbor is really all about. The value gap is just a part of it–the other part is the values gap. How do these people sleep at night?
But I firmly believe that the real reason that they shift the human cost onto those who can least afford it is because they’re too cheap to pay for it themselves. They are willing to take the chance because getting caught so far has been a cost of doing business.
The real cost of their business is the corrosive effect that they have on our discourse, our families and our children. There has to be a way to make YouTube responsible for their choices–and CD Baby showed today that it’s not only possible but necessary.
If YouTube and their paid cronies want to try to convince legislators that they deserve special protection, they need to live up to the standard that CD Baby set today. And they need to do that before they get any further special treatment.
As we’ve said for years, the safe harbor is a privilege not an alibi.
[This is a really important post by Tshepo Mokoena–in a male dominated industry (streaming) that reflects another male-dominated industry (music), with playlists manipulated by men to men, the much vaunted “artist data” benefits for touring falls down both economically, artistically and ethically. Turns out streaming is a hyperefficient way to make sure the rich keep getting richer and the bias keeps getting stronger. Thanks, again, Spotify!]
A funny thing happens when a mixed-gender group chats in a room: people, of all genders, tend to think that the women are talking more. And they tend to think that even while the opposite is true….In translation: women have had to fight for a voice in the public sphere so much that their bare minimum participation is seen as Too Much.
I bring this up, because it’s just about that time for the annual rollout of the coming summer’s festival lineups and their inevitable gender imbalances. Welcome! You can almost draw a parallel between that academic idea – how one woman speaking a little, giving a bit of input, is perceived as her being on a par vocally with the men in the room – and the way women can still feel like a box-ticking afterthought at festivals. A 2017 BBC study found that all-male acts accounted for 80 percent of UK festival headliners. The same study also noted that a quarter of those top slots basically were taken by the same 20 acts – your Muses, Kasabians, Foo Fighters, Killers and so on.
But what about outside the traditional rock festival setup? This week, two events – Spotify’s Who We Be Live in London late this month, and Annie Mac’s AMP Lost & Found festival in Malta in May 2019 – shared news of some of their confirmed artists. Both present some pretty incredible talent, from UK rap, R&B and electronic music. Who We Be, after all, is the name of Spotify’s grime and rap-focused playlist. But, look closer and you also start to notice another trend emerge around gender balance, specifically when streaming plays as central a role in booking a live show, as it does for Who We Be. So while festivals are expanding beyond the ‘yes, let’s go see Kaiser Chiefs for the 18th time!!’ format, what space does that leave for women, in an industry that’s still traditionally dominated by men?
….In the US, Spotify’s RapCaviar, with its more than 10.5 million followers, is often cited as a star-maker. Only, hehehe, it turns out that women feature on it very rarely. When writer David Turner looked into the numbers, for Jezebel’s The Muse earlier this year, he found that women rappers accounted for about 4 percent of artists on the playlist between May 2016 and December 2017. Women overall made up 10.8 percent of RapCaviar artists over that time period.
If you don’t have time for any other news this week, make sure you read Rob Stringer’s interview in Music Business Worldwide, which should be read side by side with Jody Gerson’s recent interview with Anne Marie Steele.
Rob Stringer (CEO of Sony Music Entertainment) is a long-time records man who brings that underappreciated touch to Sony. (And since I agree with a lot of his approach, naturally I think its refreshing.)
Here’s an example. Every now and then, a label runs across an opportunity for one of their artists that turns out to be a windfall, a true windfall. Sometimes those are driven largely by the artist’s own reputation and creative patina like a soundtrack, sometimes the label creates the opportunity. Either way, it’s not budgeted revenue and it’s both nonrecurring and unusually large, so there’s a strong argument for pass through treatment from time to time. “Pass through” meaning the label collects the money but pays the artist’s share of it out regardless of the artist’s recoupment status.
This generally gives the accountants heartburn, even if done sparingly. But in addition to being a good artist relations move, it’s also the right thing to do. I did that with Road Rash 3DO which was the first videogame to use “real” music, i.e., licensed music, and was also the first and last to actually pay a royalty (across all platforms). (Some games do pay a royalty, but not like the one we got.) I also did it with a soundtrack that was one of the last truly huge soundtracks and our artist had a featured slot. Both those instances put 6 figures into the artist’s bank accounts and we made plenty of money, too. Moral of the story: Leave some on the table.
The same can be said of Rob Stringer’s decision to “give back” to Sony artists on the sale of Sony’s shares in Spotify (more or less confirming that there was a tranche of shares issued to Sony as consideration for licensing the catalog):
“We gave back to the artists which was a deliberate strategy because we wanted to say to them, [you’re] the reason we have most of these shares…”
That’s a great attitude. And of course, is exactly right. (Sony also bought some shares, which, of course, should be Sony’s money as it was Sony’s risk.) I’m not so sure that someone didn’t have to…shall we say persuade…others in the company of the correctness of the sharing move, and it is an awful lot of money. But in the end Rob Stringer got the company to do the right thing, and it’s the kind of thing a good records man would do.
He also makes another excellent point that every artist should think seriously about when considering one of these various direct deals on offer:
“I don’t think Spotify wants to be funding the entire artist development process – we have thousands of people, literally, that we can get to face in the same direction on a global basis,” said Stringer.
“Spotify doesn’t claim to have those thousands of people globally [working in artist development], they are a digital distribution platform… sometimes the lines can become blurred and, quite frankly, we’re both learning as we go along.”
When a major is actually working for you and firing on all cylinders, they really do have that ability to get everyone around the world doing the same thing at the same time in multiple time zones and through multiple distribution channels relevant to their particular market. Or as Jody Gerson said, “[i]t takes a village to break an artist.”
In other news from the Goolag, if you’ve been following the battle over the European Parliament’s passing of the new Copryight Directive, one of the core group of Members of the European Parliament who helped get the legislation passed was the Green Party’s Helga Truepel. As David Lowery notes in this post on The Trichordist and in many other posts, Big Tech misused political communication tools to spam Members of the European Parliament with the hope of tricking them into thinking that there were actual constitutents who opposed the new Copyright Directive.
Remember that there have been two votes, with yesterday’s victory being the second vote. Our side lost the first vote following the first astroturf spam campaign. But–not only did Google get called out about it in The Trichordist, the London Times, FAZ and a bunch of other publications also confirmed David’s research. Did that stop Google? Nope. They did it again in the run up to yesterday’s vote. As Blake Morgan often says, Goliath never learns.
In a press conference at the European Parliament after yesterday’s vote, MEP Truepel answered a question from a journalist seeking an explanation of why the vote changed so radically–dozens of MEPs actually switched their votes to pass the Directive yesterday.
MEP Truepel said that she thought it was because MEPs were pissed off by the Google-backed astroturf campaign that was so offensively transparent–but not in a good way–that massively backfired on Google. Of course, not only has it backfired, but Google (and, in fairness, Facebook) was exposed as the prime mover behind the attack, which came right before the European Commission announced yet another multi-billion fine against Google for violating European competition law.
MEP Truepel also announced that she was going to meetings at the Googleplex–aka Spamalot–in the near future to discuss the role of Google in Europe. Oh, that should just be a bunch of LOLs.
Start at 14:45:10 You HAVE to watch this. When asked why EU Parliament switched from opposing the copyright directive to overwhelmingly supporting it, German MEP Helga Truepel pulls no punches: “I think it’s due to this message spamming campaign. I talked to some of my collegues here [and they] are totally pissed off […]
According to the Canalys research outfit, Google has taken the lead over Amazon for the first time in the acquisition of biometric identifying data–aka “smart speakers”. It should come as no surprise that Google is vastly more interested in acquiring “phonemes” by which to identify users and track them through a variety of means.
The “smart speaker” is the latest step in government contractor Google’s long running campaign to track users and build speech-to-text and speech recognition tools.
The program goes back to at least 2007 when Marissa Meyer said of “GOOG-411”:
The speech recognition experts that we have say: If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken by a particular voice with a particular intonation. So we need a lot of people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that.
So who do you think the customers are for speech-to-text and speech recognition tools to whom government contractors like Google and Amazon might be selling your biometric data? The biometrics harvesting tools allows Big Tech to connect your voice print and maybe your fingerprints to all the other data that they have already harvested about you from other means. And of course when you add in facial recognition or iris recognition it’s game, set and match.
Think about that when you enable your fingerprint, iris or facial recognition authentication or talk to Alexa or your Google Home Mini. Or you could just ask the Shoe Gazer at the Internet Association.
“Hey Alexa, re-gift yourself.”
[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.