RikiMusic is pirating dozens of articles from Hypebot as well as allegedly uploading tracks from indie artists to Spotify and Amazon Music without authorization….
Caleb Jackson Dills, who first wrote about the music theft for Artists Rights Watch, also noticed that the content on the RikiMusic blog looked familiar.
Virtually all of the dozens of posts on the RikiMusic site were pirated directly from Hypbot.com and illegally published verbatim without attribution.
The Federal Trade Commission issued Special Orders to five large technology firms, requiring them to provide information about prior acquisitions not reported to the antitrust agencies under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act. The orders require Alphabet Inc. (including Google), Amazon.com, Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook, Inc., and Microsoft Corp. to provide information and documents on the terms, scope, structure, and purpose of transactions that each company consummated between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2019.
The Commission issued these orders under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act, which authorizes the Commission to conduct wide-ranging studies that do not have a specific law enforcement purpose. The orders will help the FTC deepen its understanding of large technology firms’ acquisition activity, including how these firms report their transactions to the federal antitrust agencies, and whether large tech companies are making potentially anticompetitive acquisitions of nascent or potential competitors that fall below HSR filing thresholds and therefore do not need to be reported to the antitrust agencies.
“Digital technology companies are a big part of the economy and our daily lives,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “This initiative will enable the Commission to take a closer look at acquisitions in this important sector, and also to evaluate whether the federal agencies are getting adequate notice of transactions that might harm competition. This will help us continue to keep tech markets open and competitive, for the benefit of consumers.”
The Special Orders require each recipient to identify acquisitions that were not reported to the FTC and the U.S. Department of Justice under the HSR Act, and to provide information similar to that requested on the HSR notification and report form. The orders also require companies to provide information and documents on their corporate acquisition strategies, voting and board appointment agreements, agreements to hire key personnel from other companies, and post-employment covenants not to compete. Last, the orders ask for information related to post-acquisition product development and pricing, including whether and how acquired assets were integrated and how acquired data has been treated.
The Commission plans to use the information obtained in this study to examine trends in acquisitions and the structure of deals, including whether acquisitions not subject to HSR notification might have raised competitive concerns, and the nature and extent of other agreements that may restrict competition. The Commission also seeks to learn more about how small firms perform after they are acquired by large technology firms. These and related issues were discussed during several sessions of the FTC’s 2018 Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century, and this study is part of the follow-up from those Hearings.
The FTC has a statutory right under the HSR Act to review acquisitions and mergers over a certain size before they are consummated, and the study will help the Commission consider whether additional transactions should be subject to premerger notification requirements. The orders will also contribute broadly to the FTC’s understanding of technology markets, and thereby support the FTC’s program of vigorous and effective enforcement to promote competition and protect consumers in digital markets.
The Commission vote to approve issuing the Special Orders was 5-0. Commissioners Christine S. Wilson and Rohit Chopra issued a joint statement.
The Federal Trade Commission develops policy initiatives on issues that affect competition, consumers, and the U.S. economy. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
Emmanuel Legrand reports in his excellent newsletter that:
Music industry trade group the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has asked the US government for tougher measures against infringers, in particular in the online marketplace. The proposal was part of a submission to the US Department of Commerce, as part of its request for comments on the state of the state of counterfeit and pirated goods.
You can read the RIAA’s submission here.
Counterfeiting and pirating of physical music products facilitated by online platforms continues to cause harm to our members. In 2019, we conducted two studies to identify the amount of counterfeit offerings of music CDs on popular online platforms, including a study on the prevalence of high quality counterfeit box sets on certain platforms and a study on the prevalence of high quality counterfeits for a broad sample of current and evergreen album titles released by the major U.S. record labels. As further discussed below, each of these studies showed significant counterfeit activity on the noted online platforms, including findings that:
- A recent sample purchase program found 100% of new high quality box sets offered for sale through eBay or AliExpress in the U.S. were counterfeit; and
- A recent sample purchase program found 11% of new CDs offered for sale on Amazon were counterfeit, and 16% of new CDs sold on eBay were counterfeit.
For the study on box sets of music, we identified and made test buys on eBay and AliExpress’s U.S. platforms of 10 well known artist box set titles released by major U.S record labels. Each purchase was made after a search for “brand new” box sets of the titles selected, and a purchase of the 4 lowest priced box sets on each platform, without regard to seller location. We then examined the products that were shipped to us. On both eBay and AliExpress, 100% of the test buys of the box sets were counterfeit. This is of particular concern as box sets are premium physical music products designed for the superfan that often contain the most significant sound recordings in an artist’s repertoire.
The conclusion is:
Trafficking of counterfeit and pirated goods, whether in the form of physical CDs, box sets or artist merchandise, as well as online infringement of music and music videos in digital form, continues to significantly impact the music industry. We believe more can be done, including implementation of voluntary measures as well as governmental action, to deter and reduce such activity, and create a healthier online ecosystem where all can thrive.
Amazon apparently was the only one of the bootleggers who responded, and did so with the usual non answer and deflection:
Our customers expect that when they make a purchase through Amazon’s store—either directly from Amazon or from one of its millions of third-party sellers—they will receive authentic products. Amazon strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products and we invest heavily in both funds and company energy to ensure our policy is followed. We work with and empower brands through programs like Brand Registry, Transparency, and Project Zero to ensure only authentic products are sold in our stores. We investigate any claim of counterfeit thoroughly, including removing the item, permanently removing the bad actor, pursuing legal action or working with law enforcement as appropriate.
Sound familiar? Kind of like how YouTube responds to the community flagging? Investigating after the illegal goods are being sold is not the point. Getting caught is not the point. The point is stopping the illegal goods from getting onto the platform in the first place.
The reason this drivel from Amazon sounds like tired crap is because it is tired crap. And crystalizes that they think the problem is getting caught and that what they really want is to keep getting away with it.
And this is where I disagree a bit with RIAA–the time for voluntary measures has passed. Someone needs to go to jail–someone high up who almost invariably knew what was going on (for example, grand jury documents told the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island “Larry Page knew what was going on“).
Then we can talk again about voluntary measures to keep their butts out of the slammer–not their pathetic little “Project Zero.” I got your project zero right here.
Remember the great continuum that has driven homo sapiens for millennia:
FEAR <———> GREED
We need Jeff Bezos closer to the FEAR end than the GREED end.
Remember that data is the new exposure, streaming is the new physical and that both these tropes have something in common–artists are being driven to substitute away from low to no margin streaming and away from sustainable margins on physical like CDs with no revenue replacement. (Unless you’re in the 5% of tracks that account for 90% of streaming revenue in the hyper efficient market share distribution of streaming revenue.)
Against that background, we find that the online platforms like eBay, Alibaba and Amazon are going even further toward evil and doing little or nothing in their rush to drive physical retail out of business to stop the sale of counterfeit CDs delivered to your door by Amazon Prime or Ali-express. And most honest business folk would probably think they are pretty shameless about it and ask how could they get away with sucking up the revenue from counterfeits into their maelstrom of cash?
But before you go down that rabbit hole, you need to understand an important fact about the mind set of Silicon Valley–and it’s the same mindset that gave us both Google and Theranos. It’s not that they made a choice to do evil. It’s that they don’t understand there is a choice about doing evil. It’s how these little soulless people sit in front of Congress and lie and feel good about themselves. The Internet is their Ring of Gyges and they are unconcerned about justice because their thing is getting away with it, not getting caught and getting richer than Croesus.
Somewhere in their development they lacked the normative guide–or “sherpa” in their case–that should have developed a self-governing code to map their behavior. Parents, pastors, priests, rabbis, teachers, all failed to make a dent. These are the kind of people who don’t stop when the European Commission fines them billions. They don’t care how they treat their employees as long as they’re the richest man in the world. They don’t care about ripping off artists. Their reaction to getting caught is not fixing the problem, their reaction is to buy the shillery and try to make us look greedy for expecting them to behave.
If a $5 billion fine didn’t work, how about $50 billion? Let’s try that. But even in the Silicon Valley dual class system, the corporate royalty might start thinking about offering up an executive to save the company.
This is why the solution probably isn’t voluntary. It probably has a lot more zeros on it than any normal person would think reasonable, or is a court order for very specific behavior, or simply prison.
[Editor Charlie sez: Spoiler alert! The answer is “Yes”!]
With right-wing populists expected to make big gains overall in the European elections, further legislation to rein in Silicon Valley could struggle to pass. In recent months, EU leaders have discussed imposing new digital taxes on the revenues of Big Tech companies; those efforts might not find support among Europe’s new parliamentarians. And the EU’s incipient antitrust crackdown against Big Tech—which now involves probes of Amazon and Google—could face stumbling blocks. Could Big Tech find itself depending on the votes of far-right, populist politicians to defend its corner?
[Editor Charlie sez: So when you place an Amazon order with Alexa, try telling Alexa in your best baritone to “tote that barge, lift that bail, get a little drunk and you’ll land in jail”. We need many amendments to labor laws thanks to the Richest Man in the World. But this man–Michael Beckerman, one of Amazon’s top lobbyists in Washington, DC–will do his best to stop all those laws while wearing $5,000 shoes]
Amazon’s fulfillment centers are the engine of the company — massive warehouses where workers track, pack, sort, and shuffle each order before sending it on its way to the buyer’s door.
Critics say those fulfillment center workers face strenuous conditions: workers are pressed to “make rate,” with some packing hundreds of boxes per hour, and losing their job if they don’t move fast enough. “You’ve always got somebody right behind you who’s ready to take your job,” says Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and a prominent Amazon critic.
Documents obtained by The Verge show those productivity firings are far more common than outsiders realize.
When you ask Amazon’s Alexa, “What is Wikipedia?” it’ll tell you this: “Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free encyclopedia based on a model of openly editable content.” Alexa took this line directly from Wikipedia’s entry on Wikipedia, as it does with many of its answers. Perhaps what it should have said was this: “Wikipedia is the source from which I take much of my information, without credit, contribution, or compensation.”
That’s about to change. Or is it? Amazon recently donated $1 million to the Wikimedia Endowment, a fund that keeps Wikipedia running, as “part of Amazon’s and CEO Jeff Bezos’ growing work in philanthropy,” according to CNET. It’s being framed as a “gift,” one that—as Amazonputs it—recognizes their shared vision to “make it easier to share knowledge globally.” Amazon also noted the ability for users to easily donate to Wikimedia through the Alexa Donations feature, with the voice command “Alexa, donate to Wikipedia.”…
But it’s not just the fact that this donation is, in the scheme of things, paltry. It’s that this “endowment” is dwarfed by what Amazon and its ilk get out of Wikipedia—figuratively and literally.
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.”