I Was Interviewed By The Congressional Budget Office Regarding The Music Modernization Act, And Now I’m Even More Concerned For DIY Musicians

Dae Bogan Music

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I just spent the last hour giving a copyright law and music publishing crash course to a Principal Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office who’s tasked with determining the economic impact of the revised Music Modernization Act (which, by the way, now includes the Musical Works Modernization Act (which is an update to the originally proposed MMA, affecting songwriters and publishers), AMP Act (affecting producers and engineers) and CLASSICS Act (affecting recording artists of Pre-1972 records)) on states, DSPs and music creators.

He emailed me yesterday and asked to speak with me about the magnitude of the unclaimed royalties market, although we ended up discussing much more than that. Apparently he had discovered a presentation that I gave at the Music Industry Research Association’s MIRA Conference last year titled “The State of Unclaimed Royalties and Music Licenses in the United States.”

Screenshot (533) Email from a Principal Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office

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@TedStew: AT&T-Time Warner Trial: Randall Stephenson Takes Stand and Defends Merger

[It’s important to focus on the budgets that the OTT services are spending on original programming and animal spirits being targeted on creators in a positive way for once.  That is at least nominally driving the competitive incentives for the AT&T/Time Warner merger.  May not be smart to be too quick to judge.]

[AT&T CEO Randall] Stephenson tried to show that the ability to gain increased leverage in distribution was never the rationale for the merger. In notes he wrote after his initial lunch conversation with Bewkes, Stephenson described the potential merger as a “vision deal,” and said that he didn’t want to give the AT&T board of directors “the expectation that there would be these significant cost synergies” if they paid a premium for the company. He explained that he wrote the note before his team did a full study of the transaction, and savings have since been identified.

On Sept. 1, 2016, the board gave him the greenlight to pursue the merger, and approved the transaction in a unanimous vote on Oct. 22 that year.

He said AT&T, starting in 2016, set out to pursue the acquisition of a content company, given the changes taking place in the media business, citing Netflix and Amazon, and their ability to gain valuable consumer data on what their subscribers are watching, as well as Google and Facebook and their offering of targeted advertising tied to a specific consumer’s likes and dislikes.

The CEOs of those companies, Stephenson said, say that their businesses are “all about engagement” with the consumer.

He talked of the benefits of AT&T’s wireless and DirecTV’s set-top box data in creating a new targeted advertising platform for Turner’s channels, with the ability to deliver “three, four, five” times the return on what traditional spots currently get.

He said the merger represented a “significant shift in strategy” for AT&T, as it had previously tried to buy two smaller content businesses but “to no avail.” The merger with Time Warner, he said, would allow AT&T to make a giant leap into the content business more quickly.

“We knew we had to have scale,” he said.

He pointed out the decline in subscribers to DirecTV and U-verse, as younger consumers in particular migrate to cheaper platforms or go without pay-TV subscriptions altogether.

Read the post on Variety

@IFTA_Official, @ArtistRightsNow, @The_AFM and @CreativeFuture Ask Congress to Hold Silicon Valley Monopolies Accountable

[Editor Charlie sez:  Congress needs to get rid of the safe harbors for the special people, including the retroactive safe harbor against songwriters in the Music Modernization Act that no one talks about.]

 Press Release

LOS ANGELES, CA / WASHINGTON, DC – April 19, 2018 – Today, the American Federation of Musicians, the Content Creators Coalition, CreativeFuture, and the Independent Film & Television Alliance, four organizations representing over 240,000 members and 670 companies, sent letters to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary; the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. These committees held hearings with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on April 10 and 11, 2018, where Facebook’s founder was questioned on the company’s accountability and responsibility for what appears on their platform.

The letters, which will be entered into the official record for both hearings, ask Congress to ensure “that Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other internet platforms … (1) take meaningful action to protect their users’ data, (2) take appropriate responsibility for the integrity of the news and information on their platforms, and (3) prevent the distribution of unlawful and harmful content through their channels.”

“Facebook, Google and other internet platforms post massive amounts of content often without the consent of the people who create this content and without compensating the creators. Congress should take strong action to ensure that musicians and other creators are appropriately compensated and credited when their work is used by these very profitable corporations,” said American Federation of Musicians International President Ray Hair.

“The same dominant internet platforms that have successfully connected billions of people across the globe and mapped the world refuse to take action to stop the real harms their platforms have enabled. They boast of their technological know-how and then claim to be powerless to police fake news, human trafficking, and unlicensed content on their platforms,” said the Content Creators Coalition. “While we are encouraged by the recent hearings, Congress needs to do more to hold these platform monopolies accountable.”

CreativeFuture CEO Ruth Vitale said: “Silicon Valley touts their size when bragging about their contribution to the American economy, but when they want to fend off regulation, they quickly retreat to ‘just two guys working in the garage…’ and claim that rules will ‘stifle innovation.’

“Big Tech has made it to the top of American industry when it comes to profitability. So, this is the time when they should take responsibility. They must do what they can to stop crimes from happening on their turf.”

Jean Prewitt, President & CEO of the Independent Film & Television Alliance, added: “The internet should create important opportunities for expanded distribution, new audiences, and new revenue streams for independent creatives. That promise, however, can only be realized if online platforms and services, like Facebook, Google, Twitter and others, respect the personal and economic rights of consumers and creators and work cooperatively to ensure that those principles are observed throughout the ecosystem. We appreciate Congress taking the first steps to evaluate the extent to which corporate and legislative action may be needed to achieve that result.”

 

@FeaturedArtist’s Lucie Caswell calls for “due reward” to artists from Spotify equity windfalls

[And what about the songwriters?]

As the trading floor eyes up Spotify’s float, the attention of the music industry is on its licensors. None more so than music makers, who created the assets which make Spotify and its rivals, the billion-dollar businesses they are today. In theory, those assets are due for a windfall as option agreements become exercisable and paper value crystallises into cash. This is potentially a moment which proves the extraordinary opportunities of our digital age, the borderless, boundless bounty of music, the leadership of music innovation and, the enormous value in this business we love, music.

Whose value and how much however, is the conversation of the day. Spotify floating as the New York Stock Exchange takes a hit, is hopefully not prescient of the rewards to the music value chain, through rights-owners and rights licensors who included equity in their licensing deals. Premium-priced initial sales would suggest otherwise. Those licensing deals intrinsically exist for the protection and monetisation of copyright – the music rights and songs artists entrusted to those licensors, for the best advantage to achieve fans and revenues. Rights-holders, distributors, aggregators and services like Spotify, all make money from that transaction and, that trust. Surely it is only sound business that the trust will be repaid and the creators receive due reward from those valuable assets, when money is made.  Whether marketing them, streaming them, building a business upon and around them or licensing them, this industry is sustained and sustainable only, with those songs and recordings.

How much value, will be a matter of the deal at hand and the hour at which the licensor cashes in (something which it seems, will be a tightrope dance of timing over the initial roller-coaster period of trading). From that point, the licensor must decide how to distribute the win across all of the assets it has licensed. Notice I say all. There is apparently some discussion of who should be included, of what repertoire may or may not feel the windfall and who is more valuable.

At this stage we point, as we have before, to the demonstrative WIN FairDigitalDeals Declaration. This landmark calling-card for fair play by rights-holders has come of age. Principle statements are now to become practice. This simple document, signed up to by a growing, global swathe of independent labels, is indicative of how good practice is the fair, transparent and creator-led business we strive for as the FAC.  Good players are many but they also provide precedent that business can be done with equal revenue shares, clear reporting and by fit for purpose, full and fair distribution of wealth to those who create it. Now is the time for all labels and licensors to really demonstrate good intent for artists, ensuring that our ecosystem is sustainable in practice and principled throughout.

Read the post in Music Week

@coreypein: How to get rich quick in Silicon Valley

[Editor Charlie sez:  When they write the book on the Internet it will be the biggest income transfer of all time, from Macy’s to Amazon, from Tower to Spotify, from Sony to Apple, from competition to monopoly.  It’s not new money or a new economy, it’s just the old economy going into as few new pockets as possible.  There will be a magic show at 0930.]

Despite what you may have heard, hard work in your chosen trade is absolutely the stupidest way to join the billionaires club. In Silicon Valley, the world’s most brilliant MBAs and IT professionals discovered a shortcut to fabulous riches. Ambitious Ivy Leaguers who once flocked to Wall Street are now packing up and heading west. The Valley’s startup founders, investors, equity-holding executives and fee-taking middlemen have thrived above all. Inspired by their success, my idea was to move to Silicon Valley, pitch a startup and become obscenely rich. I left home with some homemade business cards showing my new email address, futurebillionaire@aol.com, and a bunch of half-baked ideas….

Unfortunately, the techie hustlers can be a little too clever for their own good – and ours. With decades of unwavering support from the military-industrial complex, Congress and Wall Street, the pallid princelings of Silicon Valley rewrote the rules of the global economy in their favour. The public, fooled as it was by the tech industry’s slick marketing and lulled by the novelty and convenience of its gadgetry, might be forgiven for missing some early warning signs. (Remember when the Google guys used to rhapsodise about beaming the internet – with the attendant targeted advertising – directly into people’s brains? It doesn’t sound so far-fetched and quirky now, does it?)

 If we are feeling generous, the same retrospective clemency could even be shown to politicians who mistook Silicon Valley for just another well-heeled lobby looking for favours, and to the reporters who were suckered by the rapid rise of “revolutionary” companies such as Theranos and Uber. But the builders of our digital dystopia – the tech titans themselves, and their armies of engineers – have no such excuses. They will talk about the mistakes they have made. They will express regret for their oversights and make a show of contrition. Don’t be fooled.

The dark side of Big Tech, which many consumers are only beginning to come to grips with, is not some byproduct of California-style “conscious capitalism” – an unfortunate misstep in an otherwise heroic effort to “change the world”. Profit-hunger, philistinism and misanthropy are and always have been at the core of the enterprise. The new breed of Silicon Valley billionaires knew exactly what they were doing. The plan was to take all the money and run – to Mars, if necessary.

Read the post on The Guardian

@RichardGonzalezNPR: Facebook Faces Class Action Lawsuit Challenging Its Use Of Facial Recognition Data

A federal judge in California has ruled that Facebook can be sued in a class-action lawsuit brought by users in Illinois who say the social network improperly used facial recognition technology on their uploaded photographs.

The plaintiffs are three Illinois Facebook users who sued under a state law that says a private entity such as Facebook can’t collect and store a person’s biometric facial information without their written consent. The law, known as the Biometric Information Privacy Act, also says that information that uniquely identifies an individual is, in essence, their property. The law prohibits a private entity from selling, leasing, trading or otherwise profiting from a person’s biometric information.

U.S. District Judge James Donato ruled that the lawsuit can proceed as a class action representing potentially millions of Facebook users in Illinois. The judge is based in San Francisco where the case had been moved at Facebook’s request.

Read the post on NPR

@neilturkewitz: To Cerf With Love

Last week, Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet (sorry, “Internet”) and chief evangelist of arguably the most powerful and mysterious company in the world (Alphabet/Google), published a piece in Wired entitled: “In 2018, we will tackle the internet’s dark side.”

Given that Cerf is essentially Willy Wonka if he were in the information business, including the fact that Mountain View may well be home to an army of Oompa Loompa coders and hackers, I immediately took notice — ready to devour the latest thinking of the man guiding us to, or from, the Singularity. After all, he was about to own up to the irrational exuberance surrounding the development of technology without having considered how it might be used, and how an economy based on achieving optimization of attention would end up distorting public discourse and the economy in ways that were, how can I say this politely…less than optimal in advancing the stated core goals that Cerf and the other fathers of the Internet had espoused. The very title promised a less evangelical approach to internet governance — one that recognized that there was a “dark side” of the internet. And stated so boldly. 2018 as the year when the dark forces undermining the potential of the internet were defeated.

Read the post on Hacker Noon