In case you were wondering what the value of songwriting is to Spotify, I think you can measure it pretty directly by the perks they hand out to their employees. I’m sure creators are glad to provide the value that takes care of these folks–while they scrape for every fraction of a penny in Spotify’s many lawsuits.
Additional benefits received by our Swedish employees, including Messrs. Ek, Söderström, and Norström, include private healthcare, accident insurance, life and long-term disability insurance, travel insurance, and parental leave. Additional benefits received by our U.S. employees, including Mr. McCarthy and Ms. Ostroff [who has a $1,000,000 base salary], include medical, dental, and vision benefits, medical, and dependent care flexible spending accounts, short-term and long-term disability insurance, basic life insurance coverage, and parental leave. These benefits are provided to our named executive officers on the same general terms as they are provided to all of our full-time employees in the applicable countries.
We design our employee benefits programs to be affordable and competitive in relation to the market, as well as compliant with applicable laws and practices. We adjust our employee benefits programs as needed based upon regular monitoring of applicable laws and practices in the competitive market.
We do not view perquisites or other personal benefits as a significant component of our executive compensation program.
And then there’s the cash and stock, like the “Chief Content Officer” who must have line responsibility for the licensing incompetence and goal post moving:
Mark Zuckerberg is the sixth richest man in the world… and he is suing Native Hawaiians in Kauai for their land so he can build a mansion. They have built lives there. They have built families there. Hawaiians are already mistreated enough as is. We need to let them have this. Their land is important to them. He’s building a mansion to what? Live in Kauai for two months out of the year? This is inhuman. It is sick.
I cannot tell you the number of times U.S. artists have said to me, “I don’t need to join SoundExchange, I’m already a member of BMI.” (Or ASCAP.) Then I have to explain to them why SoundExchange collects an entirely different royalty–for the performance of the sound recording not the song. It’s SoundExchange for recordings, PROs for songs. Say it like a mantra. It is a testament to the decades of propaganda from the National Association of Broadcasters and especially SiriusXM that has kept U.S. artists in the dark.
Strangely–and I’m being sarcastic–I never get this question from artists who are not Americans. They are very aware of the performance royalty for sound recordings.
What neither the US nor the UK artists know very often is that when an American artist is played in the UK, the US artist receives no royalty due to decades-old trade rules. But when a UK artist is played in the US, the UK artist receives their full royalty from SoundExchange as a matter of law. A new organization called the Fair Trade of Music campaign wants to change that so that artists are treated the same in the UK regardless of where they call home.
Why do we care? We care because Fair Trade of Music estimates that U.S. artists lose about $330,000,000 eachyear due to this lack of fairness and reciprocal treatment.
We care because due to COVID-19, live music income has collapsed to zero or near zero. Public performance income from SoundExchange is one of the few income streams left that American artists can count on. And this is not a Yank thing. The idea that American artists are generating income that is denied to them because of ancient trade laws is just as maddening to their sisters and brothers among artists in the UK as it is to the Americans.
We care because fixing this inequity is not a zero sum game. UK artists should not make a penny less if US artists get their rightful share. The money is already being paid and the rates are already determined–it’s just that the payment of the money for US artists must be redirected.
We care because we have a chance to fix the ancient trade rules that perpetuate this inequity. There are a lot of trade rules about many different products and services including the rules for these payments to American artists. Those rules can be changed by vehicles like the upcoming UK/US trade agreement.
Right now the focus is on the UK because we have a vehicle to take a big step toward fixing this treatment (which is true in many other countries, too). That vehicle takes the form of the upcoming UK/US trade agreement which maybe signed in the next few months. Even if it isn’t actually signed it will be negotiated, and the outlines of the UK/US deal will likely be much better defined before the end of the year. (This “bilateral” trade agreement with the UK must be put in place due to the UK leaving the European Union.)
We need to be at that table. Now is the time to take action.
There’s a quiet rumble happening in San Francisco due to California’s “jungle primary” rules. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing an opponent from the left. Yes, you read that correctly. In the jungle, the top two vote getters can go into sudden death regardless of party affiliation, and the Speaker now has an opponent who is a nominal Democrat.
If you know even a little about California politics, you’ll know that there are two people in the State who you do not want to jack with and both are from San Francisco. Willie Brown is the first. Jacking with Willie is a really bad idea. You will regret it. The other is Nancy Pelosi. The main difference between the two in my mind is that Willie has a lot more potential challenges to his authority than the Speaker and word gets around. Trust me, if Willie were running, there would be no Democrat challengers. So even if you win, you lose.
There’s one guy who has not gotten the word about Speaker Pelosi, and that is one Shahid Buttar, Lawrence Lessig crony and Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer. Mr. Buttar is running in the jungle against Speaker Pelosi.
Yes, you read that correctly, too. The EFF has their own guy in the hunt for the Speaker’s scalp. We’re way past ice cream now.
To his credit, Shahid Buttar does not shy away from his EFF connection. He’s quite proud of it and uses it as a major selling point to potential constituents. What I haven’t seen him talk about is the EFF’s funding from Google and others in the Big Tech crew. Mr. Buttar wants to talk up the privacy side of the EFF’s hustle and his role in “grassroots organizing” for EFF. I had an example of the EFF’s grassroots organizing recently in Austin when they sent someone to argue against the CASE Act at a bar panel I spoke on advocating for the CASE Act. We’ve seen other examples of the EFF’s grassroots organizing which amazingly always has the wrong side of artist rights.
Yet, there’s really no question that EFF gets a substantial amount of money from Google–money that likely paid Mr. Buttar’s salary for many years. For example, the Google Shill List from the Oracle case is pretty clear:
Roger Parloff the investigative journalist called attention to this unholy alliance in Fortune:
If the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the nation’s preeminent digital rights nonprofit, had disclosed last year that it received a cool $1 million gift from Google — about 17% of its total revenue — some eyebrows might have been raised. The group typically describes itself as “member-supported” and, like most nonprofits, it treasures its above-the-commercial-fray, public-interest-group aura and reputation for independence.
Which means that it is hard to believe that Mr. Buttar did not get top cover from Google before he made his move. But he definitely is against the “mass spying” that Google and Facebook have been conducting against unsuspecting users while pushing internet addiction–you know, the mass surveillance operations that gave his employer millions (and gave Google billions) and, according to a petition his contributors signed against Google’s project Dragonfly, “create[d} a censored search engine for the Chinese market that enables state surveillance.”
But it’s all about social justice according to a quote from Mr. Buttar’s campaign reported in The Intercept:
“Pelosi knows that voters are dissatisfied, and before the primary began campaigning in San Francisco for the first time in 30 years,” said Jasper Wilde, campaign manager for the Buttar campaign, in a statement to The Intercept.
“Shahid going 1-1 against Nancy will shine a spotlight on precisely how little she has done for the district in the midst of a housing crisis, an opioid crisis, and an out-of-control cost of living. The election will also reveal her role in exacerbating these issues, that remain at the forefront of voters minds both today and in November.”
Note that all those campaign issues rattled off by Mr. Buttar’s current campaign manager are either exclusively, or to a large extent, city and county issues and many are brought on by the Big Tech billionaires whose employees or cronies fund Mr. Buttar’s employer–which benefited him both before and after his “leave of absence”. (And note he doesn’t say “unpaid leave of absence.”)
I mentioned Mr. Buttar’s breathless street cred as an EFF “grassroots organizer” to some friends in the labor movement (one was a COPE person). When the laughter stopped, one pointed to scar tissue on the side of his head and asked, does he have one of these?
But we wish Mr. Buttar well. Let a hundred flowers blossom.
[Editor Charlie sez: The U.S. Copyright Office is proposing many different ways to regulate The MLC, which is the government approved mechanical licensing collective under MMA authorized to collect and pay out “all streaming mechanicals for every song ever written or that ever may be written by any songwriter in the world that is exploited in the United States under the blanket license.” The Copyright Office is submitting these regulations to the public to comment on. The way it works is that the Copyright Office publishes a notice on the copyright.gov website that describes the rule they propose making and then they ask for public comments on that proposed rule. They then redraft that proposed rule into a final rule and tell you if they took your comments into account. They do read them all!
The Copyright Office has a boatload of new rules to make in order to regulate The MLC. (That’s not a typo by the way, the MLC styles itself as The MLC.) The comments are starting to be posted by the Copyright Office on the Regulations.gov website. “Comments” in this world are just your suggestions to the Copyright Office about how to make the rule better. We’re going to post a selection of the more interesting comments.
There is still an opportunity to comment on how the Copyright Office is to regulate The MLC’s handling of the “black box” or the “unclaimed” revenue. You can read about it here and also the description of the Copyright Office Unclaimed Royalties Study here. It’s a great thing that the Copyright Office is doing about the black box, but they need your participation!
This comment from Music Reports gives some interesting insights into how The MLC is favoring the NMPA’s formerly wholly-owned Harry Fox Agency (HFA) which has been on the wrong side of most of the licensing debacles. Chris posted some analysis on MediaNet’s comment and criticisms of the HFA-The MLC contract as well as its rather odd timeline as revealed at The Copyright Office roundtables on the next cluster jam, the unclaimed royalties. At least that has the entertainment value of watching them steal in plain site with the Copyright Office drinking game of who will make the excuses for them this time like we don’t notice. We’re not big MRI fans (or MediaNet fans for that matter), but when they’re right, they’re right.
The sad truth is that this entire MLC exercise has become about the rich getting richer from a data land grab for independent songwriters and publishers who have been duped into thinking it’s all for their benefit. It was all so predictable, but nobody listened. This is what they wanted, and now they’ve got it. How about a rule that says if you had your fingerprints on any part of the debacle of the last 20 years, you are immediately disqualified? Bye bye HFA, NMPA, MRI, MediaNet. Unfortunately that is not and never will be the rule because these are the same people who make the rules and are the same people who gave songwriters frozen mechanicals from 1909-1978 and are still freezing the 9.1¢ statutory royalty for fourteen years.
MRI could have done with some editing, but stick with it, they make a lot of sense.]
Music Reports generally agrees with, endorses, and echoes the views of MediaNet as stated in the response to the NOI it filed today.
Music Reports also takes note of the MLC’s selection of HFA as a major provider of the capabilities required for its core operations. While the MLC is narrowly limited by the MMA to the principal purpose of administering the blanket license for Section 115-compliant audio-only streaming music services in the United States, and specifically prohibited from storing data about or administering public performance licenses, HFA/SESAC is not so constrained.
On the contrary, HFA/SESAC is free, as a non-regulated, for profit commercial music rights administration service, to administer any type of mechanical licenses. Moreover, SESAC, administers performance rights on a for-profit basis in competition with other PROs. Being hired by the MLC does not change the fact that HFA/SESAC is in competition with other commercial music rights administration services that are not the beneficiaries of a long term, highly-paid contract with the MLC.This is fair enough, so far is it goes.
But as noted above, the boundaries between HFA/SESAC’s database and that which the MLC must build and make publicly available are completely unknown [want to bet that’s because they don’t exist?], as is the timeframe during which the former will substitute for the latter, and whether a proprietary MLC database built independently of HFA’s data will ever be the basis on which the MLC renders royalty distributions.
What is known, however, is that the MLC will enjoy publicity generated by its own statutory mandates (subsidized by the DLC), by the DLC itself, and by the Office, all of whom are authorized and required to devote budgetary allocations to direct publishers’ attention to registering their rights data with the MLC (the database of which is, for the foreseeable future, that of HFA/SESAC). Notwithstanding that the primary purpose of these provisions may be to publicize the existence of the database and of available unclaimed royalties, the consequence will be the direction of resources toward the focus of copyright owners’ attention on just one of several important, pre-existing music rights registries. This is in effect a set of reinforcing government subsidies of which one private enterprise, in competition with other marketplace actors, is the beneficiary.
To the extent HFA/SESAC directly benefits unfairly from a privileged place in the data ecosystem by virtue of this arrangement, the goal of the MMA to create a healthier music rights administration ecosystem will be perversely harmed by the creation of an uneven playing field that penalizes the investments in data made by other services. To be sure, other commercial services are free to compete with HFA to offer services to the MLC and others in the marketplace. But over time, a privileged place in the market’s information flow may distort competition to the determent of copyright owners and their administrators, DMPs, and the public.
Luckily, the Office can prevent this result quite simply by requiring that the MLC provide access to its public database on a competition-neutral basis.
As was noted above, there is an important temporal aspect to the management of music rights data. In order for two administrators to efficiently interoperate, they must be able to have a more or less shared contemporary view of the data about the works they are administering, even if they don’t always agree on every detail.
Therefore, the specific prescription called for here is a combination of the points made in the previous sections above: (a) the Office should use its authority under the MMA to adopt such regulations as it deems necessary to clarify that the public database which the MLC must establish and maintain will be identical to or at least contain the same data as the database on which the MLC will distribute royalties; (b) the MLC should make its public database available contemporaneously with the commencement of its royalty distribution efforts; and (c) the MLC must offer eligible parties bulk, machine-readable access to such data “on a basis that is both comprehensive and as frequent as necessary to efficiently manage the licensing and royalty distribution activities of the mechanical licensing collective itself, and not less than daily access to changed information within a day of any change to such information.”