[Editor Charlie sez: Remember that most of these companies are in the MIC Coalition cartel that is colluding to destroy songwriters, and royalty deadbeat Facebook refuses to license at all.]
Until recently, it was easy to define our most widely known corporations. Any third-grader could describe their essence. Exxon sells gas; McDonald’s makes hamburgers; Walmart is a place to buy stuff. This is no longer so. Today’s ascendant monopolies aspire to encompass all of existence. Google derives from googol, a number (1 followed by 100 zeros) that mathematicians use as shorthand for unimaginably large quantities. Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google with the mission of organizing all knowledge, but that proved too narrow. They now aim to build driverless cars, manufacture phones and conquer death. Amazon, which once called itself “the everything store,” now produces television shows, owns Whole Foods and powers the cloud. The architect of this firm, Jeff Bezos, even owns this newspaper.
Along with Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, these companies are in a race to become our “personal assistant.” They want to wake us in the morning, have their artificial intelligence software guide us through our days and never quite leave our sides. They aspire to become the repository for precious and private items, our calendars and contacts, our photos and documents. They intend for us to turn unthinkingly to them for information and entertainment while they catalogue our intentions and aversions. Google Glass and the Apple Watch prefigure the day when these companies implant their artificial intelligence in our bodies. Brin has mused, “Perhaps in the future, we can attach a little version of Google that you just plug into your brain.”
More than any previous coterie of corporations, the tech monopolies aspire to mold humanity into their desired image of it.
Read the post on The Washington Post
A messy, public brawl over a Google critic’s ouster from a Washington think tank has exposed a fissure in Democratic Party politics. On one side there’s a young and growing faction advocating new antimonopoly laws, and on the other a rival faction struggling to defend itself.
At issue is a decades-long relationship between Democrats and tech companies, with Democratic presidents signing off on deregulation and candidates embracing money and innovations from firms like Google and Facebook. Now, locked out of power and convinced that same coziness with large corporations cost them the presidency, Democrats are talking themselves into breaking with tech giants and becoming an antimonopoly party.
The argument had a breakthrough last week when it was reported that Barry Lynn, a monopoly critic and longtime scholar at the Google-funded New America Foundation, was leaving and taking his 10-person initiative with him.
Lynn, who has been critical of Google, had praised European regulators for hitting the company with a $2.7 billion antitrust fine. The foundation, which has received more than $21 million from Google, removed Lynn’s comments from its website.
“A lot of people see this as a tipping point,” Lynn said of his departure in an interview. “This is something that’s upset people on both sides of the aisle.”
Read the post on Washington Post
[Editor Charlie sez: Lyor is the distraction.]
We are pleased that Lyor Cohen says he is making it his mission to direct some of YouTube’s revenues back to the music creators who drive its success. His optimism is encouraging. But to be honest, we’ve heard pretty much the same claims and arguments from YouTube before. So while Lyor’s heart may be in the right place, the numbers and YouTube’s actions tell a different story.
Let’s be real about what we know:
1. Google’s YouTube is the world’s biggest on-demand music service, with more than 1.5 billion logged-in monthly users. But it exploits a “safe harbor” in the law that was never intended for it, to avoid paying music creators fairly. This not only hurts musicians, it also jeopardizes music’s fragile recovery and gives YouTube an unfair competitive advantage that harms the digital marketplace and innovation.
2. Lyor claims the focus on this safe harbor is “a distraction,” but it’s YouTube that seems obsessed with this legal pretext, probably because it’s the safe harbor that enables YouTube to drive down payments to creators, inappropriately. The safe harbor was intended to protect passive Internet platforms with no knowledge of what its users are doing, not active music distributors like YouTube. As Lyor acknowledges in his blog, “the majority of music…is coming from [YouTube’s] recommendations, rather than people searching for what they want to listen to.”
It’s no mere “distraction” when YouTube uses the safe harbor to skew negotiations with music creators in its favor; to offer a below-market rate and say “take it or leave it,” knowing that by “leaving it” music creators will have to spend countless hours and resources sending takedown notices when they find unauthorized copy after copy of their music on YouTube, only to find them pop right back up again.
That’s precisely why dozens of music organizations and thousands of individual creators across the entire global music spectrum have banded together to protest the existing laws — www.valuethemusic.com — or simply asked YouTube to be a better partner: YouTubeCanDoBetter. Their concerns are real, their indignation is genuine. To dismiss that is to turn a deaf ear to an entire creative community.
Read the post on Medium
After the money, one of the most important parts of a recording artist negotiation is the “marketing restrictions”. These are restrictions on what the record company or music publisher can do with your work–what type of licenses they can, or more frequently cannot, grant to third parties, for example. Essentially, whatever is not prohibited is permitted.
Marketing restrictions also have a temporal element–during or after the term, recouped or not recouped. There are some restrictions that are acknowledged to be verboten and are usually easy and unrestricted concessions. An example of these would be licensing for certain types of commercials such as tobacco, firearms, grooming or hygiene products and alcohol.
Stewart Dredge has an excellent article this week in the Guardian which brings to mind Laura Kobylecky‘s post on MusicTechPolicy drawing comparisons between Spotify’s “fake artist” problem and “The Next Rembrandt” with echoes of the fictional “versificator” operated by Big Brother’s “Music Department” in 1984. According to Stewart, there are dozens of AI music startups getting funded that all essentially do the same thing. Using a library of recordings (sometimes called a “corpus”), the algorithms “create” new recordings based on the songs and recordings in the corpus. Google is, of course, a leader in the space (not that different from how they used Google Books to train their translation algorithm, a process called “corpus machine translation”–the librarians will be next).
Those recordings can then be sold or licensed at a very low price which, as Laura and others have noted, can be used to drive down the royalties payable to all other artists on digital music services.
This is, of course, not dissimilar to Silicon Valley companies hiring lower paid foreign workers and ordering the employees who they are to replace participate in training their replacements. The difference is, of course, that those recordings have to come from somewhere.
It’s time to start adding to the list of marketing restrictions that the song or recording cannot be licensed for AI purposes of any kind.
[Editor Charlie sez: Let’s get it straight people, if you use Google products you are a pawn in a game you’ll never see, Google’s own version of The Truman Show.]
Switch on the ad blocking toggle that appeared this week in Google’s experimental version of Chrome, and nothing will happen.
The feature is out of service at the moment, according to a Google spokesperson, a shell of a tool with which its developers can tinker while the search giant hammers out the operational details through an ad industry trade group.
But what that tiny, empty bit of code actually represents is a looming change agent that could reshape the entire web. It’s a killswitch that Google could throw whenever it so pleases.
Chrome is by far the most popular browser in the world, meaning rational commercial websites have no choice but to play by its rules. The standards it builds into the filter will ripple across the rest of the internet as publishers adjust their ad-buying decisions to accommodate them.
Read the post on Mashable