The Value Gap is Bigger Than You Thought: Member of EU Parliament Calls Out Google’s Data Harvesting

According to MusicAlly, a Member of the European Parliament from Germany has called out Google’s non-display uses of music that are pure profit for Google.  Christian Ehler has his eye on the right ball:

“The American platforms have been very successful as it’s a liar’s poker that suggested an alliance between the consumer and their commercial interests. We have heard the notion that it is free and for consumers. This is a pretension as [YouTube is] not for free. [YouTube] gets access to you and you are bombarded with advertisements. We are living now in the time of the second level of revenues – this is the data the consumers are giving to these platforms […] Consumer data becomes more and more important and it’s not well understood that this is not for free […] We are selling our future. Creativity is the USP of Europe. They [the digital companies] accumulate money. Why is Netflix producing TV series? Why is YouTube creating YouTube stars? They do understand that their business is content, not distribution […] We are simply selling our economic future if we are going to lose this battle.”

I have been banging the table for years about Google’s non-display uses of music and the fans that we drive to their various platforms so MEP Ehler’s view is very welcome.  “Non-display uses” include data scraping but could mean virtually anything because Google cannot be trusted to disclose what they are really doing with any of their products because they have a long history of not telling the truth about their business practices.

Google’s business practices raises several important questions for artists that no one is asking.  The first question is do you want your music and your fans to be used in this way in the first place?

And since this is all a byproduct of what Mr. Ehler correctly describes being “bombarded with advertisements”, it is important to understand that even if you use YouTube’s tools to block YouTube from selling advertising against your work, Google’s exploitation against your fans doesn’t stop there.

Google routinely captures data from every conceivable contact with your fans and they do it surreptitiously, in relative secrecy in the background.  How they do it is not easy to discover, but a significant number of their techniques and implementing technology was disclosed in a recent class action brought against Google by consumers for privacy violations of Gmail.

As Jeff Gould wrote in a highly recommended article “The Natural History of Gmail Data Mining” Google’s plan is to be able to scrape as much information as possible in return for the “free” use of Gmail:

The most striking thing about the early Gmail patents is how exhaustive they were in attempting to anticipate every conceivable attribute of an email message that might one day be exploited for ad targeting purposes. In many cases it would be years before Google was actually able to make these ideas operational in Gmail. The first version of ad serving in Gmail exploited only concepts directly extracted from message texts and did little or no user profiling — this method would only be put into practice much later. Some attributes have still not been implemented today and perhaps never will be. For example, as far as I know, Google does not reach into your PC’s file system to examine other files residing in the same directory as the file you attach to a Gmail message, even though the patents explicitly describe this possibility.

Are you willing to bet that Google doesn’t scrape the same kind of behavioral data about your fans on YouTube?  And what is stopping Google from scraping the same data from children attracted to YouTube?

As Mr. Gould reports, the data mining is what makes the real money for Google:

When Gmail was finally released to the public in April 2004, its ad serving system used a sophisticated data mining algorithm known as PHIL, the subject of another Google patent filed by Georges Harik and a colleague. Already implemented the previous year in Google’s AdSense program that serves ads to web sites operated by third party publishers, PHIL stands for Probabilistic Hierarchical Inferential Learner. Despite the forbidding name, the basic idea is straightforward.

Words in documents such as emails [or lyrics] occur not randomly but in certain clusters. When allowed to crunch through a vast number of such documents, simple software algorithms can identify clusters that are more or less likely to occur and group them together as “concepts”. For example, PHIL can learn to distinguish the entirely different meanings of two concepts such as “ski resort” and “lender of last resort” without being tripped up by the fact that the term “resort” occurs in both.  [But Google can’t distinguish between “Fragile” and “Fragile (Live)” for address unknown NOIs].

In AdSense, PHIL matched concepts derived from sets of keywords provided by advertisers with concepts extracted from the web pages where publishers wanted Google to place ads. The idea was that the better the match, the more likely a visitor to the publisher’s site would be to click on the ad, which was the revenue generating event for Google.

MEP Ehler has put his finger right on one of the implied issues in the value gap and it’s a value that isn’t usually measured in these discussions.  The fact is the gap is so wide that it’s hard to know the value of the income transfer.

 

@RobertBLevine_: RIAA [Member Companies] Sues Grande Communications in New DMCA Case

[Editor Charlie sez:  So much for the “DMCA license”.  This case reprises the highly successful case against Cox Communications won by BMG Rights relying on work done by Rightscorp.  (Rightscorp is also helping songwriters by deciphering the mass “address unknown” filings of tens of millions of notices with the Copyright Office.)]

The RIAA is suing the San Marcos, Texas-based ISP Grande Communications for copyright infringement on behalf of its member companies, in a case that potentially could help define how Internet services must deal with consumers who repeatedly download music and other copyrighted works illegally.

The lawsuit, filed today in an Austin, Texas, district court, accuses Grande of “refusing to take meaningful action against repeat infringers” – users who repeatedly downloaded music illegally over BitTorrent networks.

Generally, ISPs operate under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which gives them “safe harbor” from liability for copyright infringement committed by their users. (The users themselves can still be liable.) But a provision in the 1998 law requires digital services that operate under the safe harbor to implement “a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of subscribers and account holders of the service provider’s system or network who are repeat infringers.”

Such “repeat infringer” policies have received more attention in the last decade, as copyright holders have tried to define the limits of the safe harbor. The issue has been especially important since December 2015, when a jury delivered a $25 million verdict in favor of BMG against Cox Communications, on the grounds that Cox didn’t qualify for safe harbor because its repeat infringer policy was inadequately implemented. Cox is appealing the verdict.

Read the post on Billboard and the complaint here.

@ap: Royalty Deadbeat Vimeo and The Man 2.0 Screw pre-72 Artists Again With the Fake “DMCA License”

Using forks and knives to eat their bacon

Piggies, written by George Harrison

The well-known royalty deadbeat Vimeo is screwing artists over yet again.  This time it’s pre-72 artists whose recordings the deadbeat wants to exploit on a “DMCA license” when the same courts deny justice to those very artists for the performance of their recordings by these very deadbeats.

Remember, the loophole these deadbeats exploit is the lack of federal copyright protection for sound recordings made prior to February 15, 1972, a totally arbitrary date.  In 1998 the Congress passed the horrendous DMCA safe harbor that The Man 2.0 lobbied for to allow them to claim they have no knowledge that they are infringing–despite the fact that their entire business is built on stealing other people’s music.

At the same time, the Congress finished up the work it started in 1995 to establish a full-blown royalty system for the performance of sound recordings, paying hundreds of millions to recording artist who were previously ripped off.  But–seizing an opportunity to save 30 pieces of silver, Sirius and Pandora fought to keep from paying pre-72 artists because The Turtles sued.  While nobody ever thought Sirius cared about anything but money, this is why Pandora’s  pro-artist bullshit is bullshit, leading to the musical question, how do you sleep at night?

So are you catching the theme here?  The courts protect Big Tech in both cases.  First, by allowing them safe harbor protection under the “DMCA license” according to the Supreme Court.  Is it any accident that Lessig pal Justice Elena Kagan is on the court?

Second, by protecting them from paying on pre-72 recordings in New York where the Vimeo case was filed.

U.S. courts just want to crush the old guys and dead cats at every opportunity.

The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal from record companies that want to pursue copyright infringement claims against music site Vimeo for hosting unauthorized recordings from the Beatles, Elvis Presley and other classic artists.

The justices on Monday left in place a federal appeals court ruling that said websites are protected from liability even for older music recorded before 1972.

Read the post on Billboard

@RobertBLevine_: ‘YouTube Can Do Better’: Cee Lo, Evanescence, Rush Among Artists Calling for DMCA Action

Comments for the U.S. Copyright Office study of the “safe harbors” of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) were due February 21, and dozens of media and technology companies and organizations dutifully submitted filings. In what may be a first, however, a few dozen musicians also signed a video message that was submitted to the government on their behalf.

Unlike most such filings, which tend to consist of pages of anecdotes and arguments, the video — titled “YouTube Can Do Better” — couldn’t be much simpler. Over a half-minute of silence, white letters against a black background spell out “Dear U.S. Copyright Office,” then the names of the few dozen acts who endorsed the message, then “YouTube Can Do Better.” It doesn’t directly mention the Copyright Office’s study of the DMCA safe harbors. The list of acts is wide-ranging, including The Black KeysCee Lo GreenEvanescenceJohn MellencampRushT Bone Burnett, and many more.

Read the post on Billboard

T-Bone Burnett’s Comments on Reform of the DMCA Safe Harbor

The U.S. Copyright Office has invited the public to comment on potential reforms of the DMCA “safe harbors” and the incomparable T-Bone Burnett delivered this video version of his insightful comments on DMCA abuse. (See also Billboard article on T-Bone’s comment and my 2006 post on MTP, The DMCA is Not An Alibi.) It is important […]

via T-Bone Burnett’s Comments on Reform of the DMCA Safe Harbor — MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY

Search Working As Planned: Google Handles a Billion Piracy Takedown Requests in a Year

Read the fine print: “Of the 1,007,741,143 takedown requests received, 908,237,861 were removed from search results.”  So Google did not remove 99,503,282 infringing links.

I wonder how much traffic Google derives from a billion takedowns?  Or the 99,503,282 they don’t take down?  This is how Google messages their pathetic record on piracy…”but we took down 90%!”  Don’t be deceived by Google duplicity.

As the biggest provider of search results on the Internet, Google receives a constant barrage of requests to remove content from its results. Some of those requests come from governments, but the majority are submitted by copyright owners very keen to stop their work from being pirated.

Read the post on PC Mag.

 

Reply to Gary Shapiro

Gary Shapiro, the long-time head of the Consumer Electronics Association (now called the Consumer Technology Association), posted a comment to an Artist Rights Watch post about Maria Pallante’s sacking at the Copyright Office.  [UPDATE from Charlie: By popular demand, we have posted Mr. Shapiro’s comment as its own post.]  The consensus of the editors here is that we’re both flattered and concerned that Mr. Shapiro is posting comments on ARW on a Sunday night. That effort deserves to be taken seriously and replied to.

First of all–it should be noted that Mr. Shapiro’s post falls into that category of public statements that I’d call a “non-denial denial”.

It’s also important to note that Mr. Shapiro’s comment is all about Washington, lobbyists, who did what to whom, settling old scores among the coastal elites, who owns who, who paid off who to do what, and so on.  The funniest line in his post was that Google isn’t a bully.  Now that is hysterical for those who have dealt with YouTube or tried to get anything from a jihadi recruitment video to “Banging Up for Dummies” taken down from any Google property.  Almost as funny as blaming the Sony hack on North Korea.

eric-schmidt
that’s Miss-iss-ippi…

I fear that it is necessary to point out to Mr. Shapiro that this blog is Artist Rights Watch, not Lobbyist Rights Watch, or Let’s Watch the Lobbyists.  This may come as a shock to someone like Mr. Shapiro who’s been at this for so long, but it is very, very likely that anyone who reads this blog neither has any idea who he is nor cares very much.

If our readers know of the Consumer Electronics Association, it’s likely that they know the organization from its membership in the MIC Coalition.

 

MIC Coalition CEA.png

The MIC Coalition is, of course, the multi-trillion dollar lobbyists who are trying to screw what’s left of the songwriting community and stop artists from being paid fairly for radio airplay.

Hesse

Or they might know the Consumer Electronics Association from its funding of the group Fight for the Future, which conducted a rather shadowy campaign against the Copyright Office, including making statements at odds with the facts in fundraising emails.

FFTF Email

That statement in the box?  It never happened.

Here’s an excerpt from Schedule B of the 2014 tax return for Center for Rights in Action which is parent to Fight for the Future:

FFTF CEA

And then there was the classic line from David Lowery addressed to Michael Petricone (Mr. Shapiro’s right hand at CEA) when both were on a panel at the Future of Music Coalition Summit Poobahery in Washington regarding CEA’s support of the ill-fated Internet Radio Fairness Act:  “Stop making shit up, man!”

Those are probably the ways that the vast majority of people who read this blog would know of the Consumer Electronics Association.

It would be well for Mr. Shapiro to observe that 2016 has seen the future–more artists have stopped looking to lobbyists to solve their problems.  Those lawsuits against Spotify, Rhapsody, Sirius XM, Pandora and even the U.S. Department of Justice?  All brought by individual creators with some courageous lawyers who are willing to take a chance–because of the statutory damages and attorneys fees provisions of the Copyright Act without which those creators would have to take yet more bullying from Mr. Shapiro and his members, Google or otherwise.

So hopefully Mr. Shapiro will understand my reaction to this statement in his comment:

[T]hankfully we won many battles as new forms of technology created huge new opportunities for our members…and for content creators.

If the last 15 years of Mr. Shapiro’s travails are what constitutes his “help” in fighting “battles”, if what we have to show for his “winning” these “battles” is the absolute skewering of songwriters, artists, authors, record producers, film makers, and everyone who works in these endeavors–not to mention the biggest income transfer in commercial history from creators to new boss tech companies as well as the commoditization of art and artists–I have one reaction that I think will be shared by “content creators” who read this blog.

Please stop helping us.