September 22nd, 2017
Content Creators Coalition (c3) Warns Congress About Artist And Songwriter Opposition To “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act”
Washington, D.C. – The Content Creators Coalition (c3) today sent the following letter to the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee warning that consideration of H.R. 3350, the so called “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act,” would spark a backlash in the artist community and could derail the Committee’s work to create a consensus copyright reform legislation:
The Honorable Bob Goodlatte, Chairman
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member
House Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:
As an artist and songwriter-run advocacy organization, we write to express our strong opposition to H.R. 3350, the “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act.” Recognizing the importance of this issue to our constituents, this letter is signed by every member of our Executive Board.
The Content Creators’ Coalition (c3) strongly supports the Committee’s continual efforts to find consensus around broader copyright reform and to ensure that music licensing is more transparent, particularly to third party beneficiaries of recording contracts. There is little dispute among stakeholders that music licensing, in particular the licensing of musical works, is needlessly opaque. Publishers and record labels agree on this point, as do songwriters, performers and musicians, as well as music servicers and businesses who use music and musical works. There is clearly an opportunity for the Committee to find consensus on these issues.
However, H.R. 3350 does not further efforts to reach consensus – instead, it represents a one-sided approach that would fail to simplify music licensing. We are deeply concerned about the bill’s onerous registration system and financial penalty (forfeiture of statutory damages and attorneys’ fees) for songwriters or publishers who fail to register their works in a new database, created and run by the government.
As a matter of principle, an intellectual property right, like any other property right, should not be subject to forfeiture and the law should help creators understand and protect their rights – not create obstacles courses for them to navigate on pain of losing control over their creative work. This bill, by contrast, actually incentivizes the appropriation of creators’ work based on technical or other often innocent shortcomings, removing key deterrents that should discourage music services from doing so.
The record keeping mandates in the bill are voluminous and incredibly vague. Terms like “catalog number” are undefined and could mean a number of things. Other requirements are intricate, time consuming and in many cases, appear impossible to satisfy. How is an artist supposed to register every album on which one of her songs has been recorded, including recordings by other artists they may not even know about? If these requirements are time consuming and uncertain for successful and well-known songwriters and publishers, they will be impossible for independent songwriters.
Most importantly, the bill also thwarts the Committee’s to create a consensus copyright reform legislation. Both the “Fair Play Fair Pay Act,” creating a terrestrial performance right in the United States, and the “CLASSICS Act,” have support from music creators and digital service providers. While we respect the long standing and good faith efforts of Chairman Sensenbrenner to address these issues, H.R. 3350 only enjoys the support of businesses that use music and is so lopsided it would be a toxic “poison pill” in any copyright reform legislation effort.
We urge the Committee to reject H.R. 3350 and to press ahead at full speed with more genuine music licensing reform. Thank you for considering our views.
Melvin Gibbs, President
John McCrea, Vice President
Tommy Manzi, Treasurer
Jeffrey Boxer, Executive Director
cc: The Honorable Daryl Issa
The Honorable Jerrold Nadler
[Editor Charlie sez: From the “Stop Me Before I Infringe Again” Dept….]
Turns out that Google Drive is a whole lot less buttoned up than you may have thought.
The file-sharing service typically associated with spreadsheets and office life has a dirty little secret, and it’s one that our Mountain View overlords may not be so stoked on. Namely, the service is a haven for illegal file-sharing.
The offending goods reportedly include both your standard video files as well as a unique twist on the file sharing MO: Instead of uploading entire movies or shows to Drive itself, people are dropping in scores of unlisted YouTube links.
Essentially, the idea is that unlisted links are less likely to be spotted by automated systems crawling for this sort of thing and are therefore less likely to be pulled. Putting a collection of those links in one Drive and sharing it over social media is like passing around a secret phonebook containing the listings for all your favorite pirated content.
[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.
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.”
By many measures, YouTube streamripping became the #1 source of music piracy, widening the riff between the music industry and the online giant. But the shuttering of #1 ripper YouTube-MP3 came only after legal action from some injured parties – the major record labels.
YouTube and parent Google were also severely harmed by the streamripping site, and chose not to take action. Not only was the YouTube brand used in the url and title of a site that enabled illegal downloads, YouTube-MP3 threatened the integrity of the core YouTube product.
But Google did nothing. In fact, YouTube-MP3 ranked high in Google searches for streamripping until very recently.
The extra traffic driven by ripping is insignificant to YouTube. But many within Google and it’s core tech audience believe in an open and free internet; and that ethos is baked into all things Google.
When Google received a record $2.7bn fine from the European Union in June for abusing its search engine monopoly to promote its shopping search service, a relatively minor member of an American thinktank, the New America Foundation, posted a short statement praising the regulator, and calling on the US to follow suit.
The New America Foundation is intimately intertwined with the search firm. It has received more than $20m over its lifetime from Google and related companies and individuals. So when Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, expressed his displeasure over the statement, the foundation moved quickly. The tussle that followed ended up with its author, Barry Lynn, departing the group, along with his entire team at the Open Markets programme.
To be clear: neither Google, nor Mr Schmidt, told New America to fire Mr Lynn or his colleagues. They did not have to.
Similarly, Google doesn’t have to ask the researchers whom it funds to write about public policy to turn in favourable articles. But it has funded, directly or indirectly, 329 such papers since 2005, according to the US-based Campaign for Accountability. More than a quarter of those funded directly by Google didn’t disclose the source of their money, according to the report.
[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.