The Copyright Royalty Judges stand up to the most dangerous corporations in the world and demand transparency in streaming mechanical rate “settlements.”Will Sunlight Win at the Copyright Royalty Board in Big Tech’s Latest Credibility Debacle? — Music Technology Policy
[Editor Charlie sez: Here’s a blast from the past–For a little context on this excellent post by David Newhoff–Remember the Electronic Frontier Foundation from the “Google Shill List“?
Or Roger Parloff’s reporting 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.” Not to mention the very, very, very close ties between EFF folk and some Google executives.
And remember that the last FCC Chair who pushed through the current Net Neutrality rules was ably assisted by one Gigi Sohn, formerly of fellow Google Shill Lister Public Knowledge and current fellow of the Soros Open Society Foundation, pictured here with Fred von Lohmann, who led the charge against artist rights while at EFF until he actually returned to the mothership, so to speak, and joined Google:
And which side of the Net Neutrality debate might Google be on?]
It’s depressing how often one reads news that makes the United States seem as though we’re reliving the 19th century rather than an enlightened 21st. With that comment, you might think I’m referring to the current administration (and I certainly could be), but at the moment, I refer to Americans across the political spectrum who seem willing to return to the political tactics of Tammany Hall, albeit in digital form.
On May 31, the National Legal and Policy Center, a D.C. watchdog group, reported that an “initial forensic analysis” of the 2.5 million comments submitted to the FCC on Net Neutrality found that over 465,000 of these were fake. It further states that over 100,000 of these comments used language from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Dear FCC” petitioning tool in support of “Net Neutrality.” Although the NLPC did not accuse the EFF of processing these false emails, the organization was quick to defend itself as though it had been so accused. It’s June 1 response states …
“NLPC’s report is false. Not one name, email address, or email domain cited in the report matches to any of the comments that came through EFF’s comment tool.”
Then, missing the point and seizing the moment, the statement proposes …
“Throughout the FCC’s comment process, we’ve seen malicious actors attempt to discredit the process by generating obviously fake comments. Their hope is that they can drown out the voices of the overwhelming majority of Americans who support net neutrality.”
I am in no way qualified to assert that the EFF had any direct hand in the fake emails, but somebody spammed the FCC; and I have no problem saying that the EFF’s rebuttal is preposterous.
For some reason, there’s a focus at the moment on songwriter royalties and in particular for streaming royalty rates. Notice that I said “rates” not “share” or the one I find particularly irritating, “share of the pie.” Let us be clear—there is no “pie” there are only “rates”. Or should be. Let’s investigate why.
To frame this idea (speaking for the U.S. market), let me take you back to a conversation I had with a Nashville session musician and hit songwriter many years ago back before physical mechanical royalty rates were frozen.
He looked at me and said, “Why do I have to take this government cheese royalty rate? I get double scale when I play a date, why can’t I get double stat?”
What he was really saying was why can’t I set my own price as a songwriter for mechanical royalties? And the answer is the same today as it was then: Because songwriters allow the U.S. government to set the price and terms for mechanicals. Or rather the “minimum statutory rate” which is a joke because the “minimum statutory rate” has never been a minimum, it has always been both a minimum and a maximum.
There has also long been an obsession with songwriters and publishers comparing their rates to what artists and record companies get. This comparison was only compounded in the digital era particularly for interactive streaming. If you combine song rates and recording rates, some people get a pie. Other people (like me) get an error message. I’ll explain why.
While the negotiations on a new joint Nordic agreement are in full swing, Google have chosen to leverage their total dominance in the market in the strongest way possible. On the evening of Thursday 30 July, Google announced that they will soon remove all Danish music content on YouTube.
Under the auspices of the Nordic alliance of collecting societies, Polaris, negotiations on a joint Nordic agreement on the use of music on YouTube are currently in full swing. The agreement will replace the local agreements of the Norwegian, Finnish and Danish composers and songwriters’ societies, combining them in a single, joint agreement with Google. In the case of Koda, the national agreement for Denmark expired in April, after which it was temporarily extended – as is standard practice in the industry while negotiating a new agreement.
Now, however, Google have issued a new demand: if the agreement is to be temporarily extended, Koda must agree to reduce the payment provided to composers and songwriters for YouTube’s use of music by almost 70% – despite the fact that YouTube’s use of music has increased significantly since Koda entered into its last agreement with Google.
Of course, Koda cannot accept these terms, and Google have now unilaterally decided that Koda’s members cannot have their content shown on YouTube and that their fans and users on YouTube will be unable to listen to Koda members’ music until a new agreement is in place.
Although the parties involved in the negotiations on the new joint agreement are by no means in concord yet, progress has been made in recent weeks, and Koda is puzzled by the extremely aggressive approach taken by Google in the negotiations this time.
Koda’s media director, Kaare Struve, says:
‘Google have always taken an “our way or the highway” approach, but even for Google, this is a low point. Of course, Google know that they can create enormous frustration among our members by denying them access to YouTube – and among the many Danes who use YouTube every day. We can only suppose that by doing so, YouTube hope to be able to push through an agreement, one where they alone dictate all terms’.
Ever since the first agreement was signed in 2013, the level of payments received from YouTube has been significantly lower than the level of payment agreed to by subscription-based services.
Koda’s CEO, Gorm Arildsen, says:
‘It is no secret that our members have been very dissatisfied with the level of payment received for the use of their music on YouTube for many years now. And it’s no secret that we at Koda have actively advocated putting an end to the tech giants’ free-ride approach and underpayment for artistic content in connection with the EU’s new Copyright Directive. The fact that Google now demands that the payments due from them should be reduced by almost 70% in connection with a temporary contract extension seems quite bizarre’.
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Through a LinkedIn email, I learned that a recent staffer on the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee was recruited by Amazon’s public-policy arm this month. I took to Twitter to express my dismay, and quickly learned that another staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee was recruited by Facebook’s competition policy arm in May 2020.
These two staffers are now working for the tech platforms, and presumably against my ideas, after having heard my ideas in a private setting.
It is important to note right here that I have no beef with these fine folks.
But I do.