We all learn about the world through the prism of our own stories. The reason I rage against formats so much is because I don’t fit in any.
Modern America is the king of labeling. It is impossible to get through to the public interface without learning how to squeeze yourself into one of the predefined shapes, leaving the least possible amount of torn raw flesh and blood at the knives of public perception.
What kind of music do you play? What race are you? Who did you vote for? Are you with us, or are you against us?
The interface pulses and dances to the beat of the dollar – primarily – as well as the peer pressure, and it evolves with time. But the principle of the Holy Algorithm remains.
I was fortunate to moderate an excellent panel at the SXSW Continuing Legal Education seminar this week. Our topic was “The Future of Mechanical Licensing in the U.S.” Little did we know when the panel was booked in September that this would be such a hot topic following the introduction of the deeply controversial Music Modernization Act on December 21.
One of the legal process questions the panel discussed was the MMA’s “reachback” safe harbor that retroactively limits infringement claims filed after January 1, 2018 without regard to when the MMA’s blanket license is actually available.
The biggest story of 2017? To my mind, there is no contest — the broad emergence of an awareness that the irresponsibility masquerading as Internet freedom represented a threat to global societies and to cherished aspects of our humanity, and that a course correction was badly needed.
While recognition of the fact that rewarding lack of accountability would likely incentivize anti-social and illegal conduct took longer than it should have, such an awareness came to fruition throughout 2017. Whether motivated by concerns about sex trafficking or the prevalence of other internet-enabled crimes, fake news, foreign government interference in elections, monopoly or monopsony power, or the perceived political or cultural biases of platforms, the question at the end of 2017 wasn’t whether the current legal framework for platform responsibility should be amended, but how.
It became clear that the twin pillars upholding the current lack of accountability in the internet ecosystem — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and Section 512 of the DMCA, each of which was adopted at the dawn of the commercial internet, would need to be reexamined and a new framework established.
Your margin is my opportunity. Now bend over.
Inspired by Jeff Bezos
If a record company pulled your music from a retailer because of a commercial dispute that had nothing to do with you or the label itself, how would that make you feel? If you ran to your contract to see if you could stop them, do you think anyone would have ever thought to negotiate protection against anything so philistine? This little life parable shows you why you should never underestimate the highly innovative monopolists forcing their way into our lives.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google pulled support for its YouTube video service from Amazon.com Inc.’s streaming-media devices, citing the internet retailer’s failure to make Amazon Prime Video available through Google’s gadgets and the recent halt of the sale of some Nest products on its website.
What’s interesting about YouTube’s behavior is that you would think that YouTube actually owned the videos on YouTube. Which in probably 99% of the cases, they do not. (It’s unclear if the Amazon boycott includes Vevo, the premium content provider co-owned by Google, but I would assume it does.) I’m no fan of Amazon, God knows, so I’m not suggesting that YouTube’s move here is hard on Little Jeffie, the destroyer of worlds.
I’m suggesting that it is hard on artists and is not something that any other distributor would think they could get away with. And the fact that YouTube exists to screw artists and songwriters doesn’t excuse YouTube’s tone deaf wielding of other people’s property to gain a commercial advantage against Amazon accruing almost entirely to Google. So what did Google do, exactly? Bloomberg tells us:
Google blocked YouTube access via the Echo Show, Amazon’s smart speaker with a touchscreen, on Tuesday and will stop supporting YouTube on Amazon’s Fire TV set-top box on Jan. 1. In a statement, a Google representative said it’s taking the action because the YouTube apps on Amazon products aren’t made by Google, like the YouTube app on the iPhone is, and the retail giant doesn’t sell some Google products, such as Chromecast and Google Home.
“We’ve been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other’s products and services,” Google said in a statement. In its own statement, Seattle-based Amazon said its gadgets now send users to the YouTube website, and the company hopes to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.
In other words, Amazon stopped carrying totally unrelated Google products and Google responded by blocking your videos from Amazon devices. Did anyone ask you if that was OK? According to the Verge:
Three months ago, YouTube pulled its programming from Amazon’s Echo Show device — the first skirmish in what is apparently an ongoing war. Shortly after, Amazon stopped selling the Nest E Thermostat, Nest’s Camera IQ, and the Nest Secure alarm system. Two weeks ago, Amazon got YouTube back on the Echo Show by simply directing users to the web version, a workaround that left a lot to be desired. But even that version won’t be available after today.
In other words, this boycott of the billionaires has nothing to do with any YouTube artist or Vevo artist, but all are being harmed by it for reasons they have no control over. You might, however, be able to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Google and possibly both Google and Amazon by clicking here.
Who can forget Zoe Lofgren, the Member from San Mateo (aka Google) who is currently the #3 most senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee? You may remember Ms. Lofgren’s scorched earth campaign against Maria Pallante, the former head of the Copyright Office who I think was the subject of a retaliatory termination by the Librarian of Congress. Lofgren’s campaign went absolutely nowhere and has been on the side of monopoly power emanating from Silicon Valley her entire career. Which company does she favor with unwavering loyalty?
You guessed it–the Leviathan of Mountain View, the multibillion dollar multinational monopolist, Lessig’s long-time benefactor and funder of a host of NGOs–Google. Google wants control of the House Judiciary Committee through their influence over Lofgren.
The current Ranking Member is Rep. John Conyers who has resigned his position as Ranking Member after harassment allegations and some allegations of misuse of funds to settle sexual harassment claims (which are coincidentally also surfacing or resurfacing about top Google executives like Andy Rubin, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and, of course, the notorious “serial womanizer” Eric “Uncle Sugar” Schmidt). This leaves the Ranking Member seat open, although Rep. Jerry Nader is next in line in seniority, you know, like “Ranking Member” implies. Rep. Nadler has long been a staunch ally of the little guy, especially our legacy artists on pre-72 recordings that Google made it their mission to screw over through their price fixing cartel and Lofgren pals, the MIC Coalition.
This is nothing new, of course, as Lofgren has been measuring the curtains for a long time, way before the Conyers story came out. Lofgren didn’t make any friends in her attacks on Maria Pallante after the House overcame the Google smear operation that Lofgren led in the House and voted 378-48 in favor of taking away the Librarian of Congress’s power to appoint the next Register. (Even so, Google has been effective in stalling the Senate version of the bill despite Lofgren’s lopsided loss).
For recent historical reasons, the position of Ranking Member is not automatically filled by the most senior member of the applicable party. That position now requires a vote of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, which Nadler will surely win when his acting position comes for a vote by his colleagues–but–the Member from Google reminded members of her caucus that she wanted the gig real bad in a November 29 letter:
“Whenever an official vacancy at the top Democratic position of the Judiciary Committee may occur in accordance with Caucus Rules, I will put my credentials forward for my colleagues’ consideration.
I am confident that, as a 23-year veteran of the Committee with nearly 9 years of prior staff service, I fully meet all the criteria for the position as outlined in Caucus Rule 21. That rule states that, in selecting a successor to a Ranking Member vacancy, the Democratic Caucus ‘shall consider all relevant factors, including merit, length of service on the committee and degree of commitment to the Democratic agenda, and the diversity of the Caucus,’ and that the top Committee position “need not necessarily follow seniority.”
Had Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., then well into his 80s, retired from Congress, Lofgren would have been well-positioned to claim the top-ranking seat on the Judiciary Committee. Yet he ran for re-election. Again. And again. And again.
He stayed so long that Lofgren’s brand of Silicon Valley politics is now past its expiration date, her once virtuous alliance with the forces of progress and innovation curdling into a protection racket for increasingly unpopular monopolies.
Conyers on Sunday announced he is stepping down as the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, launching a battle for his successor that has pitted two Democratic rivals — Lofgren and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. — against each other. On the one hand, his resignation comes in a politically fortuitous way for Lofgren, with Conyers felled not by age but by allegations of sexual harassment. The political logic of replacing him with a woman is obvious. But then there’s Google.
The race for committee chair threatens to become the first fight over monopoly politics after the rollout of House Democrats’ “Better Deal” platform for 2018, which was built on going after concentrated power, particularly in the tech sector. Elected to Congress in 1994, Lofgren represents San Jose and the Bay Area, and is far and away the most stalwart defender of big Silicon Valley firms among House Democrats.
“It certainly may raise questions to have someone from Silicon Valley in a position where one of the key responsibilities is to oversee the conduct of Silicon Valley,” said Jonathan Kanter, a prominent antitrust attorney.
The problem that The Intercept put their finger on is that very few–and I mean very, very few–in the Congressional leadership believes that the whole SOPA dustup was for real and was instead one of the worst cases of astroturf ever perpetrated against a legislative body and its shell shocked staff. Lofgren associated herself with that assault and has been heard to bring it up as a threat that sounds more hollow by the day.
What we have to realize though is that even if Rep. Nadler–who is one of the truest blue progressives in the Congress–gets the Ranking Member position, in my view Lofgren clearly has her marching orders and will not stop until she’s told to stand down. Her supporters clearly have a lot of cash to hand out and are feeling the consequences of the election which severely curtailed their influence in the Executive Branch. And one of the ways that members get influence is not only raising money for themselves, but having the ability to raise money for other members or their party.