If you ever thought we were too aggressive in our campaign to end the 15 year freeze on statutory royalties for physical, consider the situation of songwriter Hugh Prestwood and his wife, photojournalist Judy Ahrens. Songwriters and photographers are two occupations that are devastated by the digital blight that has visited apocalyptic devastation on creators.
As Hugh says in their GoFundMe page, his songwriting income was destroyed by the massive change in the economics of songwriting that split apart the album format with no commensurate increase in songwriter royalties. Songs became a major driver of wealth for hardware manufacturers and Internet providers (remember dancing cows chanting rip, mix, burn?) in the 2000s, and streaming drives wealth for catalogs and platforms. The doubling effect of Moore’s Law imposes a halving effect on creator royalties. Hugh and Judy are living proof of what happens to an aging population of creators who could not have possibly planned around the digital blight–other than learning to code, I guess.
Of course we want to encourage readers to contribute what you can to Hugh and Judy’s GoFundMe, but we also want to make a larger point.
The Copyright Royalty Judges need to understand that there are real consequences to real people when they freeze mechanical royalties. While the Judges are not responsible for all the harms that accrue to songwriters in the rigged statutory licensing and royalty scheme, they do play a part and they can make a difference. Songwriters may not expect the Judges to fix their problems, but they do expect them not to make it worse. Freezing rates for 15 years makes it worse.
The Judges should also understand that they have an opportunity to do something to add fairness back into the system that the Judges effectively control. Creators like Hugh and Judy will never appear in their courtroom alongside the well-heeled lobbyists and lawyers who make millions off of the rate proceedings and the black box in what has become a laughingstock.
Congress, too, needs to listen up. It is well past time for a songwriter advocate to be a permanent part of the Copyright Royalty Board proceedings for mechanical royalty rate settings. A songwriter advocate would speak for people like Hugh and Judy. As Linda said of Willie Lohman in Death of a Salesman, “Attention must be paid.” I’m not asking that songwriters should be able to overrule the lobbyists, although that’s not a bad idea.
But at least hear them out before they’re all gone.
As a torrent of bad press consumes Facebook — or whatever the company may soon be renamed — it’s worth remembering that to become an industry-dominating social-media Goliath, sometimes you need a little help from your friends. Perhaps they’re better described as co-conspirators.
Over the past year, a series of court filings by 15 state attorneys general have exposed what amounts to secret collusion between Google and Facebook to rig the online ad market in their favor and to keep out competitors. Details keep percolating up — last week, a New York judge unsealed yet more documents shining light on the arrangement — but we’ve already learned a great deal, revealing just how far two tech giants will go to preserve their lucrative hold over online advertising. (A Google spokesperson said the claims in the suit are “baseless” and riddled with inaccuracies.”)
Read the post on New York Magazine
[Editor Charlie sez: this is an important roundup of commentary about the Supreme Court’s failing in the Google v. Oracle case.]
On April 5, the Supreme Court published its decision in Google v. Oracle, a case that many expected to make a substantial impact in copyright law, specifically in how software code is protected. While the decision appears to have very limited applicability, many in the copyright community voiced concerns regarding how the case was decided and what the decision’s potential ramifications are. Below is a compilation of various reactions to this decision…
Read the post on Copyright Alliance
[MTP readers may recall that I lived in Toronto and Montreal for many years and played with some of the Quebec and English Canadian artists as a member of Local 406. I try to keep an eye on what’s happening in the North. I can’t help noticing that Google lobbyists and fanboys are running the same old “but censorship!” play in Canada that they tried in Europe and the US. This is kind of ridiculous for the Kings of Algorithms at the Chocolate Factory. This post from Kate Taylor writing at the Globe and Mail sums it up nicely.]
If you believe my current Twitter feed, the Liberal government in Ottawa has misplaced its mind along with all democratic norms and is about to pass a law that will censor Canadians’ internet activity. Apparently, no funny cat video, let alone sneaky political GIF, will ever be safe again as Big Brother Justin rips page after page from China’s notoriously intrusive internet policies. One defiant wit, in the dying days of his free expression, recently posted an old socialist realist painting of Mao onto whose head he had cleverly morphed Justin Trudeau’s face. Meanwhile, in an opinion piece published in the National Post Saturday, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole began quoting George Orwell, telling Canadians the Liberals might start monitoring their Facebook groups and their comments on news stories.
Well, the truth is that Trudeau and Mao share neither the same hairline nor the same politics. The alarm over supposed censorship is overblown and misplaced. It is fuelled by dishonest politicking from O’Toole and the Conservatives, and predictable paranoia from technological fundamentalists, those who believe the heaven-sent internet should not be subject to any human law – disinformation and election interference be damned.
Read the post on Apple News