Late last month, Mark Zuckerberg wrote a brief post on Facebook at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, asking his friends for forgiveness not just for his personal failures but also for his professional ones, especially “the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together.” He was heeding the call of the Jewish Day of Atonement to take stock of the year just passed as he pledged that he would “work to do better.”
Such a somber, self-critical statement hasn’t been typical for the usually sunny Mr. Zuckerberg, who once exhorted his employees at Facebook to “move fast and break things.” In the past, why would Mr. Zuckerberg, or any of his peers, have felt the need to atone for what they did at the office? For making incredibly cool sites that seamlessly connect billions of people to their friends as well as to a global storehouse of knowledge?
Lately, however, the sins of Silicon Valley-led disruption have become impossible to ignore.
Facebook has endured a drip, drip of revelations concerning Russian operatives who used its platform to influence the 2016 presidential election by stirring up racist anger. Google had a similar role in carrying targeted, inflammatory messages during the election, and this summer, it appeared to play the heavy when an important liberal think tank, New America, cut ties with a prominent scholar who is critical of the power of digital monopolies. Some within the organization questioned whether he was dismissed to appease Google and its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, both longstanding donors, though New America’s executive president and a Google representative denied a connection.
Meanwhile, Amazon, with its purchase of the Whole Foods supermarket chain and the construction of brick-and-mortar stores, pursues the breathtakingly lucrative strategy of parlaying a monopoly position online into an offline one, too.
Now that Google, Facebook, Amazon have become world dominators, the question of the hour is, can the public be convinced to see Silicon Valley as the wrecking ball that it is?
These menacing turns of events have been quite bewildering to the public, running counter to everything Silicon Valley had preached about itself.
[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.
Yesterday we detailed one of the main problems with the so-called “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act” or as Artist Rights Watch termed it “The Shiv Act.” The bill would take away from songwriters legal remedies like attorney’s fees and statutory damages. Thus making it virtually impossible for individual songwriters and small […]
We get an update this week on the total “address unknown” mass NOIs filed with the Copyright Office for the royalty-free windfall loophole. This time we have to thank our our friends at Paperchain in Sydney for doing the work of decompressing the massive numbers of unsearchable compressed files posted on the Copyright Office website. As you can see, there’s been an increase of approximately 70% since January 2017. (For background, see my article.)
As you can see, Amazon is still far and away the leader in this latest loophole designed to stiff songwriters, followed closely by Google. However, Spotify is moving on up. Spotify does get extra points for starting late in March 2017, but they are catching up fast filing over 5,000,000 as of last month.
Pandora’s founding CEO Tim Westergren, who returned to the top job just last year, intends to step down as the streaming service’s leader in the near future. According to Recode, which cites “people familiar” with the plans, Westergren won’t go anywhere until a replacement has been found and is in place.
Amazon, Google, Pandora, Spotify and other tech companies are taking advantage of their influence in the Library of Congress to leverage a loophole in the Copyright Act to their great benefit and to songwriters great harm. Congress can stop them overnight if the Congress will act.
Pandora Media, Inc. has launched its long-awaited Pandora Premium on-demand competitor to Spotify according to reports from journalists who previewed the platform.
Pandora built Pandora Premium on top of its 2015 acquisition of RDIO’s assets in a controversial bankruptcy and is reportedly leveraging its Music Genome technology that allows Pandora to build on-demand playlists based on an artist’s name or work. Premium evidently transposes Pandora “stations” to Premium “playlists” with what sounds like largely the same functionality, including transferring “thumbs up” ratings in the historical interactive/noninteractive webcasting service. The Premium service evidently uses prior choices to recommend future music in the known-unknown dichotomy. And of course it sounds like you can download all the tracks.
What is different about Pandora’s on-demand service is that it implicates a license for songs that Pandora did not have to obtain for its webcasting service—the mechanical license for on-demand services and downloads. Pandora is evidently negotiating direct deals with major publishers and also is trying to encourage other songwriters to sign up to a “standard” mechanical license.
According to Rightscorp CEO Christopher Sabec, Pandora has filed approximately 1,193, 346 “address unknown” NOIs with the Copyright Office between April 2016 and January 28, 2017. I have been informed by other sources that representatives of Pandora have stated that the company intends to pay statutory royalties retroactively for any songwriter who comes forward and complies with the formality of registration, but I have yet to see a public statement by Pandora of this intention.