YouTube/Amazon Fight: Tone Deaf Google acts like it’s their videos

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.

According to Bloomberg:

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.

@musictechpolicy:Google Targeting Judiciary Ranking Member Position as Conyers Steps Down

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.

MIC Coaltion 8-15
Google’s 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.”

But Ryan Grim and Lee Fang writing in the Intercept crystalize Lofgren’s problem:

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.

 

@musictechpolicy: Holding The Line On Statutory Damage Tradeoffs

It is very likely that we will hear about a move to make significant amendments to the Copyright Act at some point before the beginning of campaign season in 2018.  There are a high number of copyright-related bills that have been introduced in the House of Representatives in the current session, so brace yourself for an “omnibus” copyright bill that would try to cobble them all together Frankenstein-style.

A Frankenstein omnibus bill would be a very bad idea in my view and will inevitably lead to horse trading of fake issues against a false deadline.  Omnibus bills are a bad idea for songwriters and artists, particularly independent songwriters and artists, because omnibus bills tend to bring together Corporate America in attack formation.

Read the post on Hypebot

@RobertBLevine_: Congressmen Introduce CASE Act Bill Aimed at Helping Independent Creators With Copyright Claims

[Editor Charlie sez:  Big thanks to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a great friend of creators!]

Copyright may be one of the few nonpartisan issues left in Congress. As the issue of copyright reform continues to heat up, Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Tom Marino (R-PA), along with Representatives Doug Collins (R-GA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced in the House of Representatives the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, which is intended to give creators a cost-effective way to enforce their rights.

The idea of a copyright small-claims court, which has been discussed in Washington D.C. for several years, would not have a substantial effect on major labels or publishers. But it could make it easier for small companies and independent creators to enforce their rights — especially where merchandise is concerned. And it could be a game-changer for photographers and visual artists.

Read the post on Billboard.biz

@RobertBLevine_ : Spotify’s Motion Denied In Legal Tussle Over Mechanical Rights Payments

[Editor Charlie sez:  Here is the judge’s order: 

ORDER denying 20 Motion for More Definite Statement. The complaint appears sufficient to allow the defendant to respond. The defendant is free to file a motion to dismiss if they truly believe the complaint is defective. The plaintiff filed a lengthy response which also contained a request for sanctions. Counsel should not mix apples and oranges in a single pleading. To the extent there is an actual motion for sanctions it is denied. Both counsel are cautioned that their language is excessive and personal attacks are not appreciated or helpful to the case. Counsel are also reminded that they must meet and confer before starting this bickering. Both sets of pleadings are too long. One can state the time of day without giving the history of their watch. (JBB) (Entered: 09/14/2017)]

In an important copyright lawsuit from a music publisher that Spotify faces over mechanical rights, a judge just denied a motion from the streaming company that suggested it doesn’t need to license those rights in the first place. Although the denial of the “motion for a more definite statement” means the case can proceed without a revised complaint from the plaintiffs, it does not prevent the company’s attorneys from continuing to make that argument.

In July, Spotify was sued by Robert Gaudio, a songwriter and founding member of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and Bluewater Music Services Corporation, which administers publishing rights for songwriters. The companies allege that Spotify infringed their copyrights by streaming compositions for which it hadn’t licensed “mechanical rights.”

In response, Spotify filed a motion in the Gaudio case for a more definite statement, arguing that the publishers complaints do “not set forth a cogent theory of infringement” because it has no obligation to license mechanical rights in the first place, although the company and other on-demand streaming services have always done so.

Read more: Spotify, Bluewater & Mechanical Licensing: What’s Really Driving the Streaming Giant’s Latest Legal Fight

On Wednesday, the lawyer for the publishers, Richard Busch, who represented Marvin Gaye’s family in the “Blurred Lines” case, filed a response, as well as a third lawsuit. The cases are important for the entire music business: A loss for Spotify could hurt the company as it prepares for a public stock offering, while a win on these grounds could shake the music publishing business.

In an abstract case, which could hinge on the difference between a public performance and a distribution, the order denying Spotify’s motion is something of a sick burn: It says both sets of pleadings are too long, and that “one can state the time of day without giving the history of their watch.” But it does not rule on the merits of Spotify’s argument, and it points out that the company can file a motion to dismiss the case.

Read the post on Billboard

@KRSfow: Future of What Podcast on the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act

 

Episode #94: Recently, a bill was introduced by Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner which calls for the creation of a comprehensive database of compositions and recordings. The “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act” claims to make things easier for coffee shops, bars and restaurants who want to license music to play in their establishments. To many in the music industry, the bill seems like a wolf in sheep’s clothing with the potential cause big problems. On this episode we dig deep into the bill with Future of Music Coalition’s Kevin Erickson and attorney Chris Castle.

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