@noamcohen: Silicon Valley is Not Your Friend

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.

Read the post on the New York Times

@ethanbaron: Google accused of racketeering in lawsuit claiming pattern of trade secrets theft

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[Editor Charlie sez:  This is nothing compared to what Google has done to the music business–can you say “notice and shakedown”?]

In an explosive new allegation, a renowned architect has accused Google of racketeering, saying in a lawsuit the company has a pattern of stealing trade secrets from people it first invites to collaborate.

Architect Eli Attia spent 50 years developing what his lawsuit calls “game-changing new technology” for building construction. Google in 2010 struck a deal to work with him on commercializing it as software, and Attia moved with his family from New York to Palo Alto to focus on the initiative, code-named “Project Genie.”

The project was undertaken in Google’s secretive “Google X” unit for experimental “moonshots.”

But then Google and its co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin “plotted to squeeze Attia out of the project” and pretended to kill it but used Attia’s technology to “surreptitiously” spin off Project Genie into a new company, according to the lawsuit.

Read the post in the San Jose Mercury News

@andreworlowski: Google, propaganda, and the new New Man

Google has begun to infuse American TV and movies shows with propaganda – “good propaganda”, the company insists. However, it’s unlikely to please two groups who rarely agree on anything: those who think Google isn’t diverse enough, and conservatives who fear its political and media power.

So far, Google’s “interventions” have so far been limited to making computer geeks appear more attractive. For example, following Google’s advice, a greater proportion of programmers portrayed will be women, rather than guys in hoodies. Shows apparently benefitting from the Google touch include Halt and Catch Fire, and the sitcom Silicon Valley. And expect more of the usual homilies to “learn to code” – another more subtle form of indoctrination.

President Obama was kept up to date on the efforts. White House logs show that he met both Google’s co-ordinator, media program manager Julie Ann Crommett, and the academics Google funded to study the initiative, Professor Stacy Smith at USC Annenberg, a prominent commentator on gender issues.

Diversity campaigners and conservatives have good reason to be wary when Google inserts itself in the business of mass communication. Let’s take each case in turn.

Read the post on The Register

@riaa: Five Stubborn Truths About YouTube and The Value Gap

[Editor Charlie sez:  Lyor is the distraction.]

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We are pleased that Lyor Cohen says he is making it his mission to direct some of YouTube’s revenues back to the music creators who drive its success. His optimism is encouraging. But to be honest, we’ve heard pretty much the same claims and arguments from YouTube before. So while Lyor’s heart may be in the right place, the numbers and YouTube’s actions tell a different story.

Let’s be real about what we know:

1. Google’s YouTube is the world’s biggest on-demand music service, with more than 1.5 billion logged-in monthly users. But it exploits a “safe harbor” in the law that was never intended for it, to avoid paying music creators fairly. This not only hurts musicians, it also jeopardizes music’s fragile recovery and gives YouTube an unfair competitive advantage that harms the digital marketplace and innovation.

2. Lyor claims the focus on this safe harbor is “a distraction,” but it’s YouTube that seems obsessed with this legal pretext, probably because it’s the safe harbor that enables YouTube to drive down payments to creators, inappropriately. The safe harbor was intended to protect passive Internet platforms with no knowledge of what its users are doing, not active music distributors like YouTube. As Lyor acknowledges in his blog, “the majority of music…is coming from [YouTube’s] recommendations, rather than people searching for what they want to listen to.”

It’s no mere “distraction” when YouTube uses the safe harbor to skew negotiations with music creators in its favor; to offer a below-market rate and say “take it or leave it,” knowing that by “leaving it” music creators will have to spend countless hours and resources sending takedown notices when they find unauthorized copy after copy of their music on YouTube, only to find them pop right back up again.

That’s precisely why dozens of music organizations and thousands of individual creators across the entire global music spectrum have banded together to protest the existing laws — www.valuethemusic.com — or simply asked YouTube to be a better partner: YouTubeCanDoBetter. Their concerns are real, their indignation is genuine. To dismiss that is to turn a deaf ear to an entire creative community.

Read the post on Medium

@musictechpolicy: It Could Get Worse: UK Solicitor General Tells Google Don’t Be Criminal

According to multiple sources including the London Times, the UK’s Solicitor General floated the possibility that Google executives may face criminal prosecution for revenue share agreements with terrorist supporters posting videos on YouTube that Google monetized with advertising.  So not only would Google be in breach of its promises to advertisers, Google might also have breached the UK’s terror laws, money laundering statutes, or committed the usual list of lesser and included crimes.

Google could be prosecuted under anti-terrorism legislation if it fails to remove illegal content from its YouTube video platform, ministers said yesterday.

Robert Buckland, QC, the solicitor general, said that the internet giant could be criminally liable if it was found to have “recklessly” disseminated videos posted by extreme groups such as National Action, a far-right group proscribed as a terrorist organisation in December.

Mr Buckland also revealed that the government was considering adopting a German law which would allow huge fines to be levied on social media companies that failed to crack down on hate speech and illegal content.

Before you either snicker or drool at the idea of Google executives being frog marched out of their palatial offices in handcuffs and leg irons, remember a few of the examples of corporate crooks and just how long it took to actually get them into the pokey.  But also remember this–if you had told a room full of MBAs in 1985 that in a few years time Drexel Bernham Lambert would be bankrupt and Michael Milken would be in prison, you would have been laughed out of the room.

Read the post on Music Tech Policy

 

@FredGoodman: Can Music Exec Lyor Cohen Bridge the Divide Between YouTube and the Music Industry?

“Lyor may have an impact for them in other areas,” says Irving Azoff, chairman/CEO of Azoff MSG Entertainment, who formed the Global Music Rights group to address online music use. “But as for rights negotiation, YouTube can spin it any way they want, but the reality is that they’re the reason that paid streaming hasn’t exploded. There is a huge value gap in consumption versus revenue.”

One February afternoon, Lyor Cohen shows me around the soundstage at YouTube Space LA. The new facility, located on the site of what was once a Hughes Aircraft plant for building helicopters, is one of nine that parent company Google has built around the world to encourage the creation and evolution of user-generated programming. For a 57-year-old man who was plastering Snapchat with videos and pictures of his emergency hospitalization for a pulmonary embolism a few months ago, Cohen looks as vigorous as a panther.

“I don’t need to take it slow,” he says when asked about his health. “In fact, I’m accelerating. I’m moving hard.”

Read the post on Billboard

Steve Tepp: Public “Selective” Knowledge II: This Time It’s Personal

Public Knowledge has launched unprecedented and unfounded attacks on the widely respected Copyright Office in a transparent bid to bully, berate, and discredit that Office in furtherance of the drastic policy goals PK has failed to achieve for decades. That may sound harsh, but the statements coming from PK in recent weeks are so outrageous and so far afield of what constitutes reasonable discourse that they demand a forceful response. PK has led a relentless campaign that portrays reasonable policy differences as evidence of impropriety. Apparently, they are unable to imagine that anyone could, in good faith, disagree with their orthodoxy. This is compounded by a Stalin-esque recounting of history, both tortured and selective, in an attempt to support their absolutist approach.

Public Knowledge has launched unprecedented and unfounded attacks on the widely respected Copyright Office in a transparent bid to bully, berate, and discredit that Office in furtherance of the drastic policy goals PK has failed to achieve for decades. That may sound harsh, but the statements coming from PK in recent weeks are so outrageous and so far afield of what constitutes reasonable discourse that they demand a forceful response. PK has led a relentless campaign that portrays reasonable policy differences as evidence of impropriety. Apparently, they are unable to imagine that anyone could, in good faith, disagree with their orthodoxy. This is compounded by a Stalin-esque recounting of history, both tortured and selective, in an attempt to support their absolutist approach.

In a new “report” released last week, PK levels the severe charge that the Copyright Office is systematically captured by industry interests. They begin to try to support this by asserting a “revolving door” between the Office and copyright industries. But their evidence fails to support the claim, and they leave out many facts that are inconvenient to their biased narrative.

Read the post on Medium

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