Not the Happiest Place on Earth: Kevin Mayer Resigns as TikTok CEO

Shanghai Disneyland it ain’t: According to the Financial Times (and according to HITS Magazine according to the Financial Times), former Disney honcho Kevin Mayer has resigned as CEO of TikTok. This should be a lesson to everyone who is negotiating favorable deals with tech companies only to jump ship–sometimes you can’t go home again.

According to FT, Mayer said:

“In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for. Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company,” Mr Mayer said in a letter to employees. “I understand that the role that I signed up for — including running TikTok globally — will look very different as a result of the US administration’s action to push for a sell off of the US business,” he added.

The smart money seems to be on an imminent sale (i.e., not waiting the full 90 days that they were given by the government), so Mayer is either getting out while the getting is good or may have been pushed out. Bear in mind–Bytedance CEO Zhang Yiming must be well aware that pre-acquisition review by the U.S. Government’s Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) is a standard procedure which Bytedance chose not to pursue when it acquired Musical.ly.  Had Bytedance submitted the Musical.ly transaction to a pre-acquisition review, TikTok might still have a version of the current problem, but it would have to come from a less legally solid ground and the government probably would not be able to use CFIUS to force a sale.

But that would have required opening the kimono, so to speak, and that would have been out of character.

Another lesson to be learned about entertainment industry executives switching sides and going to work for big data lords is that you have no idea what they are really doing with the user data being scraped every minute of every day and stored who knows where. But you can bet on one thing–it’s pretty horrible stuff and it’s probably illegal. (TikTok already got caught and fined by the FTC for exploiting children in violation of U.S. law.) Not to mention that TikTok is a massive copyright infringer. Child advocates complained to FTC accusing TikTok of ignoring the prior FTC settlement, which should come as no surprise because it’s just too tempting and they get to scrape all that data. (Another reason why it made sense for TikTok to want a Disney person for the CEO spot since Disney also makes tons of money off of kids, so Mr. Mayer had all that “good” training.)

Given all of TikTok’s problems with scraping data on young children and other disgusting practices, it’s hard to believe that this government-mandated unwinding transaction (aka fire sale) is going to go down without a lot of transparency. Which does not bode well for the data lords because there are two things they will simply not tolerate: transparency and getting caught.

Also remember that Kevin Mayer comes from a background that on a certain level is very well suited to dealing with authoritarian regimes. But he was not ever subject to the laws of an actual authoritarian regime. Disney is a nasty place, but the executives don’t carry guns at the office if you know what I mean. Having looked into the abyss of the coming deluge, Mr. Mayer may well want to make a quick exit before getting pulled down the maelstrom. Remember, Chairman for Life Xi Jinping (call sign “Batman”) is good buddies with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (call sign “Bonesaw”) (for example, Batman is helping Bonesaw build nukes). There’s no oxygen in that room for Kevin Mayer.

Bonesaw (L) and Batman (R)

It’s also worth noting that Mr. Mayer’s phraseology is quite reminiscent of another Bytedance executive who reconsidered his life after “reflection”. (Bytedance is the parent of TikTok.)

According to his Wikipedia page, Bytedance CEO Zhang Yiming understands what happens when you don’t toe the Party line:

ByteDance’s first app, Neihan Duanzi, was shut down in 2018 by the National Radio and Television Administration. In response, Zhang issued an apology stating that the app was “incommensurate with socialist core values“, that it had a “weak” implementation of Xi Jinping Thought, and promised that ByteDance would “further deepen cooperation” with the ruling Chinese Communist Party to better promote its policies.

So there’s a whole lot of reflecting going on at Not the Happiest Place on Earth. Good for Kevin Mayer for getting out. Hopefully, they’ll let him. What’s a few subpoenas among friends, anyway?

The Economist: The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data

[Editor Charlie sez: This post is an oldie but a goodie. It’s a topic that doesn’t get talked about anywhere near as much as it should. It’s particularly relevant to the TikTok and WeChat situation–the reason that the Chinese government is so interested in scraping data from these apps is the same reason that they build smart cities on the Belt & Road, and it’s the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks. Because that’s where the money is. You could say that the Chinese government intends to become the Saudi Arabia of data and you wouldn’t be wrong. If Facebook hasn’t already beat them to it. And remember–we all gave all of them the data for free.]

A NEW commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable. They are the five most valuable listed firms in the world. Their profits are surging: they collectively racked up over $25bn in net profit in the first quarter of 2017. Amazon captures half of all dollars spent online in America. Google and Facebook accounted for almost all the revenue growth in digital advertising in America last year.

Read the post on The Economist (registration required)

@Playback_Austin: “Stay Gold” Club’s Landlord Threatens Club With Half-Million-Dollar Lawsuit

An attorney representing the landlord of Eastside music lounge Stay Gold threatened its operators with a breach of contract suit totaling roughly half a million dollars. The warning, following strained negotiations, arrived after the tenants were five days late on August rent.

Dan Castro of Castro & Baker LLP sent an email on Aug. 5 informing Stay Gold owners Nathan Hill and Will Tanner that their landlord, David Contreras of El Leon Cantina, Inc., “has chosen to accelerate the rent due for the entire term of the lease.

“You now owe in one lump sum the entire amount that would normally be spread out over the entire length of the lease, plus attorney’s fees,” Castro’s letter specified.

Hill estimated rent for the remaining four years of the lease totals around $500,000. He and Tanner paid full rent April through July while staying closed because of COVID-19. During extended attempts at renegotiating the lease amid the pandemic, both sides drafted offers the other found unsatisfactory.

Each potential lease addendum involved reducing monthly rent during state-mandated bar closure, though to significantly variant amounts. The landlord’s initial offer involved the Stay Gold partners paying the reduction back in full. Castro says he convinced his client to forgive roughly half of that unpaid balance in a followup offer.

Hill described that offer as merely “extending the possibility of us shutting down later.” He and Tanner, meanwhile, sought an overall rent reduction that would scale back between 28 and 33% over the next four years. Hill, who co-owns a neighboring bar called High Noon that pays a far lower rental rate, has devoted much consideration to how much debt is worth taking on to sustain a venue during shutdown.

“What really matters is how much time you have left to pay back the debt,” he reasons. “At the White Horse [which he co-owns], I still have 10 years [on the lease], so I can still take on debt because I have time to make that back. For Stay Gold, with four years, I have to hope for the best, but plan for the worst, which is that we won’t be open until 2021 and maybe we can’t have bands.

“By that time, we have three years left and I’ll be in as much debt as it took to open the bar originally, when I had 10 years of lease to look forward to and no global pandemic looming.”

As Austin’s small-business community awaits a wave of evictions, Castro’s letter provides a glimpse into possible future scenarios involving landlords.

“Mr. Contreras may not be able to evict you right now, but he certainly can sue you personally for breach of contract, and file a motion for summary judgment for a quick win,” Castro wrote in the missive.

Read the post in the Austin Chronicle

Require Twitter to Disclose The TikTok-Twitter Connection for Your Fans’ Data

TikTok Marked

When you are driving your fans to TikTok, think about this:  Twitter is rumored to be in the hunt to acquire TikTok, but Twitter has long been supporting TikTok’s massive data collection and interference capabilities.  In addition to accessing a trove of your user data that you may have thought was private, Twitter has allowed the TikTok app “Make Your Day” to take a variety of actions on your Twitter account.

And these are the ones they tell you about.

Twitter should be required to explain why in the world any app, much less TikTok, needs access to all this data and functionality and what happens to the data once it is collected from your fans in the background.

Another reason why TikTok would be a fit for Twitter is due to the massive copyright infringement on both platforms.

 

Koda.dk Press Release: Google removes all Danish music from YouTube

While the negotiations on a new joint Nordic agreement are in full swing, Google have chosen to leverage their total dominance in the market in the strongest way possible. On the evening of Thursday 30 July, Google announced that they will soon remove all Danish music content on YouTube.

Under the auspices of the Nordic alliance of collecting societies, Polaris, negotiations on a joint Nordic agreement on the use of music on YouTube are currently in full swing. The agreement will replace the local agreements of the Norwegian, Finnish and Danish composers and songwriters’ societies, combining them in a single, joint agreement with Google. In the case of Koda, the national agreement for Denmark expired in April, after which it was temporarily extended – as is standard practice in the industry while negotiating a new agreement.

Now, however, Google have issued a new demand: if the agreement is to be temporarily extended, Koda must agree to reduce the payment provided to composers and songwriters for YouTube’s use of music by almost 70% – despite the fact that YouTube’s use of music has increased significantly since Koda entered into its last agreement with Google.

Of course, Koda cannot accept these terms, and Google have now unilaterally decided that Koda’s members cannot have their content shown on YouTube and that their fans and users on YouTube will be unable to listen to Koda members’ music until a new agreement is in place.

Although the parties involved in the negotiations on the new joint agreement are by no means in concord yet, progress has been made in recent weeks, and Koda is puzzled by the extremely aggressive approach taken by Google in the negotiations this time.

Koda’s media director, Kaare Struve, says:

‘Google have always taken an “our way or the highway” approach, but even for Google, this is a low point. Of course, Google know that they can create enormous frustration among our members by denying them access to YouTube – and among the many Danes who use YouTube every day. We can only suppose that by doing so, YouTube hope to be able to push through an agreement, one where they alone dictate all terms’.

Ever since the first agreement was signed in 2013, the level of payments received from YouTube has been significantly lower than the level of payment agreed to by subscription-based services.

Koda’s CEO, Gorm Arildsen, says:

‘It is no secret that our members have been very dissatisfied with the level of payment received for the use of their music on YouTube for many years now. And it’s no secret that we at Koda have actively advocated putting an end to the tech giants’ free-ride approach and underpayment for artistic content in connection with the EU’s new Copyright Directive. The fact that Google now demands that the payments due from them should be reduced by almost 70% in connection with a temporary contract extension seems quite bizarre’.

Media contact
Head of Communications Eva Hein / eh@koda.dk / (+45) 61893233