@davidclowery: MLC Selects as “Digital Services Provider” the Company that Sent Fraudulent License Notices to Songwriters

The picture above shows dozens of backdated “NOIs” for compulsory mechanical licenses sent to me by HFA in 2016.  By purporting to be valid NOIs for licenses when they were not, HFA committed mail fraud. 

Music Row is reporting the music licensing collective board of directors has selected HFA as a digital service provider:

Technology company ConsenSys and mechanical licensing administrator Harry Fox Agency(HFA) received unanimous approval from the MLC Board to become the primary vendors responsible for managing the matching of digital uses to musical works, distributing mechanical royalties, and onboarding songwriters, composers, lyricists, and music publishers and their catalogs to the database.

The problem is that HFA was the 3rd party licensing contractor hired by Spotify and other streaming services to obtain licenses from songwriters and publishers.  HFA did not properly do their job leaving streaming services exposed to massive copyright infringement lawsuits (from people like me).  They created the problem that led to the creation of the Music Licensing Collective so now they are rewarded with the contract to run the matching of musical works and paying artists?!?!

Read the post on The Trichordist

@TonyRomm: Top Senate Democrats unveil new online privacy bill, promising tough penalties for data abuse

Senate Democrats on Tuesday proposed tough new punishments for Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley tech giants that mishandle their users’ personal data, unveiling a sweeping new online privacy bill that aims to provide people their “Miranda rights” for the digital age.

The effort, led by Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington state Democrat who previously worked in the tech industry, marks a significant attempt by Congress to write the country’s first-ever national consumer-privacy law after years of false starts — and massive data scandals that illustrated the costs of the U.S. government’s inaction.

Cantwell’s bill, dubbed the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act, would allow people to see the personal information that is amassed about them and block it from being sold. The measure also promises steep fines and opens the door for web users to bring lawsuits, if social media sites, retailers and others engage in harmful practices and break the rules.

Read the post on Washington Post

Why Creators Should Care About Google v. Oracle in the Supreme Court

There’s a case shaping up in the U.S. Supreme Court that I haven’t paid too much attention to–but suddenly realized it’s something we should all care about because it could set precedent for fair use cases for decades to come:  Google v. Oracle.

[ARW readers will remember the Oracle case because Judge William Alsop required the parties (provoked by Google shills) to file with the Court a list of the then-current “advocacy” groups Google paid that were also engaged in commentary about the case to affect public opinion.  We styled this filing the “Google Shill List” and it has been a useful resource that includes many of the same amici in the current SCOTUS appeal such as EFF, Jonathan Band, Public Knowledge, Engine Advocacy, CCIA, and so on to include the cozy and dedicated group of likeminded people.]

On the surface, the case is about the Java software code and certain Java libraries developed by Sun Microsystems, later acquired by Oracle.  But digging a little deeper it is also about Google’s obsession with “permissionless innovation”, Newspeak for “theft.”  And when I say “Google”, I don’t really mean Google as a company.  I mean the insiders.  This because of Google’s governance and dual class structure that gives Larry Page, Sergei Brin and Eric Schmidt control over the company and the ability to waste the shareholders money settling claims for their bad behavior and terrible management (such as $500 million for violating the Controlled Substances Act and billions in fines for competition law violations around the world)–and now this Oracle case.

So we will refer to “Google” but really we’re talking about the Google ruling class with 10:1 voting power: Larry, Sergei and Eric.

How did Google get sued by Oracle and not Sun?  According to Google’s SCOTUS brief (at 3):

Sun originally applauded Google for using the Java language. But after Oracle acquired Sun, it sued Google for copyright infringement.

Let’s not just blow past that statement.  That one sounds like Google would like to cut back the ability of a copyright owner to decide when and where to enforce their rights, including a subsequent purchaser of copyrights.  Because Sun, you see, were behaving like right thinking boys and girls, and then the evil ones came along to challenge Google the Sun God…or something like that.  Or said another way, 2+2=5.  And don’t you forget it.

You can see that Google would like to push that angle.

If, for example, a music publisher lacking the means to sue Google for infringing their catalog was later acquired by someone with the means to do.  That buyer then sues Google for those pre-acquisition infringements.  A ruling for Google in the current SCOTUS appeal could easily send a message that protects Google’s massive infringement through search, YouTube and God knows what else.

But at the heart of the Google infringement of Oracle’s copyrights is the “verbatim” copying of certain Java code into the Java-based Android systems.  As the amicus brief by the United States  tells us, one of the questions presented to SCOTUS is:

Whether the court of appeals correctly held that no reasonable jury could find that petitioner’s verbatim copying of respondent’s original computer code into a competing commercial product was fair use….

[Google] created much of the Android library from scratch. For 37 of the 168 packages included in the Android library, however, [Google] copied the Java declaring code verbatim, while writing its own implementing code.

As we have joked for years, Google thinks a fair use is when a YouTube user makes a verbatim copy of a television program or concert and posts it on YouTube in a different file format–you know, transformative.  Which is, of course, fair use.  Or was it a parody, I forget.

The brief by the United States disagrees, and so do I.

So let’s be clear:  This case is about Google getting away with verbatim copying that they then commercially exploit as only Google can.  And then scream fair use.

You have to wonder why SCOTUS took this case.  I suspect it has something to do with this absurd “transformative use” theme we have seen Google use again and again and again.

 

@MusicArtistsCo: Music Artists Coalition Call for Regulations Greater Transparency in MLC

[Editor Charlie sez:  We were going to give you some quotes from this filing at the Copyright Office by the newly formed Music Artists Coalition but it was all so important we couldn’t decide what to leave out!  We bolded some of the parts we thought were important.]

Before the Library of Congress
United States Copyright Office
101 Independence Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000 

Music Modernization Act Implementing Regulations for the Blanket License for Digital Uses and Mechanical Licensing 

37 CFR Part 210
Docket No. 2019–5
Notice of Inquiry, September 24, 2019 

Comments of Music Artists Coalition 

Beginning in the summer of 2019, a group of music creators and talent representatives have joined forces to form the Music Artists Coalition (MAC). MAC’s mission is to be a voice for music artists on legal and policy issues that impact them. While technology has significantly expanded the way we experience music, the rewards still need to be shared fairly with those who create it. With the music business at an inflection point, decisions are being made now that will impact music creators’ intellectual property rights and livelihoods for decades to come. 

MAC has a strong board of directors and robust membership, ranging from iconic musicians and songwriters, to those just getting their start. MAC members include Diplo, the Doobie Brothers, Don Henley, Def Leppard, Lizzo, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Shane McAnally, Maren Morris, Anderson .Paak, Linda Perry, Spoon, Bernie Taupin, Meghan Trainor, and Verdine White. MAC has already engaged on issues important to music artists including working with industry groups on an exemption to the recently passed California Assembly Bill 5 and advocating on behalf of songwriters in the Department of Justice’s review of ASCAP and BMI’s consent decrees. 

As the Copyright Office works to fully implement the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (P.L. 115-264), MAC is interested in ensuring that there is increased transparency in the establishment of the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) and that the MLC, once fully operational in 2021, will treat small, independent publishers and songwriters as equals to large publishers. 

Mechanical Licensing Collective 

In accordance with Title I of the MMA, the Register designated the Mechanical Licensing Collective, Inc. (MLCI) as the mechanical licensing collective and Digital Licensee Coordinator, Inc. as the digital licensee coordinator. While MAC acknowledges that these groups, supported by the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), and the Songwriters of North America (SONA), most nearly fit the criteria laid out in MMA, namely the that designee be “endorsed by, and enjoy substantial support from, musical work copyright owners that together represent the greatest percentage of the licensor market for uses of such works in covered activities, as measured over the preceding 3 full calendar years,” many creators have expressed concern regarding the specifics of the selection process and would like to see increased transparency. 

Additionally, MAC has concerns regarding the selection and makeup of the MLC board of directors and members of the task-specific committees (the Unclaimed Royalties Oversight, Dispute Resolution, and Operations Advisory Committees). 

As of yet, the MLC has not published: 

1.) Term lengths for each member of the board of directors 

2.) The process for electing a member to the board of directors 

3.) The process for filling a seat on the board of directors that is vacated before the end of a term 

The ongoing makeup of the Unclaimed Royalties Oversight Committee is of particular concern to MAC members. MAC is content with the initial committee proposed by MLCI as “each publisher representative on the… committee is affiliated with an independent music publisher,” providing some assurance that the committee will concern itself with not only the rights of major publishers, but also smaller actors in the space. However, there is little guarantee of such a committee makeup once the terms of the current committee end at some point in the future. 

Additionally, there is a question of parity between the ten voting board members appointed as representatives of music publishers and the four board seats allocated to professional songwriters who have retained and exercise exclusive rights of reproduction and distribution for musical works they have authored. These seats reserved for songwriters should be able to be filled by artist representatives as well as the artists themselves. After all, the seats filled by the music publishers are not exclusively filled by the chief executives of those entities or their top officers. 

Finally, once fully operational, the new blanket compulsory licensing system for digital music providers should provide other music application program interfaces (APIs) with access to the public database. Allowing these third-party APIs access and ensuring it is easily interoperable with other systems is the best way to make certain the MLC database becomes part of the overall music licensing ecosystem. 

Management Structure 

In the winning MLCI proposal, the designee had “not yet determined the precise management structure for daily operations or full staffing.” Offered instead is an outline, which “may be materially different, with both additions and removals of roles,” once the MLC becomes fully operational. Nor has the designee determined the compensation for the initially proposed fifty-five employees of the MLC, presumably based in Nashville, although the proposal does estimate that yearly executive compensation will be in the range of $3,330,000 to $3,500,000, aggregate. Beyond these topline numbers, no additional detail is given. 

As implementation and startup of MLC continues, MAC would encourage both the Copyright Office and the MLCI to remain committed to maintaining a transparent process in which all stakeholders have access to relevant information. 

Vendor Selection 

The need for a fully transparent process is also deeply important in the RFI/RFP process to select a vendor. Pursuant to Section 115(d)(3)(E)(vi) of the MMA, this vendor will be tasked with building and maintaining “end-to-end databases and systems for ownership identification, matching and claiming, and royalty collection and distribution.” 

As this process moves to the RFP stage and proposals are received by the seven entities who cleared the RFI stage, MAC hopes that these responses will be published publicly, either in full or lightly redacted to preserve confidential business information. 

Respectfully submitted, 

/s Jack Quinn 

President
Music Artists Coalition 

 

MIC Coalition Filing Reveal: The Zombie Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act

ARW readers will remember the horrific Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act from the last Congress.  (See “The Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act: The Domesday Book Meets A Unicorn“.)  Well, guess what–it’s not really dead!

MIC Coaltion Members 2019
MIC Coalition Members

The MIC Coalition cartel filed a comment with the Copyright Office that makes one thing clear–this rule making is going to be a scorched earth donnybrook of epic proportions.  The big reveal in the MIC Coaltion’s filing is based on this passage in the legislative history for the Music Modernization Act:

Testimony provided by Jim Griffin at the June 10, 2014 Committee hearing highlighted the need for more robust metadata to accompany the payment and distribution of music royalties. With millions of songs now available to subscribers worldwide, technology also has a role to play through digital fingerprinting of a sound recording. However, there is no reliable, public database to link sound recordings with their underlying musical works. Unmatched works routinely occur as a result of different spellings of artist names and song titles….Music metadata has more often been seen as a competitive advantage for the party that controls the database, rather than as a resource for building an industry on.

The entire concept of maintaining a static look up database of not only all songs in the history of recorded music, but also all sound recordings in the history of recorded music that can be queried in real time is really not that different than the Domesday Book–when William the Conquerer made a big list of all property, people and chickens in England in the “Great Survey” in 1086.  Like the Domesday Book, the “musical works database” will be full of mistakes due to the dynamic nature of the things it is purporting to count.

But the reveal is the heaping praise on the horrific Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act which was designed to destroy the PRO system (just like the MIC Coalition):

In response to the Copyright Office recommendations, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act, H.R. 3350, in July of 2017, which was cosponsored by several members of the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would provide for a database, housed at and overseen by the U.S. Copyright Office, to aid businesses and establishments that publicly perform musical works and sound recordings in identifying and compensating the holders of rights in those works. 

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.

Save the Date: Alissa McCain to Receive Cindi Lazzari Artist Advocate Award

Alissa McCain will receive the 2019 Cindi Lazzari Artist Advocate Award from the Texas Entertainment and Sports Law Section (TESLAW) of the State Bar of Texas on November 20 at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel.  Alissa has twenty years of dedicated and groundbreaking artist advocacy work that has had a substantial impact on the lives of thousands of artists across Texas.

A highly experienced and well-respected community leader, Alissa has maintained a singular focus:  the success and advancement of artists.

Her work at Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts over the last seven years has provided both pro bono legal counseling to artists statewide in Texas and events and programs in all major cities in Texas.

In addition, Alissa was not only a founding board member of Capitol View Arts and working board member every year since its inception, she worked tirelessly as a member of the Austin Arts Commission to assist in re-working the funding metrics used to provide City of Austin grant money to help the smaller arts organizations receive their fair share of those funds.

Other notable accomplishments include her service as a Commissioner on the Austin Arts Commission (appointed by Council Member Ora Houston), a consultant and contributing writer to the Austin Music Census, COO of the Austin Creative Alliance, and Director of Programs and Operations for the Austin Music Foundation.

Alissa’s career embodies the traditions of the Lazzari Award — supporting and educating artists by creating the kind of resources that allow creators to thrive.  TESLAW will present the award to Alissa on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at 6:15 P.M. at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel in conjunction with the welcome event for the 29th Annual Entertainment Law Institute hosted in Austin by the State Bar of Texas.

Alissa will receive a plaque created by renowned Austin Artist Rejina Thomas.

About the Lazzari Award:  The Lazzari Artist Advocacy Award is named for the late Cindi Lazzari, a leading Texas attorney who went far beyond the call of duty in her efforts to protect the rights of artists in the music industry.   It is awarded by TESLAW.

In these challenging times for Texas musicians, the Section wants to recognize the exciting heroes and heroines of all the music communities across Texas who carry on the tradition of Cindi’s good works.

Previous recipients of the Lazzari Award include Juan Tejeda (musician, arts administrator and activist), Robin Shivers (artist manager and founder of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians), Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts, SIMS Foundation, Nikki Rowling (co-founder of Austin Music Foundation and author of the Austin Music Census), Casey Monahan (the first head of the Governor’s Music Office) and Margaret Moser (the journalist and long-time music editor for the Austin Chronicle).

About the Artist: Rejina Thomas (African American Contemporary Artist) Circa 1979- present. Creative, Rejina Thomas has mastered her trades of Custom Glass Engraving and fabrication with mixed media including metal, stone, and plastics over the last three decades. Her acclaimed artwork is held in public places and private collections around the world.  She did all the double acid etch Victorian stencil pattern Glass Art in the Texas State Capitol.  Miss Thomas is also well respected as an abstract painter and muralist. Reji Thomas lives and works in Austin, Texas and continues every day to look at life through Abstract Colored glasses in order to see the best in Humanity.  https://www.rejithomasart.com/

 

 

@kingthor: Personalization Has Failed Us

Behind every “you might also like” recommendation is an algorithm built on data you’ve provided. This includes the obvious stuff, like your viewing or listening history, but it may also factor in your age, location or gender. These algorithms are all a little different.  Spotify builds its recommendations by logging what you listen to, funneling that through a genre classification system, then pulling in songs from playlists from other users with similar tastes.

Spotify’s complicated algorithm struggles to push the boundaries of your own habits. Listen to a track from Nine Inch Nails and you’ll get more Nine Inch Nails on your algorithm-generated Discover Weekly playlist. Maybe it’ll toss in something similar sounding, but it’s just as likely to throw in a random pop song from the ’90s. If you go too off course and listen to a jazz playlist followed by some metal, the whole thing breaks down and you’re served up a nonsensical playlist for a week. Even in the best-case scenario, the experience is transactional, and without the thrill of self-discovery — part of the appeal of seeking out new media — the recommendations feel cold.

Read the post on the New York Times Privacy Project