@schneidermaria: The Music Modernization Act – The Devil is in the Details

[Editor Charlie sez: A spectacular and detailed critique of the Music Modernization Act by Maria Schneider the five-time GRAMMY-winning composer and bandleader.]

When it comes to the newly introduced bill called the Music Modernization Act (the “MMA”), there’s good news and bad news.

First, I want to offer some good news.  Many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle appear to be finally waking up to the fact that, in the absence of updated copyright laws, present-day technologies are destroying the livelihoods of music creators, especially workaday creators.  Our elected leaders recognize that changes in the law need to be made.  I think I speak for most music creators in saying, we are very grateful for that.  We are grateful, because the big data companies (like Spotify and YouTube) and the big publishing/record companies (like Sony/Warner/Universal, who have equity in Spotify) have been systematically destroying the ability of most workaday music creators/musicians to make a living.  So, there’s a new bill in the works, that on its face, might seem good – good enough that many are touting it.  It would insure that a stream pays a mechanical.  In theory, that would indeed be great news, and many of our lawmakers, and many in our industry have initially backed this bill.

But now, I need to report the bad news.  The MMA was drafted primarily by lobbyists for the huge corporations that control the music industry.  The MMA is over 100 pages long, and is “Exhibit A” for why people hate lobbyists and lawyers so much.  When you dig into the carefully worded text (which I now have), it becomes very clear that the MMA is the result of cunning drafting that even further protects and insulates the all-powerful publishers and the big data companies.  They’ve paved their own 4-lane highway to drive their Mack trucks over music creators yet again.

Let’s not forget that the copyright rights of all creators, workaday and hugely successful, are so important, that the drafters of the Constitution protected them right in the Constitution itself.  But as I’ll explain in detail below, the MMA basically “outsources” the management of music copyright rights to two separate, “to-be-created” private corporations that will be entirely controlled by these very all-powerful industry players.  That’s like outsourcing the environmental protection from oil spills to a private corporation controlled by BP and Exxon.

Here’s the outsourcing scheme the lobbyists driving the MMA have created: a newly-formed Corporation A will administer the payment of a streaming mechanical royalty that will be implemented, and Corporation B will essentially serve as the tax collector, seeking “assessments” from industry to pay for Corporation A’s activities.  Even if it’s high time for a streaming mechanical, and if the outsourcing of something so important as the management of music copyright must be done, it should be done in a “bullet proof” manner, where the public’s interests, and music creators’ rights, are fully and carefully protected.

Read the post on MusicTechPolicy

@neilturkewitz: Re:Creating the world through sleight of hand: ALI Restatement on Copyright re:Visited

Amending the law — any law, through a democratic process is hard, and can frustrate even the most articulate, impassioned and committed advocates. The creative community knows. Our entire existence takes place within an outdated legal framework that encourages willful blindness and rewards the engineering of technical modes of delivery and storage that undermine the very purpose of copyright law. It would be nice to find shortcuts that avoided the messiness and compromises of democracy in order to achieve necessary reforms, but that kind of reform via executive fiat isn’t a tool available to mere mortals. Well, unless that mortal is Professor Pam Samuelson whose advocacy has led the prestigious American Law Institute (ALI) to undertake a “Restatement of Copyright” as a means to effectively achieve legislative reform outside of the legislative process.

Read the post on Medium

@MsABalakrishnan: Facebook should be regulated like a cigarette company, says Salesforce CEO

Wyden Tobacco

[MTP has only been saying this about Google for 10 years.]

Election interference has opened the door for the government to clamp down on social media companies. But while executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter have made multiple trips to testify in front of Congress, there’s been no clear movement towards enforcement.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff offered up an analogy: Treat social media like a health issue, similar to tobacco and sugar.

“I think that you do it exactly the same way that you regulated the cigarette industry. Here’s a product: Cigarettes. They’re addictive, they’re not good for you,” Benioff told CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” on Tuesday. “I think that for sure, technology has addictive qualities that we have to address, and that product designers are working to make those products more addictive and we need to rein that back.”

Read the post on CNBC

@musictechpolicy: The Restatement Scandal: The Futility of False “Unity”

Who ever thought that the American Law Institute–of all places–would become the center of a corruption scandal over–of all things–its “Restatement of the Law” series.  Chances are good that MTP readers outside of the legal profession have no bloody idea what a “Restatement” is and will sleep well in that knowledge deficit.  But for lawyers (particularly litigators), the Restatement series has had some passing value.

However, there appears to be a trend at the ALI to trade on the “Restatement” series brand value to provide a vehicle through which those who control the pen in drafting both new versions of old Restatements and new Restatements on new topics can try to change the law to what the drafter thinks it ought to be–rather than a tool for practitioners to quickly learn what the “black letter law” is.  This is a way to make an end run around the democratic process.  Why? To deny voters and their elected representatives their proper Constitutional role.  What’s different is the potential for the moral hazard of astroturfing making it more important than ever to know who is behind the pen and hiding behind the Restatement brand….

Setting aside the potential corruption (which is a question across the board for the ALI in both the copyright and other restatement debacles), this is a teachable moment.  If anyone in the creative community is approached to participate in these things, do not believe that participation is worth it “to have a seat at the table” or any of the other metaphors for having your name used, abused and ignored in the final work product of whatever it is.  That this process repeats itself is almost as irritating as our lobbyists saying they are “friends” with the other side, that they are “fond” of an opponent.  If our people were in the room when those “fond friends” were discussing them, trust me–these “fond friends” do not return the affection.  They are not your friend and they are not fond of you.  And as Rogers & Hart wrote, unrequited love’s a bore.

Let me be blunt:  They are screwing you, get it?  And to be blunter still–there’s something to that.  These people are not stupid, they can see a sucker stepping up to the thimblerig.

So if you’re going to keep showing up for their tricks, do not cry about it afterwards.  There’s one answer when that call comes in–pass.

Embrace the Apocalypse.  There is no “unity.”  Or you can buy Bitcoin futures from the Winklevoss Twins.

Read the post on MusicTechPolicy

@NellieBowles: Early Facebook and Google employees form coalition to fight what they built

A group of Silicon Valley technologists who were early employees at Facebook and Google, alarmed over the ill effects of social networks and smartphones, are banding together to challenge the companies they helped build.

The cohort is creating a union of concerned experts called the Center for Humane Technology. Along with the nonprofit media watchdog group Common Sense Media, it also plans an anti-tech addiction lobbying effort and an ad campaign at 55,000 public schools in the United States.

The campaign, titled The Truth About Tech, will be funded with $7 million from Common Sense and capital raised by the Center for Humane Technology. Common Sense also has $50 million in donated media and airtime from partners including Comcast and DirecTV. It will be aimed at educating students, parents and teachers about the dangers of technology, including the depression that can come from heavy use of social media.

Read the post on The New York Times

Music Creators North America Letter to Congress Critiquing Issues in Music Modernization Act

[Editor Charlie sez:  After the many letters from songwriter organizations, it is looking like what The Bible described as the “full throated endorsement of licensing reform” was more like a throat full of cram down by Big Tech–and their search for yet more loopholes and even safer harbors.]

MUSIC CREATORS NORTH AMERICA

February 1st, 2018

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Nadler:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments for the record of the House  Judiciary Committee field hearing, “Music Policy Issues: A Perspective From Those Who Make It,” held in New York City on January 26, 2018. They are submitted on behalf of Music Creators North America (MCNA), an alliance of music creator organizations that represent the rights and interests of composers and songwriters, principally in the United States. Each of MCNA’s member organizations is run exclusively by and for music creators. As such, MCNA is the pure voice of North American music writers and, through our global alliances, a half-million songwriters and composers around the world.

For the sake of clarity, however, this submission should be regarded as principally representing the view of MCNA’s thousands of American members, rendered with the full support of the MCNA-aligned international music creator community.

Specifically, we would like to address issues concerning the Music Modernization Act (HR. 4706). In doing so, we want to stress that MCNA and its coalition partners enthusiastically support the principles underlying HR 4706, and wish once again to thank Representatives Doug Collins, Hakeem Jeffries, and the other co-sponsors of the bill for their hard work and devotion to the cause of protecting the creative community.

We note that, at the January 26 hearing, several members of the Judiciary Committee asked the panelists a significant question that went unanswered. In the paraphrased words of Representative Demings, if, as some panelists indicated, the MMA is not perfect, how can it be improved? Since none of the panelists addressed that important inquiry in detail, we would like to take this opportunity to draw to the Committee’s attention three crucial clarifications, among a number of concerns, that would give great benefit and comfort to the community of American songwriters and composers, issues we very much hope to discuss with the Committee’s Members prior to mark-up.

Chief among them is the selection of the members of the boards of the proposed Collective, both the number of seats allotted to songwriters and composers and the election process to fill those seats. As you and the members of your Committee well know, Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution recognizes the rights of authors and inventors and empowers Congress to protect those rights. The work of songwriters and composers (i.e. authors) is the foundation on which rests the entire music industry, the business of commercial entities that distribute music, and the enjoyment of music fans.

While songwriters and composers are free to engage in contractual relationships with publishers, record companies, and a wide variety of representatives covering other aspects of their careers, US copyright law gives most creators them the unfettered right to control their work from inception.

As the creators of these foundational works, we are simply seeking an appropriate voice in their exploitation. In order to ensure that our voice is truly heard, it is of crucial importance that the legislation provide the songwriter and composer community (as distinguished from, for example, those who administer our rights) with a democratic means of selecting a number of board members equal to those of music publishers and other administrators. These should be knowledgeable, independent, and unbiased music reators capable of ensuring in a cooperative way the protection of our rights and interests. We believe that the details of such a process can be arrived at with the cooperation of our colleagues in the music publishing community, and we look forward to that opportunity.

The second issue is a simple clarification in the “Songwriter Payments” provisions found on page 40, line 17 of HR 4706. In order to ensure that music creators get the full benefits of their contracts with music publishers, we believe that very concise language can be added for clarity to ensure that—as intended by all parties—the distribution of unmatched royalties is made by the Collective and by music publishers on a designated, per title basis. Without this language, it may be possible for a music publisher or administrator to pay such royalties to music creators at rates significantly below those set forth in their contracts. We will be happy to provide draft language in that regard if the Committee deems it appropriate.

The third issue concerns the integrity and structure of the mandated database,specifically, the vital inclusion of unique creator identifiers. As you are most likely aware, many music creators make relatively frequent changes in their contractual relationships with publishers, administrators, and others. (This, of course, is one of the frustrating situations with which music users must deal when seeking licenses.) But the name and, therefore, the identifying information of the creator of a composition, never changes. Therefore, for data accuracy and accessibility for music users, music publishers, and music creators to be fully realized, a creator’s number should be recorded on every musical composition in the database stipulated in HR 4706. This will greatly enhance the ability of individual music creators to identify their works, especially those compositions still unmatched, so that they can claim royalties for their uses.

We are pleased to report that discussions of these issues are underway between and among members of the music community. We ask for the Committee’s assistance, indulgence, and encouragement to allow this process to move forward prior to mark-up.

Thank you, Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Nadler, for all you have done forthe American music creator community and the protection of copyright. We are grateful to have been provided with the opportunity to expand and clarify the record on these important issues. We look forward to working with you and the Committee to ensure that this enormously important piece of legislation is the very best bill it can be.

Sincerely,

David Wolfert

For Music Creators North America (MCNA)

cc: Members of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States House of Representatives

For a listing of MCNA Members and Associates, please refer to the website: www.musiccreatorsna.org

@artistrightsnow: Content Creators Coalition: Spotify’s Wall Street Cash Out Leaves Artists Behind

PRESS RELEASE

Washington, D.C. – The Content Creators Coalition (c3) released the following statement on Spotify’s plan to go public on the New York Stock Exchange:

“Spotify’s founders had an opportunity to pioneer new models and partner with artists on ways to make the music ecosystem work for everyone – services, artists, and fans.  Instead, they cashed in – enriching company owners and deep pocketed investors and doing nothing for working artists who continue to chase pennies online.  This IPO chooses a short term payday over long term progress and will only weaken the streaming ecosystem, burdening the art of music with Wall Street’s bottom line first mentality and erecting new barriers between creators and their fans.

“Spotify’s algorithms and curated playlists have already failed artists and songwriters, making haphazard and emotionally stunted connections between supposedly ‘related’ acts and pushing costly advertising tools as the best way to reach new fans.  The result is the worst of all worlds – at one end artists and independent rights holders have no meaningful input into how their work is presented and promoted on the service and at the other end, they are paid grossly substandard wages for the airplay they do receive.  And it will get worse as Spotify’s managers focus more and more on shareholders and less and less on music.

“Artists stand ready to embrace streaming models that work for all.  But we will always reject corporate greed and ‘too big to fail’ models that squeeze the soul out of our work and distances us from our fans.”

About c3:

The Content Creators Coalition (c3) is an artist-run non-profit advocacy group representing creators in the digital landscape. C3’s work is significant to anyone who creates and makes a living from their creations. c3’s objectives are two-fold: First, economic justice for musicians and music creators in the digital domain. Second, ensuring that the current and future generations of creators retain the rights needed to create and benefit from the use of their work and efforts. C3 has grown into a national organization based on representation, advocacy, and mobilization for sustainable careers in the digital age.