@voxindie: Piracy’s scofflaws – All roads lead through Cloudflare?

[This is an important post by Ellen Seidler from her VoxIndie blog.  Ellen has much to teach us about DMCA abuse and blatant piracy profit by Big Tech.]

The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) was signed into law nearly 20 years ago….yet here we are today, same old tired law but with an online ecosystem vastly different from what existed 2 decades ago.   Despite this, no one in Congress seems in any great hurry to update law and as they drag their feet, creative artists continue to pay the price. 

For creators trying to safeguard their work from online theft this leaves them with only one option, the DMCA takedown notice.   This antiquated process works ok in very limited instances, but for most filmmakers (and musicians) dealing with a large volume of infringements, it’s like using an umbrella to stay dry beneath Niagara Falls.  Not only is it inadequate, but the truth is– it’s a joke.   Why?  Because the DMCA’s safe harbor provision provides loopholes allowing many of tech’s piracy enablers–U.S. based companies play a significant role in allowing pirates entrepreneurs to pimp their stolen content across the globe–to sidestep any legal liability and happily accept the tainted profits filling their cash drawers…

They may be outside the reach of U.S. law, but they seem to have no problem depending on U.S. companies for parts of their infrastructure.   Peel back more layers of the onion and you’ll find that in fact, there are U.S. based companies that provide a crucial services to efficiently deliver the pirated movies to viewers around the world.    One of the major players in this ecosystem is Cloudflare, a CDN (content delivery network) that currently handles about 10% of internet requests.

Read the post on VoxIndie

Texas Bar Section Announces Nominations are Open for the Cindi Lazzari Artist Advocate Award

We’re pleased to help get out the word that nominations are open for the Cindi Lazzari Artist Advocate Award for “heroes and heroines” involved with artist advocacy in all Texas communities.  For Texas readers, there’s info below about how to nominate.  If you’re not in Texas you may want to look into whether your community has a similar award.  If not, you might consider starting one.

If you would like to nominate someone for the award, you may use this form.

PRESS RELEASE:

The State Bar of Texas Entertainment and Sports Law Section (TESLAW) announced that nominations for the Cindi Lazzari Artist Advocate Award are open now until 11:59 pm Central Time on October 1, 2019.  The 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.

In these challenging times for Texas musicians, TESLAW wants to hear about the exciting heroes and heroines who carry on the tradition of Cindi’s good works in all the music communities across Texas.  Nominees need not be attorneys.

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).

Nominations for the 2019 Lazzari Award will be accepted through October 1, 2019 and should be sent by e-mail only to law@amyemitchell.com. The nomination email should include (1) the nominee’s name and contact information; (2) a one-page statement as to why the nominating individual believes the nominee should receive the award; and (3) a biography of the nominee.

TESLAW will present the Cindi Lazzari Artist Advocate Award at the annual Entertainment Law Institute, to be held in Austin November 20-22, 2019.

For further information, please see TESLAW’s web page at http://teslaw.org/awards/cindi-lazzari-artist-advocate-award/

[We’re thrilled to have a chance to publish an important Twitter thread by composer Kerry Muzzey that crystalizes a number of phenomena: How Kerry caught YouTube using Content ID as a tool to extend the period of time that they can profit from infringement (or the “piracy profit window”)…

via Must Read Guest Post by @kerrymuzzey: YouTube’s Latest Deceptive Tactic — Music Technology Policy

@NITASHA TIKU: THREE YEARS OF MISERY INSIDE GOOGLE, THE HAPPIEST COMPANY IN TECH

To all the world it looked as if Google—one of the most powerful, pro-immigrant, and ostensibly progressive corporations in the United States—was taking a unified stand. But that appearance of unanimity masked a welter of executive-level indecision and anxiety. It probably would have been more apt if Pichai had said that, over the previous 48 hours, he had been backed into a corner by thousands of his employees.

Read the post on Wired

@damclaugh: FTC Chief Says He’s Willing to Break Up Big Tech Companies

The head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said he’s prepared to break up major technology platforms if necessary by undoing their past mergers as his agency investigates whether companies including Facebook Inc. are harming competition.

FTC Chairman Joe Simons, who is leading a broad review of the technology sector, said in an interview Tuesday that breaking up a company is challenging, but could be the right remedy to rein in dominant companies and restore competition.

“If you have to, you do it,” Simons said about breaking up tech companies. “It’s not ideal because it’s very messy. But if you have to you have to.”

Read the post on Bloomberg

@musictechsolve: Do Spotify Stock Downgrades Go Far Enough?

On June 24th, Spotify shares (ticker: SPOT) was downgraded by Evercore analyst Kevin Rippey, who cut the stock to Underperform from In Line.  Since then, analysts are steadily looking past the loss-making Spotify’s $1 billion stock buy back plan.

Rippey says investors are overestimating Spotify’s ability to make money from podcasts and offering services to musicians and are underestimating the competition from other streaming services—particularly in countries outside the U.S. He reduced his price target to $110.

As ARW readers will recall, I have long challenged Spotify’s kvetching about high royalty rates by pointing to the its high overhead, 7 figure performance bonuses to Daniel Ek when he failed to meet the bonus criteria, and other irresponsible behavior by the board that Ek controls.

Spotify’s interest in podcasts is another comical example of Ek as the Easter Bunny of Screw Ups.  He bought a podcasting company that was unionized.  Sheer genius.  Why did he buy them?  Some people think it’s because podcasts were another form of user-generated content where people work for free in exchange for hot meals…no, in exchange for exposure bucks.

Exposure Bucks

Apple is busy paying for podcasts according to Newsmax:

Apple Inc. plans to fund original podcasts that would be exclusive to its audio service, according to people familiar with the matter, increasing its investment in the industry to keep competitors Spotify and Stitcher at bay.

Executives at the company have reached out to media companies and their representatives to discuss buying exclusive rights to podcasts, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the conversations are preliminary. Apple has yet to outline a clear strategy, but has said it plans to pursue the kind of deals it didn’t make before.

Apple all but invented the podcasting business with the creation of a network that collects thousands of podcasts from across the internet in a feed on people’s phones, smartwatches and computers. The Apple Podcast app still accounts for anywhere from 50% to 70% of listening for most podcasts, according to industry executives.

So Spotify’s law fare against Apple in Europe should come as no surprise (for more on that subject see the “Spotify Untold” corporate bio book).  What this comes down to is that once again, Apple understands its audience and what would delight them where Spotify wants to build them a faster horse (or at least a cheaper one).

Meanwhile, Spotify is commoditizing music into a “playlist friendly” environment based on your mood rather than being artist driven.  Why?  One possible reason is the psychographic research of Michael Kosinski, whose work formed the basis for techniques honed by Cambridge Analytica and the Internet Research Agency you hear so much about (although it must be said the Kosinski did not work for either of those outfits–no he works as a professor at…you guessed it…Stanford).  See his paper The Song Is You: Preferences for Musical  Attribute Dimensions Reflect Personality, available at the Leland Stanford Google University Business School.

The more insightful analysts are represented by Mr. Rippey, who seems to have a good grasp on Spotify’s business and sees through all the bright and shiny objects they want you to focus on as reported by Barrons (emphasis mine):

Rippey says Wall Street’s expectations assume that either the company will come out way ahead in negotiations with the music labels that control the vast majority of the content that Spotify streams, or that it will make a bundle of money from services that previously accounted for almost none of its income.

Now that the sugar high of the Spotify stock has passed through the system and artists either are happy or not happy with their share of the proceeds–which will be hitting royalty statements right about September 30–labels are now faced with a  second act, and that second act likely will require a bigger royalty check–not a smaller one.

To achieve Wall Street’s targets for gross profit, Spotify would either need to take a larger cut of proceeds from each song stream [also called a lower royalty to artists and songwriters] or generate as much as $650 million from “ancillary” areas like Spotify for Artists and podcasts by 2022—areas the company doesn’t make much money on today, Rippey says. Spotify for Artists offers data for musicians to track which songs are performing well and in which areas, among other benefits. [Which is OK if Spotify for Artists is free, I guess–since we sent them the fans–but my bet is that no one is going to pay for it, certainly no one with a modicum of leverage.]  Spotify makes money from ads on podcasts it owns and has also begun to launch exclusive podcasts that listeners can only get on Spotify.  [Spotify has never had a hit that originated entirely within Spotify.  When it does, check this space.]

Given that music crosses over multiple cultures but that Spotify brings a decidedly European and Anglo/American creative viewpoint to its distribution platform, it is unlikely to be able to fight all fights in all markets and be all things to all music fans in the some 60 countries it operates in.  This is particularly true in countries that actually value their culture and creators.

Spotify is the global leader in streaming music, but Rippey thinks that Wall Street overestimates the company’s power in local markets. “In emerging markets like India, local players dominate the market,” he writes, noting that Jio and Gaana were the market leaders there in the first quarter. “This fragmentation leads to an understatement of how competitive streaming music is globally.” Similar dynamics play out in countries like Indonesia too.

Those are some good concrete reasons why Rippey’s price target is $110, which I think is still about $50 too high because of Spotify’s C team management.  And also because the other analysts are all guiding too high in the Overton Window:

Analyst Rating Price Target
Evercore/Kevin Rippey Underperform (From In Line) $110
Nomura Instanet/M. Kelly Buy $190
Stifel/John Egbert Buy $175
Credit Suisse/B. Russo Underperform $120
BOA/Jessica Reif Ehrlich Buy $230

One major factor that all the analysts overlook, like they missed the subprime crisis, is buried in the commentary that never gets picked up in the Wall Street publications–the fact that artists can’t begin to make a living from streaming the way they could from the CDs that streaming is replacing.  This sudden contraction hurts artists at all stages of development.  To put it in terms that Wall Street might understand more readily, this is a supply chain issue.  The chain will have no supply if unsustainable economics expands which it seems like it will.

There’s about 5% of the tracks that make 90% of the revenue from Spotify-type streamers.  Fans are paying subscriptions every month for music they don’t listen to performed by artists they don’t like.  When that idea starts to permeate the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, who knows what may happen.  This will be true of podcasters, too–the unionized podcasters affiliated with the Writers Guild of America.  I’m looking forward to that collective bargaining experience.

But for now, it’s only a matter of time before artists who are not in that 5% start to jump ship.  Analysts should be asking, who can encourage them to jump and what will happen to the ship they jump from if there were some disruption below decks in the royalty rates?