The US Copyright Office has been given a brutal Silicon Valley-style sacking, the first time the Copyright Register has been dismissed in 119 years.
Maria A Pallante was locked out of her computer on Friday, according to Billboard, on the instructions of her boss, a new Obama appointee, Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress.
“Officially, Pallante has been appointed as a senior adviser for digital strategy for the Library of Congress, although it’s clear she was asked to step down,” Billboard’s Robert Levine notes.
Critics see the move as in line with Silicon Valley asserting its influence over the US Government via its agencies in the dog days of the Obama Administration. Just last month, as Hayden started the post, the Google-funded group Public Knowledge attacked the Copyright Office for upholding the copyright laws.
“Pallante was the only one standing between Google and what is left of the copyright system,” wrote David Lowery on the Trichordist blog, which campaigns for better deals for songwriters and musicians.
Controversial decisions by the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission have all resulted in proposals or decisions that advanced the business interests of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies.
For example, after an investigation of Google for anti-competitive practices, FTC staff concluded there was sufficient evidence to indict – but the Obama-appointed trade commissioners abandoned this for a voluntary deal instead.
YouTube stars have started a labour guild to represent low paid video producers for sites like YouTube. But it promises to be really, really polite and it won’t be asking Google for more money.
Hank Green is a YouTube video producer, who describes himself as a “Internetainerpreneur” (which is all you need to know, really, but do carry on reading). He explains that his new Internet Creators Guild is needed because being a YouTube sharecropper is now a full time job.
Green reckons 3,000 people earn $2,500 a year from consistently reaching 100,000 viewers a month. (For perspective, Alphabet, YouTube’s owner, earns $533 per second).
“I have watched creators get strong-armed and even swindled. I’ve watched people lose their channels. I’ve watched them flee from abuse,” says Green. But curiously, demanding better pay does not make the the top 10 list of things the Guild wants to do. Nor do many of the usual requests that you’d expect a labour guild to make feature.
Top of the list is “educating journalists” about the wonderfulness of YouTube. Next up is sharing information about MultiChannel Networks, who are Google affiliates, but not Google itself.
According to emails released under the US Freedom of Information Act, Google briefed the White House on an antitrust investigation into itself, breaking a 40-year precedent of the President’s office staying out of competition issues.
It’s no smoking gun – just another small but valuable piece of evidence showing how close the ties are between Obama’s White House and the giant ad-slinger.
It was unearthed by the Google Transparency Project (GTP), which has illustrated how close Google lobbyists and the government are, and how close Obama’s team was with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the USA’s competition watchdog and telecom industry regulator.
The Project notes that every president since Nixon has stayed well clear of antitrust probes. Both the FTC and FCC are statutory arms-length agencies that report to Congress, not the POTUS. However, the historical relationship began to change, as Google realized it was pushing an open door.
More recently, the Department of Justice antitrust attorney Renata Hesse proposed a change in copyright regulation that Google might have written itself. Although Hesse is now acting attorney general for antitrust issues, as well as keeping her brief over the entertainment industry, for six years she worked at the top Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati, on cases where the law posed challenges to Google’s business practices.
“I did a lot of work for Google on [antitrust],” she admitted in 2008. Hesse now wants to change the administration of copyright in such a way that many song owners can’t refuse Google license.”
(For details, see this timeline, and marvel.)
“Some of us believe we live in an era of government by Google,” music manager Irving Azoff told Rolling Stone. “Their power to influence Washington is unprecedented.”
The intercepting of advertisements served on dodgy pirate sites has begun to choke their revenue by 70 per cent, according to the City of London police, vindicating the policy of following the “money trail”, rather than an individual infringer, said the police and trade groups.
Tactics include harassing the seedy ad networks and payment processors used by sites that promote and distribute porn, warez and unlicensed content.
In recent years, major global brands were unwittingly helping fund the trade in warez and unlicensed content, as well as filth. For example, an advertisement for Lexus cars washed up on a bestiality site.
The chain of transactions behind a digital advertisement being displayed was so complex that brands such as Lexus and their agencies could plead ignorance and escape liability.
Then again, as musician and campaigner David Lowery pointed out two years ago: “I’ve never seen Coca Cola or Apple advertisements on a hardcore pornography or pirate site. If Apple can control it, so can others.”
A major investor in Pandora wants the company to sell out while it can.
Hedge fund Corvex Partners has revealed that it owns 10 per cent of the veteran streaming music company – and that selling out to a larger company is preferable to pursuing a “costly and uncertain business plan.”
In a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Corvex expresses dismay over the return of founder Tim Westergren as CEO.
The hedge fund doesn’t think it’s worthless – just that it would be worth more to shareholders if it sold now at a premium.