Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed almost twenty years ago, in 1998. At the time, it was mainly intended to protect ISPs and telecom companies from being legally liable in case infringing materials found their way onto their equipment or cables. Telecom companies were in dire need of such legislation because they were putting a lot of money into very expensive infrastructure, and needed traffic to justify the expenses.
To accomplish its business and existential goals, Google absolutely needs to lie and trick people. Not only they spend massive amounts of money on lobbying, they also fund and support various organizations that smell like freedom on paper but in reality, are only there to push the anti-copyright and anti-culture agenda.
Thing is, TPP is horrible. But so is Fight for the Future. I can’t possibly blame the musicians for jumping on this tour. FFTF’s rhethoric would confuse anybody who is not very familiar with what their seamy anti-artist and copyleft side. But it needs to be said. Fight for the Future IS the machine! It is a machine fighting against another machine over money, simple and cynical. Fight for the Future vs. TPP is like Monsters vs. Aliens.
The depth of human indecency permeating this particular case of “righteous” rebranding is astounding, and I think it’s important to set the record straight. It’s a matter of principle and existential truth.
Why are a handful of musicians — a substrata of society generally predisposed to fall on the left side of the political spectrum — ticked off at Zephyr Teachout, the progressive Democratic candidate in the 19th Congressional District?
Blame it on the internet. To be more precise, blame it on Teachout’s former work for Fight For The Future, a nonprofit “dedicated to protecting and expanding the Internet’s transformative power,” according to its own website.
In online postings and outreach to the media, several artists have denounced FFF as having an “anti-artist, anti-copyright agenda” — an allegation the group denies vociferously. Teachout served on the board of the group’s education fund, but stepped down earlier this year after announcing her candidacy.
Those calling for Teachout to respond include the jazz great Jack DeJohnette, a resident of the Catskills who, in a recent letter, told the candidate, “It disturbs me that someone who seems to be running in support of the people is not further tuned in to the needs of us artists, who ultimately might be your constituents.”
DeJohnette said in his letter that since the advent of the digital age, his royalties from recorded music have declined 90 percent. “I am all over YouTube,” he wrote, and “everyone but me gets an income from this.”
The most immediate bone of contention for those hammering Teachout on this issue — a list that also includes guitarist Marc Ribot and Red Hook author and filmmaker David Newhoff — appears to be proposed changes to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in particular a toughening of provisions that aim to prevent websites from hosting copyrighted material without the consent of the copyright holder. Currently, online service providers are generally protected from liability under the so-called “Safe Harbor” provision of the DMCA, which aims to balance the interests of internet users and copyright holders.
[Editor Charlie sez: Update on this June 29 post from MTP–it appears that Zephyr Teachout’s organization Fight for the Future made unsubstantiated claims in a fund raising email puffing up something that may not have happened at all, but certainly doesn’t appear to have happened the way they said. Remember that Fight for the Future made this statement in an April 6 fund raising email about the curious timing of their campaign against DMCA reform sent while Teachout apparently was on their education fund’s board of directors):
The Copyright Office has confirmed that (1) the DMCA reform comment page was hosted by regulations.gov so there was no “Copyright Office website”; (2) there were no “Copyright Office website servers”; (3) there was no “crash” (temporary or otherwise) since there were no Copyright Office servers; (4) the Copyright Office received no report from regulations.gov that its cloud based system had “crashed”; and (5) nobody from the Copyright Office “worked with” Fight for the Future to do anything.
There is also an open question of whether bots were used or some sort of batch submission API–batch submissions are evidently not permitted by regulations.gov. We also reached out to regulations.gov but they are not responsive.
Zephyr Teachout faced the voters yesterday in the Democratic Party primary for the 19th Congressional District to replace the retiring Chris Gibson (a former combat veteran bird colonel, Airborne Ranger with the CIB, Purple Heart, and other distinctions). In a weak start to her general election campaign, she seems to have tried to quietly resigned from a public association with a controversial anti-artist lobby shop rather than face legitimate questions from her artist constituents
While Progressives may be drawn to this former operator of the failed Lessig Super PAC (see Zephyr Teachout takes over Larry Lessig’s PAC), several musicians including Jack DeJohnette and Marc Ribot have publicly asked Candidate Teachout to publicly state her positions on protecting artist rights.
Good news: There are two bills currently pending in the House of Representatives to which Candidate Teachout seeks election that sum this up nicely but that are both opposed by the kind of people who gave money to the Lessig Super PAC she once ran. If elected, will Candidate Teachout endorse the Songwriter Equity Act and the Fair Play Fair Pay Act should these bills not pass in the current Congress and be reintroduced?
In particular, while being transparent, she could also explain why she was in the vanguard of one of the premier anti-artist operations and why that’s good for NY-19, an area that prides itself on having the highest per capita number of artists than anywhere in the United States.
She’s done neither–but appears to have quietly resigned from her controversial position with Fight for the Future “Education Fund”.
Now why do you suppose that happened and happened that way?
Transparency for Thee But Not for Me
If you’ve followed local politics in the 19th, you’ll know two things: First, Woodstock is in the district. Remember Woodstock? The defining musical moment for a generation? Remember Albert Grossman, Bearsville Studios, Big Pink, Bob Dylan and The Band? Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble? All in Woodstock. In fact, I was able to attend a Ramble when Levon performed even though he was too sick to sing. Dying on the bandstand is rather emblematic of the credibility problem facing Candidate Teachout.
And nowhere is her problem more highlighted than in her governance position with the Fight for the Future Education Fund. You may not be aware that Candidate Teachout is–or maybe was–on the board directors of Fight for the Future Education Fund (right next to a self-described Google consultant).
The lobbying group is backed by the Consumer Electronics Association and the Center for Democracy and Technology, among others, including the usual “dark pool” foundations that appear in my view to potentially launder money for corporations who want to keep up appearances–such as Google. (Corporation gives to foundation which then gives to lobbying group or “public interest” group that furthers corporations agenda with public messaging–dark pool foundations.)
Four Questions for Zephyr Teachout Candidate US House of Representatives Democratic Primary NY-19
Do you personally support the anti-artist, anti-copyright agenda of Fight For The Future, where you served as Director of the Education Fund? If so, please explain why you hold that position. If not, please explain how your views differ from the messages of that organization.
Do you recognize that mass, online copyright infringement causes direct harm to people like me? As my prospective representative, will you fight for my ability to support myself and my family with my creative work?
You’re running on a message that is very important to democrats – holding corporations accountable and getting big money out of politics. Can you say without equivocation that Fight For The Future reflects these values?
Do you support Jerrold Nadler’s Fair Play Fair Pay bill, which would bring the US into conformity with the rest of the free industrialized world by paying artists for the commercial, terrestrial radio broadcast of their work (and put tens of millions in foreign royalties now being withheld due to the lack of US reciprocity into the pockets of US working artists)?
Now the question should be did she resign her post and if so, why? But the question remains, will she support Fair Play Fair Pay, a bill that would pay artists for radio play for the first time in U.S. history? A bill that is opposed by the MIC Coalition that counts among its members some of the biggest Washington spenders like Google and the National Association of Broadcasters?
A bill that would have direct impact on her constituents. Or is she going to side with the Silicon Valley billionaires and millionaires who backed her former Super PAC?
It’s a yes or no question. What’s the answer for Candidate Teachout?
The Hudson Valley enjoys a long and diverse relationship with the arts. Speaking as one artist, a resident, and a Democrat, I wish I could be enthusiastic about the candidacy of Zephyr Teachout. Her campaign says, “We can have a fair economy that puts the middle class back at its center,” and certainly this is a goal I support.
But for a segment of the middle class that includes artists and creative professionals, there is a corporate agenda working against our interests — one that is less visible than business tax avoidance or lobbying. It’s Silicon Valley’s assault on copyright; and Zephyr Teachout has played a significant role in furthering that agenda as an executive at the organization Fight for the Future.
I suppose it’s amusing in ugly sort of way: Progressives are essentially going against a largely democratic unionized industry (Hollywood) while embracing the agenda of an anti-union and libertarian industry (Silicon Valley). The Author Thomas Frank should write a follow-up to his “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” and call it “What’s the Matter with Hollywood?”
There is no better example of this than the current darling of the progressive movement Zephyr Teachout. Teachout is running for Congress in NY-19 as a Democrat. At first glance Teachout appears appealing to the majority of Americans (left and right) who want to reform American politics and rid our election system of the corrupting influence of money. These are certainly worthy goals. But if you do a little digging, Teachout is not who she appears to be.
Why did Teachout move to the NY 19th congressional district from metro NYC?
Teachout appears to have “shopped” for a congressional district in which to run. NY-19 is a marginally Republican district with a retiring Republican incumbent. She has no roots in the sprawling 19th congressional district. Teachout a law professor at Fordham University in NYC moved to Dutchess County 9 months before entering the race after a lot of online progressive speculation that she should run for congress. There were already perfectly good local candidates running for the seat, a liberal Democrat, farmer Will Yandik and threeRepublicans. But hey this is politics and we all know politics is ugly. No surprise right?
One of the things that gives Teachout a shot in this Republican leaning congressional district is the cluster of counter culture progressive democrats in places like Woodstock. This is largely the legacy of the music business economic cluster that developed here in the late 1960s and continues to generate considerable economic activity throughout the Hudson Valley. The list of musicians, songwriters, engineers producers and managers associated with Woodstock and the Hudson Valley is impressive.
I imagine that Teachout will want to draw support from this important community, and my guess is that many in this community will reflexively support her. Unfortunately this would not be in their interest. Why? Teachout is the director of an astroturf organization called Fight For The Future. Why is that important? Well first you need a little background.