My response to the Library of Congress survey

By now, most of you will have heard that the new Librarian of Congress,  Carla Hayden, removed Maria Pallante from the post of the Register of Copyrights.

There have been a lot of stupid conspiracy theories running around about it (including the one originating from Chris Castle that Google was somehow behind it, despite the fact that Carla Hayden has no relation to Google at all). Of course, these turned out to be utter bullshit. Pallante was removed because she repeatedly and publicly advocated that the Copyright Office be removed from the auspices of the Library of Congress.

Whatever the case, the Library of Congress has been doing something previously unheard of, and actually asked the public to weigh in on how to decide who should take her place. They have set up a survey here:

Librarian of Congress Seeks Input on Register of Copyrights

The survey period ends on January 31st, so if it’s not already too late when you read this, I strongly encourage everyone to submit comments today.

Here is what I submitted.

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The Oakland Fire

As some of you may have heard, there was a fire in an artist space in Oakland, California.The fire happened during a performance at the space of live electronic music. Golden Donna, Cherushii, Nackt, Russell Butler, Obsidian Blade, Piano Rain, and RADAR were on the bill.

The fire was severe. As of this writing, thirty bodies have been found, and most of the building has yet to be searched. All of the artists there have lost their homes and possessions. It is a terrible situation.

CNN is tracking the story here:
http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/04/us/california-oakland-fire/

If there’s even a possiblity that you were anywhere near the fire, please mark yourself safe on this Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/safetycheck/oakland-california-fire-dec03-2016/

(Incidentally, this is the first time I heard about Facebook safety check pages, which is a wonderful idea.)

Gray Area Foundation for the Arts has set up a relief fund through YouCaring:
https://www.youcaring.com/firevictimsofoaklandfiredec232016-706684

(EDIT: There is a Facebook group that is set up for this tragedy, but apparently it has been taken over by spam nonsense.

I did not know any of the performers personally, but we had lots of friends in common, and this space is exactly the kind of space I would perform at.

My sympathies go out to everyone involved, the people who lost their lives and the artists who are now homeless.

I’m also hoping that this doesn’t become yet another excuse to shut down these types of collective spaces, which have been under attack (especially here in Boston) for years. Artists need these types of spaces; hopefully this will push cities nationwide to make allowances for them, so that they can exist legally and safely, instead of being more aggressive in shutting them down.

It’s the DOJ ruling on consent decrees, and I feel fine

There has been a lot of ink spilled over the recent DOJ ruling regarding the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. I’d like to go into it in depth.

If you want to dive right in, you could do worse than to read the many, many comment submissions on the DOJ’s website. In fact, I sent one in myself (PDF).

But as an introduction, I’d like to describe the consent decrees themselves, and briefly go into why they exist. Continue reading

Maddox, Google, and Hollywood

I recently read an article on “The Best Page In The Universe,” the venerable website started by Maddox, a.k.a. George Ouzounian. I only check it sporadically, so I missed this when it was first posted.

The article is called It’s time Hollywood kissed Google’s ass. It is worth reading in its entirety, but here are what I think are the good parts:

For all the constant bitching we hear from production companies and studios about piracy, no other company is doing as much to protect copyrights as Google. Companies like Viacom constantly mine the Internet for viral videos they can use for cheap content, while simultaneously filing billion dollar lawsuits. When people post their [Viacom’s] content on YouTube, they file takedown requests and shut down YouTube channels. But when they do it for millions of dollars, it’s okay[…]

Without a site like YouTube: the video market would be fragmented and thousands of smaller sites would take its place. Or worse, a competitor in a nation that doesn’t give a shit about US copyright laws. YouTube is Hollywood’s biggest ally. It’s time for Hollywood to loosen the reins because content creators everywhere are starting to get pissed off with these excessive and superfluous takedown requests.

If you want to see a video where he expounds on this idea, with lots of metal music in the background, watch: YouTube is the reason Hollywood still exists.

Be forewarned: in case you didn’t already know, Maddox is famous (or notorious) for his salty language and over-the-top persona.

Rute Correia’s take on John Degen

So, apparently I am not the only one who realizes that John Degen is full of crap.

Rute Correia has written a reaction to Degan’s 5 Seriously Dumb Myths About Copyright the Media Should Stop Repeating, in which he attacks copyright”myths” that are anything but.

Correia’s article is called 5 Seriously Important Facts about Copyright the Media Should Keep on Repeating. It is worth reading.

And, for comparison, you can also re-read my article, John Degen Loses Argument Against Straw Man.

My comments about the DMCA

So, today I just sent some comments to the U.S. Copyright Office regarding issues with the DMCA, and how to fix them. I used the form at takedownabuse.org in order to do it.

Yes, I know the deadline passed over a week ago. (It’s been a busy month.) I fully expect the comment to be ignored. But supposedly the takedownabuse.org folks are turning late submissions into a petition, so who knows, maybe it will make a small difference.

So, without further ado, here is the comment. Continue reading

A “FAQ” About Sharky Laguana and Silent September

Sharky Laguana is still advocating against Spotify’s royalty model. His latest post on Medium is called Streaming Music is Ripping You Off. As you can guess from the title, it’s not an exercise in subtlety. According to Laguana, streaming music services like Spotify are saying “Your choices don’t count, and you don’t matter,” and that “You Are Worthless.”

Just as I stated in Sharky Laguana and “Fair” Spotify Royalties, I believe (along with others like David Touve) that Laguana’s numbers don’t add up. He also consistently uses loaded terminology (“click” vs. “listen”), false dichotomies (“10,000 fans who stream a song once, or one fan who streams it 10,001 times”), and other rhetorical mistakes. It is not an article that is making an argument; it is an article that is meant to be inflammatory.

In it, he attempts to generate outrage for a campaign called “Silent September.” This is the plan: “This September, when you aren’t listening to music, put your favorite indie artists on repeat, and turn the sound down low.” The intent is to “make the problem so visible that the major labels feel it would be better to switch to a different system where this kind of manipulation isn’t possible.”

He also wrote a FAQ for that campaign. And, since I already wrote an article controverting his numbers, I thought it would be more fun to do a “FAQ” of my own.

Enjoy!
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The Trichordist’s War On Rethink Music

On July 14th of this year, Rethink Music released a report called “Fair Music: Transparency And Payment Flows In The Music Industry.” The report is available to anyone who provides a name and email address, and can be downloaded here:
http://www.rethink-music.com/download-page

Rethink Music is an initiative of the Berklee College of Music, specifically their Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship. Their goal is to explore options in the music business; they’re hardly anti-copyright crusaders, and their focus is on working artists.

Yet, the Trichordist has spent multiple blog posts attacking them. In the end, their attitude seems to be this: “You don’t attack digital music services enough, so we’ll attack you.” And in the process, Trichordist made many claims that were misleading, and sometimes downright bizarre.

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Major publishers screw Canadian songwriters to fight the public domain

As you probably know, our frosty neighbor to the North is considering a bill that would extend the copyright of sound recordings. The always-excellent Michael Geist has been covering the topic extensively.

It should be noted that the copyright extension was inserted into the general budget with absolutely no public input or debate. (In this, it resembles the language that then-staff-attorney Mitch Glazier snuck into a 1999 U.S. bill, that would steal the copyrights of all musical recording artists. Yes: the Mitch Glazier that is currently Senior Executive Vice President of the RIAA.)

It should also be noted that nobody gave any indication that it was an issue. As Geist explains in his article The Great Canadian Copyright Giveaway:

Term extension for sound recordings and performances was nowhere to be found among the thousands of submissions to the 2010 copyright consultation, it was not discussed in the 2002 Canadian roadmap for copyright reform, and groups like the Canadian Independent Record Production Association and the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada did not raise it in their submissions on copyright reform. The music industry’s form letter did not discuss term extension and it was not an issue that was prominently raised in the 2012 copyright reforms. In fact, just last year the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage conducted a major review of the music industry in Canada with dozens of witnesses taking the time to appear or submit briefs. The final report and the government’s response never raise the term of protection for sound recordings and performances as a concern.

Geist goes into great detail about how this was almost entirely due to back-room lobbying by Music Canada (the Canadian version of the RIAA).

Unfortunately, for those who keep track of copyright policy, none of the above is either shocking or unusual. What is, however, is the story that major publishers have blocked competitors from pressing public domain sound recordings – and screwed over songwriters to do so.

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John Degen Loses Argument Against Straw Man

April 23rd was the anniversary of the deaths of Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Garcilaso de la Vega, and in celebration, UNESCO has declared that day World Book Day. It is also called “World Book and Copyright Day,” but I don’t think the term is appropriate, since none of those authors’ works were ever under any form of copyright.

Someone who does think the term is appropriate is John Degan. This should not be any surprise: Degen is an outspoken copyright maximalist. He is currently Executive Director of The Writers’ Union of Canada, and Chair of the International Authors Forum; he was formerly Executive Director of the Professional Writers Association of Canada, and Communications Manager for Magazines Canada.

So, Degen decided to write an article called 5 Seriously Dumb Myths About Copyright the Media Should Stop Repeating. Here’s the first problem with that article: nobody in the media is actually repeating the “myths” he’s supposedly debunking. Here’s the second problem: all of the “truths” that he uses to debunk these “myths” are misleading, one-sided, or flat-out wrong. Even when he’s arguing against his own straw man, he loses.

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