No, Internet Piracy is Not A “Service Issue”…

Popcorn Time is now using the tired old Kim Dotcom defense that piracy is a “service issue”. We’ve heard this nugget for over a decade.  The argument may have had some merit in 1999, but that is just not the case today more than a decade and a half later.

So with that in mind, here is our response to the “service issue” argument when Mr. Dotcom attempted it back in 2013…

In the anticipation of the announcement of the new Mega launch, Pat Pilcher at The New Zealand Herald wrote an article titled “Kim Dotcom on Ending Piracy” in which the journalist listed Mr.Dotcom’s five steps to ending piracy. Pilcher writes,

As ironic as that may sound, Kim Dotcom’s logic is inescapably robust. Here’s what his end to piracy manifesto says:

1. Create great stuff
2. Make it easy to buy
3. Same day worldwide release
4. Fair price
5. Works on any device

Looking at what Kim is saying, the 5 points seem pretty obvious, although each could quickly get bogged down once Hollywood gets involved.

So let’s look at these one by one.

1. Create Great Stuff
Well, that’s a no brainer. The content industries create the most prized and sought after “stuff” in the world including films such as Avatar, The Avengers, and The Dark Night Rises as well as franchises like Iron Man, Transformers, Harry Potter and others. Music artists include the likes of Adele, The Black Keys, Taylor Swift, The Beatles and countless others. Making great stuff has never been a problem.

2. Make It Easy To Buy
Another no brainer. Perhaps a decade plus ago this might have been an argument, but not today. There are over 500 legal and licensed music services alone. For the film industry there are services like Netflix, Vudu and Cinemanow as well as other direct to home video on demand providers that give consumers more access to more content across more platforms than at any time in history.

3. Same Day World Wide Release
For music this is more less the standard now and is also more and more common for feature film releases as well. This is a common practice for the largest and most anticipated releases of music and films, the “stuff” that is the most aggressively pirated. For smaller indie releases this may not always be possible but than again I’m not sure that the problem we are combating is in Nigeria on indie rock albums and movies that are more or less film festival darlings.

4. Fair price
Done. Netflix is $7.99 a month for unlimited access to it’s entire library of films and tv shows. Spotify is $9.99 for unlimited access to it’s entire library which consist of probably 95% of every known recording in print. Add to this the cost of a song download is 99 cents. Less than the cost of a candy bar. Renting a movie from a video on demand service ranges from 3.99 to 5.99. Price is no longer an issue and has not been for years.

5. Works on Any Device
Music is DRM free and has been for at least half a decade. Streaming Services such as Netflix and Spotify are also available on every major platform including not only Mac and PC computers, but also mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets by a variety of manufacturers. Additionally most new video game consoles and blu-ray players also include many of these same apps.

So there you have it, the end of piracy. Even Pat Pilcher at The New Zealand Herald agrees a referring to a similar response from the New Zealand record industry. He writes,

Well there it is, RIANZ’s response in full. I can’t argue with much that they’ve said, as they’ve pretty much complied with most of Kim’s 5 points.

So Kim Dotcom’s five suggestions have been fulfilled and yet, I don’t think we’ll see an end to piracy anytime soon. There is still one thing piracy offers that legal, licensed and legitimate services do not, and that is compensation to the artists, musicians, filmmakers and creators which requires that consumers actually do pay the fair price asked.

It’s all pretty simple and by Kim Dotcom’s own suggestions and admission it’s pretty clear where the problem is from here on out, and it’s not in his five suggestions…

And, of course, let us not forget this classic… Kim Dotcom Parody Video Appears on YouTube

 

The Times They Are A-Changin | Guest Post by Marc Ribot

Guest post by Marc Ribot.

The deceptive premises of the NYTimes Editorial “Keep the Internet Free of Borders” 8/10, begin with the title, which leads one to believe that this ITC case will take something away that actually exists.   In fact, the Internet is not now and has never been,  “free of borders”. Copyright law prohibits unlawful distribution of copyrighted works outside national borders and has strict provisions on import and export of copyrighted works. The Internet has never been free of copyright law, because copyright  is nation-based. That’s why a new treaty was adopted to address the cross-border issue of distribution of works for blind and reading impaired persons- the Marrakesh Treaty adopted in 2012-, and why a global treaty for libraries is now under discussion: to make cross-border distribution legal in certain cases,  precisely because right now it’s restricted.  Even Google knows that the Internet has national borders.  It found a way to respect them for Google Books-  a mechanism to prevent export of copyrighted works to other countries. There are patent rules too.  All universities have policies regarding import and export of patented material. Export control rules and guidelines already cover patented material/trade competition and have NEVER  been restricted to physical goods.

When the editorial extrapolates its argument to the record industry, it goes even further afield.  ” The I.T.C. has long had the power to forbid companies from importing physical goods like electronics, books and mechanical equipment that violate the patents, copyrights and trademarks of American businesses…The commission’s order to ClearCorrect was the first time it had sought to bar the transfer of digital information.”

The Times takes the RIAA to task for supporting the decision: “Groups like the…Recording Industry Association of America are supporting the commission’s view… that, as trade increasingly becomes digital, the definition of “article” should include data.”

Yet when there was actually legislation on the table supporting the alternative remedies to ITC intervention that the editorial now claims to favor,  the NY Times took the exact opposite position ( Beyond SOPA 1/28/12), and supported empowering the ITC:  “By giving the International Trade Commission sole authority to determine infringement, [the OPEN Act] would…[give]  copyright holders powerful new tools to protect themselves [while] protecting legitimate expression on  the Web from overzealous content owners.

Funny how ‘Times’ change.

In any case, the alternate remedies proposed in last weeks editorial simply don’t apply to recording artists works.  “There are far better ways to [protect…patents and copyrights]….Align could sue ClearCorrect and seek damages for patent infringement. Or the company could ask a judge to order ClearCorrect to stop selling products made using the information contained in the files.”

Sounds great: but asking a judge to order an infringing company to stop selling [physical] products made using information contained in infringing files’ isn’t relevant for people whose product is the files themselves.  And  of course, suing companies profiting from infringement is precisely what musicians can’t do, thanks to the Safe Harbor Clause of the DMCA. That clause exempts online businesses from the normal responsibility of companies for violations of the law occurring on their premises.

Is the NY Times now going to support ending Safe Harbor protection for companies whose business models are based on aiding, abetting, and profiting  from infringement?  Such a position would be the only way musicians could have access to its suggested remedy.

We certainly hope so, because while congress has failed to effectively regulate the unfair black market destroying the value of our work, our industry has crashed and our livelihoods are suffering.

Our problem isn’t new technology itself, but the failure of government to regulate new and unfair forms of exploitation. The internet has borders: it is bound internationally by the laws of sovereign nations, and internally by laws which protect the rights of citizens. It also has hugely powerful corporations attempting to violate those borders on a massive scale in order to create consumer ‘facts on the ground’ which render those rights politically un-enforceable.

International borders aren’t the only boundaries threatened by big tech’s drive to profit from infringement: the consequences of the failure of government to stand up to this corporate manipulation won’t stay neatly contained within the music industry.  Nor will the effective nullification of citizens rights stop at those protecting artists.  Its a slippery slope, baby.

– M ribot

New York Times Standards: We Don’t Care About the Facts

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Check this email out.  It’s from the “standards editor” at the New York Times, Greg Brock.   WTF? Right?  This came to me in response to the various links I sent to stories that criticized and disputed, the premise, the statistics and conclusions in this article  “The Creative Apocalypse that Wasn’t.”  In particular I excerpted and noted when the statistics could not be logically used to support arguments or when the statistics themselves had been brought into question by other researchers.  At no time was I insulting or rude to Mr Brock personally.  I simply thought I was helping The New York Times maintain some sort of integrity, by helpfully forwarding criticism to the Standards Desk (as suggested by the office of the Public Editor).

Not only does Mr. Brock refuse to acknowledge the serious questions about the statistics used in the article he seems to resort to a gratuitous ad hominem attack on me personally.  Does this email look like it comes from someone that wants to get the facts straight?

So the premise of this blog is “The New York Times Standards Desk does not care about the facts.”   I believe that I can make this case.  May I?

  1.  Thomas Lumley  posted this article which notes that the OES changed their methodology on counting musicians, music directors and composers.   This means that the “increase” in “professional musicians” cited in this story is actually due to a change in methodology.  As Lumley keenly observes the survey began counting music teachers at schools.   Without the addition of the teachers there would have been a decrease in professional musicians. Since the author spends a lot of time discussing this key statistic,  the New York Times has an obligation to its readers to note the problems with this particular usage of the dataset.  Mr. Brock acting on behalf of the New York Times has chosen not to note this fact.
  2. In the article in question the author notes   “According to one source, the top 100 tours of 2000 captured 90 percent of all revenue, while today the top 100 capture only 43 percent.”   The problem here is that the number of tours has grown since 2000.  Therefore the top 100 tours represents a larger percentage of the tours in 2000  than it does in 2015.   For instance if the number of concerts has doubled (by some measures it has) and say 100 concert tours represented 2%  of all tours in 2000 it would only represent 1% in 2015.  So naturally the percentage of revenue received by the top 100 tours would decline.  Therefore this fact can’t be used to support the authors statement  “touring has become more egalitarian.”     I pointed out this in an email to the New York Times Public Editor and to the Standards Desk.   The standards desk has chosen not to correct or note this logical fallacy for its readers and just for good measure decided to personally insult me.
  3. The Future of Music Coalition note that they were consulted as fact checkers on this article.  The Future of Music Coalition has since declared  “NYT Magazine chose to publish without substantive change most of the things that we told them were either: a) not accurate or b) not verifiable because there is no industry consensus and the “facts” could really go either way.”   Why then did they publish the article when the fact checkers were telling them that something was wrong.  THIS ALONE REQUIRES THE PUBLIC EDITOR TO INVESTIGATE THIS INCIDENT.
  4. Many other authors have commented on shortcomings and omissions in this article.  They all appear to have valid points.  Most concern the omission of statistics and figures that would undermine the author’s rosy picture of life for creators in the digital age.  They are all linked below.   Despite all of this Greg Brock Senior Editor of Standards has declared “There will be no Correction.”  So basically no matter what facts may come to light The New York Times has officially declared in advance they will not change the article.

Amazing. I rest my case.  Truth is dead at the New York Times.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Other sources criticizing the NY Times “The Creative Apocalypse that wasn’t.”

http://www.salon.com/2015/08/24/the_new_york_times_sells_out_artists_shallow_data_paints_a_too_rosy_picture_of_thriving_creative_class_in_the_digital_age/

http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/6677568/are-creators-really-thriving-in-the-digital-age-doesnt-look-like-it

http://flavorwire.com/534772/so-about-that-ny-times-magazine-piece-on-the-creative-apocalypse-that-wasnt/

https://musictechpolicy.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/why-is-the-new-york-times-coverage-on-artist-rights-so-oddly-inconsistent/

http://futureofmusic.org/blog/2015/08/21/data-journalism-wasnt

http://www.statschat.org.nz/2015/08/22/changing-who-you-count/

View profile at Medium.com

http://illusionofmore.com/steven-johnson-thesis-isnt/

So, About That ‘NY Times Magazine’ Piece on “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t”… | Flavorwire

Bold claims are certainly welcome at The New York Times Magazine, and last weekend, it floated a doozy. In the feature story “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t,” author Steven Johnson insists that widespread concerns over easy access to free stuff in the digital age was all Henny-Penny-the-sky-is-falling; according to Johnson, “creative careers are thriving,” a point he argues by ignoring pundits (including yours truly), experts, and anecdotal evidence, instead focusing on the inarguable evidence of Data Journalism. In doing so, Johnson vastly inflates the conclusions of such number-crunching—and (particularly in the case of our reporting) frequently misses the point of the arguments he’s refuting.

READ THE FULL STORY AT FLAVORWIRE:
http://flavorwire.com/534772/so-about-that-ny-times-magazine-piece-on-the-creative-apocalypse-that-wasnt/

 

 

Are Creators Really Thriving in the Digital Age? Doesn’t Look Like It | Robert Levine @ Billboard

“Free Ride” author Robert Levine takes on Steven Johnson’s stats and conclusions…

In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, author Steven Johnson wrote a piece, “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t,” which ventured to examine the state of creative business in the digital age. Johnson conclusion was that it’s thriving. I have strong feelings on this topic, since I wrote a book that makes the opposite argument. I’d very much like Johnson to be right, since the health of the creative business strongly correlates with my ability to put food on the table. But although I think he’s a smart writer — we worked together, briefly, years ago — I think he’s looking at wrong information in the wrong way. He ends up oversimplifying a complicated subject to make a contrarian point.

Johnson’s premise is that the best way to assess the health of the creative businesses isn’t to look at falling sales or struggling companies but how actual creators themselves are faring. It’s a smart, refreshing approach. But his evidence that creators are thriving is far flimsier than it looks.

READ THE FULL STORY AT BILLBOARD:
http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/6677568/are-creators-really-thriving-in-the-digital-age-doesnt-look-like-it

The New York Times sells out artists: Shallow data paints a too-rosy picture of “thriving” creative class in the digital age| Salon

A must read from Scott Timberg at Salon.

Musicians, writers, and other creative folk are still scratching their heads over the cover story in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine: “The New Making It” — packaged online as “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t” — looked at how the Internet economy, instead of destroying creative careers, had redrawn them in “complicated and unexpected ways.” The story’s author, Steven Johnson, is an engaging writer, and the piece is told largely through statistics, which most readers assume to be beyond criticism. So why are so many people who work in the world of culture wondering why the article seemed to describe a best-of-all-worlds planet very different from the one they live on?

READ THE FULL STORY AT SALON:
http://www.salon.com/2015/08/24/the_new_york_times_sells_out_artists_shallow_data_paints_a_too_rosy_picture_of_thriving_creative_class_in_the_digital_age/

NY Times Gets It Wrong on Musician Stats | Stats Chat

The NY Times get’s it wrong. Stats Chats takes on the numbers:

The larger category, “Musicians and Singers”, has been declining.  The smaller category, “Music Directors and Composers” was going up slowly, then had a dramatic three-year, straight-line increase, then decreased a bit.

Going  into the Technical Notes for the estimates (eg, 2009), we see

May 2009 estimates are based on responses from six semiannual panels collected over a 3-year period

That means the three-year increase of 5000 jobs/year is probably a one-off increase of 15,000 jobs. Either the number of “Music Directors and Composers” more than doubled in 2009, or more likely there was a change in definitions or sampling approach.

 

READ THE FULL STORY AT STATS CHAT:
http://www.statschat.org.nz/2015/08/22/changing-who-you-count/

The 1 Percent: Income Inequality Has Never Been Worse Among Touring Musicians… | Digital Music News

One of the mantra’s that we always hear about the internet and musicians is that the revenue has shifted from recording sales to live ticket sales. So the great accomplishment of the internet according to Silicon Valley wisdom (and Steven Johnson of the NY Times Mag) is that artists can hit the road. “The dream of the 90s is alive, the 1890s…”

Well, if you’re not an established hit artist, here’s how that is working out in the post-napster era. Oh, and by the way, songwriters don’t tour, record producers don’t tour, recording engineers don’t tour… well, you get the point. Here’s the stat as reported by Digital Music News.

Note that in 1982 almost 40% of the revenue was divided between the “bottom” 95% of artists, while in 2003 they received only 15% of all revenue.

Could it be that these top-grossing artists benefited from launching in an era when artists didn’t have to be in the top 1% to develop a healthy live following over years of touring?

READ THE FULL POST AT DIGITAL MUSIC NEWS:
http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2013/07/05/onepct/