Does Failure to Pay Pre-1972 Royalties Put Trillion Dollar Hole in Pandoras Bottom Line?

christopher-harrison

Pandora’s Harrison may soon be asking “Brother can you spare a trillion?”

Did Pandora’s legal eagle Chris Harrison create a  trillion dollar hole in Pandora’s balance sheet?

Last month’s earnings report by Pandora was interesting in many ways. But the most interesting thing about it was what was not mentioned. The stunning omission of potential liabilities associated with Pandora’s refusal to pay royalties on pre-1972 sound recordings.

Under the leadership of Chris Harrison, Pandora’s legal team has adopted a bizarre interpretation of federal copyright law that in essence argues that statutory royalties for pre-1972 sound recordings were not federalized. As a result Pandora is not paying royalties to performers on recordings made before 1972. This is potentially a significant amount of revenue for the money losing company.  (Pandora trumpets Non-GAAP “profits”, or “Non Generally Accepted Accounting Principals” calculations of profit. Or as prefer here at the Trichordist “Unicorn Dollars”).

While Sirius and Clear Channel have adopted this funky legal rationale as well, it should be noted that more sober firms like Apple and Microsoft have not.

The problem with this legal strategy is that if this goes to court, win or lose,  Pandora has created huge liabilities either way.

Pandora “wins”

Let’s give Harrison the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that the federal copyright act in fact did not federalize performance royalties for sound recording copyrights pre-1972. The only logical conclusion is that the State laws that protected sound recordings in 1972 still cover those recordings.

Wow. Time to dust off the bell bottoms and dig into some vintage state laws.

There are 50 states, Washington DC, and several US Territories that could now be potentially brought into the dispute.(There are pre-1972 performers and rights holders in every single US state and surely most territories). It’s highly likely that at least some of those state protections would kick in again. All it would take is one performer or rightsholder  from one state to successfully assert their rights and all digital broadcasters would be screwed.  This is not such a remote or theoretical possibility. I’m told that The Turtles’ lawsuit against Sirius for $100 million dollars already anticipates this. (The Turtles have sued Sirius in NY, Florida and California so if The Turtles beat Sirius…Pandora could be next.  In NY, Florida and California for starters.)

But more troubling, is the fact that if there is no federal copyright protection for these recordings, then Pandora lacks a clear compulsory license–or any license–to play or reproduce any of these recordings. Compulsory licenses are what allows the company to play the recordings without negotiating directly with the rights holders. All webcasters rely on these compulsory licenses so they don’t have to go around and license each and every single song.

This would be a clusterjam™ of epic proportions. I don’t’ think it is possible to effectively quantify the  downsides of this outcome. Uncharted territory. Total uncertainty.  It would effectively throw not just Pandora but the entire broadcast, webcasting and web industry  into chaos.  (NAB are you guys paying attention to this shit?  You might soon have a very big problem on your hands.)

Pandora can’t possibly want to really win this one right?

Pandora Loses.

Alternately it’s equally bad if Pandora loses.  Suppose a legacy artist like The Turtles sues Pandora and federal courts determine that performance royalties for Pre-1972 recordings are in fact covered by the federal copyright act.   First Pandora would presumably have to pay  for years of royalties owed on ALL those pre 1972 recordings.  (Do they have reserves for this? A cursory glance at their financials did not show this.)  But the real problem for Pandora is that they could be liable for huge penalties for copyright infringement. And I mean GDP scale liabilities.

Pandora CEO McAndrews noted in 1st quarter 2014 earnings that pre 1972 recordings represented about 5% of the spins on pandora.   So 5% of all of Pandora’s spins would then be infringing.   McAndrew in that same report noted listening hours of 4.6 billion for the quarter.   So conservatively ten songs an hour that means 46 billion streams a quarter or 184 billion streams a year.  Now by McAndrews own reckoning 5% or 9.2 billion of those streams are infringing each year.   What are the penalties for willful copyright infringement?

$200-$150,000 per infringement.  So on the low end that’s 1.84 trillion dollars.

Now obviously Pandora is not gonna get fined a trillion dollars.  But if they lose a class action suit because of this?  The damages will be substantial.   Will it be $100 million? $250 million? $1 billion? If the Turtles are asking $100 million from Sirius,  BILLIONS is not an implausible number. Obviously it’s a substantial risk (even if the relatively short 3 year federal copyright infringement statute of limitations applies–which Pandora says it doesn’t). 

I’ve had some people suggest that Pandora could settle bit by bit with each major record label which have aggregated most of these recordings  and hence limit their liabilities. But this seems unlikely to me as:

1) Record labels no longer need Pandora as they have substantial interest in Spotify and Beats.

2) Pandora’s scorched earth policy towards rightsholder has left it NO friends in the music community . Zero. Zilch. Like,  “I wouldn’t even piss on you if you were on fire.’ That kind of “no friends.”

Further these missing royalties are not only due to record labels, federal laws require 45% of these revenues go to the performers.  Pandora would have to buy off all the performers as well.

McAndrews and Harrison’s best hope is that they can keep kicking the can down the road for a few more years.  Just enough time for all those options to vest and leave some sucker holding the bag.

 

Individual Songwriters Come Out In Droves, Submit Large Number Of Comments To DOJ

Thank you readers.  You all rock!

When a government agency like The Copyright Office or The Department of Justice asks for comments,  they usually generate a few dozen. And the vast majority of these are from lobbyists, trade groups and law firms engaged in policy fights.

So this week the Capitol has been buzzing about the surprising number of comments that INDIVIDUALS submitted to the DOJ on the consent decree that governs songwriters.  There were over 180 comments from individuals submitted!   And we recognize that many of these comments are from fellow songwriters and readers.   We have made our voices heard.

So let’s keep it going.  Tweet the link to your DOJ comment at us and we will retweet it!  @thetrichordist

Here’s my own comment. 

 

 

The Consent Decrees Violate Individual Rights. My comments to DOJ.

What follows are the comments I submitted to the DOJ against the  ASCAP/BMI consent decrees. You have until the end of the day today to submit comments.  http://www.justice.gov/atr/cases/ascap-bmi-decree-review.html

 

The Consent Decrees Violate Individual Rights.

 

I am an American songwriter, a member of BMI and a member of the bands Cracker and Camper van Beethoven. I’m submitting this comment on my own behalf in opposition to the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. I believe these government actions essentially are a compulsory license outside of the Congress and take away songwriters’ rights to due process of law.

 

Just to be clear, I am not saying that Justice Department consent decrees in general are oppressive. I am saying that the way these particular consent decrees operate is oppressive to songwriters. That operation is oppressive because of the extremely long period of time they have been in effect, because they take away our valuable property rights to negotiate our own licenses, and they essentially force songwriters into being judged guilty before we’ve even expressed ourselves.

 

Why Songwriters Matter

 

Most discussions surrounding the consent decrees start with a striking fiction: The consent decrees only apply to BMI and ASCAP but not to individual songwriters. From a songwriter’s perspective, this is extraordinary sophistry.

 

As a practical matter, all American professional songwriters have to join one of ASCAP, BMI or SESAC in order to earn a living from their chosen craft. Sure, it’s possible that SESAC (which is not yet under one of the government’s consent decrees) might invite someone like me to join. But they are known to be more difficult to join than ASCAP or BMI.

 

The only certain choice for all songwriters is joining one of ASCAP or BMI. And that means that the vast majority of songwriters are subject to the consent decree from the time they write their first song. Unless something is done about it, they will remain subject to the rate court until they write their last song and even beyond the grave.

The DOJ has essentially created a single exchange within the federal courts that requires songwriters to join a regulated PRO in order to participate in the market.

 

So in practice as soon as an individual decides to take the tiniest steps towards being a professional songwriter they immediately fall under one of the two consent decrees and the jurisdiction of one judge in one court. Let’s dispense with the fiction that the consent decrees do not apply to songwriters and hence dispense with the fiction that it does not limit the rights of individuals—living, dead and yet to be born.

 

The Single Exchange Takes My Right to Negotiate

 

The government limits my ability to participate in a free market; it takes my property rights without due process or just compensation; it even limits my kind of speech (public performance of my songs) as I must participate in this process or effectively forgo compensation when I perform my songs in the public square.  I know that there’s always the theoretical possibility of a direct license outside of the consent decrees, but as a practical matter, I can tell you that is very rare because it is rarely offered.

 

I am not a lawyer or a constitutional scholar but I believe the consent decrees violate the American social contract for many reasons, not the least of which is that in practice songwriters are singled out for the government’s scrutiny before they have done anything except engage in speech and create songs. When you are on the receiving end, this feels like a kind of writ of attainder. Allow me to explain.

 

A) Typically when we limit the rights of individuals in the manner prescribed by the consent decrees one of three things must occur:

 

1) Legislative action by elected officials.

2) Judicial proceedings finding a particular individual (not a class of individuals similar to that individual) guilty of something.

3) The individual must consent to have his/her rights limited (usually to avoid judicial proceedings or because they participated in an election).

 

As an individual songwriter the consent decrees effectively compel me to submit to this process. At least the compulsory license in the Copyright Act is a legislative action by elected representatives and if I don’t like that rule I can work to get someone unelected. Under the consent decrees, generations of songwriters are powerless to stop the government from taking our rights without that legitimacy—for decades. I do not understand how the Department of Justice has the authority to force us to submit to this process.

 

B) As soon as an ASCAP writer creates their first song, the writer is forced into a court proceeding that was opened in 1941, seventy three years ago.   The BMI consent decree is from 1964, fifty years ago. Many songwriters who are subject to the consent decrees weren’t even born when the Department of Justice opened the cases.

 

Even if I accept the premise that I am guilty until I can prove to the government that I am not, and that my licensing decisions require review by a federal judge at great social expense, what possible justification can there be for my decisions today being subject to a case opened so long ago? This seems like some arbitrary federal assignment of “original sin” to a class of Americans. Does the federal government have a crystal ball? Can they see into the future? Can they read my thoughts? How do they know that every single member of this class is doing something wrong? How is that possibly Constitutional?

 

C) How many of the government’s court cases are “open” for 73 years or even 50 years? How is that not a violation of due process? Why am I and all future songwriters required to pay for whatever misdeeds that occurred decades ago?

 

D) I can’t emphasize enough that from my point of view as a songwriter, the consent decrees act as a kind of compulsory license by government edict. The government compels songwriters to allow music services to use our songs whether we like it or not. And unlike the Copyright Act, I can’t complain directly to rate court except at great expense. There is nobody to get unelected if we don’t like the rate court’s decision except very indirectly.

 

As Ari Emmanuel once said, “Fair is where we end up.” He would be wrong in the case of these consent decrees. In practice the consent decrees effectively substitute the opinion of a federal judge for that of a fair negotiation to set the rates at which those services compensate my fellow songwriters and me. After 73 years this has effectively become an unlegislated compulsory license. The consent decrees walk and talk like a compulsory license and after decades of practice they effectively are a compulsory license. At least with a compulsory mechanical license we know where we will end up on the rate.

 

E) Essentially the consent decrees take valuable rights to negotiate the exploitation of property from over 500,000 Americans simply because they write songs. And there is no end in sight. (Not to mention the foreign songwriters whose works get swept up and who can’t afford to complain to the WTO.)

 

F) If we must live under consent decrees, why must all the cases be heard before the same judge in New York City? Not only do the consent decrees unfairly impose the government on songwriters, they also force music services to make their case before a single judge in New York City—twice, once for ASCAP and again for BMI. This is a very expensive process that only the most well-heeled services can afford.

 

Why shouldn’t a service be able to bring their rate case in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nashville, Austin, Athens—or any federal court?   Respectfully, are two federal judges in New York the only federal judges in the entire country capable of trying PRO cases? Surely that can’t be true.

 

I believe that the decrees have become a crutch on which those well-funded music services that can afford the litigation have come to depend. Instead of actually innovating and improving their revenues they use the rate courts as a perceived competitive advantage at great expense to their own shareholders, songwriters and, of course, the taxpayer.

 

There’s also a question of how many new entrants don’t come into the market at all because they are scared off by the expense of the rate court process and the uncertainty of litigation.

 

So not only have the operation of these consent decrees created a single market inside a federal court, I suggest that the consent decrees actually limit access to that market to the number of potential buyers who can afford the millions in legal fees required to participate. I think most songwriters would say that they want to license their works to innovators, and yet access to the rate court market is limited to the rich innovators as a practical matter.

 

Yes—in practice the consent decrees may well be anticompetitive.

 

Are the ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees Unconstitutional?

 

I pose this question not because I’m a learned lawyer or constitutional scholar. I pose it because I can tell you that living under these consent decrees feels oppressive and I have found that when the government acts oppressively it is often acting outside of the Constitution.

 

This is not to say that the government should not pursue claims against songwriters if we actually do violate the antitrust laws. I’m not asking for a free pass. We should get the same treatment as Google, Microsoft or anyone else.   It’s also not to say that there wasn’t some justification for the consent decrees long ago.

 

But from this songwriter’s perspective, that time has passed. As James Madison wrote in Federalist 44, “[government] interference is but the first link of a long chain of repetitions, every subsequent interference being naturally produced by the effects of the preceding.” Respectfully, I suggest that Madison could have been describing the Kafka-esque rate courts.

 

 

David Lowery

Aug 1st 2014

Athens Georgia

 

DOJ Has Collusion Backwards. Google and YouTube Executives Move Into Spotify.

As the guardian reported last week, a high ranking Google Executive has taken a seat on Spotify’s Board. This weekend we learned that the Google/YouTube’s Shiva Rajaraman is moving from YouTube to Spotify.  Rajaraman was part of the team launching YouTube’s music subscription service that would compete with Spotify.   While it is quite common for technology executives (and entertainment executives)  to move from one company to another, and for one company to have a seat on the board of another company, the fact that both of these companies are involved in licensing songs and recordings should raise concerns with The DOJ. Why?  Because it makes a mockery of the consent decrees that govern songwriters in their negotiations with these services. Because in effect the consent decrees are now backwards. There is a very real possibility of collusion and anti-competitive behavior from the services. (some would argue it’s already happened with YouTube’s indie label outrage.)  Couple this with the enormous resources that these companies have and it seems pretty ridiculous to keep songwriters under the consent decree.

One of the rationales of the World War II/Cold War era consent decrees was that songwriters and their PROs (our equivalent of unions) could collude against broadcasters (and now webcasters ) to fix prices.  But remember the consent decrees were enacted in the days that radio station ownership was severely limited. In 1941 ASCAP had a very strong negotiating position when it was up against individuals that might own one or two radio stations.   But those ownership limits have since been lifted and we now have companies like Clear Channel with over 840 stations.  In the digital realm we have Google/YouTube which is in effect an online video monopoly. Pandora has 77% of the webcasting market and is a near monopoly.   Everyone knows the internet wants only one or two of each kind of service,  it seems prone to monopoly. So it seems a little strange to think the federal government needs to protect these effective monopolies from  songwriters.

It’s even stranger when you consider the NOW very real possibility for collusion that exists on the part of broadcasters and webcasters.  Google/YouTube essentially has a seat on the board of Spotify and the Rajaraman has left YouTube for Spotify.   Are we really supposed to believe that details of deals and negotiations with Spotify are not gonna get back to YouTube?   Are we supposed to believe the deals the major labels  cut with YouTube won’t get back to Spotify?  We already know that Google/YouTube conspired with other technology firms to depress wages for software engineers by entering into an illegal agreement with other firms to not “poach” each others engineers.   Shouldn’t the DOJ be examining Google/YouTube and now Spotify for collusion?   Instead of songwriters?

And this isn’t even taking into account that the major labels own a large portion of Spotify?  This is a clusterjam™  of epic proportions.

The DOJ has collusion backwards.  The consent decree should not be pointed at the songwriters. And you can do something about this.  The DOJ has solicited comments on the consent decrees. You have till the end of the day wednesday.   You can be passionate but be polite:

http://www.justice.gov/atr/cases/ascap-bmi-decree-review.html

Although the DOJ has a series of specific questions on which it seeks comment, you can also make general comments about the fairness and even abolishment of the consent decrees.

You can read my fairly detailed comments which question the constitutionality of the entire process at the end of this article:

http://thetrichordist.com/2014/08/03/call-to-action-songwriters-submit-comments-to-the-doj-on-the-consent-decrees-now/

 

 

Call to Action: Songwriters Submit Comments to the DOJ on the Consent Decrees Now.

The DOJ is reviewing the WWII era consent decrees that force songwriters under federal court supervision for supposed anti-competitive practices.  Yes the awesome power of the federal government is being used to protect multi-billion dollar companies like Clear Channel, Sirius, Pandora, YouTube/Google, Amazon and Spotify from hippy freak songwriters. Considering that many of these companies are effective monopolies it’s a stunning abuse of federal power on behalf of a few politically connected corporations.

The consent decree forces songwriters to allow these services to use our songs while a single appointed for life judge (song czar) sets our rate of compensation.   You may remember that I posted that my million spins on Pandora earned me less than $17?   I can’t even opt out of this service, how is that even fair?  That’s how this kind of outrage occurs.  This amounts to an government mandated subsidy from songwriters to some of the largest companies in the world.

If you are a songwriter, please submit comments.  The DOJ specifically would like to hear from you.  If you don’t’ understand the legalese just make a simple statement about how you feel about the compensation from these digital services that results from these consent decrees. Be passionate but polite.  Here are the instructions:

http://www.justice.gov/atr/cases/ascap-bmi-decree-review.html

Here are my comments. I took a constitutional approach. You don’t have to be as esoteric or as detailed. Simple heartfelt comments are just as important.

 

The Consent Decrees Violate Individual Rights.

 

I am an American songwriter, a member of BMI and a member of the bands Cracker and Camper van Beethoven. I’m submitting this comment on my own behalf in opposition to the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. I believe these government actions essentially are a compulsory license outside of the Congress and take away songwriters’ rights to due process of law.

 

Just to be clear, I am not saying that Justice Department consent decrees in general are oppressive. I am saying that the way these particular consent decrees operate is oppressive to songwriters. That operation is oppressive because of the extremely long period of time they have been in effect, because they take away our valuable property rights to negotiate our own licenses, and they essentially force songwriters into being judged guilty before we’ve even expressed ourselves.

 

Why Songwriters Matter

 

Most discussions surrounding the consent decrees start with a striking fiction: The consent decrees only apply to BMI and ASCAP but not to individual songwriters. From a songwriter’s perspective, this is extraordinary sophistry.

 

As a practical matter, all American professional songwriters have to join one of ASCAP, BMI or SESAC in order to earn a living from their chosen craft. Sure, it’s possible that SESAC (which is not yet under one of the government’s consent decrees) might invite someone like me to join. But they are known to be more difficult to join than ASCAP or BMI.

 

The only certain choice for all songwriters is joining one of ASCAP or BMI. And that means that the vast majority of songwriters are subject to the consent decree from the time they write their first song. Unless something is done about it, they will remain subject to the rate court until they write their last song and even beyond the grave.

The DOJ has essentially created a single exchange within the federal courts that requires songwriters to join a regulated PRO in order to participate in the market.

 

So in practice as soon as an individual decides to take the tiniest steps towards being a professional songwriter they immediately fall under one of the two consent decrees and the jurisdiction of one judge in one court. Let’s dispense with the fiction that the consent decrees do not apply to songwriters and hence dispense with the fiction that it does not limit the rights of individuals—living, dead and yet to be born.

 

The Single Exchange Takes My Right to Negotiate

 

The government limits my ability to participate in a free market; it takes my property rights without due process or just compensation; it even limits my kind of speech (public performance of my songs) as I must participate in this process or effectively forgo compensation when I perform my songs in the public square.  I know that there’s always the theoretical possibility of a direct license outside of the consent decrees, but as a practical matter, I can tell you that is very rare because it is rarely offered.

 

I am not a lawyer or a constitutional scholar but I believe the consent decrees violate the American social contract for many reasons, not the least of which is that in practice songwriters are singled out for the government’s scrutiny before they have done anything except engage in speech and create songs. When you are on the receiving end, this feels like a kind of writ of attainder. Allow me to explain.

 

A) Typically when we limit the rights of individuals in the manner prescribed by the consent decrees one of three things must occur:

 

1) Legislative action by elected officials.

2) Judicial proceedings finding a particular individual (not a class of individuals similar to that individual) guilty of something.

3) The individual must consent to have his/her rights limited (usually to avoid judicial proceedings or because they participated in an election).

 

As an individual songwriter the consent decrees effectively compel me to submit to this process. At least the compulsory license in the Copyright Act is a legislative action by elected representatives and if I don’t like that rule I can work to get someone unelected. Under the consent decrees, generations of songwriters are powerless to stop the government from taking our rights without that legitimacy—for decades. I do not understand how the Department of Justice has the authority to force us to submit to this process.

 

B) As soon as an ASCAP writer creates their first song, the writer is forced into a court proceeding that was opened in 1941, seventy three years ago.   The BMI consent decree is from 1964, fifty years ago. Many songwriters who are subject to the consent decrees weren’t even born when the Department of Justice opened the cases.

 

Even if I accept the premise that I am guilty until I can prove to the government that I am not, and that my licensing decisions require review by a federal judge at great social expense, what possible justification can there be for my decisions today being subject to a case opened so long ago? This seems like some arbitrary federal assignment of “original sin” to a class of Americans. Does the federal government have a crystal ball? Can they see into the future? Can they read my thoughts? How do they know that every single member of this class is doing something wrong? How is that possibly Constitutional?

 

C) How many of the government’s court cases are “open” for 73 years or even 50 years? How is that not a violation of due process? Why am I and all future songwriters required to pay for whatever misdeeds that occurred decades ago?

 

D) I can’t emphasize enough that from my point of view as a songwriter, the consent decrees act as a kind of compulsory license by government edict. The government compels songwriters to allow music services to use our songs whether we like it or not. And unlike the Copyright Act, I can’t complain directly to rate court except at great expense. There is nobody to get unelected if we don’t like the rate court’s decision except very indirectly.

 

As Ari Emmanuel once said, “Fair is where we end up.” He would be wrong in the case of these consent decrees. In practice the consent decrees effectively substitute the opinion of a federal judge for that of a fair negotiation to set the rates at which those services compensate my fellow songwriters and me. After 73 years this has effectively become an unlegislated compulsory license. The consent decrees walk and talk like a compulsory license and after decades of practice they effectively are a compulsory license. At least with a compulsory mechanical license we know where we will end up on the rate.

 

E) Essentially the consent decrees take valuable rights to negotiate the exploitation of property from over 500,000 Americans simply because they write songs. And there is no end in sight. (Not to mention the foreign songwriters whose works get swept up and who can’t afford to complain to the WTO.)

 

F) If we must live under consent decrees, why must all the cases be heard before the same judge in New York City? Not only do the consent decrees unfairly impose the government on songwriters, they also force music services to make their case before a single judge in New York City—twice, once for ASCAP and again for BMI. This is a very expensive process that only the most well-heeled services can afford.

 

Why shouldn’t a service be able to bring their rate case in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nashville, Austin, Athens—or any federal court?   Respectfully, are two federal judges in New York the only federal judges in the entire country capable of trying PRO cases? Surely that can’t be true.

 

I believe that the decrees have become a crutch on which those well-funded music services that can afford the litigation have come to depend. Instead of actually innovating and improving their revenues they use the rate courts as a perceived competitive advantage at great expense to their own shareholders, songwriters and, of course, the taxpayer.

 

There’s also a question of how many new entrants don’t come into the market at all because they are scared off by the expense of the rate court process and the uncertainty of litigation.

 

So not only have the operation of these consent decrees created a single market inside a federal court, I suggest that the consent decrees actually limit access to that market to the number of potential buyers who can afford the millions in legal fees required to participate. I think most songwriters would say that they want to license their works to innovators, and yet access to the rate court market is limited to the rich innovators as a practical matter.

 

Yes—in practice the consent decrees may well be anticompetitive.

 

Are the ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees Unconstitutional?

 

I pose this question not because I’m a learned lawyer or constitutional scholar. I pose it because I can tell you that living under these consent decrees feels oppressive and I have found that when the government acts oppressively it is often acting outside of the Constitution.

 

This is not to say that the government should not pursue claims against songwriters if we actually do violate the antitrust laws. I’m not asking for a free pass. We should get the same treatment as Google, Microsoft or anyone else.   It’s also not to say that there wasn’t some justification for the consent decrees long ago.

 

But from this songwriter’s perspective, that time has passed. As James Madison wrote in Federalist 44, “[government] interference is but the first link of a long chain of repetitions, every subsequent interference being naturally produced by the effects of the preceding.” Respectfully, I suggest that Madison could have been describing the Kafka-esque rate courts.

 

 

David Lowery

Aug 1st 2014

Athens Georgia

 

 

Why is Billboard Writer Defending Pandora Radio On Anti-Gay Politician Contributions?

glenn peoples billboard

 

You can see the whole conversation here. 

Why is Billboard writer defending Pandora Radio on Founder, CEO, 1/2 the Board and other top executives giving money to anti-gay politician Jason Chaffetz.  You know the guy that tried to nullify a bunch of same sex marriages in Washington DC?  I really don’t’ understand why the writer is “helping” me or Pandora Radio on this one.  The Billboard writer could easily go on record and explain the “nuances” of why Pandora apparently chose a well known anti-gay demagogue to sponsor their Orwellian named  Internet Radio Fairness Act. How does this soomehow this makes the $13,000 dollars they gave this politician ok.   And why is Billboard demanding that I soften this story?

Just saying…

UPDATE Pandora Radio’s Gay Marriage Problem Just Got Worse: CEO and 1/2 Board of directors also supported radical anti-gay politician

 

Looks like Pandora’s anti-gay marriage problem just got  much much bigger.  This is no longer just a Tim Westergren problem.  Looks like it’s a company wide problem. Pandora’s Founder, 2013 CEO and HALF the board of directors donated money to a radical anti-gay congressman from Utah,  Jason Chaffetz.

This looks bigger than the Mozilla scandal. Not just a single executive, this is five key executives and directors.

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 3.14.12 AM

These guys can’t claim they didn’t know this politician’s views as Chaffetz is quite famous for grand standing on this issue.  Among other things Chaffetz is the guy that sought to have the federal government step in and nullify the votes of citizens of Washington DC and have gay marriages banned in the city.  Essentially he wanted to un-marry same sex married couples in Washington DC.

In 2013 CEO Joseph Kennedy donated money to Chaffetz (Kennedy has since stepped down).   Pandora board members Peter Gotcher, David Sze and Westergren also donated money to this demagogue. And tellingly Rena Shapiro Pandora’s political ad director donated to the anti-gay Chaffetz. I think with this many high level Pandora insiders donating money to this candidate it’s a reasonable question to ask whether the company has an anti-gay bias.

And this revelation could not come at a worse time for Pandora.   For Pandora has recently and very publicly embraced Rev Jesse Jacksons PUSH campaign to increase diversity in Silicon Valley. And diversity includes sexual orientation.  Silicon Valley’s brogrammers  are well known for their misogyny and homophobia.   The fact that McAndrews embraced Rev Jackson’s campaign so quickly and readily brings Hamlet  to mind.  The lady doth protest too much, methinks.  

As SF Bay View reported:

 CEO Brian McAndrews of Pandora said in his letter to Rev. Jackson, “Thank you for reaching out. We were excited to hear from you because we have been discussing our own path towards transparency and amplifying our efforts around building a more diverse workforce….. We hear your urge for data transparency . . .There is no doubt that knowledge leads to awareness, and to actions.”

Well Mr McAndrews? Here is my contribution to your quest for “transparency.”  The upper management of your company apparently supports a radical anti-gay politician.  What does that say about your attitude towards diversity?

Gentlemen we’d love to hear from you.  So would many of your listeners.

kennedy

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 3.22.20 AM

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 2.59.33 AM

Westergren Chaffetz

Pandora’s Tim Westergren Supports Radical Anti-Gay Politician Jason Chaffetz UT.

Tim Westergren David Shankbone 2010 NYC.jpg
Tim Westergren David Shankbone 2010 NYC” by David ShankboneOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Forget Mozilla’s anti-gay CEO.  We have confirmed that Pandora’s Tim Westergren contributed  funds to radical anti-gay politician Jason Chaffetz  for his 2014 race.   This is the guy that among other things tried to legislate away Washington DC’s same sex marriages.

Wow.  I guess Pandora not only has no R E S P E C T for Aretha Franklin,  they must not think much of their gay subscribers and employees either!

You’d think that in the wake of the Mozilla scandal companies like Pandora would know better.

But first a little backstory cause this is not just simple homophobia or ignorance .  It’s a very nasty story of anti-gay demagoguery, political corruption, corporate skullduggery and pay-to-play politics.

Last year Pandora pushed the Orewellian-named Internet Radio Fairness Act.  The way that Pandora presented the bill was that it would level the playing field for internet broadcasters against those “bad” terrestrial broadcasters.  The problem with this characterization is that the bill did no such thing. It was a sharks belly stew of gifts for the broadcast industry.  Internet and Terrestrial. Why else would Clear Channel support a bill that would help internet radio “compete with it’s 840 terrestrial stations?  The real reason the internet radio AND terrestrial  broadcast industry supported this bill is that it would have used the awesome power of the federal government to mandate lower performer royalties by 80 percent!

Wow. I wish I could go to congress and have them mandate that my suppliers  charge me 80% less for everything they sell me.  But I digress.

Those of us outside Washington have come to expect this sort of pay-to-play nonsense from Washington, and so it’s not really a surprise that these politically connected firms could get this into a bill and then get it seriously considered by congress.

What was surprising is that Pandora was pushing a bill  sponsored by a well known anti-gay demagogue, Utah politician Jason Chaffetz.

Now we didn’t’ make a big deal about it before because it could have just as easily been the National Association of Broadcasters, Clear Channel any of the other ethics impaired corporations that had a relationship with this politician.  Surely the “progressive” leaders of an internet radio station based in Oakland a city that Rev. Jesse Jackson recently called the “rainbow city”  would never support an anti-gay politician!

Think again.

Below is a screenshot from opensecrets.org clearly indicating that Tim Westergren founder and spokesperson for Pandora personally gave money to this anti-gay demagogue. Apparently a thank you for sponsoring the bill Westergren pushed so strongly.  That is Westergren personally supports this anti-gay demagogue.

 

Westergren Chaffetz

 

Now remember this  is for this upcoming 2014 election.This is not a long time ago. This is long after Chaffetz’s  various anti-gay outbursts were known.  This is after Chaffetz famously sought to overturn the will of the voters in Washington DC, essentially nullify their votes and institute a federally mandated ban on gay marriage in Washington DC.   That’s right Chaffetz wanted to impose his religious (?) views on 650 thousand citizens of a city 2000 miles from his home district in Utah. Imagine if you were a same sex couple in DC, and you had your marriage nullified because a Utah politician wanted to grandstand for voters back home?

Tim Westergren had to know what this guy stood for and yet he personally donated money to him.

This revelation could not come at a worse time for Pandora.   For Pandora has recently and very publicly embraced Rev Jesse Jacksons PUSH campaign to increase diversity in Silicon Valley. Diversity includes sexual orientation as well fellas.   Silicon Valley’s embarrassingly misogynistic and homophobic brogrammers have started to become a liability for these companies. Notably Pandora embraced the effort so quickly and readily that Hamlet comes to mind.  The lady doth protest too much, methinks. 

As SF Bay View reported:

 CEO Brian McAndrews of Pandora said in his letter to Rev. Jackson, “Thank you for reaching out. We were excited to hear from you because we have been discussing our own path towards transparency and amplifying our efforts around building a more diverse workforce….. We hear your urge for data transparency . . .There is no doubt that knowledge leads to awareness, and to actions.”

Well Mr McAndrews, here is my contribution to your quest for “transparency.”  Your companies founder apparently supports radical anti-gay politicians.  What does that say about your attitude towards diversity?

 

Chris Harrison: Please Explain Why Pandora Has No Respect For Aretha Franklin?

christopher-harrison

Songwriter Enemy #1 is also Performer Enemy #1?

 

Hello Chris:

Now I’m not 100% positive that you were the person at Pandora that made the decision not to pay royalties on pre-1972 master recordings, but given your history of screwing songwriters (multiple lawsuits, ASCAP, BMI, DMX legal trickery etc etc) it seems like the requisite set of skills required to repeatedly screw songwriters is the same set of skills required to screw performers.  So it seems likely it was you. But if in fact you weren’t in charge of this moral outrage I’m sure you were at the meeting. After all looks like you are in charge of Pandora’s legal team that will be defending this decision. And who better to explain this to the public. You seem eloquent.  You wrote this persuasive article for The Hill where you nearly had lawmakers and investors convinced you had actually purchased a terrestrial radio station (minus the actual broadcast license oops!).

So give it a shot.  What could possibly be Pandora’s moral and ethical rationale for not paying these performers while other internet radio stations and streaming services appear to pay these performers?  Please explain it to us. Why doesn’t Pandora R E S P E C T Aretha Franklin?

I Can Prove Songwriters Abused by Unscrupulous Webcasters. So Why Are Songwriters under DOJ Supervision?

We’ve heard a lot of misleading rhetoric by blowhard broadcasting/webcasting lobbyists on Capitol Hill.  Songwriters are somehow a threat to these multi-billion dollar corporations and so songwriters must be kept in the yoke of the DOJ consent decree.

Now let me give you some cold hard facts. Below is an actual example of the webcasters violating the terms under which they may receive a compulsory license.   This is a  “Notice of Intention” that they are legally required to file before playing one of my songs. It is outrageously deficient. Therefore they are illegally playing my music.

But this is not just an isolated example.  I have dozens of these NOI’s and  90% of them appear deficient as they are notices of intent to distribute songs that have been made available for years. I have spoken to many other music publishers and songwriters. All of them agree that the majority of the NOI’s they receive are deficient.  Usually because they are sent after the music service uses the songs.  This appears to be mass copyright infringement.  Mass copyright infringement is a RICO predicate. So why the hell am I the one under DOJ supervision?

Virtually all the digital media companies (except Apple) do it this way. I’m telling you, these people make Morris Levy look downright honest.

So why am I forced by the DOJ to let these mass infringers use my songs?  Why does the federal government force me into a contract but then does not allow me to audit these companies. That’s right the federally proscribed compulsory license does not allow for an audit.  I’m supposed to take these companies at their word. Companies that I can demonstrate are lying?

Yet industry groups representing these abusive web casters held a semi-secret “hearing” on Capitol Hill to urge Congress and the DOJ to not only keep songwriters under the consent decree but expand it!!  This is essentially the bad guys running a protection racket with the DOJ as their muscle.

That’s why I protested this panel and gave the actual shirts off the backs of three songwriters to these lying and theft-enabling lobbyists.

http://thetrichordist.com/2014/07/21/why-i-gave-the-national-association-of-broadcasters-dima-and-ccia-the-shirt-off-my-back-during-congressional-panel/

This is songwriters “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore” moment.  Let the DOJ know that you aren’t gonna take it anymore.   They’ve asked for comments.   Click here for instructions.

 

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

Let me explain specifically how this notice is deficient and therefore invalid. I also intend to send a more detailed report to DOJ.

First this notice was mailed on July 14th.  So I received this notice before the listed date of distribution (July 23rd).   So on  July 22nd I checked to see if these songs were available on this service.  They were.  I even played the two newest.   The other songs were released in the late 1980s. These songs were from a major label album that has long been available on this service.  Yet they are only now getting around to sending the “Notice of Intention” to distribute these songs?

Finally since the service is exercising the compulsory license they are required to send me accounting statements monthly.  Where are my statements?  That’s another violation of the law!

Again it’s the webcasters that need DOJ supervision not Songwriters.  I have dozens of these notices.

MRI bad NOI  redacted 2

 

MRI bad NOI  redacted 1