@katenash: Royalty Deadbeat Snapchat Gets big billions for valuation, but has no licenses?

Kate Nash goes after SnapChat, cause just like TheZuck/Facebook apparently SnapChat has no licenses. Must be nice to be a Silicon Valley Billionaire. You just don’t have to follow the rules that the rest of  us have to follow. It really is torches and pitchforks time.

MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY

Kate Nash leads the way for songwriters and artists who are wondering when the income transfer to Big Tech in the collaborative “sharing” economy is going to start getting shared the other direction by these royalty deadbeats.

Snapchat joins the leading Silicon Valley royalty deadbeats like Facebook with a big IPO filing but relying entirely on losing legal theories like the faux “DMCA license” that was a big loser for Cox Communications.  (Ironically, Cox was just ordered to pay BMG’s $8 million and change in legal fees from Cox’s $25 million jury verdict in their losing DMCA defense.)

And how do we know this?  Because Snapchat tells us they do in the

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Library Policy Hacks Continue to Alienate Author Allies, While Sucking Up to Silicon Valley

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UK authors launch nationwide protests to save libraries. When was the last time Silicon Valley billionaires and media pirates marched to prevent library closures? Yet public policy arms of library organizations are now reliably allied against authors, while standing with pirates and silicon valley on copyright matters.

You have to wonder why it is that library public policy hacks have decided to make enemies of authors and creators by constantly taking the side of those who exploit authors works without permission or compensation. I’m pretty sure your average rank and file librarian understands that books don’t magically appear on the shelves, that protections afforded authors under copyright law allow them to produce the books that fill the library shelves. And I’m sure some librarians realize that unlike most western democracies our libraries don’t have to pay lending fees to authors. American authors have been unusually generous in this regard to libraries.

But the library political hacks in DC have managed to make authors view librarians and libraries as reliable enemies.

I count at least a dozen times in which the ALA and other library policy organizations have filed amicus briefs AGAINST authors and other creators and ON BEHALF of those that violate their rights.

I first became aware of this when I discovered that ALA filed an amicus brief in support of the P2P file sharing services Grokster and Morpheus back in 2004. It struck me as odd. Isn’t this a stupid position for libraries to take? If it’s “fair use” when Grokster and Morpheus “share” an entire songwriter’s oeuvre without permission or compensation, why not the same thing for authors? Why not every book ever written? And then why the fuck go to a library if you can just download whatever books you want from The Pirate Bay? Think of how many state governors and mayors would love to eliminate public library expenses from their budgets? Same with the Digital Public Library of America, however well-intentioned. While some small libraries might benefit from digital access to interesting and rare works, isn’t it more likely that folks would just sit at home and enjoy digital access to those works? Why go to the library? I worry that the unintended consequences of this is it undermine the local justification for mid size and small city libraries. Sure most wealthy colleges and coastal cities will continue to have beautiful and well supported libraries. But I wonder what will happen to the little neighborhood branch of the City of Richmond Public Library next to my house? I adore this place. I feel like I raised two children here. But I doubt anyone at the ALA really gives a shit about this place or the kind librarians who work there. They’ve completely lost the thread.

When was the last time that anyone from the ALA leadership or a C-suite executive from Silicon Valley went out and marched to save a public library? I googled it but didn’t see anything. Yet it seems like every week we see news reports of authors out marching or signing books trying to save a library. Sure Google has given money to the ALA. But for what? Amicus briefs that have nothing to do with the interests of libraries? Amicus briefs that reliably defend the agendas of rapacious billionaires in Silicon Valley? And all this does is further alienate authors from libraries. Is this really the long term strategy that libraries wish to pursue? You think Google or Silicon Valley is gonna give a shit about your libraries once they accomplish whatever it is they are trying to accomplish by ingesting every cultural work ever produced?

 

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ALA was nominated for a Tony for Most Dramatic and Unrelated Use of an Amicus Brief.  They lost to PETA’s “Monkey Selfie Case”.

The BMG vs Cox Media case is a perfect example. Silicon Valley, ALA and the Library Copyright Alliance are all lined up on the sideof BIG CABLE against the rights of creators. What the fuck does this even have to do with the real challenges faced by average rank and file librarians? The Cox case is mostly about fraudulent behavior by a big cable company.  Cox pretended  to follow the DMCA provisions and then got caught. Unless the ALA thinks that libraries should be able to engage in the same misleading and fraudulent practices I really don’t get it. The ALA in the brief even admits that they don’t really have a dog in the fight and are simply weighing in on a hypothetical (and unlikely) outcome. But the ALA action does have the effect of providing cover to Cox Communications and it complicates the songwriters case. This is the modus operandi in almost every one of these cases. It certain baffles songwriters that libraries would side with a lying cheating corporate scofflaw in this case.

So why do librarians allow their public policy advocates to squander the goodwill authors and creators once felt for libraries?  Are librarians just unaware?   It’s likely.  Do rank and file librarians get consulted on these issues?  Does the ALA inform their members when they take these actions?  I doubt it.  So do authors and creators have to start picketing in front of libraries? I’m serious. Because it’s gotten to the point that every fucking time we try to enforce our rights and our adversaries are the corporate behemoths of Silicon Valley the librarians send their public policy lawyers to fight us. Yeah, Vive la corporate revolution!  That doesn’t seem like the kind of thing librarians want done in their name.
And if we’re gonna start picketing libraries I’d suggest we start with the University of Virginia Library. Under the leadership of their new “Director of Information Policy” Brandon Butler, the Library of Jefferson has lately been on the front lines of the copyright wars. On the front lines AGAINST authors and creators.  This has generated great enmity between authors and the UVA Library.    Butler cheered on the (possibly illegal) firing of the Register of Copyrights apparently because she was arguing FOR enforcement of copyright protections that are the law of the land. Why would the Director of Information Policy UVA library defend something like this?  Butler is also generally quite combative and hostile in his public statements towards those who defend the rights of authors.  For confirmation ask any mildly pro-copyright wonk that has a twitter account about Butler

Butler like so many other “copyleft” academics likes to dress his up his hostility to authors in pseudo-progressive terms. And some might be forgiven for thinking he is actually be a thoughtful intellectual property skeptic.   But he still can’t seem to stifle his impulse to gloat whenever every authors and creators suffer a setback in the courts.

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I’m not sure why a “progressive” librarian (or simply an ordinary compassionate human being) would be even mildly cheered by the fact that Sirius a multi-billion dollar publicly traded company got away with not paying millions of dollars of royalties to pre-1972 performers because of a very technical loophole.  Butler just seems to like this kind of stuff. Again just look at his twitter feed.  It makes me wonder if Butler is a secretly frustrated artist like the Saturday Night Live’s version of Albert Goldman. If you will,  the imaginary trombone player fired by John Lennon who now can’t help exhibiting schadenfreude whenever something bad happens to authors, musicians, photographers and filmmakers.

Butler is free to represent the UVA library as he sees fit. They apparently hired him to do a job, (even if he appears to still live in DC). And he’s certainly busy! Firing off snarky tweets all day long to anyone who exhibits a bit of sympathy to copyright holders. I would never suggest anyone be fired for the expression of their opinions, but If I were running the UVA library I might ask him to tone down the boorish use of the phrase “We Jeffersonians.” It makes UVA seem like a joke. I’d also consider whether its good form to lambast the fired former US register of copyrights from what appears to be an official UVA blog. Pretty sure it was Jefferson who said “the only thing worse than being a sore loser is being a poor winner.” Or maybe not.

Rank and file librarians should pay attention to what their out-of-touch policy hacks like Brandon Butler and the ALA are doing on their behalf. Libraries are first in line for budget cuts everywhere. Libraries need all the support you can get. Why on earth alienate authors and other creators? We should be your natural allies. But library policy hacks are making it very hard for us.

What gives with the very real and well documented legal hostility? What did we ever do to you?

 

 

An Independent Copyright Office! Radical Copyleft and @ALALibrary Overreach Backfires

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Reps Marino, Chu and Comstock just released text to house bill that would make the Copyright Office (mostly) independent from the Library of Congress.  This is a good thing for authors, photographers, filmmakers and songwriters. And it’s all thanks to aggressive overreach by radical copyleft academics and librarians.

Let me explain.

Over the last decade once stodgy library organizations like the American Library Association have become quite hostile to the notion of copyright protections for authors, photographers and recording artists and filmmakers.   They’ve also become quite friendly with Silicon Valley corporations like Google.

For example in 2003 the ALA filed an amicus brief in defense of  P2P companies  Grokster and Morpheus.   In 2016 they sided with BIG CABLE and pirates against songwriters in BMG vs Cox.  This again had the librarians on the wrong side of authors rights.   I count at least another dozen times in between inwhich ALA has been on the wrong side of authors’ rights.  And almost every time their amicus briefs were filed alongside amicus briefs from Silicon Valley companies.

Do you think rank and file librarians have any idea what the ALA is really up to?   Most librarians who haven’t been in the Washington DC-Google-Copyleft-OSF bubble seem to understand that authors have inviolable rights and should be fairly compensated.  I’m sure they understand that books don’t magically appear on the shelves of their libraries.  Further I bet most of them understand that without copyright incentives, freedom of expression dependent would be dependent on corporate donations, private donors  or government grants.  Most sensible librarians get that controversial expression would not be funded.  I suggest we all perform this little experiment. Go  into your local public library and ask any of the librarians if they think the ALA should be expending members limited resources defending pirate sites or BIG CABLE outlaws like Cox (who were caught red handed faking copyright law compliance).  I bet not a single rank and file librarian supports these initiatives or has any idea that the ALA is doing this on their behalf.

(Ed Note: I would say The ALA have always been pretty pro corporate, for instance they filed an Amicus brief FOR Texaco and AGAINST copyright holders in 1993).

In 2016 Librarian Dr Hayden, a Soros-OSF-Baltimore board member, was appointed the Librarian of Congress.  What was her first act?  She constructively terminated the long serving Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante by giving her the humiliating assignment of overseeing the Library of Congress Gift shop.

I did not make up that last part up.  The gift shop.   You can read Hayden’s letter to Pallante here.

Hayden appeared to be responding to a steady drumbeat from the usual (Google funded) copyleft suspects.  The party line (and I do mean party line) was that Pallante was terrible because she kept giving federal agencies advice on copyright.  You know, doing her job.  Don’t bother trying to figure that out, like much of the nonsense that comes from the copyleft it makes absolutely no fucking sense. Especially since libraries don’t have a dog in the fight, they already have broad copyright exemptions.

I guess they want a Copyright Office that does nothing?  That would certainly be helpful to pirate sites and companies like Google/YouTube that generate hundreds of millions of dollars from the unlicensed use of authors works.  You don’t think that the Google funding is having some sort of effect on the policy positions that the ALA takes do you?   Librarians of the world unite for the benefit of Silicon Valley corporations?

Anyway thanks stupid radical copyleft librarians.  This was such blatant overreach, everyone could see it for what it was. A naked power grab. And congress doesn’t want it happening again.    Looks like librarians have given us an independent Copyright Office.

 

 

Forget PewDiePie YouTube Still Hosts 100s of Hate Rock Bands

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Neo Nazi bands like Weisse Wölfe have large followings on YouTube.   Comments sections for these videos are used for recruitment and organizing by neo Nazi groups.

As I’ve noted on this blog and on twitter in the last few days.  The Trichordist has been reporting on the YouTube’s sordid history of hosting and monetizing (with advertising and data mining) hate rock and other  speech intended to provoke violence against vulnerable groups.

A number of years ago I did some research for a private individual on the extent that hate rock permeates YouTube, and if there was evidence that neo-Nazi groups were using these videos to recruit members and radicalize followers.    The results were shocking.  At the time virtually every band on the Anti-Defamation League’s list of “Bigots Who Rock: an ADL List of Hate Music Groups” had a presence on YouTube.   And by any realistic measure there was clearly an effort to recruit and organize those who shared this ideology.

Well I just did a cursory inspection of YouTube and the previous results still seem to hold true:

For example this (somewhat portlandia-ish) effort, here we see Neo-Nazis in the northwest of the US organizing

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Google Puts PewDiePie on “Double Secret Probation” for Antisemitism

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Fact check:  As of 1:09 pm EDT PewDiePie original content is still on YouTube Red Premium subscription service.  PewDiePie show is also being promoted on the YouTube red original content home page.

If you read the headlines may think that Google has actually severed relations with their biggest video star PewDiePie for making at least 9 antisemitic videos.  Not true.  This seems to be some sort of bullshit “double secret probation” type punishment.  As the Wall Street Journal accurately reports:

YouTube hasn’t removed any of the videos because it determined they don’t violate its community guidelines, which have a higher bar for removal than its rules for advertiser-friendly content, according to a person familiar with the matter.

and…

Mr. Kjellberg will be able to post videos to his channel and earn revenue from ads sold before his videos play, but those ads will only be sold through an automated ad auction that generally fetches lower prices than the preferred program.

But as it turns out PewDiePie show is still live on the YouTube Red premium subscription channel, which must involve some sort of money (hence the term “subscription). Further YouTube appears to still slinging ads on PewDiePie’s YouTube channel.  Double Secret Probation in deed.

 

 

Should Artists Tell Labels to Pull Their Videos? YouTube Continues Ties With PewDiePie Even After “Death To All Jews” Video

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Disney severs ties, but YouTube continues to host support and promote PewDiePie’s Videos on YouTube and the subscription YouTube Red service. 

While much has been made of the Disney severing its relationship with YouTube star PewDiePie after his series of what most are calling anti-Semitic videos, few have said anything about the fact that YouTube seems to be  standing strong with their biggest star PewDiePie.  (Stock analysts take note,  this is why YouTube will always be an also-ran when it comes to lucrative video advertising.)

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YouTube continues to promote its YouTube red original content from PewDiePie.  (UPDATE Screenshot was taken on Feb 14 2017 at  8:21 AM GMT, YouTube now claims to have “dropped” PewDiePie from YouTube, but this  is clearly not true.  This video and channel is still live, and still on YouTube Red Premium Subscription.  )  While some are characterizing PewDiePie’s videos as tasteless and hurtful trolling, clearly the videos go well beyond that.  But don’t just take my word for it, just ask Andrew Anglin at the American Nazi website The Daily Stormer. He declared the Daily Stormer  “The worlds #1 PewDiePie fansite after PewDiePie’s series of anti-semetic videos (below).

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I suppose everyone makes mistakes.  But this isn’t a one time thing with YouTube. There is a pattern here.    For nearly 4 years The Trichordist has been documenting YouTube’s Hate Rock/Nazi videos advertising problem.   Imagine if VHI kept running anti-semitic and hate rock videos to sell advertising.  Who would want to do business with them?

As artists we could be excused for being somewhat ambivalent when it seemed the problem was a  “user generated hate” problem.   But PewDiePie has a deal to produce exclusive content for YouTube!  WTF?  These videos were produced with the backing of Disney and YouTube.  This is NOT UGC. At least Disney severed ties with PewDiePie.  YouTube has not. This is simply inexcusable.

So why do labels and artist continue to support the YouTube platform? Individual artists can’t take down their videos down but labels can.  Artists should tell their labels they don’t want to do business with a platform that hosts and monetizes anti-semitism and hate rock (Ed note: And ISIS recruitment videos!!).

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We’ve been on this for 4 years.  No one in the music industry has been listening.  Why?  Are labels too scared to stand up to YouTube?  Too scared to stand up to hate and anti-semitism? I urge all artists and labels to review our coverage:

November 7 2013

The Trichordist asks YouTube Music Award Guest Stars to ask YouTube to stop hosting and serving ads on hate rock videos and rape playlists.

https://thetrichordist.com/2013/11/07/ytma-artists-can-help-clean-up-youtube-an-open-letter-to-jason-schwartzman-lady-gaga-spike-jonze-m-i-a-arcade-fire-and-macklemore/

April 15 2014

In the wake of the Jewish Community Center Shootings:

https://thetrichordist.com/2014/04/15/youtube-still-serving-ads-on-hate-rock-videos/

November 14 2014

YouTube launches subscription service without dealing with Hate Rock problem.

Will The New YouTube Streaming Service Feature All the Hate Rock Currently Featured On YouTube?

November 17 2014

We made the same point to artists and labels in 2014.  They failed to act. Frankly this is when I gave up for a while cause I came to the realization that artists and labels are essentially quislings.

Do You Want Your Music Alongside Hate Rock Songs? Artist Face YouTube Music Dilemma.

July 16 2015

Much press about Reddit, racist and violent misogynist sub-reddits but the same stuff can be found on YouTube.

Advertisers: How is YouTube Any Different Than Reddit?

 

 

Songwriters File Motion to Proceed in Constitutional Lawsuit Against DOJ on 100% Licensing

Incoming Trump Administration DOJ officials have to deal with the mess that revolving door Silicon Valley lawyers left over at the antitrust division:  A constitutional challenge to the 100% licensing rule forced on songwriters, and all those damn feral cats that Litigation Section III was feeding. According to career staff at DOJ ATR LIT SECT III cat nicknames (from front to back): Google, Public Knowledge, Mic-Coalition, NAB,  Spotify, Pandora, American Restaurant Association, Darth Vader, Satan, Johanna Shelton, and Snookums. 

The most important fight for songwriters is proceeding. SONA (Songwriters of North America)  has responded to the DOJ motion to dismiss, with a motion to proceed.

As reported by Billboard:

“No one knows whether the Department of Justice under the Trump administration will alter its approach to the antitrust consent decrees that essentially regulate the collection societies ASCAP and BMI, but the legal fight against the Justice Department’s June 2016 decision on “100 percent licensing” is proceeding.”

Read more here

The importance of the constitutional arguments can not be overstated. The results of this lawsuit will be very important to everyone, not just songwriters.  The lawsuit challenges the DOJ regulations specifically for violation of the 5th amendment on “takings.” But other important issues are at stake. For instance the DOJ essentially used a “time machine” to make an end run around already existing private contracts (“the consent decrees always required  100% licensing, this is just a clarification” ). This would seem to violate constitutional prohibitions against laws or rule making that makes previously legal activity illegal after the fact.  The DOJ also appears to have violated the Administrative Procedures Act when they enacted this new rule. And never mind that no one can seem to figure out when songwriters not-yet-born  (“temporary” ASCAP consent decree dates from 1941)  got their due process!

 

 

The NY Times/Spotify Joint Subscription is Weird, Very Weird

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We did not photoshop any of this.  This is a real screenshot! 

A lot of people in the music community have been scratching their heads over the new NY Times subscription offer that includes Spotify Premium.  Songwriters are trying to figure out:

Exactly how it is we ended up subsidizing newspaper subscriptions?  You see the COMPULSORY (can’t say no)  federal license for songwriters gives us 10.5% of revenue generated by streaming services.  So a cut rate Spotify subscription bundled with The NY Times, is essentially a pay cut to songwriters.

 Or wait, did songwriters just get a pay boost because now we get some percentage of The NY Times subscription revenue?

More likely the former rather than the latter. But we will never know since the federal compulsory license doesn’t allow songwriters to audit!  

Meanwhile most media commentators have focused on the joint subscription as an apparent sign of weakness, or weirdness from the NY Times. Certainly the screenshot above argues for weirdness. 

On the face of it the NY Times does have something to gain.   Spotify reports it has 40 million subscribers* while NY Times has just 3 million subscribers.  Bloomberg noted that NY Times could reach Spotify’s millennial (snake people) audience,  you know, cause like Buzzfeed.

But I personally wonder if this doesn’t have  something to do with the Spotify IPO disaster. If you don’t know Spotify took $1.5 Billion in convertible debt premised on a 2016 or early 2017 IPO.  There are now only a few weeks left before the reported terms of that debt begin ratcheting up. Higher interest rates and promised stock discounts will cut deeper. There are now reports that the Spotify IPO won’t happen til 2018.   Yet every six months the interest rates on the convertible debt go up and discounts get larger.  Ouch! Could the metastasizing debt makes the young company’s IPO offering less attractive?  

But this is where it gets very weird. With  Spotify now helping improve the bottom line at The NY Times will editors at “the newspaper of record” be hesitant to  cover Spotify financials in a negative way?   Give them the  benefit of the doubt on a disputed point? Soften a headline? 

Let’s hope not. 

* it’s never clear what Spotify really  means when they report “subscribers.” Are these real full price $9.99 subscriptions or highly discounted trial subscriptions subject to massive churn? 

 

 

 

 

Up, Up and Away: The Spotify Balloon is a Cautionary Tale

Must read. Castle questions whether the IPO delay has been leaked by Spotify to try to shift blame to labels and artists. Nevermind that hundreds of thousands of songwriters have NEVER been paid.

“Why is Spotify leaking this IPO information now? Was any serious person refreshing their news feed in anticipation of a Spotify IPO announcement? My bet is that it is mostly, if not entirely, to get out ahead of an anticipated breakdown in their negotiations with major labels and to try to put some chum in the water about the beastly record companies, greedy artists and nasty songwriters. You know–the people who make Spotify’s only product.”

MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY

Already we see leaks to the tech press that Spotify is pushing off its IPO to next year while it pursues a “path to profitability”.  Now that’s a new one–the company has previously told investors a growth story like many other startups.  But unlike most other startups, Spotify now has a $1,000,000,000 convertible loan from private equity companies staring it in the face–along with what will no doubt turn out to be credit card interest rates when the total cost of the money is calculated (interest plus discounts on Spotify’s anticipated public stock).

Why is Spotify leaking this IPO information now?  Was any serious person refreshing their news feed in anticipation of a Spotify IPO announcement?  My bet is that it is mostly, if not entirely, to get out ahead of an anticipated breakdown in their negotiations with major labels and to try to put some chum in the water…

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Don’t You Have More Important Things to Do? DOJ Should Drop the 100% Licensing Push

Now that most of the DOJ lawyers who pushed the 100% licensing rule on songwriters are gone, who’s gonna deal with all those feral cats that former Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse was feeding? 

Last year, in what can only be described as an elaborate Kabuki, a small group of DOJ lawyers led by a former Google attorney, took up a question that no one except Google was asking:  Do the DOJ consent decrees that govern songwriter public performance licenses require a songwriter to license 100% of the song or does each songwriter “fractionally” license their own share?

(How 100% licensing benefits Google)

The simple and obvious answer is, no.   For 70+ years songwriters have been governed by these same consent decrees, and during that time songwriters have licensed fractionally.   The DOJ and the federal courts that supervised this process were clearly aware that this was the practice and they didn’t object.  In fact many of the opinions from the courts and DOJ documents explicitly reference and require the practice of fractional licensing.

Yet last summer this small group of lawyers “answered” the question that no one was asking.  They in effect said “yes in fact the consent decrees have always required 100% licensing.”  Ok…then why has  the DOJ been involved in the business of fractional licensing for the last 70+ years?

There are only two conclusions:

For the last 70 years the consent decrees were improperly administered by dozens of really sharp DOJ attorneys and federal judges, but this new crew is smarter than all of them combined.

or

This was a political decision designed to benefit a favored corporation.  Or in the popular vernacular: corruption.

What do you think?

Fortunately BMI and SONA (Songwriters of North America)  separately sued the DOJ (two different and distinct legal complaints against 100% licensing).   In mid September a federal judge considered BMI’s complaint and  ruled against the DOJ.   However a few days after the presidential election the lame duck DOJ antitrust division appealed the ruling.   I suppose this was timed to come after the election when popular songwriters were no longer needed on the election trail.  Right? Perfect time to twist the knife!

The status of the SONA lawsuit is unclear, but last I heard the DOJ were on the books as still fighting it.

But honestly it’s kind of hard to tell.  If you go to the DOJ Antitrust website there are animated gifs of tumbleweeds going across the page accompanied by wind and yipping coyote sound effects. A hobo camp has been set up on the FAQ page and someone needs to deal with all those feral cats that former Assistant AG Renata Hesse was feeding.

Regardless, it’s time.   Time to shut this sucker down. Virtually all the 100% licensing lawyers are gone.  Probably off to cash in their chips in the Googley parts of the private sector.  The DOJ should drop the appeal, settle the SONA lawsuit, and give up the 100% licensing push.  Continuing this ridiculous fight only makes the DOJ look petty, corrupt and stupid.  Especially with the very real, life or death legal questions face the DOJ these days.