The MLC announced an aspirational tool for publishers to confirm whether the MLC’s data is correct for their songs. Apparently this is planned to be a quality control check for song metadata that The MLC has already acquired. As far as we can tell, the tool doesn’t actually exist yet.
Here’s the press release language:
For Music Publishers, Administrators and CMOs: Data Quality Initiative (DQI)
The MLC created the Data Quality Initiative (DQI) to provide a streamlined way for music publishers, administrators and foreign collective management organizations (CMOs) to compare large schedules of their musical works’ data against The MLC’s data. Through the DQI, The MLC will provide participants with reports that highlight the discrepancies between the two sets of data so that they can more easily address those discrepancies and improve the quality of The MLC’s data.
The MLC has begun working directly with a number of music publishers and administrators to on-board them into the initiative. The MLC is also working with software vendors to help them enhance their platforms to enable users of their systems to participate in the initiative. The MLC looks forward to working with other music publishers, administrators, CMOs and software system vendors interested in participating in The MLC’s Data Quality Initiative.
“One of the biggest and most time-consuming challenges for music publishers, administrators and CMOs is checking the accuracy of their musical works’ data,” said Richard Thompson, CIO of The MLC. “We launched the Data Quality Initiative to help those parties increase the efficiency and effectiveness of this process. Participants in the initiative will be able to see where their musical works data does not match The MLC’s data, so that they can then take the necessary corrective action.”
Of course, The MLC has yet to permit songwriters (or anyone for that matter) to register their songs with The MLC at least not publicly. Neither have they given anyone access to whatever data they actually have ingested–and still won’t with the DQI tools. When you use the DQI tool, you sit outside The MLC’s database and they give you “reports” so you may take “the necessary corrective action”. At your own expense, of course. You know, “Play Your Part On Your Dime to Keep Us Relevant.”
So if the goal of the Data Quality Initiative is for “The MLC [to] provide participants with reports that highlight the discrepancies between the two sets of data so that they can more easily address those discrepancies and improve the quality of The MLC’s data” we have to ask how did The MLC come to have any data to check for quality control in the first place?
Chances are pretty good that the source of The MLC’s data set is the Harry Fox Agency–if they’ve even bothered to copy the HFA data into The MLC’s database. (One reason they send you a “report” is so the source of that report is not disclosed as if it were just the HFA database being queried, it might raise some hackles among songwriters and especially the DLC who is paying millions for the whole show.)
As has been noted, The MLC’s Richard Thompson announced that The MLC was working with HFA since The MLC was first designated by the Copyright Office as the MLC. (even before they announced that HFA was their vendor) This is the HFA that services Spotify. Spotify has been sued…ahem…a number of times for failures to license songs in historic litigation that led to their latest get-out-of-jail-free goal-post-moving exercise also known as the Music Modernization Act. In fact, HFA is currently being sued alongside Spotify by Eminem’s publishers for all sorts of nasty things (which have yet to be proved). But make no mistake, HFA was picked as best of breed by everyone’s favorite MLC, The MLC.
So what The MLC is really saying here is that they want everyone to take the time to check your own data against the HFA database and then correct it. And who wants to bet that all those corrections–which could be a vast number of corrections and song-share updates–will end up back at HFA for HFA to use as it chooses (or its Rumblefish affiliate).
But wait, there’s more. Don’t forget: The reason for this exercise in data cleaning is to “improve the quality of The MLC’s data“. Why do you care about the quality of The MLC’s data? Very simple. The government makes you do it. What could be worse than a compulsory license? A compulsory license with a safe harbor for massive infringers like Spotify and an industry-wide market share black box controlled by the for-profit companies that most benefit from the market share black box.
So what The MLC is really saying is “play your part” to “improve the quality of The MLC’s data” or we will take your money and there’s sweet F-all that you can do about it. In the middle of a global pandemic. The truth doesn’t read quite so well, right? Oh, and by the way–you get to pay the costs of this data clean up job yourself even though it’s for the benefit of The MLC. And why are you compelled to cover those costs?
Because they’ll take your compulsory royalties if you don’t. And given the way these people work, maybe even if you do. How would you ever know?
But wait, there’s still more. Remember that the Eminem publisher’s case is about Spotify’s failure to match properly which is a condition of the MMA safe harbor that somebody decided was a good idea for the rest of us. Let’s say that those publishers are wrong and that the services have actually been matching like crazy to keep their safe harbor (albeit in the background because the sainted MMA does not have any oversight or transparency about matching).
We don’t believe this, of course. But let’s just say that they’re wrong for argument’s sake.
If The MLC got their data from the services instead of from HFA, then presumably all that matching being done by the biggest tech companies in human history would probably result in a greater match rate than HFA–particularly since HFA has been at the heart of many, many lawsuits against their clients for failing to match. Let’s face it–many, many publishers have already burned a huge amount of energy fixing Google’s weak Content Management System alone. Want to bet that CMS has a higher match rate than HFA?
So we don’t think that the song data that is being checked so you can “Play Your Part On Your Dime” is from anywhere but HFA. We also think that if no one stops them, The MLC will simply hand over all those corrections to HFA for use in its own database for unrelated clients, such as for bundled performance licenses. And who benefits from that besides HFA? If you said the publishers with direct deals on services that engage HFA or Rumblefish to handle their licensing, you probably would not be too far wrong.
Facebook Inc. has engaged HFA’s Rumblefish services to offer to publishers the opportunity to enter into a direct license agreement with Facebook for Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Oculus. This opportunity is available to all publishers.
This license agreement will grant Facebook Inc. reproduction, display, synchronization, and public performance rights. As an HFA Affiliate you have already authorized HFA to act on behalf of your publisher with respect to licensing offers for the rights mentioned above other than performance, which means we need your written permission to accept this offer on your behalf.
So be sure to fire up that credit card and “Play Your Part”. And be quick about it. Your betters are waiting.