12 Questions For Boston Public Library President On “Emergency National Library” Endorsement

David Leonard is the President of Boston Public Library.  He and his library have endorsed the Internet Archive’s creation of a so-called “National Emergency Library.”  The Library will make available copies of 1.4 million books without permission or compensation to the authors. Forget the nonsense about “eliminating waitlists” that’s a not very clever way of trying to hide the fact they want to make unlimited copies of authors’ works with no permission or royalties.

My take on this is it’s an opportunist attempt by anti-copyright ideologues backed by Silicon Valley firms to exploit the COVID-19 crisis.  It honestly makes me sick to my stomach that Americans would treat their fellow countrymen this way in a crisis.  However, I am not surprised.  The Internet Archive has long been Google’s lapdog. Shameless corporate shills, no one should be surprised to discover they are disgusting opportunists. Brewster Kahle the founder of the Internet Archive is just another Silicon Calley scammer, posing as a selfless warrior for the public good. Meanwhile, he is sitting on over 100 million dollars in his related Kahle-Austin Foundation. Who gave him that much money? What on earth did he do to make himself that rich? I mean aside from policy washing for Silicon Valley billionaires.

However I was frankly surprised to see Boston Public Library President David Leonard sign on to support this dubious endeavor.  I’ve had a couple email conversations with him, and although I don’t agree with many of his copyright positions, I found him intelligent and willing to engage in a polite manner.  He doesn’t seem like the kind of person that would get involved in this sort of sketchy policy washing by Silicon Valley elite.  Nor does he seem like the type of person to exploit a crisis the way the Brewster Kahle might.  Perhaps I’m missing something here. Therefore I have chosen to direct my questions about the “Emergency National Library” to Mr. Leonard as he has been reliable and helpful in the past.

Questions for David Leonard President of Boston Public Library

Q1. How is this fair use? It seems to fail on all four elements.  The entire work is copied. HIghly unique fictional works copied. It competes directly with/is identical to commercially licensed royalty generating services.  Technically Internet Archive is a non-profit but in 2017 it took in 17 million in grants and donations. Board members receive six-figure salaries. The closely related Kahle Austin Foundation is sitting on $109 million dollars. Hardly a neighborhood branch library or storefront church. 

A.?

Q2. If you believe that distributing these authors’ books without permission and compensation is “fair use” why doesn’t the Boston Public Library directly digitally distribute these books instead of relying on the Internet Archive?  Is this a sign that the Boston Public Libary finds the fair use claim dubious and wants to avoid litigation?

A.?

Q3. The statement makes the argument that the “National Emergency Library” is fair use because this is a national emergency. The statement proposes a time limit on how long this permissionless royalty-free lending will go on further emphasizing this is “temporary” fair use.  Under US copyright law or jurisprudence, how does something become fair use in an emergency when it is not normally fair use? 

A.?

Q.4 If this is legitimate fair use why are authors allowed to opt-out?  Again why shouldn’t we read this as an admission this is a dubious and opportunistic endeavor likely to end in litigation?

A.?

Q.4 If most poor students are unlikely to have high-speed internet access at home how does this help them? Doesn’t this disproportionately benefit wealthier families?

A.?

Q.5 Are you personally still receiving a salary from Boston Public Library during this crisis? It seems to me most people who signed the letter are probably still receiving their salary. Why should authors that on average make $20k a year be forced to carry the entire financial burden of the National Emergency Library? To show good faith would you agree to forgo say 1/2 your salary till this crisis is over?

A.?

Q.6 Fair use is a North American only legal concept.  With a few exceptions, it is not an available defense in the rest of the world. We tested the National Emergency Library in a number of jurisdictions. It appears to be available globally. How is the library legal in say Germany, Japan, Sweden or France?  By endorsing, publicizing and linking to it aren’t you breaking the law in many of these countries?

A.?

Q.7 Have you or any of the cosigners considered you are advocating the violation of a number of our obligations under intellectual property and trade treaties?  Ultimately the US taxpayer or US businesses would end up paying the penalties (See penalties applied to the US for Fairness in Music Licensing Act). How is that fair?

A.?

Q.8 The 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act puts strict obligations on institutions that receive federal financial aid to actively discourage copyright infringement.  Now it seems we have dozens of university libraries seemingly encouraging copyright infringement.  Do you think this is wise? Some jackass like me could file a complaint with the Department of Education that they would be obliged to investigate.  Thoughts?

A.?

Q.9 How committed to this cause are you? Will, you use city resources to defend Internet Archive in the event of legal action by authors?  For instance by filing amici curiae? If so how will Boston or Massachuesettes taxpayers benefit? 

A.?

Q.10  Will BPL receive stimulus funds from the federal government? If so will you be devoting any of these funds to help poor students without access to books? Can you detail these efforts? Show authors you are just as committed to spending your funds as you are to giving away their work? 

A.?

Q.11  Professor Devlin Hartline at GMU Law commented on twitter that Internet Archive is “literally committing criminal copyright infringement under Section 506(a)(1)(B).”  He tweeted that at the DOJ. Hartline is not a bomb-thrower like me.  He’s normally pretty reserved.  Does this give you pause? Does this make you rethink your endorsement? 

A?

Q.12 It’s obvious that this campaign and document were professionally organized. Can you tell us who led this effort? Who came up with the idea? 

A?

We hope to hear from you soon.  We will publish your reply completely unedited.  Thanks for indulging us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post Blake Morgan: The battle is upon us, but we will not give up

Reprinting Blake Morgan’s inspirational social media post from earlier today:
To my sisters and brothers in NYC music, and beyond…
The Irish tell the story of a man who arrives at the gates of heaven asking to be let in, and Saint Peter says, “Of course! Just show us your scars.” The man says, “But…I have no scars,” and Saint Peter answers, “What a pity. Was there nothing worth fighting for?”
We musicians are used to fighting. For our livelihoods, for our families, for our hopes and dreams, for our calling. For our profession.
In recent years we’ve fought battles we’ve neither sought nor provoked. Battles against powerful corporate forces attempting to devalue music’s worth, streaming companies attempting to lower our micro-penny payments even further, and AM/FM radio which, in the Untied States, makes billions of dollars each year off of our music while paying nothing––zero––to artists for radio airplay.
But now we face a different battle.
Musicians’ road ahead is narrowing because of the crisis of the present. However challenging the future of my profession would have been without the current pandemic, it’s becoming clear now that for music, the future isn’t what it used to be.
Like so many in this country and around the world, we’re facing economic hardships, uncertainty, and danger. Unlike so many others, musicians are facing the tomorrows to come without health insurance, without eligibility for unemployment insurance, without any savings, without any system of fallbacks. Without a way to bounce back. Our “gig economy” has failed to bolster the already-weakened financial options of working musicians.
We will have to fight like never before, in a landscape which––even once this immediate health crisis subsides––we may not even recognize.
The battle is upon us, but we will not give up.
We will not give out.
We will not give in.
We will hold fast. To each other, and to ourselves.
We will light the torches of our inspiration, and we’ll meet these challenges with determination.
And years from now, should someone ask how we got these well-won scars, we’ll say, “From fighting.”
#IRespectMusic

Mass Infringer TikTok Should Not Be Eligible For Compulsory Mechanical License


The Financial Times reports that the parent of mass copyright infringer* TikTok plans to launch a streaming service:

The Chinese company behind the popular video app TikTok is set to go head-to-head with the likes of Spotify and Apple in the music streaming market with the launch of its own rival service.

ByteDance is in talks with the world’s largest record companies — Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music — for global licensing deals to include their songs on its new music subscription service, according to people familiar with the matter.

Oh really.  So let me get this straight.  Executives at the major music conglomerates have largely sat on their hands while TikTok/Bytedance has engaged in a pattern of willful mass copyright infringement  against songwriters, and now are gonna help TikTok/Bytedance launch a streaming service? Not if I can help it.

Starting in 2021 all streaming services will get a streaming mechanical license through the Copyright Office/MLC.  Regulations that govern the federal compulsory mechanical license already forbid mechanical licenses on unlicensed recordings. This was originally designed to keep old school bootleggers from taking advantage of the federal license. In my opinion, regulations should be updated to prevent mass digital infringers like TikTok from using the compulsory license.  Obviously, the copyright office would have to distinguish between a company that might “incidentally” infringe on a limited number of songs and a company like TikTok that apparently has no licenses at all for compositions, knows this, and refuses to license. But it’s not impossible.

The Copyright Office should be required to conduct a review or at least hold a public hearing before they allow a  company to take advantage of the federal compulsory license. Why? If the federal government is going to take away songwriters individual right to license their work, the feds should make sure they aren’t, in turn, licensing to scofflaws, scammers, and criminals. Seems sensible right? Further, I caution against farming out this process to the MLC as they have already demonstrated they are not keen on transparency or oversight. The revolving door between big publishers that dominate the MLC and digital services invites corruption and cronyism. The Copyright Office should make sure that independent writers are not forced to license to a company ripped them off in the past.

Failing to vet licensees will create an extreme moral hazard for the copyright office.  Licensing willful mass infringers would effectively make the copyright office complicit in money laundering, as a company like TikTok could take dirty money from infringing activities and effectively wash it by creating a licensed service. My hope is the Copyright Office address this matter in the next few weeks.

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*There is a false narrative going around the music business that TikTok only infringes because they host User Generated Content. Thus it is protected from claims of infringement by the DMCA safe harbor.  This is absolutely not true.  Spend some time with the app and verify this, but in short, it clearly offers “sounds” to users to use in their videos. These sounds do not come from the users’ devices. They come over the network connection via the TikTok app. (Distribution! exclusive right 3)  Next It makes copies of those sounds on the users’ devices. (Copies! exclusive right 1). Users are not copying and distributing.  TikTok is. Thus like Grooveshark, it does not get the benefit of the DMCA safe harbor. It has now hired some of the smartest music licensing lawyers in the world. Yet  TikTok knowingly and wilfully continues to commit mass copyright infringement. WTF? If I was a lawyer working at TikTok? I would make sure I can pay my mortgage without a law license!

Bad Look for @TikTok_us and Labels as Key Label Licensing Executives Switch Sides

Paper Shredder

We are definitely not implying that anyone has done anything wrong.  We just really like this picture of a document shredder. 

TikTok is a Chinese state-controlled company and one of the largest music platforms in the world. Yet according to multiple sources in the music industry, most of the songs they offer to their users are not licensed. I can personally confirm that TikTok distributes at least 2 dozen of my copyrights for which they have no license.

TikTok has also found itself in a lot of hot water over accusations it illegally harvesting data from its users and is effectively a spying operation for the Chinese government.  The US Army was so concerned about this possibility it recently ordered personnel to delete the app from their smartphones. The secretive Committee For Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has launched an investigation into the purchase of musical.ly by TikTok’s parent Bytedance and security researchers have exhaustively documented the TikTok app’s intrusive and bizarre behavior.

This is why it’s especially troubling that a number of major label licensing executives are now working for TikTok after negotiating very limited licenses for their old labels. This is not a great look. Artists and songwriters can honestly wonder if their works were sold on the cheap by executives looking for a better paying tech job. To be clear I’m not saying there was commercial bribery, but I wouldn’t be surprised if potential investors, bankers (WMG and UMG are promising IPOs), or even CFIUS ask for communications between former licensing executives and TikTok just to make sure there was no hanky panky.  Remember we are talking about a Chinese state-directed firm engaged in ongoing theft of US intellectual property. Remember anyone can ask for an investigation. I have a feeling this will eventually get someone’s attention…

Sadly for the major labels, this comes after they fought to overcome artist suspicions that labels (and managers) traded lower royalties for Spotify equity.  To counteract these suspicions labels went out of their way to distribute profits from the Spotify IPO to artists on a pro-rata per-stream basis. (Curiously managers did not-Editor.) Will these high profile executive defections to the music industry’s biggest licensing scofflaw undo the goodwill (dearly) purchased with that Spotify IPO distribution? We shall see.

 

Who Is George Johnson? And Why Every Songwriter Should Thank Him

 

George Johnson is not a household name but he’s one of my heroes.  If you are a songwriter you probably should pay attention to what this scrappy indie songwriter is doing.  He may end up being a hero to you as well.  The screen capture above says it all.  One lone songwriter against the US federal government, Amazon, Google, Pandora, Spotify, The National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) and Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).

Wait, isn’t NMPA and NSAI on our side? I mean they represent copyright holders and songwriters? Why are they “intervening” against George and alongside the digital services?  Well, that’s a damn good question.  If you ask the music publishing good ole boys/girls/x in Nashville, LA, and NY, George is some kind of songwriter zealot a crank or hopeless idealist. But is he?  He makes a pretty good argument that the Copyright Royalty Judges, digital services, publishers and NSAI have made an illegal (and likely unconstitutional) deal in the most recent mechanical royalty rate hearings.

George has zeroed in on something publishers, performing rights organization and (purported) songwriter associations don’t want you to know: They agreed to a $0.00 royalty rate for songwriters on free trials and “promotional” streaming, with the latter defined as an offering “for which the service receives no monetary consideration” (CFR 385.31 b). Since YouTube and other digital services are primarily in the business of amassing data on you to help them later serve you ads, that is clearly a loophole big enough to drive a Mack truck through.

Here’s where George is 100% right. The Copyright Royalty Board is required by law to set “reasonable rates.” Zero is not a reasonable rate because it’s not a rate at all. Nor is it an “equitable division of profits” as required. There is no “division of profits” if one side is getting zero.  As George so eloquently notes:

In 2013, Pandora had paid 14 executives approximately a half-a- billion dollars ($500 million) in stock options and bonuses, but argued that the company was losing money, then insisted that they would go out of business, or be “disrupted” if the zero-cent royalty rate was raised. Is it an equitable division of profits between the 7,446,327 million- dollars a year Pandora CEO Tim Westergren [J.A. A604, GEO Ex. 4079] is still taking  from the company compared to the $.000 cents Pandora still “pays” each songwriter — transferring the value of songwriter copyrights to him and top Pandora executives? $42,503,792 million dollars to be exact for the fiscal year 2018.

 

“…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”- Excerpt Fifth Amendment US Constitution.

Finally, it doesn’t take a genius to notice zero is clearly an unconstitutional taking.  Something of value is taken by the government, given to a third party without any compensation. Zero is impossible to read as just compensation.   Slam dunk.

The smartest folks in the room, are once again proven to be total fucking idiots. The NMPA and NSAI have abandoned all pretense of looking out for songwriters and publishers.  But really that’s okay.  They also made it incredibly easy for a handful of “cranky” songwriters to turn this into a constitutional challenge.

Read George’s Filing here.

2020-02-04 Final REPLY Brief from 2019-12-12 USCA 19-1028 George Johnson v. LOC to PRINT 2020 Grey w (J.A.) PRINT BEST STAMPED

 

 

RIP Scott Timberg and GoFundMe Page

(cross-post from Artists Rights Watch).

We were devastated to hear of the death of Scott Timberg, a good friend of the artist rights movement and gifted writer.  His most recent work the definitive Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class will be a vital resource for advocates for many years to come.

A GoFundMe memorial and college fund page was set up by David Dailey for Scott’s wife and son.  We urge everyone to contribute something however small.

Questions for MLC on Streaming Mechanicals and Asteroid Mining Colonies.

We noted with some excitement last week that the new federal Music Licensing Collective has hired ConsenSys an Ethereum blockchain based ecosystem that also owns an asteroid mining subsidiary.

This is surely a sign the MLC is finally making plans for collecting streaming mechanicals from streaming services that serve extra-planetary mining colonies.

However there are many questions that remain unanswered. For instance while rules and laws that apply to US flagged aircraft and ocean vessels could be a guide, copyright laws that govern interactive streaming have never been tested in space beyond Earth orbit.

While it is likely that the MLC would have authority to license and collect streaming mechanical royalties on US flagged spaceships it’s not clear that privately owned mining facilities in the asteroid belt would be subject to US copyright law. Especially if the asteroid based mining facilities are owned by corporations headquartered in nations other than the US.

Then there is the matter of location of servers. Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal would be unlikely to stream songs from earth as wireless signals would take more than 30 minutes each way. While pause and rewind would not be problematic for the user, switching to an entirely different playlist or new album would require a long wait because of the hour plus round trip to Earth.

So clearly streaming services would require servers be located at the off-world mining facilities.

If the mining company is owned by a US headquartered company then one could reasonably argue US Copyright law applies. Relatively simple.

However, one must also consider the cost of shipping a single server into space. Extrapolating from cost of putting the slimmest 8 pound server into LEO (low earth orbit) it would cost approximately 170 million dollars to put a single server into an asteroid mining colony in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Most off-world mining would be highly automated so mining colonies would have relatively low human populations. Thus yearly subscription fees for users would be in the $400,000 – $600,000 range. A family plan would be in the $600,000-$900,000 range.

It’s unlikely asteroid mining colonies could offer an ad supported tier as mining colony dining facilities or escort services would have no need to advertise as they would have no competition. Similar to military bases remote private mining companies typically grant monopolies in each service category.

There is however a silver lining: with only two streaming tiers, the All-in Pool and Total Payable Pool would be easier to calculate.

What about deductions from the All-In Pool for PRO payments in off world mining colonies?

This brings up an interesting side question. Is there a public performance royalty due on performances of music in a private asteroid mining camp? Are these facilities public or private? ASCAP, BMI and SESAC should start to think about this if they want to keep ahead of GMR as there are rumors GMR is already working on an off-world unitary direct license.

Of course everything becomes infinitely more complex if for instance miners in a US headquartered private mining camp subscribe to a streaming service based at a Shanghai headquartered private mining camp on an nearby asteroid. This is not improbable. As long as the orbits of the two asteroids were sufficiently stable this could be accomplished with a commercial grade WiFi router or a long CAT 5 cable.

In this situation it’s impossible to say if the MLC would have any authority to administer mechanical royalties. It’s likely an international agreement would need to be negotiated.

Or ConsenSys’ blockchain platform Ethereum could fix all this. And then we don’t have to worry about anything. Cause that’s what we’ve heard it does. It’s a solution for a lot of things. It’s just no one can really explain how it solves problems that you can already solve with an Excel spreadsheet and a few macros.

But it is a shiny new technology and a lot of money launderers and international criminal gangs prefer the technology so it has a sort of “cultural fit” with many of the music executives, personal managers and self appointed representatives of songwriters.

So how would we implement access to a blockchain distributed global music rights database in a remote asteroid mining facility? It is not clear but we do know that the current global Ethereum blockchain network can process 2400 transactions a minute, a node in a remote asteroid mining camp using only 50% of all available earthbound satellite bandwidth could probably process one database change a week. That’s assuming 40% of the robot labor could be diverted to process the transaction. Also some of the mining colony’s life support systems would need to be temporarily suspended using a “rolling blackout” system, but loss of life is expected to be minimal.

UPDATED: WTF? Digital Media Association and MLC Vendor ConsenSys Share DC Address

UPDATE!!!! I’ve indirectly heard from DiMA and I am embarrassed to admit that they share the same space cause this is a We-Work co-working space! There are dozens of businesses at this address. DiMA flat out deny they had anything to do with the selection of ConsenSys. Apparently they had no idea ConsenSys shares their address. I take them at their word, so should you.

Frankly I’m kind of impressed DiMA isn’t wasting money on fancy offices. They are down in the trenches rubbing elbows with farm co-op lobbyists and CBD-blockchain-startups. Good for them.

Now if we could only find a co-working space with marble parking garages we might be able to get the MLC to consider a co-working space and save all songwriters a little money.

Sadly, now we are left with the fact it was our side that picked ConsenSys.

Keep this correction in mind as you read the original article. The point of the article is that there appears to have been little due diligence on ConsenSys by MLC.

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Honest.  I’m not making this up. Look at screenshots above.

The Digital Media Association (DiMA) represents digital services. You know Google, Spotify, Youtube, Pandora etc. DiMA are on THE OTHER SIDE.  I’m sure some of these folks are good people. At least a couple. Or at least one.  But these are the people the Music Licensing Collective are supposed to be negotiating against on behalf of songwriters. Why did the MLC hire as a vendor a company that apparently is in the same building as the Digital Media Association?

Even if there is no actual funny business, it looks extraordinarily bad. It makes it look like DiMA is picking the MLC vendors. Surely that’s not what this tweet really means!

Lets review.  It’s been less than a week since the MLC announced ConsenSys and HFA as vendors. What we know so far about ConsenSys:

National Security Investigation

The owner Joseph Lubin is one of the co-founders of the Ethereum Foundation a sort of governing body for the cryptocurrency Ethereum.  The chief researcher for the Ethereum foundation was just arrested for allegedly conspiring with North Korea to launder money using cryptocurrency.  Some might say that the Ethereum Foundation and ConsenSys are separate companies.  Sure they are separate companies in the same way the Genco Pura Olive Oil Company was separate from Vito Corleone’s other businesses.  And yes I know I’m implying there is a whiff of organized crime around all of this. Ethereum Foundation also shares a Zug Switzerland address with ConsenSys. Let’s see… crime? Check. Closely related entities working in concert? Check.

Asteroid Mining

ConsenSys counts an Asteroid Mining company as one of its subsidiaries, or “spokes” as ConsenSys prefers to call them. That’s probably because many of these “spokes” do not appear to be legally registered companies of any kind (LLC, INC, S-Corp, LLP, GP etc).

Employee Shares

ConsenSys seems to be having some trouble paying out promised shares to employees. Can an(other) SEC investigation be far off?

Planetary Ore Network Zenith Inc

Forbes came about as close as they could to calling ConsenSys a Ponzi scheme without actually using the word. Regardless of whether it is or not, without any real money-making businesses among its “spokes”, it’s possible it will collapse before it ever does the job the MLC hired it to do.

Songwriters should be alarmed. I mean like the-fucking-house-is-on-fire alarmed. Especially those independent songwriters that rely on mechanical royalties rather than performance royalties. The two vendors the MLC have hired HFA and ConsenSys are deeply troubling choices. When Jan 2021 rolls around I’m skeptical there will be a functioning MLC to pay out the mechanicals. If you are an independent writer and you have a mortgage? I’d be very concerned.

 

RICO SUAVE: A Layman’s Argument For A Law Enforcement Investigation of TikTok

Maybe I shouldn’t say this is an “argument.” This is a plea. A rant. A tirade. A demand that our government enforce the rules and laws enacted by our elected representatives.

The last twenty years has been one venture-funded digital music “service” asshole after another ripping off songwriters and musicians with the same bullshit promise of “empowering” artists. It was bullshit before there was an “@” or “.com” attached to the swindle.  And it still is a swindle. I’m pleading for someone in law enforcement to actually do their job. I’m not an attorney but when I read the applicable state and federal laws it is profoundly clear that most of these mass copyright infringing “services” are engaged in organized criminal activity. Yet rarely is anything done. And by letting them get away with it, time after time, year after year, law enforcement has essentially given the green light to the operators of these services to rip us off. Our only recourse is to resort to civil actions. These take years to complete. When these cases are settled the “services” and executives end up paying out a pittance, a small sliver of the profits they pocketed. Then they do it all over again. The same fucking scumbags. Aided by the exact same attorneys, VCs, investment bankers, bought off academics, fake NGOs and (worst of all) artist managers and former label executives now on the payroll of Swindle-dot-com. It is a racket in both the common and legal sense of the word. And the facts are staring everyone in the face.

I swear give artists one good solid investigation and everything will change. Put one of these digital music fucks in jail. Clawback a single VC’s profits. Disbar a single attorney. Suspend a single SEC license. Revoke the tax-exempt status of a single fake NGO and i promise artists can finally stop clogging up the courts with endless civil copyright proceedings.

And may I humbly suggest we start with the TikTok?

TikTok is probably one of the most popular apps in the world.  The music-oriented short video app has been reportedly downloaded over a billion times.  If you’ve never heard of TikTok just ask your kids. TikTok is owned by an opaque Chinese company privately valued at $73 billion dollars. TikTok was recently embarrassed when a memo leaked that appeared to instruct moderators to censor content sensitive to the Chinese Government.  You know Tibet, Tiananmen Square, Uighur re-education camps you get the idea. The Washington Post also reports that Hong Kong protests are being censored on the platform.

Cute little TikTok app an instrument of Chinese state influence? Yeah all fun, games and Taylor Swift lip syncs until someone gets put in a re-education camp. Sorry to spoil the fun folks.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the UNited States has finally started an investigation of the company for its handling of US citizens private data and the suppression of facts that are inconvenient to the Chinese Government. You know facts like Uighur concentration camps and the mere existence of Tibet.

But as bad as they are with suppressing inconvenient facts and privacy violations, they actually profit from IP theft.

What most people don’t realize is that TikTok lacks the most basic licenses for most of its content.  I’ve spent the last few weeks researching this.  Many of you know that I’ve been all over this on twitter with friends and strangers often pointing to new evidence or web documents that support my assertions. I could be wrong. But I don’t think so.  73 billion-dollar Chinese company with a stunning lack of licenses.  Mind-boggling. US creators are clearly being ripped off.

ARGUMENT THAT THE DMCA “SAFE HARBOR” DOES NOT APPLY

TikTok’s need for licenses and massive copyright infringement is clear.  And it is also clear they can not hide behind the DMCA.  I quote from my original post:

After a couple of hours playing around with app it appears:

1.TikTok makes available my work and then provides the copy to the user before the user makes any content.

2. The copy would seem to be more than “ephemeral” (an important copyright act legal distinction) as at certain stages I repeatedly accessed the content even when my device lacked internet connectivity.

3. TikTok app “marries” or “syncs” the music to audiovisual content provided by their service or uploaded by the user. Note this is after the recording and composition have apparently been copied and distributed to the user’s device. In other words, the infringement occurs before the user supposedly “publishes” content.

4. Before the “marrying” or “syncing” of the music to audiovisual content if I cut off internet connectivity. The process of marrying the video to music seems to fail. This suggests TikTok service requires sync license, not the user.

5. Only after all sync has occurred does the user have the option to “publish” the work. This is long after TikTok carried out many infringing activities.

As the conversation spilled over onto social media “new shit, came to light.” And perhaps the single most compelling new fact is that Distrokid, an indie distributor popular with DIY artists has a deal with TikTok so “Independent artists can now use DistroKid to get their music into TikTok.”  Good for them.  Distrokid is (of course) partially owned by Spotify.

What is important about this little fact, is it seems to confirm that there exist servers that belong to TikTok (or a contracting party); these servers store copies of recordings and songs on behalf of TikTok; and these recordings and songs are provided under a license to TikTok. Distrokid’s official statement (from the Founder/CEO nonetheless) is clear: “into TikTok.” Thus there is no UGC and DMCA “safe harbor” does not apply. Further, the existence of this license indicates that TikTok is aware they need licenses. As one attorney on twitter noted a license from Distrokid would help prove willful infringement. Also apparently implicated is Engel v Wild Oats.

(Distrokid may want to clarify this is actually the case as certain alternatives could… well let’s just say there might be a lifeboat for one situation).

“Defendants have engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity, as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1961(5), through the repeated, relentless, and purposeful theft of the IP of others”

The Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act doesn’t just apply to mafia-type organizations. And you don’t have to be a mobster to be charged with racketeering. Any company can get charged if greedy and stupid enough to engage in  (for instance) the repeated, relentless and purposeful theft of the IP of others. In fact, it would seem to be easier to prosecute a corporation, than say someone in the mob, because everyone involved in the corporation has helpfully identified themselves publicly as a member of the organization on LinkedIn. Proving membership is usually the hardest part. Not in this case.

Pattern of racketeering activity?  Two acts of infringement within 10 years of passage of the act? I’d guess we have millions here. Maybe in a single week. And as I demonstrated earlier it’s not like TikTok doesn’t know they need licenses. They’ve entered into licenses with some creators. Wilful infringement.

DECEPTION AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS?

I’d argue at the highest levels of the company executives are engaged in an elaborate ruse to mislead rightsholders about the nature of the infringement.

The TikTok website refers copyright complaints to a process that looks exactly like the DMCA notice and takedown process. But according to US law that process is reserved only for user-uploaded content. It is not for copyrighted work that TikTok is distributing themselves.

I found a few high level executives at TikTok on LinkedIn.  I sent a similar message to several executives. The message read in part:

I am the artist’s rights advocate David Lowery. I’m the songwriter that originally launched the successful class-action lawsuit against Spotify in the US. Any idea how music I control ends up on TikTok? I can’t seem to track down the licenses. Further, if my analysis is correct the way your app appears to work, it looks like your company makes infringing copies before the user adds content. This would mean TikTok can’t claim DMCA safe harbor…

I explain in this article the actions that should be taken going forward:

See here: https://thetrichordist.com/2019/10/18/tiktok-nothing-says-chinese-state-influence-like-censorship-and-mass-copyright-infringement/

But my question is this? If you folks are making so much money now. Why not be a decent human being and license the music?

I received this response from

Thanks for reaching out. TikTok is an exciting way for songs and emerging artists to gain exposure and breakthrough with a wide and varied audience. As a platform for unique and original creative content, TikTok places high value and respect upon intellectual property rights. I would recommend to use the usual channels as this is the fastest way for you to get support. TikTok has copyright policies in place (see the respective website in your location) and copyright infringement notice procedures available to assist. The email address is copyright@tiktok.com. Please note that this is a private message and not a public statement. All the best, Joern

This may seem like a small thing. It isn’t.  It’s major misdirection. The high level executive is directing me towards the DMCA process. This financially benefits TikTok (the hypothetical RICO organization) Because most artists know this is a pointless whac-a-mole™️ routine. A game the artist knows they will never win. So they usually don’t even bother. So it’s material that the company points artists at this process. It gives the impression the users are responsible for the infringing copies. Yet TikTok is clearly making the infringing copies. If this isn’t fraud it should be.

Maybe legal staff and IP counsel at TikTok do not know how their service works. Exactly how the copying and distributing of music files occur on their service. But I don’t think so. The guy who sent me the email response was once the head of licensing for ICE. What is ICE? From the UK PRS for music website:

ICE is the result of a joint venture between PRS for Music, STIM and GEMA with the collective aim of developing the world’s first integrated music copyright, licensing and processing hub, encouraging copyright data accuracy, aggregation of repertoires for multi-territory licences and the elimination of parallel processing against incompatible worksdatabases.

So to consider this the head of content licensing at TikTok who is the former licensing chief for ICE doesn’t know the kind of licenses TikTok requires? Doesn’t know the service can’t rely on DMCA safe harbor process? I call bullshit. Further I suspect this executives knew he was misdirecting me.

I’d start by naming this guy as one of the conspirators and let him roll on everyone else.

Anyone else out there want to join me in a complaint to a US Attorney?

This is unacceptable and criminal behavior. It should not be tolerated from an American company much less a “sharp power” arm of a authoritarian foreign government.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Company Appealing Canadian Site Blocking Ruling Uses Open Media Spambot Tools

Many readers of our blog know the story of the Google proxy Open Media, their subsidiary New/Mode and the spamming of the European Parliament during the debate over the Copyright Directive.  If you are not familiar with the story here are two excellent pieces:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/google-funds-activist-site-that-pushes-its-views-rg2g5cr6t  (a good summary).

https://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/medien/eu-and-copyright-anatomy-of-a-political-hacking-15771185.html (long but very thorough).

Today Hugh Stephens published an excellent blog on the GoldTV site-blocking case in Canada. I wasn’t aware of the case but Hugh’s opening paragraph is a good summary.

“Last week I wrote about the ground-breaking Federal Court decision that granted the request from Rogers Media, Bell Media and GroupeTVA to issue an injunction requiring Canadian ISPs to block pirated streaming content from offshore content provider GoldTV. This is the first such “site-blocking” order issued in Canada, although such orders are relatively commonplace in a number of other jurisdictions. The order was unopposed by all respondents in the case, which included all of Canada’s major ISPs, and some smaller ones, with the exception of Teksavvy, a small reseller of ISP access based in southern Ontario. Ten days after the order was issued, Teksavvy filed an appeal.”

Teksavvy is a small ISP and has an “net activist” sort of flavor.  They proudly claim to be fighting cable and internet monopolies. As they proclaim on their website:

Good for them.

But anyone who has looked at enough Google proxy websites will note there is something familiar about the style of this website.  Curious I switched to developer view and started searching the code for signs of Open Media et voilà!

A nice little call to action box powered by New/Mode.

I have no idea what this means, but of all the web tools out there for them to use they decide to use a Google proxy?  A disgraced and “outed” Google proxy?  Draw your own conclusions.