— CC Songwriters (@cc_songwriters) September 16, 2017
I first called your attention to Dr. Robert Epstein in 2013. Dr. Epstein’s work on Google’s power to throw elections by manipulating public opinion was startling to many, and I got the usual eye rolling about how mistrustful I was of Google. (See “Democracy at Risk: Manipulating Search Rankings Can Shift Voting Preferences Substantially Without […]
Press ReleaseFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEFriday, September 8, 2017
Sharebeast.com owner pleads guilty to criminal copyright infringement
ATLANTA – Artur Sargsyan has pleaded guilty to one felony count of criminal copyright infringement related to his ownership and administration of Sharebeast.com, a file-sharing website that facilitated the unauthorized distribution and reproduction of over 1 billion copies of copyrighted works.
“Through Sharebeast and other related sites, this defendant profited by illegally distributing copyrighted music and albums on a massive scale,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn. “The collective work of the FBI and our international law enforcement partners have shut down the Sharebeast websites and prevented further economic losses by scores of musicians and artists.”
“This is another example of how the FBI and its international law enforcement partners, working together, make it difficult for criminals to profit from illegal activities on the internet,” said David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta. “Illegally making money off of the talent of hard working artists will not go unpunished thanks to the dedication and hard work of our FBI agents.”
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court: Artur Sargsyan owned and operated a number of websites including Sharebeast.com, Newjams.net, and Albumjams.com. From at least 2012 through 2015, Sargsyan illegally distributed and reproduced copyrighted works through Sharebeast.com. Using a network of websites that he owned and operated, including Newjams.net and Albumjams.com, Sargsyan created links to a wide swath of copyright-protected music that was stored on Sharebeast.com. Sharebeast illegally stored and distributed works from scores of artists including Bruno Mars, Linkin Park, Pitbull, Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani, Maroon 5, Ariana Grande, Destiny’s Child, Ciara, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, Kanye West, and Justin Bieber.
In numerous instances, Sharebeast distributed and reproduced pre-release copyrighted works meaning that Sargsyan made the songs available before they were commercially available to paying consumers.
From 2012 through 2015, Sargsyan received over 100 emails notifying him that Sharebeast was hosting copyright-infringing works. Despite receiving such notices, the copyright-infringing files were still available for download.
In August 2015, the United States seized control of the domain names Sharebeast.com, Newjams.net, and Albumjams.com. And with the assistance of international law enforcement partners in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, the FBI seized the computer servers used by Sargsyan to illegally distribute the copyrighted music worldwide.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Sharebeast.com was the largest online file-sharing website specializing in the reproduction and distribution of infringing copies of copyrighted music operating out of the United States.
Sentencing for Artur Sargsyan, 29, of Glendale, California has been scheduled for December 4, 2017 at 10:30 am before U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Samir Kaushal and Kamal Ghali are prosecuting the case. The prosecution and seizure of the website domain names reflects a coordinated effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), the Office of International Affairs, the FBI’s filed offices in Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. Substantial assistance was provided by CCIPS, United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, and the Ministry of Security and Justice in the Netherlands, as well as the CCIPS Cyber Crime Lab.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov(link sends e-mail) or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.Topic(s):Consumer ProtectionComponent(s):
This would be a perfect opportunity for Congressman Blake Farenhold to explain to songwriters in his Corpus Christi district how he plans to screw songwriters with HR 3350, aka The Shiv Act that David has written about on The Trichordist.
Perhaps Rep. Farenthold could lead the audience in a dramatic reading of the bill.
For SoundExchange members based in Houston and throughout the Gulf Coast, SoundExchange wants to make sure you receive your royalties in this time of tragedy.
SoundExchange’s Senior Director of Artist and Industry Relations Linda Bloss-Baum sent the Texas Music Office a statement today that reads:
“Our next royalty distribution will be made in late September. If you currently receive your SoundExchange royalties via physical checks, you can update your account so we can send you your royalties via Direct Deposit. We hope this makes it easier for you to access your royalties at this difficult time. To update your account, please complete our Direct Deposit form.
“We will also need either a voided check OR a bank authorization letter. If you use a bank authorization letter, the bank authorization letter should be on bank letterhead with your account information (routing number and account number). It should indicate the name on the account, and be signed by a bank official.
“We have a dedicated member of our industry relations team standing by to expedite getting our artists and rights holders set up to receive their royalties via direct deposit. Please send the form and support document to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will rush to get it processed for you.”
If you let your record company license your recording for AI algorithmic music a la Orwell’s “versificator”, it’s like Silicon Valley making you train your replacement.
By Chris Castle
After the money, one of the most important parts of a recording artist negotiation is the “marketing restrictions”. These are restrictions on what the record company or music publisher can do with your work–what type of licenses they can, or more frequently cannot, grant to third parties, for example. Essentially, whatever is not prohibited is permitted.
Marketing restrictions also have a temporal element–during or after the term, recouped or not recouped. There are some restrictions that are acknowledged to be verboten and are usually easy and unrestricted concessions. An example of these would be licensing for certain types of commercials such as tobacco, firearms, grooming or hygiene products and alcohol.
Stewart Dredge has an excellent article this week in the Guardian which brings to mind Laura Kobylecky‘s post on MusicTechPolicy drawing comparisons between Spotify’s “fake artist” problem and “The Next Rembrandt” with echoes of the fictional “versificator” operated by Big Brother’s “Music Department” in 1984. According to Stewart, there are dozens of AI music startups getting funded that all essentially do the same thing. Using a library of recordings (sometimes called a “corpus”), the algorithms “create” new recordings based on the songs and recordings in the corpus. Google is, of course, a leader in the space (not that different from how they used Google Books to train their translation algorithm, a process called “corpus machine translation”–the librarians will be next).
Those recordings can then be sold or licensed at a very low price which, as Laura and others have noted, can be used to drive down the royalties payable to all other artists on digital music services.
This is, of course, not dissimilar to Silicon Valley companies hiring lower paid foreign workers and ordering the employees who they are to replace participate in training their replacements. The difference is, of course, that those recordings have to come from somewhere.
It’s time to start adding to the list of marketing restrictions that the song or recording cannot be licensed for AI purposes of any kind.
By Chris Castle
Americans are freedom loving people and nothing says freedom like getting away with it.
Long Long Time, written by Guy Forsyth
Longtime PRO opponent Rep. Sensenbrenner introduced a bill entitled “The Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act“, a piece of work that is Dickensian in its cruelty, bringing a whole new meaning to either “newspeak” or “draconian,” take your pick. It’s rare that the Congress can accomplish the hat trick of an interference with private contracts, an unconstitutional taking and an international trade treaty violation all in one bill. But I guess practice makes perfect. And since the MIC Coalition gave the bill a rousing cheer followed by a heaping serving of astroturf, we should not be surprised. (Read the bill here.)
While this legislation currently applies only to songs and sound recordings, other creators should not feel that they’ve dodged a bullet. I hear that the House Judiciary Committee staff is planning on closing the loop and making all copyright categories subject to the same “register or lose it” approach favored by Lessig, Samuelson and their fellow travelers. If you thought that we are in an era of the triumph of property rights, that must be a different Congress you’re thinking of.
The bill perpetuates the myth of the “global rights database” that no one who understands the complexities believes will ever be created. It sounds logical, right? We have county recorders for real estate, the DMV for cars, why not a database for music?
That is an 11th century idea being welded onto a 21st century problem, the Domesday Book meets a unicorn. The problem isn’t knowing who owns a particular work which evidently is either what they believe or want you to believe.
The problem is that the users don’t want to seek permission or beg forgiveness, either. They want to get away with it. This bill demonstrates that unassailable fact in colors bold as the Google logo.
Think about it–by the time you finish reading this post, 1000 songs will be written and 500 songs will be recorded somewhere out there in the world. Or more. (Not to mention photographs taken, paintings painted, chapters written and so on.)
Do you think that songwriters around the world are thinking, now I know what lets do, let’s rush to go register that new song in the U.S. Copyright Office–in the database, the registration section, the recordation section? Otherwise, I’ll never be able to afford the lawyer to sue Spotify if they don’t pay me. I don’t think they’re thinking that at all and are about to fall into the MIC Association’s trap for the unwary. Why the MIC Coalition? We’ll come back to them.
In a nutshell, the bill requires the extraordinarily heavy burden of requiring all songwriters and recording artists (or their publishers or labels)–all, as in the entire world seeking to sue in the U.S., not just the US writers–to register numerous fields of data in a yet to be created database if they plan on suing for statutory damages:
[I]n an action brought under this title for infringement of the exclusive right to perform publicly, reproduce, or distribute a nondramatic musical work or sound recording, the remedies available to a copyright owner [ANY copyright owner] that has failed to provide or maintain the information [required] shall be limited to…(A) an order requiring the infringer to pay to the copyright owner actual damages for the public performance, reproduction, or distribution of the infringed work; and…(B) injunctive relief to prevent or restrain any infringement alleged in the civil action.
That means if you haven’t undertaken the formality of registering in this new database, then the user has no exposure to statutory damages and will not have to pay the victorious songwriter or artists attorneys’ fees. And this new safe harbor applies apparently even if that songwriter or artist has filed a copyright registration under existing law.
There is nothing in the bill that actually requires the protected class to actually look up anything in this new database, or actually be in compliance with existing statutory licenses (such as the webcasting or simulcasting licenses).
So who is in the new protected class entitled to the Nanny State’s protection from those collusive and pesky songwriters and artists? Let’s look at the victimology of the “ENTITLEMENT” paragraph.
Well, actually, there’s no “ENTITLEMENT” paragraph for the entitled, it’s actually called “APPLICABILITY” (see “newspeak”, WAR IS PEACE, etc.). The connected class includes five different categories of cronies.
First, the defined term “An establishment” gets the new even safer harbor. “Establishment” is a defined term in the Copyright Act (in Sec. 101 for those reading along at home):
An “establishment” is a store, shop, or any similar place of business open to the general public for the primary purpose of selling goods or services in which the majority of the gross square feet of space that is nonresidential is used for that purpose, and in which nondramatic musical works are performed publicly.
Like the members of this organization, the National Retail Federation:
Then another defined term “A food service or drinking establishment”. Kind of like these people:
That is, the National Restaurant Association, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (aka those who put their kids through college thanks to SXSW) and their suppliers, the American Beer, Wine and Spirits Retailers.
Next, “A terrestrial broadcast station licensed as such by the Federal Communications Commission”. I guess that would include the National Association of Broadcasters, iHeart, Salem and Cox (which of course raises the question of whether this entitlement also applies to Cox’s Internet group), kind of like these people:
Don’t forget “An entity operating under one of the statutory licenses described in section 112, 114 [webcasting and simulcasting], or 115 [mechanical licenses].” Note–not that the statutory license applies to the particular song or sound recording in the way it is used that is the subject of the lawsuit, just that the entity is operating some part of its business under one of those licenses regardless of whether the service that is the subject of the lawsuit operates under one of these licenses or not. (Pandora’s on-demand service compared to webcasting, for example, could be out of compliance with its sound recording licenses but claim the safe harbor because it is “operating under” one or more of the statutory webcasting license in the radio service or the statutory mechanical licenses for songs.)
It appears that would include these people:
and don’t forget these people who are DiMA members and need the government’s protection from songwriters and artists:
And then I guess you could throw the Consumer Technology Association and CCIA in there, too.
So I think that’s everyone, right?
Last but not least there’s this group as “belt and suspenders”:
An entity performing publicly, reproducing, or distributing musical works or sound recordings in good faith as demonstrated by evidence such as [i.e., but not limited to] a license agreement in good standing with a performing rights society or other entity authorized to license the use of musical works or sound recordings.
Note: The license need not be for the musical works or sound recordings for which the “entity” is being sued, just any license for any musical works or sound recordings.
There are loopholes in the bill that you could drive a fleet of Street View cars through, so you have to assume that the loopholes will be hacked given who is involved. Don’t let anyone tell you “oh that’s just legislative language, we can fix that.” The whole thing has to be voted down.
Let’s call this bill what it is: Crony capitalism, the triumph of the connected class. The Domesday Book writ large.
It’s some of the biggest companies in the world deciding that they don’t want to hear from songwriters or artists anymore.
So shut up and sing.
Google’s MIC Coalition is at it again. As predicted, the MIC Coalition is bringing orphan works through the back door with a new bill introduced in the dead of night under the misleading title ” Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act” or as we call it, The Shiv Act.
|WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) of the House Judiciary Subcommittee for Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet introduced bipartisan legislation to close a long-standing gap in federal copyright law. The Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act (the CLASSICS Act), H.R. 3301, resolves uncertainty over the copyright protections afforded to sound recordings made before 1972 by bringing these recordings into the federal copyright system and ensuring that digital transmissions of both pre- and post-1972 recordings are treated uniformly.
The CLASSICS Act serves as an update to the “pre-72 treatment” of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act – a broader music licensing bill introduced by Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Nadler earlier this Congress – and represents a broad consensus from a variety of stakeholders across the music landscape.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler: “For years, we have been working to ensure royalty payments for artists who recorded many of our great musical classics before 1972. The Fair Play Fair Pay Act set down a clear marker on the need to resolve the dispute over pre-72 music, as we worked toward a long-term solution that benefits multiple stakeholders. The bill we are introducing today updates this Pre-72 provision, once and for all guaranteeing royalty payments for our great legacy artists while providing certainty for digital music services. Hopefully, this new measure will serve as an example of the consensus that can be reached between the creators and distributors of music as we work to comprehensively update our music licensing laws. Many of these older musicians are past their working years and have no other way to make ends meet. I’m thankful to the supporters of this bill for recognizing that pre-72 recordings have value and that those who create it should be paid regardless of their age.”
Congressman Darrell Issa: “This an important and overdue fix to the law that will help settle years of litigation and restore some equity to this inexplicable gap in our copyright system. It makes no sense that some of the most iconic artists of our time are left without the same federal copyright protections afforded to their modern counterparts. This bill is the product of a great deal of work to build consensus across party lines and varying interests all-over the music and entertainment landscapes on how to best resolve this long-standing problem. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done here. It will go a long way helping bring music licensing laws into the twenty-first century.”
The bill is introduced with the support of stakeholders across the music and entertainment industry including American Association of Independent Music, the Recording Industry Association of America, Pandora, musicFIRST, the Internet Association, the GRAMMYs, SoundExchange, Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, American Federation of Musicians, the Content Creators Coalition, the Future of Music Coalition, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, and the Living Legends Foundation. The bill is also supported by several noted artists, many of whom spoke out in support of the CLASSICS Act.
In addition to Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Nadler, Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tom Rooney (R-FL), and Ted Deutch (D-FL) joined as original co-sponsors to the legislation.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
Congress made sound recordings eligible for federal copyright protection with the Sound Recording Amendment of 1971, but the law as passed only applied to works created on or after February 15, 1972. Sound recordings made before 1972 were excluded from federal copyright protection
This gap has meant that different recordings made before 1972 have been subject to an inconsistent patchwork of different laws, creating significant uncertainty for rights holders music creators, and distributors, including digital streaming services, who wish to be able to fairly compensate artists and utilize these recordings.
The differing treatment of pre and post 1972 was an inexplicable and arbitrary oversight on the part of Congress. The U.S. Copyright Office has expressed their bewilderment with the decision, writing in their recent report on federal copyright protections for pre-1972 sound recordings that “Congress did not articulate grounds for leaving pre-1972 sound recordings outside the federal scheme and there is very little information as to why it did so.”
This gap has meant that updates to copyright law and new protections extended to sound recordings under the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have excluded pre-1972 recordings. The most significant of these being the ‘safe harbor’ provisions for online piracy and ‘compulsory licenses’ made available for internet and satellite radio streaming.
Quotes of praise for the CLASSICS Act:
“This is a great step forward for legacy artists. Thank you to Representatives Issa and Nadler for recognizing that music made before 1972 is just as important and valued as post-1972 music.” — Mary Wilson, The Supremes
“I am overjoyed and extraordinarily grateful for Congressmen Issa and Nadler’s bipartisan relentless efforts to correct an inequality in the law that discriminates against myself and my peers– the legacy artists who recorded our hit records prior to 1972. It is has been unfair and outrageous that the artists, such as myself, who recorded some of our country’s most iconic music, have been forced to resort to lawsuits in order to get paid for the commercial use of their recordings. It is phenomenal that finally there is light shining at the end of this very long tunnel we’ve been looking at for so long. Knowing there is a consensus agreement to resolve any portion of this outrageous problem makes me proud and furthers my hope that I will still be alive to see the other issues Reps. Nadler and Issa have championed in the Fair Play Fair Pay Act come to similar positive bipartisan resolution and conclusion.” — Sam Moore
“I have found so much inspiration in the songs of the past, the songs I grew up with. The least – the very least – I could do is show them respect and honor them by urging Congress to fix the law so that they can get paid by digital radio. That’s why this bill is so important.” — Melissa Etheridge
“Every artist making music today stands on the musical shoulders of those who came before them. I would not be doing what I do if it weren’t for the heritage acts I grew up listening to, idolizing and trying to emulate. The fact that these amazing artists are not getting compensated for their indelible work and profound influence is simply unfathomable to me, and must be fixed. I am grateful to the sponsors of this bill for finally trying to even the scales, as there is no future in music without honoring the past.” — Dave Koz
“It’s a travesty that artists who shaped our creative minds and inspired us to want to play music in the first place are not being acknowledged and compensated for the music they gave us. I’m hopeful this important legislation will address this issue for all time.” — Carlene Carter, Singer-Songwriter, Daughter of country music legends June Carter Cash and Carl Smith, stepdaughter of Johnny Cash, and granddaughter of “Mother” Maybelle Carter of the original historic Carter Family
“The fact U.S., copyright protection does not apply sound recordings made prior to February 15, 1972 makes absolutely no sense. Early rockers like me and my peers are on heavy rotation these days on popular oldies channels and on digital radio services. And unlike many other platforms, we’re not compensated for it. How is that fair? It’s our music that attracting listeners and thus we should be paid. I’m grateful for the leadership of Reps. Issa and Nadler and their efforts to fix this enormous injustice with this important bill.” — Steve Cropper, legendary guitarist, songwriter and producer
By Chris Castle
We get an update this week on the total “address unknown” mass NOIs filed with the Copyright Office for the royalty-free windfall loophole. This time we have to thank our our friends at Paperchain in Sydney for doing the work of decompressing the massive numbers of unsearchable compressed files posted on the Copyright Office website. As you can see, there’s been an increase of approximately 70% since January 2017. (For background, see my article.)
As you can see, Amazon is still far and away the leader in this latest loophole designed to stiff songwriters, followed closely by Google. However, Spotify is moving on up. Spotify does get extra points for starting late in March 2017, but they are catching up fast filing over 5,000,000 as of last month.
To put this in context–the Copyright Office as recently as September 2015 posted these “address unknown” NOIs in a single searchable PDF. However, the Copyright Office apparently changed the practice abruptly in early 2016 once the Big Tech hammer came down. Based on the last PDF I could find, the total number of “address unknown” NOIs filed with the copyright office from January 2010 to September 2015 or so was approximately 4,800.
Compare that approximately 4,800 in five years to approximately 45 million in 18 months.
Notable in its absence: Apple Music has not filed a single address unknown NOI. Somehow Apple seems satisfied with their licensing practice based on an absence of a single NOI.
|Amazon Digital Services||23,977,548|
|Pandora Media, Inc.||1,316,512|
|The Overflow.com Inc.||66,326|