Silicon Valley Hypocrisy: We Support Solutions To Piracy, Except When They Are Actual Solutions to Piracy…

You can’t make this up. Law 360 is reporting that the International Trade Commission (ITC) has been denied authority over digital goods.

The Federal Circuit said Thursday that it wouldn’t reconsider its decision that the International Trade Commission lacks the authority to block the import of digital files, drawing a lengthy dissent from one of its judges.

Keep in mind, the same people now opposed to the ITC having this authority are the same who argued in favor of the the ITC doing so as an alternative to SOPA called the Open Act.

Below is an except from an excellent post on this issue By Devlin Hartline & Matthew Barblan at CPIP.

When advocating for the OPEN Act as a good alternative to SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act, the bill’s sponsors touted the ITC as being a great venue for tackling the problems of foreign rogue sites. Among the claimed virtues were its vast experience, transparency, due process protection, consistency, and independence:

For well over 80 years, the independent International Trade Commission (ITC) has been the venue by which U.S. rightsholders have obtained relief from unfair imports, such as those that violate intellectual property rights. Under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 – which governs how the ITC investigates rightsholders’ request for relief – the agency already employs a transparent process that gives parties to the investigation, and third party interests, a chance to be heard. The ITC’s process and work is highly regarded as independent and free from political influence and the department already has a well recognized expertise in intellectual property and trade law that could be expanded to the import of digital goods.

The Commission already employs important safeguards to ensure that rightsholders do not abuse their right to request a Commission investigation and the Commission may self-initiate investigations. Keeping them in charge of determining whether unfair imports – like those that violate intellectual property rights – [sic] would ensure consistent enforcement of Intellectual Property rights and trade law.

Some of the groups now arguing that the ITC shouldn’t have jurisdiction over digital goods openly supported the OPEN Act. Back in late 2011, the EFF stated that it was “glad to learn that a bipartisan group of congressional representatives has come together to formulate a real alternative, called the OPEN Act.” The EFF liked the bill because the “ITC’s process . . . is transparent, quick, and effective” and “both parties would have the opportunity to participate and the record would be public.” It emphasized how the “process would include many important due process protections, such as effective notice to the site of the complaint and ensuing investigation.”

Google likewise thought that giving the ITC jurisdiction over digital goods was a great idea. In a letter posted to its blog in early 2012, Google claimed that “there are better ways to address piracy than to ask U.S. companies to censor the Internet,” and it explicitly stated that it “supports alternative approaches like the OPEN Act.” Google also signed onto a letter promoting the virtues of the ITC: “This approach targets foreign rogue sites without inflicting collateral damage on legitimate, law-abiding U.S. Internet companies by bringing well-established International trade remedies to bear on this problem.”

You can read the full post here (Strongly Recommended):

Digital Goods and the ITC: The Most Important Case That Nobody is Talking About


 

Fight For The Future Of Corporate Astroturf Ripping Off Creators!

Musicians, know who your friends are and are not. Here is another example of big tech money, corporate astroturf, attempting to remove your rights. In the last hours of the submissions to the Copyright Office for comments on the DMCA a webform was introduced.

Note the fear-inducing reference to “robots”–“robots” must refer to the tools that Google itself gives to big companies to automate sending DMCA notices to Google for infringing links.  So by definition, “corporations” use Google’s own “robots” at Google’s request.  80 million infringing links this month alone!  (And remember, the Google “transparency report” does not include DMCA notices sent to YouTube, Blogger or any other Google property, it just covers Google search.)  EEP! ROBOTS!  DON’T BREAK THE INTERNET!

Google DMCA 3-31-16

This letter is exceptionally misleading because Google doesn’t allow independent artists to use these tools.  That means even the handful of artists who can monitor Google search 24/7 have to send manual notices.  So what the astroturf group is really complaining about is that EVERYONE should have to send notices manually which would increase the amount of time that Google has to profit from links to infringing content by data profiling or advertising sold on pirate sites.

This webform did not even verify if those sending the automated letter to the US Copyright Office were actually US Residents or machines…or made an intelligible comment on the questions the Copyright Office asked for public comment.  So, we had some fun with it, see bel0w.

David Newhoff at The Illusion Of More has an excellent piece looking much deeper at how these corporations and their funded organizations are working aggressively to take away the protections granted to individual creators in copyright.

Read it here, at the link below.

Astroturf Organizations Typically Hysterical on DMCA | The Illusion Of More

 

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Why the ‘Dancing Baby’ copyright case is just hi-tech victim shaming | The Register UK

Lenz is best thought of as a tactic in a larger strategy. Another victim-shaming tactic, used to confuse and intimidate individuals so they don’t claim their rights, is a Google-funded project called Chilling Effects. We can define “victim shaming” as where the process of seeking justice punishes the victim more than it hurts the perpetrator, and it relies on the fear of unknown reprisals.

Both Lenz and Chilling Effects have the same goal: to make you think twice about asserting your ownership of your own digital stuff. The Utopia envisaged by Silicon Valley’s current oligarchs does not have individual ownership of bits in it.

READ THE FULL STORY AT THE REGISTER UK:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/09/17/dancing_baby_victim_shaming/

 


 

 

“I Ain’t Gonna Work On Google’s Farm No More” | Creators are Forced Labor* On The Ad-Funded Piracy Fields Of The Advertnet

The 1 Percent: Income Inequality Has Never Been Worse Among Touring Musicians… | Digital Music News

One of the mantra’s that we always hear about the internet and musicians is that the revenue has shifted from recording sales to live ticket sales. So the great accomplishment of the internet according to Silicon Valley wisdom (and Steven Johnson of the NY Times Mag) is that artists can hit the road. “The dream of the 90s is alive, the 1890s…”

Well, if you’re not an established hit artist, here’s how that is working out in the post-napster era. Oh, and by the way, songwriters don’t tour, record producers don’t tour, recording engineers don’t tour… well, you get the point. Here’s the stat as reported by Digital Music News.

Note that in 1982 almost 40% of the revenue was divided between the “bottom” 95% of artists, while in 2003 they received only 15% of all revenue.

Could it be that these top-grossing artists benefited from launching in an era when artists didn’t have to be in the top 1% to develop a healthy live following over years of touring?

READ THE FULL POST AT DIGITAL MUSIC NEWS:
http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2013/07/05/onepct/

Steven Johnson & A Thesis That Isn’t | The Illusion Of More

If we strip away some of the color and simply look at the assertions being made, then the basic structure of the article reveals an important fallacy. First Johnson states that most of the evidence of harm done to creators in the digital age is anecdotal, and this is partly true — although anecdotes from professionals should not be misconstrued as mere random complaining. So, to get beyond the anecdotal, Johnson then cites macroeconomic data, compiled by the Labor Department, most of which suggests a big-picture view that creative people in all media are doing better than they were a decade ago. But, having previously scorned the anecdotal negative, Johnson then cherrypicks bits and pieces of the anecdotal positive — some of which he misrepresents — in order to support his interpretation of the economic data he cites.

READ THE FULL POST AT THE ILLUSION OF MORE:
http://illusionofmore.com/steven-johnson-thesis-isnt/

Technology Apologist Complex : Steven Johnson Strikes Again | Jonathan Taplin @ Medium

This week’s apology episode from Johnson is entitled The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t — and its one of the most brain dead pieces that the New York Times Magazine has ever published. I’m shocked the Public Editor has not already taken Johnson to task. I won’t go into all the details because David Newhoff has already destroyed most of Johnson’s argument that the Internet monopolies have actually been a boon to the average artist. This is total nonsense as this chart shows.

READ THE FULL POST AT MEDIUM:
https://medium.com/@jonathantaplin/technology-apologist-complex-eafcf14df530

The Lack of Ethics of Online Advertisers | Jon Taplin USC Lecture

The Lack of Ethics of Online Advertisers, YouTube, Google, Others.

Read The Blog Post Here:
https://medium.com/@jonathantaplin/sleeping-through-a-revolution-8c4b147463e5

Watch the Full Lecture Here:

Silicon Valley Is Not a Force for Good | The Atlantic

We don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water, what we need is fair and ethical businesses.

It’s been a long journey from Google to Snapchat—or to apps that enable drivers to auction off the public street-parking spot they’re about to leave in San Francisco. With a few exceptions, the Valley’s innovations have become smaller, and smaller-minded. Many turn on concepts (network effects, regulatory arbitrage, price discrimination) that economists would say are double-edged, if not pernicious. And while the Web was touted as a great democratizing force, recent tech innovations have created lots of profits at the top of the ladder and lots of job losses lower down. The tech sector itself has proved disappointing as a jobs engine and at times hostile to women.

READ THE FULL POST AT THE ATLANTIC:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/07/silicon-valley-shrinking-vision/395309/

The Crowdsourcing Scam | The Baffler

It’s all the same Silicon Valley scam. Whether you are a musician or a cab driver, this about labor, and you could be next…

Silicon Valley calls this arrangement “crowdsourcing,” a label that’s been extended to include contests, online volunteerism, fundraising, and more. Crowdsourced work is supposed to be a new, more casual, and more liberating form of work, but it is anything but. When companies use the word “crowdsourcing”—a coinage that suggests voluntary democratic participation—they are performing a neat ideological inversion.

The kind of tentative employment that we might have scoffed at a decade or two ago, in which individuals provide intellectual labor to a corporation for free or for sub-market wages, has been gussied up with the trappings of technological sophistication, populist appeal, and, in rare cases, the possibility of viral fame.

But in reality, this labor regime is just another variation on the age-old practice of exploiting ordinary workers and restructuring industrial relations to benefit large corporations and owners of the platforms serving them. The lies and rhetorical obfuscations of crowdsourcing have helped tech companies devalue work, and a long-term, reasonably secure, decently paying job has increasingly become a MacGuffin—something we ardently chase after but will likely never capture, since it’s there only to distract us from the main action of the script.

READ THE FULL POST AT THE BAFFLER:
http://thebaffler.com/salvos/crowdsourcing-scam

California’s Other Drought: The Coming Ad Revenue Crisis

Guest Post By Alan Graham

Last month I published this piece over on LinkedIn, but I felt it might need a second viewing (with updates) over here based on recent news on ad blocking and other developments. 

————–

Silicon Valley has a drought problem. But it isn’t the lack of water I’m concerned about. It is the over reliance on ad revenue and venture capital that is sustaining both tech and media. Now there’s a debate raging about whether or not we’re in another bubble (I was in the last one). The pro-bubble argument is often about overvaluations and spending. The anti-bubble argument shows charts on how VC investments and IPOs are much lower than the last one. Both sides completely miss the mark which is that since Google (er…Alphabet) and others began building empires on “freemium” type services, we’ve become accustomed to not having to pay for things, and what began with a tool here and there and some “free” content has actually become the predominant method of generating revenue across the web.

A possible disaster.

For the past two years I’ve been working on a project called OCL. One thing it does is it is the world’s first true microlicensing platform for apps that allows the merging of any creative asset with any other creative asset with all of the rights cleared “faster than instantly.” Yes…that’s possible. And it is actually built upon the idea of paying for things (a novel idea these days I know). I’ve run into a lot of resistance over this model to the point where I recently had an argument with a music journalist who saw no problem with the idea that advertising was a viable long term model of revenue and my predictions/concerns over a non-sustainable ad market (for everything) was silly.

I’ve also had many a meeting with executives who told me countless times that the punter won’t pay for anything. Their business model is to license large platforms and take a cut of ad revenue. During this time I’ve pointed out that with a finite amount of ad revenue that must be shared across all creative industries and tech platforms (all vying for attention), it simply is not possible to sustain a vibrant creative marketplace that requires ad revenue to keep it chugging along. And if those platforms have their revenue somewhat interrupted, that trickles down.

The reasons for being concerned are clear:

-ContentID was a anomaly born out of necessity to bring some order to a chaotic system of copyright infringement and push the biggest piracy site into some form of legitimacy.

-YouTube went from a method of promotion, to a method of generating much needed revenue, to cannibalizing sales of media, as there was no reason to purchase what you were already viewing/listening to.

-Ad revenue (CPCs) have been dropping year over year for the past 5 or so years, while volume continues to increase.

-Volume is increasing because there are simply more and more locations to place ads in an increasingly competitive market with a finite amount of ad dollars that simply shift from one point to another depending on popularity. Companies with ad budgets don’t suddenly spend more money because there are more locations to spend it. And quite frankly…volume is practically infinite.

-Increase in volume means a competitive marketplace that can drive CPC and other ad rates down further because we’re witnessing something happening to ads that happened to media, commoditization. All about numbers at this point, not quality of creative.

-We’re just getting started. Estimated reach/penetration of iOS/Android/FB is anywhere from 5M to 9M apps/platforms with 40k apps being added to iTunes each month alone. Reports show that the range of “free” apps is somewhere around 90%, both ad supported and in-app purchases. As that tail grows, so does volume.

-86%+ of our time accessing the web is now done through apps.

-Ad networks and other ad-based companies are going to get squeezed out of existence because of this, causing a collapse of an entire segment of tech which means thousands of high paying jobs are gonna go bye-bye and never come back. This is already starting to happen.

-Ad revenue is currently 80%+ of all revenue generated by Facebook and Google, two of the most important platforms for media distribution. It keeps their lights on and it is this revenue creators hitched their wagons to.

-Media companies (music, news, video, images) are scrambling to get a cut of that same ad revenue and finding they not only are competing for that money, they often have to spend money towards making that money back. Welcome to the world of paid non-organic reach. You now work for the company, live in company housing, and shop at the company store.

-Ad blocking is starting to take off in popularity and in court cases the judges in two instances sided with the ad blocking company stating that the user gets to decide what they want to do with their devices. 

What does this mean for rights owners?:

“Online ad blocking costs sites nearly $22 billion
The study, by software group Adobe and Ireland-based consultancy PageFair, found that the number of Internet users employing ad-blocking software has jumped 41 percent in the past 12 months to 198 million.”

 “Those losses are expected to grow to more than $41 billion in 2016, the study said.”

But that’s not all, there is also fraud:

“Last year, Google reported that 56.1 percent of all ads served were not measured viewable by humans.”


“Last December, the Association of National Advertisers and security firm WhiteOps estimated that up to a quarter of video ad views were fraudulent and resulting from software bots. It also said that as much as half of publisher traffic is from bots. This represents a projected $6 billion-plus in wasted ad spend this year.”


“Some industry observers go further than that, arguing that the digital ad industry is beset by traffic and other fraud because there’s a sort of arbitrage going on. Some exchanges, publishers, and ad networks are looking the other way, this argument goes, because they can make money on fraudulent traffic and fake ads.”


“The main losers are the advertisers themselves. But the publishers are getting shafted as well, Spanfeller said, since advertisers are paying $10 per thousand impressions while some publishers ‘get a buck.'”

 

-Mobile carriers in Europe are hinting that they also may begin to block ads at the carrier level citing increased performance and reduced bandwidth. How soon until we start to see ISPs offer the same services?

-It is estimated that Google is seeing as much as $6B in ad blocking occurring, and their total revenue in 2014 was $66B. That’s no laughing matter for a company making 90% of revenue from ads. Their response was to essentially say that the reason people are blocking ads is because we’re simply not making good enough ads. Yeah…that’s the reason. That type of flippant response to a $6B loss is why you should be very worried, because it means they are worried and don’t yet have an answer.

-For smaller publishers the problem is more pronounced. ProSiebenSat, one of the companies that sued Ad Blocker Plus and lost, stated that ad blocking was costing them upwards of 1/5 of their revenue or €9.2M

-Ad blocking users have grown to an army of nearly 200M people. That’s a word of mouth marketplace that any company would kill to have, except they are evangelizing the death of your business. Think about it as 200M people who have decided what you provide is interesting enough, just not interesting enough to pay for it via your #1 monetization plan. What’s your backup plan for monetization? What that says to me is that there are likely millions of content platforms overvalued and poised to collapse.

-With Apple’s recent announcement that they would allow third party developers to create ad blocking extensions for mobile Safari, the attention brought to this might take it mainstream, considering there are hundreds of millions of iOS devices and mobile Safari represents 25% of browsing. Welcome to the next viral technology success that you can’t actually afford to have take off.

-Facebook’s Instant Articles strategy could possibly be where advertising lives on, meaning that online publishers will have to become even more reliant on the tech giant for revenue, although it is likely both Apple and Google will follow suit. Meaning more of the open web gets sucked into the app environment where walls and AI decide what we will see and hear.

-My own tests with ad blocking has removed every ad from YouTube, one of the primary revenue sources for music labels and artists. Consider that most videos using music on YouTube (likely 60-70%) never generate any ad revenue at all, not to mention that YouTube is still not profitable (really?), this is one basket of eggs I’d be thinking of taking some eggs out of…

-Ad blocking is getting more and more sophisticated with ad block plug ins for Safari, Android, Chrome, and even Spotify. Not only can you block Spotify ads (the freemium model they defend to the death – no freemium no paid), but you can rip tracks from Spotify with all the metadata intact.

PopcornTime. Free movies and tv shows playing direct to your device with a gorgeous interface, high quality resolution, built-in VPN, and zero ads…need I say more? Expect more solutions like this to pop up, including alternative music platforms. IMAGINE: Playlists created in Spotify exported to a BitTorrent decentralized music player…this will happen.

The next 12-24 months are going to be a watershed where we see just how much of this shakes out. The problems are numerous, but the biggest issue I see is that we’ve spent so much time investing in ad-based technologies and their revenue streams, we’ve not built a single alternative solution which can cover any losses if this all goes belly up. There is a massive consolidation of power occurring at the top of tech where we may only be left with 4-5 companies that control most of the web/Internet as we use to know it, and the creative class is left with no real technology of its own and very few options of how to reach their customers without being at the mercy of another giant tech company.

Years ago I use to drive between California and Oregon quite often and I began to see a trend happening. The boats on the reservoir began to leave the docks as the water receded from the shore. They began to huddle together in the center of the lake as there was less and less water. Essentially they became the last holdouts hoping a great rain would restore everything to the way it was. But it won’t.

Part of the problem California is facing with its shortage of water is due to the fact that they never planned for the possibility of drought, although they certainly talked a lot about it. They are shortsighted. They saw an endless supply of water and all the riches it brought. As humans we very rarely ever prepare for the worst, because we’re always so caught up in the moment and at the moment we’re still feeling the best of times: toilets are still flushing and faucets are still flowing.

The situation with ad revenue and VC backed advances and payments is no different, and if we don’t start working on a fundamental shift on how we as a society pay for things we value, we’re going to see a lot more than just water dry up.

Alan Graham is the co-founder of OCL