Content Creators Coalition (c3) Warns Congress About Artist And Songwriter Opposition To “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act”

Great to see the Content Creators Coalition weighing in on this.

Artist Rights Watch

PRESS RELEASE 

September 22nd, 2017

Content Creators Coalition (c3) Warns Congress About Artist And Songwriter Opposition To “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act”

Washington, D.C. – The Content Creators Coalition (c3) today sent the following letter to the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee warning that consideration of H.R. 3350, the so called “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act,” would spark a backlash in the artist community and could derail the Committee’s work to create a consensus copyright reform legislation:

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte, Chairman
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member
House Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:

As an artist and songwriter-run advocacy organization, we write to express our strong opposition to H.R. 3350, the “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act.”  Recognizing the importance of this issue to our constituents…

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The Impact of Piracy on Music Creators: What To Make of the “Unearthed” Study- Guest Post Neil Turkewitz

The Impact of Piracy on Music Creators: What To Make of the “Unearthed” Study
By Neil Turkewitz

This week a variety of outlets are reporting on a 2014 study commissioned by the EU to examine the impact of piracy on sales, and are howling in protest that this study was buried by the Commission since it didn’t support the pre-conceived political conclusion that EU action was necessary in light of the known impact. Luckily the persistence of the Pirate Party’s Julia Reda has unearthed this gem which theoretically calls into question the Commission’s intended agenda, and Reda herself is suggesting that it “may not be too late” to be used to stop the EU from proceeding in its quixotic attempts to save a creative community that according to her, needs no saving.

I am sorry, but this is crazy talk–some of it no doubt intentional, and some of it flowing from a misunderstanding of what it means to not find statistical evidence of causality. IBT went with the sensationalist headline: “EU Buried Study That Found No Impact From Piracy On Entertainment Industry,” http://www.ibtimes.com/eu-buried-study-found-no-impact-piracy-entertainment-industry-2592661, notwithstanding that its own article contradicted this supposed “finding.” And Newsweek went with “INSIDE THE PIRACY STUDY THE EUROPEAN UNION HID: ILLEGAL DOWNLOADS DON’T HARM OVERALL SALES,” http://www.newsweek.com/secret-piracy-study-european-union-669436, again ignoring the fact that the study made no such finding.

And those partisans parading this study as proof of lack of harm are also surprisingly quick to assert causality in the action of the EU–burying the report because it didn’t support their political agenda, and failing to consider alternative reasons…say, that they felt it didn’t add enough probative evidence that would help in decision-making, and that it was likely to be misunderstood as implying the lack of correlation between piracy and sales in ways that confused the public. I personally don’t know what relevant officials in the EU were thinking, but this latter alternative not only seems plausible and likely, but sound.

So let’s go back to what the study “found.” As reported in TorrentFreak, the key conclusions were: “In general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements…That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect.” https://torrentfreak.com/eu-piracy-report-suppression-raises-questions-transparency-170922/ It does not mean that piracy doesn’t impact sales, only that they were unable to prove this effect based on the data they had at their disposal. In other words, they could not disprove the null hypothesis. You know, just like scientists couldn’t disprove the null hypothesis about the effect of smoking on health for decades, or present efforts to disprove the null hypothesis on the effect of human activity on the climate. There are about a million reasons for failure to disprove the null hypothesis, but mostly they come down to one thing–understanding causality in complex relationships in which it is nearly impossible to establish control groups is incredibly complex. Essentially economists are looking for a straight line in a ball of thread. Truth is, we know many things that statistics can not prove. The truth can be more than the sum of its unknowable parts.

So what part of this universe do we objectively know? Global music revenue in 1999 at the dawn of Napster and internet piracy was $28 billion. http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/digital-and-mobile/1549915/ifpi-digital-music-report-2013-global-recorded-music (an earlier version of this paper cited to an IFPI report that used a different method for reporting industry revenue).

And in 2016? $16 billion. http://www.ifpi.org/news/IFPI-GLOBAL-MUSIC-REPORT-2017

Did people lose interest in music? Far from it. It only lost its value, not its listenership. Indeed, according to reports, music consumption is at an all time high: http://rainnews.com/nielsen-2016-report-music-consumption-is-at-an-all-time-high/

So tell me again how to interpret the failure of the study to disprove the null hypothesis! Does anyone truly believe that piracy was not a material factor in the dramatic reduction of revenue even as consumption has increased? I will grant that statistical proof of causality is hard to come by (at the end of this post, I have listed some references for peer-reviewed literature on the subject) but that is principally due to the limitations of statistical analysis in a complex and non-linear world rather than an observation of the world in which we live and breathe.

We may not be able to statistically prove our existence (i.e. disprove the null hypothesis that there is no connection between our awareness of self and our actual existence), yet most of us have little trouble in assuming that we are not imaginary.

Reda, TechDirt and others want people to reject their knowledge and sensible understanding of the world based on a study that doesn’t stand for the proposition they advance. Small wonder if the EU decided to not release a non-finding based on a concern that it would be intentionally misused. I haven’t spoken to anyone in the Commission and have no idea why they decided to refrain from publishing this study–all I can do is observe that if they were concerned about it being used to advance nonsensical arguments, they were sadly prescient.

One word before closing. TorrentFreak also summarized the report as follows: “So, it appears that products that are priced fairly do not suffer significant displacement from piracy. Those that are priced too high, on the other hand, can expect to lose some sales.” I hope to explore this at greater length in subsequent posts, but it is truly straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Given issues of compression and bandwidth, movies were not as immediately affected as some other forms of entertainment, and thus retained their value. Music files on the other hand were small and easily distributed and transferred. The ubiquity of free music drove the perceived fair value of music to near zero, and licenses then reflected this perceived value. There is nothing fair about this–indeed, perhaps the most pernicious and lasting effect of piracy on music creators is that they are forced to operate within licensed environments based on the perception that recorded music has little if any value. This effect of piracy has consequences far greater and far more lasting than the straight substitutional effects the study sought to examine.

Neil Turkewitz

For a useful overview of peer reviewed literature, see this from Stephen Carlisle: http://copyright.nova.edu/copyright-piracy-entertainment-industries/ Or as Danaher, Smith & Telang wrote in their 2016 paper, The Truth about Piracy: “So what should you do when the theory is inconclusive? Study the data, of course. And fortunately, economists and other academics have been gathering data and using it to study these questions since the early days of Napster, in 2000—which means we have plenty to work with. When we recently surveyed the peer-reviewed academic literature, we found 25 journal articles that analyze the impact of piracy on sales, which we’ve summarized in tables 1 and 2 below. What we discovered in reviewing these papers was a broad consensus: 22 of the 25 papers found that piracy reduces the revenue producers make from legal sales.” https://techpolicyinstitute.org/2016/02/02/the-truth-about-piracy/ Or see this 2016 paper from Stan Liebowitz entitled: “How much of the decline in sound recording sales is due to file-sharing?” http://econpapers.repec.org/article/kapjculte/v_3a40_3ay_3a2016_3ai_3a1_3ap_3a13-28.htm

The Shopkeeper–a must see movie for the artist rights movement — Artist Rights Watch

He’s worked with Carole King, Ani DiFranco, and a host of great Texas artists — but can music producer Mark Hallman keep his studio open in the age of streaming?

Everybody is talking about Spotify and the pros and cons of “free.” Musician and first-time filmmaker Rain Perry confronts a big issue by telling a small story – of the longest continuously operating recording studio in Austin, Texas, and the shopkeeper who runs it, Mark Hallman.

After recording Carole King, Ani DiFranco and many great Austin artists, Mark is struggling to keep the studio open in the era of streaming. Funny, sweet and insightful, with great music and interviews, The Shopkeeper captures the joy, resolute spirit and frustration of musicians today.

Starring:

Ani DiFranco
Charlie Faye
Colin Gilmore
Eliza Gilkyson
Johnny Goudie
Jon Dee Graham
Mark Hallman
Noell Hampton
Sara Hickman
Iain Matthews
Tom Russell
Will Sexton
and many more

If you’re not aware of this indie film about producer Mark Hallman and his Congress House Studios, you really should check it out.  Rain Perry tells the story that we all know from the point of view of a great craftsman. You can rent or buy the picture directly from the film maker here or on iTunes here.

via The Shopkeeper–a must see movie for the artist rights movement — Artist Rights Watch

Why We Should All Write Rock Operas

From now on that is what I intend to do.

The pop and rock song is financially dead. I will no longer waste my time and energy with this endeavor. The ability to be paid fairly for my time and effort to create non-dramatic musical works has been decimated by the federal government.

1) The DOJ Antitrust Division, flouting intent of law and constitutional limitations, has turned monopoly regulation on its head by treating songwriter licensing organizations as anti-competitive monopolies. Meanwhile they force us to license our work at below market rates to genuine-holy-shit-these-guys-are-a-danger-to-democracy information monopolies like Google and Amazon (and soon Facebook).  To benefit these monopolies they force us to violate private contracts and subject us to ex post facto rule making.  Meanwhile these monopolies through their trade organizations  (for instance “The Mic-Coalition”) openly collude and conspire to lower rates to songwriters,  Yet the DOJ antitrust division completely ignores this anti-competitive behavior.   Lawyers shuttle back and forth between DOJ antitrust and Silicon Valley and no one raises an eyebrow.   It’s like the fucking Cali Cartel runs the joint.  (Editor note:  May I? The Mountain View Cali-fornia Cartel?)

2) The federal government through the compulsory mechanical license regime also forces us to license our songs to record labels and digital services at below market rates.  These rates are fixed by the Copyright Royalty Board which is required to consider evidence of market rates.  However in the last proceedings the CRB used as market rate “evidence” secret agreements between music conglomerates and digital services.  The proceedings never disclosed the details of these agreements to the public. The details of these “market rates” were redacted.   That’s right secret evidence was used against songwriters and they never got to examine the evidence!!!!!!  WTF? What kind of fucking banana republic are we living in?   Recordings of these songs are THEN distributed by record labels through the whole digital music ecosystem where we are again subject to exploitation described in #1.  Thank you sir may I have another?

3) Meanwhile the federal government has failed to investigate mass violations of the compulsory licensing regimes by broadcaster and digital services; mass filings of improper and fraudulent “address unknown” notices (government documents) with the copyright office by digital services; backdated compulsory license notices and bait checks; obvious collusion and conspiracy between different music services and digital broadcasters; obviously manufactured licensing deals that then appeared as market rate evidence at Copyright Royalty Board hearings; and ham fisted attempts to distract from past conspiracies to defraud songwriters. The federal government has ignored what looks to me like several RICO conspiracy cases. Yet no one gives a shit.

Why?  It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with record sums digital services spend lobbying the federal government? Surely funding academics and think tanks that used to act as checks on this abuse of power has nothing to do with it ?  Or straight up funding of favorable journalism, that doesn’t have anything to do with it.  Right?  No these are good robber barons.  Not like the old ones.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is not to say I won’t continue to record music.  Instead of writing traditional non-dramatic pop or rock songs I will go the extra mile and create “dramatico-musical” works (think, musicals, traditional opera or rock opera). I’ve already experimented with this once.  You see this sort of work is distinct under copyright law from a simple non-dramatic pop or rock song.  At this point these works have managed to escape some of the usurious regulation by the federal government and crony capitalist sponsors.  In particular it’s difficult to apply the compulsory mechanical license in these situations. This also provides a way around some (but not all) of the outrageous abuses of the DOJ antitrust regulations.  Thus by adding a dramatic narrative, visuals, or choreography to a work, a songwriter is able to regain many of the rights taken without compensation by the federal government.  And yes I do mean “takings” in the constitutional sense.

While repositioning or reimagining our musical works in this way may be a good thing, sadly, it also highlights the wild injustice to which songwriters have been subjected.

Let’s not put up with this shit anymore.

I seriously urge other performer/songwriters to investigate this course of action and consider if you won’t ultimately be better compensated by adapting this as a creative strategy.

@KRSfow: Future of What Podcast on the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act

 

Episode #94: Recently, a bill was introduced by Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner which calls for the creation of a comprehensive database of compositions and recordings. The “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act” claims to make things easier for coffee shops, bars and restaurants who want to license music to play in their establishments. To many in the music industry, the bill seems like a wolf in sheep’s clothing with the potential cause big problems. On this episode we dig deep into the bill with Future of Music Coalition’s Kevin Erickson and attorney Chris Castle.

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Corpus Christi Songwriters Benefit Delivers Hurricane Harvey Relief to the Rockport, Texas Center for the Arts

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Google Feels the Heat from Congress on Sex Trafficking–And Gaslights Public Opinion on @SenRobPortman’s and @RepAnnWagner’s Legislation — MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY

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 […]

via Google Feels the Heat from Congress on Sex Trafficking–And Gaslights Public Opinion on @SenRobPortman’s and @RepAnnWagner’s Legislation — MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY

Thanks @theJusticeDept and @FBIAtlanta! Sharebeast.com owner pleads guilty to criminal copyright infringement — Artist Rights Watch

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, 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 Protection

via Thanks @theJusticeDept and @FBIAtlanta! Sharebeast.com owner pleads guilty to criminal copyright infringement — Artist Rights Watch

How Spotify (and others) Could Have Avoided Songwriter Lawsuits, Ask The Labels.

This is simply a story about intent. Daniel Ek is the co-founder of Spotify, he was also the CEO of u-torrent, the worlds most successful bit-torrent client. As far we know u-torrent has never secured music licenses or paid any royalties to any artists, ever.

Spotify could have completely avoided it’s legal issues around paying songwriters.  The company could have sought to obtain the most recent information about the publishing and songwriters for every track at the service.  The record labels providing the master recordings to Spotify are required to have this information. All Spotify (and others) had to do, was ask for it.

Here’s how it works.

For decades publishers and songwriters have been paid their share of record sales (known as “mechanicals”) by the record labels in the United States. This is a system whereby the labels collect the money from retailers and pay the publishers/songwriters their share. It has worked pretty well for decades and has not required a industry wide, central master database (public or private) to administer these licenses or make the appropriate payments.

This system has worked because each label is responsible for paying the publishers and songwriters attached to the master recordings the label is monetizing. The labels are responsible for making sure all of the publishers and writers are paid. If you are a writer or publisher and you haven’t been paid, you know where the money is – it is at the record label.

Streaming services pay the “mechanicals” at source which are determined by different formulas and rules based upon the use. For example non-interactive streaming and web radio (simulcasts and Pandora) are calculated and paid via the appropriate performing rights society like ASCAP or BMI. These publishing royalties are treated more like radio royalties.

The “mechanicals” for album sales from interactive streaming services are calculated in a different way. It is the responsibility of the streaming services to pay these royalties. CDBaby explains the system here and here. Don’t mind that these explanations are an attempt to sell musicians more CDBaby services, just focus on the information provided for a better understanding of this issue.

Every physical album and transactional download (itunes and the like) pays the “mechanical” publishing to the record label directly, who then pays the publishers and writers.  This publishing information exists as labels providing the master recordings to Spotify have this information. All Spotify (and others) have to do, is ask for it.

Record labels have collectively and effectively “crowd sourced” licensing and payments to publishers and songwriters for decades. Why can’t Spotify simply require this information from labels, when the labels deliver their masters? It’s just that simple. Period.

The simple, easy, and transparent solution to Spotify’s licensing crisis is to require record labels to provide the mechanical license information on every song delivered to Spotify. The labels already have this information.

The simple solution is for Spotify to withdraw any and all songs from the service until the label who has delivered the master recording also delivers the corresponding publisher and writer information for proper licensing and payments. Problem solved!

No need for additional databases or imagined licensing problems. Every master recording on Spotify is delivered by a record label. Every record label is required by law to pay the publishers and songwriters. This is known and readily available information by the people who are delivering the recordings to Spotify!

There is no missing information, and no unknown licenses. Why is this so F’ing hard?

This system would mean that the record labels would have to provide this information. It’s also possible that some of that information is not accurate. Labels would probably fight against any mechanism that would make them have to make any claims about the accuracy of their data, which is fine. If it’s the most update information it’s a great place to start.

Of course, we know that both sides (both labels and streamers) will reject any mechanism that introduces friction into the delivery of masters. However, with the simple intent of requiring publisher and songwriter info for every song master delivered there will no longer be a problem at the scale that currently exists.

To be completely fair to Spotify they did work to make deals with the largest organizations representing publishers and songwriters (NMPA and HFA). However those two organizations leave out a lot of participants. So back to square one. If publishing information is required upon the delivery of masters, the problem is largely solved. Invoking a variation on Occam’s Razor, the best solution is usually the most simple one.

You’d think that in the times before computers this would have been harder than it is now, but like all things Spotify you have to question the motivations of a company whose founder created the most successful bittorrent client of all time, u-torrent.

Oh, and of this writing Spotify is now claiming they have no responsibility to pay any “mechanicals” at all. Can’t make this up.

 

Please Support @cc_songwriters Hurricane Harvey Relief Benefit

harvey relief concert cc

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.