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

Advertising is killing internet. Soon most online advertising will be forced pre-rolls of TV commercials. You finally have a DVR to skip commercials, and soon there will be no way to avoid them. Do you really think this is what what the internet’s founding founders had envisioned? One great big inescapable advertising machine? No, we didn’t think so either.

Creators are now forced labor* on the digital fields of the AdvertNet, where the Borg like overlords of internet advertising have forced us into being unwilling participants on their digital plantations against our will. We have no defense against the advertising funded, illegal exploitation of our labor.

Now we want to be clear, we’re not opposed to advertising in general, the advertising industry overall or the many highly talented creatives who work in advertising. We all love those Superbowl ads, right? And let’s not forget that many a band in recent history has found fortune from a well placed song in a high profile commercial (Hello, Phoenix).

No, we’re talking about the highly invasive, privacy invading, personal data tracking, internet advertising slathered on pirate sites that illegally distribute copyrighted works and destroy the livelihoods of professional artists and creators against their will.

Digital Advertising Agencies are on the wrong side of artists rights. They have sold us out.

Here’s the elephant in the room. The internet as a business has a math problem and it goes something like this. There are only a few ways to make money on the online. First is transactional sales where the company can take a margin on each transaction (Amazon, Itunes, Etc). Second is a transactional service where the company can take a margin on each transaction (Uber, AirBnB, etc). Third is subscription based access to content and software (Netflix and Adobe respectively). Fourth is advertising for pretty much everything else including the big categories of Software As Service or SAAS. SAAS models including everything from Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to newspapers, blogs and community based bulletin boards like Reddit, etc.

The fundamental problem here is attempting to transform all businesses to advertising supported models. This is because the largest most successful internet company ever (Google) just happens to work under that model. But the economics at large don’t generate enough revenue to pay for the cost of labor for the production of art, photography, music, movies, book, etc being distributed.

Think about it. How could it be possible that everything that once required transactional revenues to be sustainable can now be paid for with just advertising revenue? It can’t. Not under current models that do not allow for scarcity and exclusivity.

Scarcity and exclusivity are what make broadcasting models work. Television networks invest in creating exclusive content that is scarce. The scarcity and exclusivity allows for maximum monetization of that asset. The Superbowl and the Academy Awards are two of the highest grossing advertising based products specifically because they are scarce.

Take the above one step further. Imagine that everything on the internet, every single site that is not selling merchandise, a service or a subscription has to be self supporting on advertising revenue alone. Do you really think that’s possible? No, it is not. This is simply because to the cost of production of professional content can not be created at the cost that internet advertising provides.

The work around this math problem is to steal the labor of professional creators and monetize it against their will.

No budgets to pay for production, no problem. Steal It. 

Just make the margin on the cost of running the business without paying for content production. A business that does not have to pay for its inventory or cost of goods is far more profitable than one that does pay those costs. This is exactly how pirate sites and Google’s YouTube operate.

The creators of YouTube admitted as much in private emails that were exposed during the lawsuit with Viacom:

• A July 29 email conversation about competing video sites laid out the importance to YouTube of continuing to use the copyrighted material. “Steal it!” Chen said , and got a reply from Hurley, “hmmm, steal the movies?” Chen’s answer: “we have to keep in mind that we need to attract traffic. how much traffic will we get from personal videos? remember, the only reason our traffic surged was due to a video of this type.”

And here’s what it looks like… Lou Reed Exploited By American Express, AT&T, Chevrolet, Chili’s, Lysol, Pottery Barn, Vons, Domino’s Pizza, Netflix, Galaxy Nexus and Ron Jeremy!













* Forced Labor? Hyperbole? With no ability to opt out, without being granted choice, consent or the ability to negotiate our wages, what else is it?

Music is the Product. | Adland.tv

Yup. Music is the product. Justin Vernon talks about Bon Iver and advertising.  The music is the product, not just the business card to book advertising and sponsorship gigs which some would like to suggest – and here’s why…

We did a photo shoot for Bushmills. To be clear: They gave us a bunch of money and we were able to finish without borrowing. It was great for us, and everybody that worked at the company was great, and I love Bushmills and wanted to do the deal because my dad loved Bushmills — we bond over Irish whiskey.

But the problem is that it isn’t just Bushmills. It’s run by a corporation, and you kind of forget that they’re not interested in you or really what you’re doing. They’re interested in your popularity and your reach, and it felt really sickening after a while. Not badmouthing Bushmills the company, but I regret it.

I regret it because it wasn’t us and they put my face on a fucking billboard, even though it was a cool billboard and I was with my brother and my sound engineer and we’re buds and we got drunk while we had the photo shoot. I just missed it. I missed the mark on that one and I let it all kind of get to me. It just doesn’t feel right after the fact, you know?


Early Results and Evolution of the UGA Undesirable Lyric Website Study to Include Advertisers. | UGA

As a result of the publication of the UGA Undesirable Lyric Website List and action taken by the National Music Publishers Association there have been a number of noteworthy updates. Many sites have come forward wishing to obtain licenses and others updated their licensing compliance. We updated our database accordingly. We also learned of at least one website that now has an expired licenses.

In addition we are now ready to expand the study to examine which brands are advertising on these unlicensed sites.

Finally the next iteration of the list will be followed by a list of brands which appear on the top 10 Undesirable Lyric websites.


Google in Spotlight for Links to Criminal Websites… Again…

Just like groundhog’s day for Google… Here we go… Again…

“On every check we have made, Google’s search engine gave us easy access to illegal goods including websites which offer dangerous drugs without a prescription, counterfeit goods of every description, and infringing copies of movies, music, software and games,” said Attorney General Hood.  “This behavior means that Google is putting consumers at risk and facilitating wrongdoing, all while profiting handsomely from illegal behavior.”

If reading this triggers a sense of deja vu, don’t worry– you’re not crazy.  Less than 2 years ago, in August of 2011, Google agreed to a 500 million dollar settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over online advertisements for illegal Canadian pharmacies.


Google, Advertising, Money and Piracy. A History of Wrongdoing Exposed.

ADWEEK : “Ad Industry Takes Major Step to Fight Online Piracy”… Again…

Google, Advertising, Money and Piracy. A History of Wrongdoing Exposed.

Readers of this blog will know that we’ve been gaining attention and awareness on brand sponsored piracy. We’ve noted how 50 Major Brands are Supporting Music Piracy. When that information is paired with The LA Times and The New York Times reports from the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab’s Transparency Report on Advertising Networks financing piracy we see a very clear picture emerging.

It is very clear that online piracy is a mass scale, for profit, enterprise level commercial business. There is a lot of money changing hands. Google is said to make approximately $30 Billion a year, with 97% of the money coming from advertising revenue. All of Google’s other products combined only account for less than 3% of it’s annual earnings.

So we can see that there are a lot of people making a lot money from the unauthorized, illegal infringement of artists and creators work. This is no longer about individual “sharing.” This is about businesses exploiting artists for profit, and not paying the artists a penny. We do not know of one cent being paid to artists from sites like The Pirate Bay, 4Shared and Filestube just to name a few of the major offenders.

So where does Google fit into this? Why do so many artists rights advocates focus so intently on Google? Simply because public documents have exposed Google as having knowledge of wrong doing and doing nothing about it – until they got busted, red handed, twice.

In 2011 Google paid $500,000,000 (that’s half a billion dollars) in a non-prosecution settlement agreement to avoid criminal prosecution. Yes, Google paid half a billion dollars to avoid criminal prosecution and the documents in the case revealed that knowledge of wrongdoing went all the way to the top, to none other than Larry Page himself. The story caught the attention of many mainstream media outlets including CNN.

The Wall Street Journal Reported:

“Larry Page knew what was going on,” Peter Neronha, the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney who led the probe, said in an interview. “We know it from the investigation. We simply know it from the documents we reviewed, witnesses that we interviewed, that Larry Page knew what was going on” . . .

Harvard Law Associate Professor Ben Edelman continues;

These admissions and the associated documents confirm what I had long suspected: Not only does Google often ignore its stated “policies”, but in fact Google staff affirmatively assist supposed “rule-breakers” when Google finds it profitable to do so…

In June I observed that Google’s bad ads span myriad categories beyond pharmaceuticals — charging for services that are actually free, promising free service when there’s actually a charge, promoting copyright infringement, promoting spyware/adware, bogus mortgage modification offers, work-at-home scams, investment rip-offs, identify theft, and more.

Note that Edelman reports the problem is much larger than just the illegal advertising of drugs.  It appears to even extend into such black markets as human trafficking. This issue was even met with a Change.Org petition as well as being reported on here and here.

So if Google has been caught lying about their knowledge of wrong doing in the past, and violating their actual practices versus policies, than what else do they know and what else are they doing? How many other of their own policies do they not follow, or worse, aid others in circumventing them? All reasonable questions to ask given the publicly available information.

The profiting from illegal behavior was also reported by Ars Technica ,

When the sting began in 2009, Google had in place policies designed to block illicit pharmaceutical advertising. Whitaker’s orders were initially rejected under those policies. But Whitaker says Google sales reps helped him tweak his sites to skirt the rules.

“It was very obvious to Google that my website was not a licensed pharmacy,” Whitaker told the Journal. “Understanding this, Google provided me with a very generous credit line and allowed me to set my target advertising directly to American consumers.”

All of this brings us back to where we are now regarding Google’s non-denial regarding financing commercial scale infringement sites. There is a history of this behavior with Google that dates back further. In May of 2011 The Copyright Alliance noted the following regarding the 2007 case of EasyDownloadCenter.com and TheDownloadPlace.com.

Indeed there is even publicly documented history of Google knowingly and purposefully working with pirate websites to increase traffic to such websites and profits to Google from the Sponsored Links/Adwords programs. In conjunction with the settlement of a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the major Hollywood studios against Luke Sample, Brandon Drury and their companies for operation of subscription based websites devoted to helping consumers find and download pirated copyrighted works, Sample’s Affidavit was filed by one of the defendants testifying to the fact that Google worked directly with the illegal website to drive traffic to it and increase Google’s revenues from its participation in the sponsored links program.

This is the part below really gives us pause, reported not just by The Copyright Alliance, but also many tech publications and outlets such as DailyTech.

In fact, Google’s ad teams even made suggestions designed to optimize conversion rates by using keywords targeted to pirated content – such as suggesting downloading films still in theatrical release, that obviously were not available yet in any authorized format for home viewing.

According to PCWorld this added up to some decent money…

EasyDownloadCenter.com and TheDownloadPlace.com generated US$1.1 million in revenue between 2003 and 2005, and Google received $809,000 for advertising, the Journal reported.

So the question today is what does Google actually know about how it’s advertising practices are financing the destruction of the creative community by supporting these unauthorized, illegally operating, commercial infringers? How much has really changed?

Keep in mind that although Google pays it’s “partners” a revenue share on YouTube for claimed content, the company makes no such offer to artists and creators on the advertising that it still appears to be serving to pirate sites. This is further demonstrated by the lack of ability for the company to make a definitive statement that Google does not serve any ads, to any pirate sites (or at least the 43,000 listed in the companies own transparency report).

Also central to this conversation is that the way consumers access the unauthorized, illegal and infringing sites which usually starts with a Google search itself. In fact according to Google’s own public transparency report there are over 13 million infringing links being removed from Google’s search engine monthly by rights holders. Those 13 million infringing links represent over 43,000 infringing sites.

Wouldn’t the rational and logical solution be to create a joint review board the represents the interests of all stakeholders that can negotiate penalties or the removal of bad actors?


Or Pandora Could Add Another Minute Of Advertising And Raise Their Revenue 50%

Silicon Valley tech gurus  love to tell musicians that they “need new business models.”  This is kind of funny when you consider that most of these folks work for companies that have never shown a profit. Never!  Whereas my web-enabled businesses Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven  (like many bands) have been profitable for decades.  So can someone please tell mewhy we’re supposed to  listen to these serial failures with their snake oil schemes?

I think it’s high time that artists turn the tables.  We should tell these folks how to run their businesses for a change.  Quit whining and bootstrap it! Just like we had to when we were starting our bands.  Sell T-shirts or something!

For instance here’s how Pandora can increase their revenue 50%:

1. Pandora plays one minute of commercials per hour.  Satellite radio plays about thirteen minutes an hour. Pandora could easily double the number of ads and still have a very pleasant consumer experience.

2. Pandora made approximately $86 million from advertising on total revenues of $101 million last quarter.  Let’s say they double the amount of advertising and they only generate another 65 million from doubling ads.  This gives them a minimum of $151 million in revenue. And that is an increase of 50%.

But seriously folks, have investors considered that the so-called Internet Radio Fairness act could take years to pass?  And then once it passes it requires the President to appoint new judges that would have to be approved by the Senate.  Does that sound like a quick fix to you folks?  But that’s not all . These new judges would then have to convene new hearings on the royalty rates under the new below fair market value standards.    This would take years.

On the other hand Pandora could start increasing revenue tomorrow by simply airing more ads.  This is what most main street businesses do.  They need more revenue?  They generate more revenue.  They don’t run to the federal government to force their suppliers to lower their prices!  Adapt or die Pandora!

Of course we know the IRFA is about more than royalty rates.  This is about agency capture.  It’s about replacing current judges with judges that are more friendly to the the Tech and Broadcast industry’s agenda.  It’s about not allowing artists and their representatives to speak out when mega-broadcasters propose direct licensing deals that benefit labels at the expense of artists.   We artists could be prosecuted under The Sherman Act if this bill passes!

Let’s just hope that congress sees this for what it is: Crony Capitalism.