We’ve been reporting for the last few days on NPR joining Pandora, Clear Channel, National Association of Broadcasters and Google in the MIC Coalition which seeks to lower rates paid to artists and to keep songwriters under DOJ supervision (because what these large corporate and state chartered near monopolies need is “anti-competition” protection from songwriters? WTF?).
This has puzzled us because NPR already enjoys a dramatically lower royalty rate than most other radio. Further we artists often waive our rights and allow NPR use of our recordings royalty free in perpetuity. We willingly support NPR in this manner because we believe they provide a public service. We have been a solid ally of public and community radio. Why would they turn against us and join this dark side coalition?
Now we think we have the answer.
NPR CEO Jarl Mohn is a card carrying member of the dark side. He funded the bittorrent piracy client Vuze not once but twice. He was part of the B series round of $12 million and the C series round of $20 million. And make no mistake Vuze is a key part of the piracy ecosystem.
Yeah yeah yeah, we heard it before: “Vuze is just a tool and they don’t profit from piracy” Bullshit. Vuze profits directly from the illegal distribution of my material by knowingly serving advertising against it.
Allow me to demonstrate with the tracks from my latest album.
This is a screenshot of the Vuze client while downloading an unlicensed copy of my new album Berkeley to Bakersfield. Down in the left hand corner there is an ad for American Express served by the publicly traded web advertising firm Quantcast. (Coincidentally a couple of years ago I privately defended Quantcast against similar charges, now I feel like a fucking idiot.)
To be clear this is not a webpage and ad exchange banner advertising. No one played some “tunneling” or DNS forwarding trick to make American Express and Quantcast think it wasn’t advertising on this site. This advertising is embedded into a piece of software that is used almost exclusively for downloading illegally distributed films music and pornography. How does American Express not know this? Quantcast? Or Jarl Mohn?
How did NPR come up with a CEO with such questionable ethics? This guy had to know what he was funding: A tool to infringe the rights of artists on global scale. If not he’s really really dim.
But it gets worse. The piracy advocating website Torrent Freak appears to be sponsored by the very same company: Vuze. That’s right the piracy revolution will not be televised but it will be sponsored by amoral Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists. You really thought Torrent Freak was an ideological true believer fighting for your rights to “share” against the man? Nope looks they are the marketing department for the man who makes advertising money off of your sharing activity.
Here’s a screenshot from the Torrent Freak website helpfully alerting it’s readers to availability of the leaked Game of Thrones Season 5 on Kick Ass Torrents and the Pirate Bay. Look carefully at the code. The ad for Vuze isn’t just randomly served by some online adexchange. It’s embedded into the site. Someone had to go in and place that link and that JPG into the code. Plus the visible text actually claims them a “sponsor.”
So you are really gonna tell me with a straight face that no money is changing hands here? Vuze is not paying “Ernesto” the editor of Torrent Freak? While Ernesto is pretty much inducing piracy and giving advice on how to avoid prosecution?
How is this not a conspiracy? I mean conspiracy like RICO Conspiracy (See details below).
And it all started with money from NPR CEO Jarl Mohn.
Fire this guy.
NPR affiliates, DJs, Journalists and independent public radio stations need to stand with artists against these assholes. Heres our olive branch. Please join us.
It’s Torches and Pitchforks time. It’s not gonna be prett.y
STOP IF YOU DON’T WANT TO GO INTO A DEEP DIVE ON RACKETEERING AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATION (RICO) STATUTES.
I’m not a lawyer but the intent of the law seems pretty clear. To prevent groups of people-even if only informally organized-from engaging in coordinated criminal activity. Specifically when it disrupts legitimate marketplaces like those for recorded music or online advertising.
“RICO is designed to attack organized criminal activity and preserve marketplace integrity by investigating, controlling, and prosecuting persons who participate or conspire to participate in racketeering.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1286 (8th ed. 2005).
There are a host of organized “scams” that generally occur in the peer to peer advertising ecosystem including within the Vuze client. Maybe there are some prosecutors or litigators out there who can help me with this? Aren’t the following part of the RICO statute?
1) Mass copyright infringement.
2) Advertisers publicly claim to not know where there ads are being served. If this is true then there is fraud going on. Someone along the way, advertising agencies, ad exchanges, and/or companies like Vuze are behaving improperly. Since it involves the online ad ecosystem wouldn’t this be Wire Fraud?
3) Uh… how do I say the obvious? P2P networks have a lot of pornography? A lot! I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine illegal pornography isn’t also being monetized with advertising as it’s transferred using the Vuze client. How can you possible be allowed to make money off of illegal pornography and not be prosecuted?
4) Anyone visiting a site like The Pirate bay has probably noticed the relentless advertising for Russian or Asian Brides. Human trafficking anyone?
5) These same sites often feature ads for third party websites that claim to enroll applicants into a “US Green Card Lottery.” The US has never used third parties for its “Diversity Visa” program and at the present time the US is not accepting applications for diversity visas. All websites advertising for the 2017 lottery are highly suspect. (An early version of this article made it seem as if the US never had a Diversity Visa or “Green Card Lottery” that was incorrect).
Now check out the RICO definitions. My bold italics added.
18 U.S. Code § 1961 – Definitions:
As used in this chapter—
(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act), which is chargeable under State law and punishable by imprisonment for more than one year; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: Section 201 (relating to bribery), section 224 (relating to sports bribery), sections 471, 472, and 473 (relating to counterfeiting), section 659 (relating to theft from interstate shipment) if the act indictable under section 659 is felonious, section 664 (relating to embezzlement from pension and welfare funds), sections 891–894 (relating to extortionate credit transactions), section 1028 (relating to fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents), section 1029 (relating to fraud and related activity in connection with access devices), section 1084 (relating to the transmission of gambling information), section 1341 (relating to mail fraud), section 1343 (relating to wire fraud), section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud), section 1351 (relating to fraud in foreign labor contracting), section 1425 (relating to the procurement of citizenship or nationalization unlawfully), section 1426 (relating to the reproduction of naturalization or citizenship papers), section 1427 (relating to the sale of naturalization or citizenship papers), sections 1461–1465 (relating to obscene matter), section 1503 (relating to obstruction of justice), section 1510 (relating to obstruction of criminal investigations), section 1511 (relating to the obstruction of State or local law enforcement), section 1512 (relating to tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant), section 1513 (relating to retaliating against a witness, victim, or an informant), section 1542 (relating to false statement in application and use of passport), section 1543 (relating to forgery or false use of passport), section 1544 (relating to misuse of passport), section 1546 (relating to fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents), sections 1581–1592 (relating to peonage, slavery, and trafficking in persons).,  section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce, robbery, or extortion), section 1952 (relating to racketeering), section 1953 (relating to interstate transportation of wagering paraphernalia), section 1954 (relating to unlawful welfare fund payments), section 1955 (relating to the prohibition of illegal gambling businesses), section 1956 (relating to the laundering of monetary instruments), section 1957 (relating to engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity), section 1958 (relating to use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire), section 1960 (relating to illegal money transmitters), sections 2251, 2251A, 2252, and 2260 (relating to sexual exploitation of children), sections 2312 and 2313 (relating to interstate transportation of stolen motor vehicles), sections 2314 and 2315 (relating to interstate transportation of stolen property), section 2318 (relating to trafficking in counterfeit labels for phonorecords, computer programs or computer program documentation or packaging and copies of motion pictures or other audiovisual works), section 2319 (relating to criminal infringement of a copyright), section 2319A (relating to unauthorized fixation of and trafficking in sound recordings and music videos of live musical performances), section 2320 (relating to trafficking in goods or services bearing counterfeit marks), section 2321 (relating to trafficking in certain motor vehicles or motor vehicle parts), sections 2341–2346 (relating to trafficking in contraband cigarettes), sections 2421–24 (relating to white slave traffic), sections 175–178 (relating to biological weapons), sections 229–229F (relating to chemical weapons), section 831 (relating to nuclear materials), (C) any act which is indictable under title 29, United States Code, section 186 (dealing with restrictions on payments and loans to labor organizations) or section 501 (c) (relating to embezzlement from union funds), (D) any offense involving fraud connected with a case under title 11 (except a case under section 157 of this title), fraud in the sale of securities, or the felonious manufacture, importation, receiving, concealment, buying, selling, or otherwise dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act), punishable under any law of the United States, (E) any act which is indictable under the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act, (F) any act which is indictable under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 274 (relating to bringing in and harboring certain aliens), section 277 (relating to aiding or assisting certain aliens to enter the United States), or section 278 (relating to importation of alien for immoral purpose) if the act indictable under such section of such Act was committed for the purpose of financial gain, or (G) any act that is indictable under any provision listed in section 2332b (g)(5)(B);
(2) “State” means any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, any territory or possession of the United States, any political subdivision, or any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof;
(3) “person” includes any individual or entity capable of holding a legal or beneficial interest in property;
(4) “enterprise” includes any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity;