YouTube’s DMCA Abuse and Indie Labels: How Google is Blowing it for the Honest People

26 Jun

Music Technology Policy

In a speech at Canadian Music Week, Beggars Group Chairman Martin Mills was not only right, he was prescient:

Google, the parent of YouTube, [is] one of the companies that have made billions on the back of [the DMCA notice and takedown,] a statutory provision intended to protect ordinary people acting innocently.

Google has now refined the DMCA to a tool to leverage its anticompetitive activities.  Here’s how it works.

1.  Google opens the YouTube platform to unauthorized “user generated content” and says to artists (literally in this case) “Does yuse wants to play whack a mole or make some dough?”  This is called the notice and shakedown.

2.  Google then jams a settlement down the throats of major labels and sticks it to everyone else.  Publishers are next.

3.  Google pays the lowest royalty online with a big advance to majors and spaghetti statements to everyone else that probably…

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Best Practices for Unmatched Royalties

25 Jun

Music Technology Policy

The Copyright Office Music Licensing Study Roundtables have brought up a couple of nagging issues regarding connecting royalty payments with the songwriters or artists who are entitled to payment.

The first comes up with services that rely on the Section 115 compulsory license for songs.  The statute requires the digital service that uses the song to send a notice in advance of using the song.  The notice informs the songwriter that the service intends to rely on the compulsory license.  There are some procedural safeguards built into this notice process, but common sense will tell you that if you’re going to send the notice, the service has to know who the songwriter is and probably how to reach them.

This means that there should be a very limited category of unknown songwriters whose music is used without being notified.  It also assumes that the service does not use the music without…

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Chris Castle Interviews Blake Morgan on Pandora, IRFA and the #Irespectmusic campaign

23 Apr

The MTP Podcast: Keith Bernstein of talks with Chris Castle on Royalty Audits

27 Mar

Music Technology Policy

My interview with Keith Bernstein, the preeminent auditor of digital music services.  A “royalty auditor” visits digital music services on behalf of artists and copyright owners to make sure they are paying royalties in accordance with the services’ contracts.  Keith has conducted these “royalty compliance examinations” (or “audits”) against every major digital music service, frequently multiple times.  As he was one of the first to focus on digital services as our future income back in 2000, he’s a leader in his field.

Keith’s companies are Royalty Review Council for audits and accounting, and Crunch Digital for assisting entrepreneurs with servicing licenses and the Crunch Digital Agency to assist entrepreneurs in obtaining licenses from rights holders for the use of music in their products.

Theme music by Guy Forsyth, “Where’d You Get the Music?”

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The MTP Interview: David Lowery on artist rights

23 Mar

Music Technology Policy

A blast from the past:  My extended interview with David Lowery about the formation of his Trichordist blog, the “Letter to Emily”, and more.

Theme music by Guy Forsyth, “Where’d You Get the Music?”

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Why Can’t Songwriters Audit? A Brief Guide to Statutory Audits Under the U.S. Copyright Act

19 Mar

Music Technology Policy


Whoever you are…I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

From A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams

Songwriters earn a sizable percentage of their ever decreasing income from mechanical royalties.  Until the last few years, mechanical royalties were almost always licensed under direct licenses to record companies that incorporated by reference the statutory license provisions of Section 115 of the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act and the corresponding regulations.  Section 115 is a direct–and almost word for word–descendant of Section 1(e) of the 1909 U.S. Copyright Act.

Why so little change in nearly 70 years?  Until 2000 or so, nobody used statutory licenses except in the rarest of circumstances.  Instead, the statutory license became something like the Uniform Partnership Act or the Uniform Commercial Code.  It could be used for reference but was often–almost always–modified in a direct license.

The main point that was added in these…

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Should Artists Hitch Their Royalties to Advertising in the YouTube Monopoly: @zoecello’s insights

15 Mar

Music Technology Policy

I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
No, I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am
But everybody wants you
To be just like them
They say sing while you slave and I just get bored
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more

From Maggie’s Farm by Bob Dylan
Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music
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We’ve pointed out for years that the collision of the Web 2.0 advertising based economy creates an odd and unhealthy dynamic for artists.  There is no place where this is more prevalent than YouTube.

YouTube routinely delivers random advertising for a variety of products against artist videos (either the “official” video or user generated versions of the official video).  This means that artists have lost control of a…

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