Lotsa stuff happening, people. Here’s a catch up.
There should be news by week’s end as to whether the courts will honor the suit that SONA (Songwriters of North America) filed in September arguing that the Department of Justice overstepped its authority in it’s decision to back a Google incited request for “100% licensing” (more regulation on top of existing regulation). Google’s business model is to profit as much as possible from other people’s content. The lower licensing rates are, the better for Google.
I’m writing this a day or two prior to the decision because I’m still in that window where hope is aglow. I can’t help it. I’m a glass half full kinda gal. It’s possible that even up against a powerful lobby, the court may opt to take our dismay seriously and allow our case to proceed. That would be excellent. That said…things don’t always go as hoped. If they dismiss the SONA case well…I’m not actually privy to say what SONA will do. But it’s safe to say, we won’t go quietly.
A similar suit—one that BMI filed a few days later—was upheld by rate court judge Louis Stanton, who rejected the Google/DoJ’s self serving interpretation of our consent decree. They were sent home from the court house along with many devising Google lawyers.
Jeez, something just doesn’t feel right about the Justice Department, especially since Renata B. Hesse, head of the Antitrust Division (and former consultant for Google), was responsible for the DoJ’s 100% licensing position. Umm, isn’t the DoJ supposed to be about justice? Fighting for the People instead of against us? Silly People...so naive.
Moving right along. Not surprisingly, two days after the Presidential election the DoJ appealed Judge Stanton’s ruling. This was curious timing to say the least. Word had it they didn’t want to upset the superstars who were still actively and effectively performing at campaign rallies in support of the candidates.
But as soon as the election was over? Boom.
I’d like to think that Chance or JayZ or Bruce or Katy might have whispered something in Hillary’s ear during one of those events…something like…”If you get elected could you puhleez have a look at these outdated laws and practices? Songwriters and artists need relief.” (As do photographers, novelists and poets.) But it wouldn’t have mattered cuz she ain’t gonna be the POTUS.
I often wondered why Bey never mentioned anything to Obama at one of the many White House soirees she attended. I guess partying with a POTUS and Michelle is pretty fancy…who would want to spoil the fun with tiresome conversation about unfair distribution of wealth? :(
Now we are going to have a new POTUS. And it just so happens right leaning administrations are more open minded about intellectual property issues. Interestingly, however, during quite a few of the Donald’s campaign rallies hit songs were played as backdrops without the consent of the songwriters who penned them. When cease-and-desist letters were filed they were ignored. Eventually, the campaign acquiesced. Or perhaps it was simply time to move on to another song.
One would think a candidate would care about the blessing of the copyright holder. But candidates are busy. Perhaps we were overlooked.
It goes without saying that this practice is more offensive to a songwriter if their song is being used to bolster a candidate he or she does not endorse. But it matters even if they do. It’s our property.
So the Donald has an opportunity here to make nice. He could appoint a new Attorney General who would enforce the expertise of Judge Stanton's ruling against the DoJ. He could also support the CODE act, a bipartisan effort to move the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress, so that it has autonomy and can operate more efficiently. He could order ancient consent decrees be amended or vacated. These would be good starts.
It should also be pointed out to the POTUS elect that over the years current POTUS has become very chummy with Google and the tech giant's practices. We were not successful in showing him the error of these ways. The Donald has promised to do things differently. This is an area where I hope he does. It would be a Huge gesture of good will and would improve an ecosystem in disarray. And we would be ever so appreciative.
So C'mon Donald, here’s your chance. Show us that your silly tweets are just part of your unconventional bravado and behind them there's a heart that really beats for the little guy and for unsung heroes who write the songs that make the world go round. You can do it...before you get too busy.
Make the music industry great again.
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