Obama, Meet Kafka [Chris Castle]
This piece examines how the Obama years have affected the music industry as well as how, according to Chris Castle, a suspiciously close relationship between the White House and Google has been to the detriment of musicians and other creatives.
Guest Post by Chris Castle on Music Technology Policy
Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested….”And why am I under arrest?” he then asked. “That’s something we’re not allowed to tell you. Go into your room and wait there. Proceedings are underway and you’ll learn about everything all in good time….”
From The Trial, by Franz Kafka.
It occurs to me that President Obama will go down in history as the American president who hurt artists and songwriters more than any other. And I can’t help noticing that right from the beginning of his Administration–perhaps even before he took office–Google has been an overwhelming influence on all aspects of his decision making. It should not be lost on anyone that the consistent beneficiary of the economic and emotional devastation visited upon artists and songwriters has been Google–starting with this gathering of the tribes barely a fortnight after President Obama took office held at the swank San Francisco pied à terre of Google’s head lawyer:
Whether its the Administration’s abject failure to stop Google’s profit from brand sponsored piracy, Obama’s miserable record on protecting the property rights of creators to Google’s benefit, or the latest insult today from the Obama Justice Department on 100% licensing, it is clear that we seem to always come out on the short end of the stick when it comes to Barack Obama. And I could go on, it’s not just these three points.
Realize this–it’s not political. Clearly. Some of President Obama’s biggest contributors and most loyal supporters are from the music business, so unless there is some wild disparity in campaign contributions or other consideration coming from Silicon Valley in general or Google in particular, it’s clearly not political.
Google clearly has an inside track on this Administration, however. In case you missed it, take a look at the number of White House visits by Google’s chief lobbyist Joanna Shelton (courtesy of the Google Transparency Project):
That’s right–Google’s lobbyist has more access to the White House than the insurance industry, Exxon, Microsoft or Comcast.
And that doesn’t even count the famous Google revolving door:
This is all of a piece. It is what perpetuates that ennui of shadows, that foreboding that somehow, some way we have done something wrong. For why else would they persecute us so? Don’t you wish they would just tell us what it is rather than bleed us from 1,000 cuts with DMCA takedown notices or today’s absurd through the looking glass ruling by the Obama Justice Department on 100% licensing?
As NMPA CEO David Israelite said in his statement about the bizarre ruling today, this contradictory mishmash that suggests an innate lack of the ability to think sequentially, this too leads back to Google and corrupt government run amok:
After a two year review of the consent decrees that govern ASCAP and BMI, career lawyers who were never elected nor confirmed to their positions, led by a lawyer who previously represented Google, determined that songwriters should have even fewer rights, less control over their intellectual property and be treated more unfairly than they already are.
The lawyer referred to is Renata B. Hesse, and we will have more on her in the coming days, including her violations of White House ethics rules (rules that don’t seem to apply to Google) and other odds and ends. Hers is a timeline replete with strange coincidences, secret White House meetings, and missing chunks of resume, all held together by a common thread: Whenever Hesse is around, Google seems to benefit.
It’s so blatant, you have to ask yourself why would government bureaucrats like DOJ antitrust lawyer David C. Kully stick their necks out so far in broad daylight. Easy answer–because they’re not sticking their necks out. These “jobsworths” are doing what they know the higher ups want them to do, and maybe even demand that they do. Now where have we heard that defense before?
Of course–if you read the DOJ’s ruling, you won’t find one single name of anyone–nobody–mentioned in the text. Nobody takes ownership of it. There’s not even a name in the document metadata.
If these lawyers were so confident of their work product, wouldn’t they have pride of authorship? Wouldn’t they want to be cited, quoted, pointed to? Apparently not. You don’t suppose that’s a sign of true cowardice, do you?
But remember this–it’s not just Renata Hesse. There are hundreds of Google people planted in the government, and hundreds of government people planted at Google. This is worse than Halliburton, Brown & Root, United Fruit, IT&T or Teapot Dome. The difference is that it is extremely unlikely that anyone will ever investigate any of it.
What has happened today is that the Obama Administration has–to the great benefit of Google and the MIC Coalition–kicked the can down the road.
The Obama Administration have successfully managed to trick the entire music industry into believing that their intentions were good with a two year delay (at least) of “reviewing” thousands of aspirational comments from songwriters about how to make the consent decrees work better for everyone.
You will hear people say that the Justice Department acted in good faith, that they meant well, that they just couldn’t find one single proposal to adopt from the public comments including those made by the Copyright Office. But remember you heard it here first…
I don’t know how these people sleep at night, but it’s bullshit. This game was rigged from the beginning. It’s the only explanation that makes any sense.
Songwriters are now faced with having to dig into meager royalty payments (more meager than seven years ago due in large part to the inaction of the Obama Administration) to sue a defendant that literally prints money–the Obama Justice Department–just to get something that approaches justice.
So stay tuned, I will have a lot more to say about this corruption. But if you have a vague foreboding that you’ve done something wrong but no one will tell you what it is, you’re right.
Mr. Obama, meet Mr. Kafka, the author. You’ll remember Mr. Kafka from the Google Books case.
He was on to you years ago.