Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Kashmir Hill, writing in Fusion:

Last night, Apple pushed out iOS 8.2 to my iPhone, an update to its operating system. The blurb for the update promised “improvements to the Health app.” Finally, I thought. When HealthKit was first introduced last year, it came under criticism for not taking women’s health needs into consideration.

The Apple app tracks an amazing assortment of possible health indicators: sleep, body mass index, number of times fallen, “electrodermal activity,” sleep, weight, sodium intake, copper intake, and even selenium intake. But it didn’t track the one thing most women want to track: their periods.

Spoiler alert: iOS 8.2 still doesn’t add support for tracking menstrual cycles. It’s apparently really difficult to find and/or talk to a woman at Apple, because this seems like a really basic thing to measure. If I can track selenium, half the people on the planet ought to be able to track their periods. It’s dumbfounding.

Published on under It’s a Man’s World

Straight from the horse wolf’s mouth, Vulf Records’s Jack Stratton on why Spotify is such a lousy deal for artists:

Take a single stream of “The Birdwatcher” in March 2014. Terry, the user, lives in the US and pays $9.99/month for Spotify. I, the artist, receive a total of $0.00786 over the next nine months:

  1. Licensed Use of Master — $0.00668
  2. Writer’s Performance Royalty — $0.00030
  3. Publisher’s Performance Royalty — $0.00030
  4. Streaming Mechanical Royalty — $0.00058

Total — $0.00786

Less than a cent. How did Spotify get this number? Spotify pools its revenue for March, gives 70% to artists and takes 30%. This is based on iTunes’ 70/30 split.

Stratton runs the math and explains how Spotify works now, as well as how it ought to work. It seems like a simple fix, but there’s a tremendous amount of inertia in the music industry. Specifically, there are a lot of middlemen, and they all want their cut. Stratton says his proposition is “simple and will never happen.”

The Pandorica Opens

It’s not just Spotify. In the span of just three months last year, Pandora played that Pharrell song “Happy” 43 million times. For that, Pharrell and his record company split $2,700. That’s absurd. It’s not like Pandora is getting rich, either. They lost $30 million last year, despite generating $920 million in revenue. How is that even possible? They paid less than three thousand dollars for one of the biggest songs of the year!

Well, shucks. Let’s have a look. Pandora’s a public company, which means they have to publicly report how they made/lost their money every quarter. The latest one is for the 4th quarter of 2014, and the costs are on page 48.

Pandora’s cost of revenue in 2014 was 55% of its gross revenue. This is “content acquisition costs,” which is the costs of licensing music, as well as “other” costs. Pandora spent roughly $442 million just on licensing content for use on its site. In exchange for that, they played roughly 20 billion hours of music for 81.5 million users. My personal iTunes library is 566 hours of music, and I have stuff in there I haven’t listened to since I was in college.

In Perspective

How long is 20 billion hours? That’s roughly 2.28 million years. To put it in perspective, 2.28 million years ago, one of the apex predators of North America was an eight foot tall, 300-pound bird named Titanis walleri. Pandora played enough music in 2014 to stretch all the way back to the heyday of the Titanis.

This assumes you have a time machine and Pandora One (because the ads would drive you crazy before you even got to the Crusades).

Published on under Disrupt Everything

Today’s First Post from Personal Democracy Media has a remarkably concise rebuttal to critics of net neutrality:

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) writes in Politico that we shouldn’t allow government to “crash” the Internet party. It’s worth reading his op-ed if you want the full gist of the current disinformation campaign against net neutrality. Rubio claims the FCC is going to “play favorites” with Internet service providers, which is like saying SEC plays favorites with stock brokers by requiring them to play by the same rules.

He also claims the Internet “is a place…[not] unlike a city or town”—which it is not, it is a set of protocols. And finally, he argues that “it belongs in the hands of our people,” which is a welcome sentiment that completely elides the fact that most of it runs thru pipes owned by avaricious monopolists.

Read Senator Rubio’s actual misguided take on net neutrality here. As PDM notes, this is what opposing arguments are likely to take in the runup to the FCC’s rulemaking.

Published on under The Digital Age

Today, Boston’s public radio station WBUR aired a segment on the recent $7.4 million lawsuit between the copyright owners of Blurred Lines and Got To Give It Up:

A lot of composers wondered if copyright is now being extended to cover not just lyrics and melody but a whole vibe. Rhythm. Timbre. This hour On Point: what’s theft now when it comes to music? To song?

It’s a good listen, but the real reason you want to visit WBUR’s web site is for the side-by-side comparison of songs and the other songs which allegedly ripped them off. Some of these I would have called shameless, before listening.

Published on under The Digital Age

By way of Eve Ahearn, I just learned that the prestigious Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University produces a podcast about the internet. And there’s an episode about a particlarly titillating subject of intellectual property laws: pornography.

From the show notes:

While the web has created incredible new economic opportunities for adult entertainers […] few other industries on the web face the glut of competition from services that offer similar content for free or in violation of copyright. Simply put, there’s so much free porn on the net that honest pornographers can’t keep up.

Surprisingly though, the porn industry doesn’t seem that interested in pursuing copyright violators. Intellectual property scholar Kate Darling studied how the industry was responding to piracy, and it turned out that – by and large – adult entertainment creators ran the numbers and found that it simply cost more from them to fight copyright violators than it was worth.

I will say that while the pornography industry may have adopted this approach on a broader scale, various independent artists have employed the “hey, you’ll download it anyway, so it might as well be from me” legal strategy. For example, MC Frontalot, who for a good many years simply gave away his music for free.

Published on under The Digital Age

The Boston Globe highlights the work of a standing committee in Massachussetts, convened by their Supreme Judicial Court. Is it about drug sentencing guidelines? Three Strikes laws? The death penalty?

Nope. It’s about memory. Specifically: it’s useless.

Eyewitness testimony is one of the most powerful forms of evidence in a trial. It’s also one of the most problematic; in fact, it’s “the number one cause of wrongful convictions,” says Daniel Medwed.

Medwed is a law professor at Northeastern and a member of the new Standing Committee on Eyewitness Identification, which was recently convened by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The committee is charged with devising police and court procedures that take into account the central lesson of research on eyewitness testimony: “Our memories of what we see aren’t static. They’re elastic and malleable and change over time,” Medwed says.

This is great news. The fact is that human memory is awfully fallible, and Massachusetts is researching ways to improve their use of other peoples’ memories. This is very important. But it’s not a surprise. I’ve written previously about how human memory isn’t a good foundation for our entire legal system.

The memory-related surprise this week is courtesy of Simon Oxenham at Neurobonkers, who describes a new study that found it’s not just eyewitnesses’ faulty memories you need to worry about; it’s your own traitorous brain’s as well:

It’s not often that a study comes along that makes me want to drop everything and read it from cover to cover, right there and then. It’s also not often that a paper is terminated early, out of fear of inflicting harm on participants; one memorable example is Zimbardo’s infamous Stanford prison experiment. Take note of that; we’ll come back to that later. One such paper was recently published in Psychological Science. Researchers convinced 70% of participants that they had committed a serious crime — theft, assault, or assault with a weapon, when in reality they had done no such thing. […]

The fact that the researchers were able to create false memories of serious crimes will likely make the study relevant in criminal trials involving alleged false memories. In the US, 30% of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence resulted from false confessions, admissions, statements to law enforcement, or guilty pleas, according to the Innocence Project. Many of these have been blamed on the controversial Reid technique of interrogation, that remains widely used by many police forces in the U.S. and around the world.

The numbers here are staggering and sickening. Subjects were deemed to be “convinced” they’d committed a crime if they “remembered” (i.e. invented) ten specific details about the crime itself. A full 70% of folks just wholesale invented a criminal experience under the right circumstances (i.e. ones which are very similar to the circumstances in which police interrogate suspects). Mind boggling. And then that second number: 30% of the folks exonerated by DNA evidence confessed to the crime.

You’ll want to read Oxenham’s piece. And then maybe you start keeping a really good diary. You know, just in case.

Published on under Legal Theory