Big Cleanup Job, Tip #1

 

Tip: When facing a large mess, forget about developing a plan of attack. You’ll only waste time standing around rather than actually making progress. Just reach in, grab the nearest thing, haul it out into the light, and deal with it. Step and repeat.  Mind the spiders.

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Lots of stuff has piled up in the last few months; so following my own advice, I’m just going to grab one or two items from the pile and drag them out in no particular order. Additional posts will follow as I work my way through the accumulated junk.

Proposed COMCAST / Time Warner Merger

While this has been pushed back in the news by impending climate catastrophe, revival of the cold war, and planes falling from the sky, this is still something you should be paying attention to. After all, it would really suck to not have anything decent to watch on TV as the world crumbles. The New York Times continues its “who the hell knows, make up your own damned mind about things” approach to covering the COMCAST deal, with a positive article in today’s business section by James B. Stewart- A Vision Beyond Cable for Comcast After Merger . This merger-friendly article contrasts with a piece by David Carr on Feb. 16- Stealthily, Comcast Fortifies its Arsenal, as well as a doubtful editorial on Feb. 13-  If a Cable Giant Becomes Bigger.  I find it hysterical that Stewart, supporter of  COMCAST taking over Time Warner, mentions he’s a Time Warner customer and hates them.  Carr, in opposition to the deal, states he’s a customer of COMCAST, and loathes them.

Susan Crawford, author of “Captive Audience- The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age” has also spoken out in opposition to the merger.  In a presentation at Harvard on March 04 and also in an interview with the Harvard Law Record, she gives numerous reasons for concluding the merger will not be good for consumers.  Here’s an excerpt from her interview:

For most Americans, the only choice for high capacity Internet connection is their local cable monopoly, . . . A Comcast-Time Warner merger would make an already terrible situation incrementally worse in that Comcast would have additional scale. And scale is the secret to this business.    -Susan Crawford

The NY Times had another interesting piece by Eric Lipton, on Feb. 20- COMCAST’s Web of Lobbying and Philanthropy that focused on COMCAST’s lobbying machine, and mentioned that  former Sen. Don Nickles, the Copyright Alliance’s facilitator, is now on COMCAST’s newly formed merger strategy team.  The article digs into the web of charities and special interest groups that receive support from COMCAST and which might now be expected to lend a hand in getting the merger with Time Warner approved.

But don’t worry, Graphic Artists Guild members and defenders of the Copyright Alliance!! I’m sure this has nothing to do with you. Oh, wait, that’s right, the Copyright Alliance lobbyists work for Sen. Nickles at the Nickles Group LLC, and Executive Director Sandra Aistars was a Time Warner VP before coming to the Alliance. Move along!  Nothing to see here, folks.

 

TPP: Text on Copyright and IP Leaked

The Trans-Pacific Partnership continues to spook a growing number of people, and today Wikileaks dumped a ton of fuel on the fire by publishing the chapter of the TPP that covers copyright and intellectual property rights.  In addition to the Wikileaks bombshell, 151 house Democrats sent a letter to the President today, declaring their opposition to “fast track” trade negotiation authority on TPP.

Here are resources with further details.

WikiLeaks: Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)

Public Citizen: Leaked Documents Reveal Obama Administration Push for Internet Freedom Limits, Terms That Raise Drug Prices in Closed-Door Trade Talks
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DeLauro, Miller Lead 151 House Dems Telling President They Will Not Support Outdated Fast Track for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Knowledge Ecology International: KEI analysis of Wikileaks leak of TPP IPR text, from August 30, 2013

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Last but not least, here’s a video on why all this business about the TPP should be important to you. (Discussion on TPP begins at 13:27, after drone warfare segment)

The Top Secret Trade Deal You Need to Know About / MOYERS & COMPANY Oct. 30, 2013

Trade Agreements Still Rolling

Negotiations on both the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) continue to roll along, despite the federal government being shut down.  Too bad; our current, truly epic storm surge of political bull crap could really use a silver lining.  I’ve posted below a few more resources on these trade agreements for you that help explain just how potentially harmful they could be to everyone’s rights and livelihoods.

If you were aware of the dangers of SOPA, or feel copyright law is important to your business, you should be paying attention to these trade deals as much as any other developments in U.S. law.

TPP: Corporate Power Tool of the 1%

PublicCitizen / Eyes on Trade

Democracy Now! Video: “A Corporate Trojan Horse”: Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws

Net Neutrality and Creators

My sense is that when artists think about or discuss their economic and political interests, copyright law is often the dancing elephant in the center ring that unfortunately draws too much attention from other issues that creators should also be worried about.  One very important issue is net neutrality, which has been in the news recently.

On September 9 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit heard arguments from Verizon, which is challenging FCC rules designed to keep the internet open and neutral.  If net neutrality hasn’t been on your radar, and you don’t know anything about common carrier rules, or how they affect the internet, I would recommend you catch up by reading this article by Timothy Lee in the Washington Post (Sept. 10, 2013).  Net Neutrality is on Trial in Washington.  Here’s What You Need to Know.  (See also the other resources listed below).

Net neutrality matters to all creators, if you consider what the marketplace for artistic services might look like if Verizon, AT&T, Time-Warner, and COMCAST win their fight to lock up internet access and content.  Increased costs just for access, plus arbitrary data caps with associated high fees and penalties, will mean fewer consumers buying less content; suppression of competitors will reduce the need for providing quality service and programming; fewer buyers of creative works will mean that the big players will have increased leverage over what they pay you for your work.  And that’s just looking at a loss of net neutrality from a purely business and financial bottom-line viewpoint; from an ordinary citizen’s vantage, allowing a handful of corporations to monopolize the internet and choose what content is favored, or even available, would be an unthinkable assault on the basic rights of all Americans.

It’s worth mentioning here that the Graphic Artists Guild, as an associate member of the Copyright Alliance, is actually in league against the interests of creators.  While the Alliance regularly sends out its clowns to keep everyone’s attention focused on the copyright elephant, its lobbyists are busy at their real day jobs representing Nickles Group LLC clients COMCAST and AT&T, not to mention a slew of other corporate interests that are very unfriendly to the creative community.

Here are a number of other articles and resources for catching up on the issue of net neutrality, and what the telecoms are up to:

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Eli Clifton. The Telecom Astroturf Lobby. The American Independent. Sept. 11, 2013.


Michael J. Copps. The New Telecom Oligarchs. The Nation, April 3, 2013.


Michael Weinberg. If You Are Streaming Video, You Can’t Cap Your Rivals (Time Warner Cable Edition). PublicKnowledge.org, August 28, 2013


Timothy Karr.  Verizon’s Plan to Break the Internet.  Common Dreams, Sept. 21, 2013.


Moyers & Company.  Susan Crawford on Why U.S. Internet Access is Slow, Costly and Unfair.  Video interview, Feb. 8, 2013.

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The New and Improved IAG Blog

This site is no longer my blog for the IAG, the “Illustrators at the Guild,” my interest group for members of the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, inc.  Unfortunately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the numerous problems within the Guild are insurmountable, and have decided that remaining as either an officer or member of the Graphic Artists Guild would not be a productive use of my time.

All my posts will be preserved for the benefit of Guild members who might still want to know some of the specifics about their organization, and exercise their rights to participate in its governance.  While I’ll still have a few things to say about the Guild, I will be speaking to the broader interests of artists, designers, and the arts community.  To any and all remaining Guild members, I hope you will pay attention to how your organization is being managed, and whether or not it is serving as an effective voice for your interests.

Sincerely,

Christopher Johnson