The ISDS written into the Trans-Pacific Partnership / TPP is really not at all hard to understand. It’s just impossible to like. Public Citizen covers the details nicely; see– Investor-State Attacks.
The ISDS written into the Trans-Pacific Partnership / TPP is really not at all hard to understand. It’s just impossible to like. Public Citizen covers the details nicely; see– Investor-State Attacks.
The attitude that politics doesn’t matter seems nearly universal sometimes. Big shrug from you, maybe? I won’t hold it against you. Scratching out a living is tougher than ever, and ignoring things that aren’t screaming in your face is simply a survival instinct. Also, part of the equation is that many powerful entities are quite happy to keep you disinterested, and are making sure of it by delivering an ever-increasing stream of useless information shamefully labeled “news” that helps foster this attitude that not a damned bit of it matters, that nothing ever changes, that it’s all just another 24-hour news cycle, that today is just the same as yesterday, and tomorrow will be exactly the same as today.
The New York Times has unfortunately gone over to the dark side, and mostly completed its transition from journalistic riches to rag by doing what most mainstream media outlets have done– tell you little of substance about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) while very occasionally repeating some of the generic selling points coming from the major corporate interests that are behind it. They’re not completely lost, however, and did one good thing this past week– they published an excellent series of articles on Arbitration.
Stacking the Deck of Justice (First of Three Articles)
Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Robert Gebeloff. New York Times. Oct. 31, 2015
. . . clauses buried in tens of millions of contracts have deprived Americans of one of their most fundamental constitutional rights: their day in court.
Having done this, it would be a beautiful and magical thing for the Times to connect the dots and follow up with an exposé on how THE TPP IS ALL ABOUT ARBITRATION ON A GLOBAL SCALE. Almost every article critical of the TPP expresses grave concern over the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS), which essentially gives corporate interests the ability to avoid U.S. courts by sending disputes to arbitration. Maybe there’s a series of full-spread articles just about to be published by the Times, that will help to make up for their many months of lousy / minimal coverage. That would be great.
On the other hand, if the New York Times decides to continue with their minimization of the TPP, I would suggest visiting Public Citizen, Naked Capitalism, or the Intercept to see what the Times is not telling you about that big light streaking across the sky.
On Friday, the NYT very conveniently published yet another article demonstrating how they are promoting the TPP. Obama Pushes New Pacific Trade Pact Ahead of Asia Trip. Peter Baker. Nov. 13, 2015
If you want to sell some rusty old wheezer of a used car or other lemon while camouflaging your article as “news,” Peter Baker hits all the right notes–
Well done, Peter Baker and the New York Times.
I haven’t bothered writing much about the Graphic Artists Guild this past year, mostly to preserve my peace of mind and save energy for more productive matters, but every now and then something comes to my attention that tempts me to write more about them. A recent news item posted by the Guild about Milt Glaser’s climate change message, “It’s not Warming, It’s Dying” finally caused a big enough spike on my irony-o-meter for me to go to the trouble, not to mention that with Earth Day being here the timing’s exactly right.
Milt’s work is great and I love it, but it kills me that the Guild can talk about climate while at the same time their Copyright Alliance friends are up to no good when it comes to the environment. In case you haven’t visited my previous posts or learned this elsewhere, the Copyright Alliance is a front group created largely by associates of former Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) and his lobbying firm, the Nickles Group LLC, that caters to the interests of a few corporate interests and not so much those of the individual creators as they frequently claim. Despite knowing this the Guild continues to support them and has sent them a fair amount of money. (Directly to the D.C. office of the Nickles Group, as a matter of fact.) Sen. Don Nickles is a staunch conservative and longtime opponent of organized labor, workplace safety regulation, affordable healthcare, equal rights, and he has supported ALEC and other conservative causes during and after his time in the U.S. Senate, making it not the least bit surprising that both he and the people around him have quite a track record on the environment.
The Copyright Alliance has been advocating for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which has been widely denounced as a serious threat to laws protecting the environment both within the U.S. and around the world. This effort by the Alliance is part of a larger campaign by the MPAA and the other corporations it serves to get the TPP passed.
The Nickles Group Lobbies for Koch Industries. Other high profile fossil fuel clients of the Nickles Group: Anadarko Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, and National Oilwell Varco.
Don Nickles has been a vocal opponent of renewable energy, recently pushing for the elimination of tax credits for renewable energy producers.
Don Nickles was a board member of fracking giant Chesapeake Energy, which has not only polluted aquifers, but also screwed landowners with abusive pipeline contracts while doing it. Nickles resigned from the Chesapeake board in 2012, however, after being involved in CEO Aubrey McClendon’s troubles. It appears he’s still on Valero’s board of Directors.
Mitch McConnell’s new policy director is Hazen Marshall, a top aide to Don Nickles, and until taking the new position had been a lobbyist at the Nickles Group serving their oil and gas clients. If you heard about Sen. McConnell’s call for states to block President Obama’s initiatives on climate change, well then, you now know of one of the players behind the scenes who might have had a hand in formulating that bit of politicking.
The Nickles Group’s top client is the notorious patent troll Intellectual Ventures LLC, reported to be attacking the renewable energy industry. Intellectual Ventures has been harshly criticized for its modus operandi of threatening businesses with expensive lawsuits unless licenses to the patents owned by IV are purchased. Tech industry startups have been particularly hard hit by trolls; a past epidemic of poorly defined and very broadly written patents on items such as software code and other new technologies not sufficiently understood at the patent office has handed Intellectual Ventures and other trolls the opportunity to demand victims purchase licenses to dubious patents, or risk wasting millions on a legal fight even if they stand to win in court. This bloodsucking is now being done to companies in the renewable energy business with the help of the Nickles Group. Here’s the punch line- Cindi Tripodi, a key architect of the Copyright Alliance, is a founding partner of the Nickles Group and one of the lobbyists helping Intellectual Ventures do its damage to renewable energy.
So maybe now you’ll understand why I don’t take the people at the Graphic Artists Guild to be all that environmentally conscious. At some point I’ll probably also get worked up enough to write more about how they’re also not entirely credible when it comes to copyright and the economic interests of individual creators.
(P.S.- I must have done something right in a past life, because HBO just aired “Last Week Tonight” in which John Oliver did a marvelous job explaining patent trolls. Must see!)
Here, have some cheese.
Don’t mind the stuff connected to it that you can’t quite see or don’t understand. Trust me, it’s safe. Think of the darkness as comforting. But if you just can’t help yourself and still feel a little apprehensive despite repeated assurances that it’s perfectly safe, and tasty, and safe, you can always learn a little bit more about it.
Robert Scott. Fast Track to Lost Jobs and Lower Wages. Huffington Post. April 12, 2015
George Zornick. Now Congress is Fast-Tracking the TPP Fast Track. Nation. April 16, 2015
If you’re in a short-attention-span kinda mood, here’s a video that really nails the situation with our telecoms and the coming COMCAST / Time Warner merger- (contains explicit and entirely suitable language.)
And just in case you aren’t already supersaturated with bad news about telecoms and net neutrality, here are a few additional articles and resources:
Brendan Fischer. “How ALEC Helps Big Telecom Change State Laws for Corporate Gain” Center for Media and Democracy. February 13, 2014
Michael J. Copps. “From the desk of a former FCC Commissioner” Journalists need to generate a national discussion on the future of the internet. Columbia Journalism Review.February 13, 2014
John Light. “What’s the Right Path Forward on Net Neutrality?” Moyers & Company. February 4, 2014
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.
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)
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.
Democracy Now! Video: “A Corporate Trojan Horse”: Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws
(NOTE: Originally published June 20, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013. The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)
If you’re interested in the big picture of copyright and IP policy, and wish to know a little bit about the political sausage-grinding that will likely have an impact on the graphic arts industry, not to mention the U.S. economy and citizen’s rights, here are a few items you might want to dig into:
There’s additional background information on Public Knowledge’s TPP page. If you watched the video or are already aware of MPAA’s and RIAA’s support for SOPA/PIPA and now TPP, then you’re probably not very comfortable with the Graphic Artists Guild’s support for them through their front group, the Copyright Alliance. While the Guild is very quiet about its membership in the Alliance, please note how the Guild’s logo is prominently displayed on the Copyright Alliance Members’ page.
In addition to the TPP continuing to roll along, there have been two noteworthy events in the past several days;
(Huffington Post, June 20, 2013.) Michael Froman, President Obama’s pick for USTR, will be overseeing negotiations on TPP and upcoming trade deals between the U.S. and Europe. He was overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate, with all Republican senators voting yes, and only 4 Democrats voting no. However, the dissenters Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI) Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have some serious concerns about the current lack of transparency in trade negotiations and Froman’s lack of support for more public disclosure.
I spent a couple hours watching C-SPAN’s coverage of the Senate confirmation hearing for nominee Thomas Wheeler on Tuesday. (C-SPAN Videos- Part I, Part II) While he appeared thoughtful and sympathetic to concerns across a wide spectrum of political viewpoints, (something all nominees have a tendency to do) I have more homework to do on him, since there will be some very large questions concerning copyright, net neutrality, corporate mergers, and god-knows what else coming before him as chair of the FCC. His background as a lobbyist, investor, and corporate telecom executive has raised some eyebrows; see the New York Times editorial of May 08, 2013- An Industry Man for the FCC.
(NOTE: Originally published June 12, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013. The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)
It’s obvious that most Guild members are far more concerned about those things that provide a direct benefit to their careers, such as creative and business skills training, than about a lot of stuff that falls under the broad heading of “advocacy.” It’s entirely understandable; putting out better promotions brings in more work; enlarging skill sets lands better jobs; sharpening business practices really, really matters to your bottom line. What’s happening in the Copyright law, Trade negotiation, and Tax Policy Jungles of Washington, D.C. is both extraordinarily complex and of indirect and uncertain consequence to your daily survival as a creative professional. Who the heck can spare the time to make sense of it? Particularly time that’s already stretched thin just trying to keep up on all the stuff having a direct impact?
Whether or not it matters all depends on what you think the Guild’s mission should be. If you think the Guild should be your voice and advocate, dealing with what’s happening in the jungle so that you can concentrate on your daily critical tasks, then it does matter.
That brings us to current news and events involving the Copyright Alliance, an organization that the Guild supports both financially and by tacit endorsement as a member of the Alliance. If you can find a few minutes, please read about what the lobbyists for the Copyright Alliance (a.k.a., the Nickles Group, LLC) have been up to.
As the company moves to Internet-based telephone service, it’s looking to shed regulatory obligations that benefit low-income Americans.
Leticia Miranda, June 10, 2013. The Nation Magazine.
“Since 2010, AT&T has been waging a deregulation campaign in several states across the country while aiming to move its traditional, wired telephone services to Internet Protocol (IP)-based services, which transmit voice communications digitally. With the help of corporate “bill mill” the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and support from companies like AT&T, state legislators have introduced a series of “model” bills aimed at preventing regulation of IP-based services in more than thirty states across the country, from Idaho to Georgia, Texas to New Hampshire.”
How are the regulatory changes that AT&T seeks bad for professional creators? It takes sorting out and understanding a good-sized chunk of the economics and the history of telecommunications regulations. (Sure, like you have a whole lot of time to dedicate to that.) Essentially what’s happening is that AT&T and the other major players in the communications game are questing for that ultimate goal in our not-quite free market system; the one really big principle that you were never taught in Economics 101, and that’s never, ever uttered by the serious people in discussions about economics: Providing the Least Amount of Goods and Services, While Charging the Most Possible.
As creators of content, our interests are served by having a broad and vibrant market in which to sell our products and services. Unfortunately, the major telecom corporations are whittling away at regulations that preserve competition and keep costs under control, harming our base of potential clients and customers. The terms we’ll need to agree to and the rates we’ll receive for our services are going to suffer in a market controlled by only a handful of corporations, who are working hard at maximizing their profits at the expense of service. This is the reason SOPA was such a bad deal for creators; it would have placed legal weapons into the hands of the largest telecoms, enabling them to suppress their competition. Reducing or eliminating net neutrality policies would likewise suppress competition, cut down on the number of our potential clients, and raise costs for the mere transmission of content. Dollars wasted on excessive transmission and access fees to phone and internet service are dollars not going to content creators. Powerful telecoms using their lobbying muscle to rake in bigger profits while being allowed to provide service of lesser quality is not in our interest.
The Nation article points to one element of AT&T’s strategy, which is to shut out many consumers that are in rural or poor regions that are harder to provide service to, and are therefore less profitable. From our standpoint, though, these are potential content consumers that are left out of the marketplace. If you find the AT&T article too indirect and tiresome, however, or you need more background first, I highly recommend that you view the video available online of Bill Moyers’ interview of Susan Crawford, to get a clearer view of what’s going on.
Moyers&Company. February 8, 2013.
The lobbyists that represent the Copyright Alliance, who are supposedly looking out for the interests of “creative individuals,” are all from the Nickles Group LLC with only one small exception. Simultaneously while representing the Alliance, the Nickles people are also representing: AT&T, COMCAST, and the MPAA, Motion Picture Association of America. Yup, the same interests that are frequently doing bad things to the marketplace you depend upon.
(NOTE: Originally published March 13, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013. The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)
If you’re the insatiably curious type and actually took time to browse through the Guild’s 2011 LM-2 financial report to the Department of Labor, you might have been puzzled to learn that most of the Guild’s revenue did not actually come from member dues. Not by a long shot; far and away the largest chunk of change the Guild received in 2011 is listed on page 4 of the report as simply “Other Receipts”:
So what the heck is that $593,275 all about? The “14” circled in red refers to Schedule 14:
Schedule 14 reveals that the real golden egg in the Guild’s fiscal basket is the $541,788 in Reprographic Royalties paid by the Authors Coalition of America (ACA). Guild members who’ve been around a while probably have heard of them, but newer members are likely to be completely in the dark. In my time at the Guild, there’s been very little open discussion about them; so to remedy this, here’s a very brief summary, which I’ll follow with links to more detailed articles that will give you a better picture of this very crucial part of the Guild’s finances.
Reprographic Rights- The Basics
Many countries have Reproduction Rights Organizations (RROs) that are given authority by their nation’s copyright laws to issue licenses and collect fees for the photocopying of copyrighted materials. RROs collect money in two ways; from “title-specific” fees, generated when copyright owners are identified and can be reimbursed directly for the copying of their works; and from “non-title-specific” fees charged for copying without recording who the individual owners are. This can happen where laws allow for the issuing of blanket licenses to institutions such as universities that want to photocopy large volumes of works without having to track each and every copyright owner. RROs collect and then redistribute non-title-specific funds to organizations that serve creative communities, so that artists and authors can at least benefit in some general way from the copying of protected works. These are the “reprographic royalties” that the Guild has been receiving.
There are many RROs around the world organized through the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFRRO). Since copyright law varies from country to country, the collection and redistribution of money is complex; for the most part it’s done through bilateral agreements between RROs of different nations, based on IFRRO guidelines.
In the United States, we do not have an RRO established by the federal government; however, IFRRO has designated the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), a nonprofit corporation, to receive funds from other countries and redistribute the money to organizations that support creators in America. The CCC gives a portion to the Authors Coalition of America, of which the Graphic Artists Guild is a member.
An article written by past Guild president Jonathan Combs is archived on the Guild’s website (no longer available) and gives a reasonable explanation of IFRRO, RROs, and reprographic rights money:
Foreign Reprographic Royalties: What They Are and Why They’re Important
by Jonathan Combs, Guild National President, 1998-2000
Note however, that in the article there’s mention of contractual limitations on the use of this money, making the situation a bit more complicated. In addition, the following quote speaks to our current managerial issues at the Guild:
“Several important principles guide RROs in their work. One is the concept of transparency — to be as open about business dealings as possible. Rights-holders should have access to budgets, surveys, and other business practices to avoid mismanagement or misuse of RRO funds. Another is accountability. In addition to being represented on RRO boards, rights-holder organizations should be accountable to their members through elective and democratic processes.”
Given the lack of financial information that’s been provided to both the international board of directors and the membership, it’s hard for me to reach the conclusion that the Guild has been living up to these principles, and to have much confidence that we’ve been meeting the contract terms for usage of reprographic royalties.
For additional information, and some very stark and unflattering viewpoints on the Guild’s usage of reprographic royalties, here are a few links of interest. The articles about the defamation lawsuit that the Guild brought against the IPA and Brad Holland have everything to do with how the Guild does or doesn’t use the royalty money, not to mention that the lawsuit is in its own right another very important subject that hasn’t been discussed much at the Guild.
Animation World Network, August 24, 2010
Mind Your Business: Who is Keeping Your Royalties?
Mark Simon is as mad as hell about reprographic royalties.
Print Magazine / Imprint website
Illustration and the Law
Steven Heller, May 10, 2011
Interview with Brad Holland
Graphic Artists Guild Notice of Appeal (pdf)
April 28, 2011
Association of Medical Illustrators / Press Release:
Graphic Artists Guild Lawsuit Dismissed
Access Court Documents / Defamation Lawsuit.
eCourts / main page
(follow ‘WebCivil Supreme’ link; log in, then search for case index number 109149/2008)
Let me wrap up by emphasizing one more time that if the Graphic Artists Guild is ever going to be a responsible advocate for artists and designers, and a good steward of the resources it’s entrusted with, there’s going to have to be a lot more sunlight around here, with many more members taking an interest in the governance of the Guild.