EFF comes to new music piracy app’s defense
By now many have heard the news that a much-anticipated “Popcorn Time” for music launched this week. Dubbed “Aurous,” the new app goads users into downloading the app with the catchline, “Enjoy music how you want to for free.” Unfortunately, as we all know, music is not free to create, nor should it be free to consume.
Andrew Sampson, developer of Aurous, claims his app is legal and compares its functionality to that of Google’s search engine. Of course we all know what Google’s record has been when it comes to linking to pirated content. Sampson told Billboard:
We’re pulling content from sources that are licensed. From a legal standpoint, what we’re doing is okay. All files are streamed from legitimate sources — we don’t host anything. We only share cached results over peer-to-peer…
…There are a lot of sites saying we’re the Popcorn Time of music. That’s not accurate. We can play content from all around the web, and we use a BitTorrent-style technology to share links to content — but not that actual content itself.
The problem is that much of the content on those so-called legit sources is NOT actually licensed. There’s plenty of pirated content on YouTube (one of the sources Aurous uses). As noted in a piece by Rich McCormick in Verge.
In addition to potentially acceptable locations, such as official promotional streams and music videos, these services could also draw from sources that would upset record labels: tracks illegally uploaded to SoundCloud, for example, or leaked albums put on YouTube weeks before their street dates. Ads, too, could be stripped out by Aurous, denying labels extra cash per play.
Of course Aurous has its defenders. Predictably the Electronic Frontier Foundation got into the act with this unfortunate Tweet using the hashtag #SOPApower.
— EFF (@EFF) October 13, 2015
Per usual, folks at the EFF seem to believe there’s something noble in enabling online piracy. As it repeatedly demonstrates through its advocacy, the EFF’s view is that musicians don’t really have the right to earn money off their hard work.
I imagine, however, that those employed at the EFF to think up with these insightful Tweets appreciate the paychecks they earn. According to documents published on Pro Publica, in 2013 the EFF spent $3,402,997 on salaries for its 49 employees. (That averages out to nearly 70k per employee).
For the record the EFF’s total revenue in 2013 was a tidy $9,444,822. The organization’s net assets were listed over 15 million. I wonder what additional pro-artist advocacy the Content Creators Coalition could do with 15 million bucks?
Though I certainly don’t begrudge those at EFF the right to earn a decent living by Tweeting about SOPA (an act of Free Speech) plenty of musicians would undoubtedly be thrilled to earn a salary anywhere close to the EFF 70K average.
That the EFF continues to demonstrate such disdain for artists by defending a piracy app like Aurous right out of the gate isn’t surprising, but it’s also not a strategy based on public good. Rather, it’s a strategy that’s good for the tech industry–an industry built on the credo of take first, (maybe) ask permission later.
EFF’s SOPA perseveration
Because it does the bidding of the tech industry, it’s not entirely surprising to see that the EFF media team relies on raising the SOPA battle cry again and again. After all, SOPAs defeated is is generally considered the tech industry’s greatest lobbying win yet.
Let’s remember that SOPA was introduced in 2011. Last time I checked it’s 2015. Despite the fact SOPA is long dead and buried, EFF’s talking points continue to rely on SOPA as a worn out buzzword to rally the troops. I would caution the EFF powers that be to remember what happened to the boy who cried “wolf” too many times.
Ultimately there’s something unseemly in an organization that boasts net assets of over 15 million dollars working so hard to undermine artists’ (often meager) livelihoods. Taking down Aurous will NOT “break the internet.” What it will do is help protect the work of musicians so that they can earn a living wage through the legal distribution of the work.
The RIAA and three major labels, thankfully, have field suit to shut Aurous down. They’re employing legal means, Aurous will have its day in court. Despite the implication of EFF’s #SOPApower Tweet no one is asking Congress to pass new SOPA-like legislation. The suit charges:
“Aurous blatantly infringes the (Major Labels’) copyrights be enabling internet users to search for, stream and download pirated sound recordings.”
I say good luck. Aurous is an app designed to facilitate theft and, last time I checked, that’s illegal.