Category Archives: Politics

Privacy and innovation – two parts of the same story

The information society has given birth to a popular new German word – “gläserner Mensch”, meaning a human being made of glass or simply “transparent individual”. It encapsulates Germans’ widespread fears that Google, Facebook, the state and others record every bit of information about them. Unfortunately, this disproportionate emphasis on privacy and data protection threatens to suppress innovation. A call for a more balanced discourse. Continue reading

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Can Google Wave revitalize online debates?

googlewave

Some days ago, I managed to get access to Google Wave; this highly anticipated, widely praised service that will revolutionize online collaboration and interaction. Well, I’m not that impressed, to be honest. It comes across like an advanced, non-linear chat programme of some sorts, which allows you to post different forms of media content and to write responses to earlier posts. Leaving aside the myth of a collaboration revolution for now, this sort of functionality may be perfect for online debates… Continue reading

The wind of change blowing through my London living room

berlinwall

I was only 5 years old when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. So I have no recollection of that day. I once had to interview my parents about it for a school assignment and they said we spent the night together watching it on TV, not believing (them) or not understanding (me) what we were witnessing. I should see if I can still find that essay somewhere in our attic back home. 20 years later, I’m living in London, following the celebrations through the eyes of the British media. Continue reading

Who Needs Information?

Radio KAOS

Pink Floyd has been with me all my life. My dad was listening to “Animals” when I was born. In the first 17 years of my life, I was involuntarily introduced to all of their other albums. Ever since they helped be overcome the worst moments of homesickness in the U.S. at the age of 18 – in particular “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall” – I have started to discover them for myself. Much to the liking of my dad, of course. When I asked last.fm to play me some Pink Floyd-like music the other day, it came up with “Who Needs Information?” by Roger Waters, a solo piece by one of the band members. Listening more closely, I thought it provides a very interesting perspective on communication – and the ever so timely warning that more information won’t solve all the world’s problems. Continue reading

Net Neutrality – Is all data created equal?

net_neutrality2

In principal, the bits of information required to display this blog should reach you as fast as any other information accessed on the Internet. It shouldn’t have to wait in line while your Skype call is coming through and it also shouldn’t be privileged over, let’s say, other (not so interesting) blogs. That’s what they call “net neutrality”. Continue reading

Election reporting – Turning bar charts into a multimedia show

Elefantenrunde

It was federal election time in Germany yesterday. Since this blog isn’t primarily about political commentary, I shall refer you here for a more detailed summary of the results, if you’re interested. In a nutshell, Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrat party (CDU) will form a new centre-right alliance with the pro-business Free Democrats Party (FDP). Since this blog is primarily concerned with communication and all its related matters, I took a closer look at how the election night was reported by mainstream and social media. Continue reading

Premium version of Lady Gaga coming back to Youtube (soon)

ladygaga

Good news! After several months of secret negotiations, Youtube and the Performing Rights Society (PRS) for music have finally agreed to make “premium music videos” available to viewers in the UK (that includes the author of this blog, who had to live with illegal, sometimes hard to find, but otherwise rather identical versions of the songs for a while).

Unfortunately, when I tried to start the day with a legal premium version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”, I was still denied this acoustic pleasure because the legal agreement apparently takes some time to translate into “tangible” changes. Or the guys at Youtube can’t find the list of things they took offline because some intern deleted it. Or the guys at Youtube are actually on holidays and the legal department doesn’t have their phone numbers. Whatever the reason, I have to wait for my Lady Gaga video.

You and I may wonder what the deal was that Youtube and the PRS took so long to agree on. The answer is, nobody knows. Well, maybe a handful of people know but they had to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. In other words, they were unmistakably told to shut up about it or they would be send to work in a Google server farm in Siberia.

How to pay Lady Gaga

Until somebody leaks the information, we can only guess what the agreement entails. First of all, it may help to note that drafting, managing, and enforcing online copyright regulations is a terribly, terribly complex thing that not many people fully understand (I’m certainly not one of them). One reason it took the PRS and Youtube so long to agree on something and then keep it secret is that it hasn’t been done very often on such a scale before.

In a nutshell, the PRS collects royalties for the artists and songwriters it represents when their works are played out. As far as I understand, this has very little to do with the record labels (who also hold some rights regarding the performance and reproduction of these works). There are basically two ways in which such royalties may be collected: as one-by-one payments and as a flat rate. For example, radio stations pay a flat rate (a so-called “blanket license”).

So far, Youtube had a one-by-one payment agreement with the PRS. Every time somebody listened to Lady Gaga, Youtube had to pay a certain amount of money (a fraction of a penny, I believe) to the PRS, which forwarded it to Lady Gaga. This may have been too cumbersome for Youtube. More importantly, it may have been too expensive. So there are rumors now that Youtube succeeded in switching to a flat rate, paying one sum of money, irrespective of how many times a video is watched.

Why Lady Gaga may not be happy

Some people in the music industry seem to be pretty upset about this agreement, including the artists and songwriters themselves. They are upset because they don’t know how much a performance of their work on Youtube is actually worth. It is an entirely nontransparent agreement. What is more, the value of each played out video would be decreasing if Youtube actually enforced a flat rate payment. No matter how many times Lady Gaga’s songs are played, she would always receive the same amount of royalties. I’m sure she’s financially in good shape, but it can make a difference for smaller artists.

Anyways, I’ll be checking again tomorrow morning to see if the video’s are actually up and running again.