Music industry turning up DC volume in copyright war

As parts of Washington start to examine the country’s tricky song licensing system, the music industry is getting ready to turn its DC outreach up to 11.

From Hollywood to Nashville to New York, the varied constituencies in the music world -- songwriters, recording artists, record labels and music publishers -- are starting to launch new public affairs and lobbying campaigns, which come amid continued fights with online radio stations like Pandora.

The diverse industry camps have not always been united on what rules need to change to address copyright loopholes, and whether they’re able to send a cohesive message will be a deciding factor as to the effort’s success on Capitol Hill.

The House Judiciary Committee’s review of copyright law is stretching into its second year, with music licensing issues -- whether radio stations should have to pay new royalties to play songs over the air, for instance -- likely to be addressed. At least one hearing on the issue is expected soon. The US Copyright Office, too, is undertaking its own study of the music licensing regime. And the Copyright Royalty Board, a little-known entity that decides how much online radio stations like Pandora should pay to recording artists, is working on setting new rates.

Sen Harry Reid: Media covering for Republicans

The media is covering for Republicans in their political coverage, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Asked by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd why he won’t allow Republican amendments to an energy bill, Majority Leader Reid shot back that reporters “won’t call things the way they actually exist.”

“One of the problems the press has in modern-day journalism is everything you do is a tit for tat,” Majority Leader Reid said. “What has happened here is the Republicans have stopped everything from happening … you can give me the tit for tat all you want. But the fact is we want to legislate.”

Majority Leader Reid has bristled at any suggestion by the media that he’s responsible for the dearth of amendment votes in the Senate, telling POLITICO to “get a brain” in March when asked about the gridlock.

Todd brought up many of the most common GOP complaints about Reid’s leadership: That the Democratic leader won’t consider Republican amendments, that he’s watered down the committee process and that he won’t allow his members to cut deals. But to each point Majority Leader Reid deflected blame and said Republican filibusters have ruined the Senate, that he’s actually “strengthened” the committee system and that he loves deal-cutters.

Survey: 7 percent of reporters identify as Republican

The number of journalists identifying themselves as Republican has experienced a significant drop since 2003, a new survey found.

The percentage of full-time US journalists who claim to be Republican dropped from 18 percent in 2002 to 7.1 percent in 2013, according to a study by Indiana University professors Lars Willnat and David H. Weaver.

Surveillance orders declined in 2013

Amid a major public and press furor over National Security Agency surveillance, federal surveillance orders and demands for national-security related information declined slightly in 2013, according to statistics made public by the Justice Department.

The Obama Administration said it filed 1,655 applications with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2013, down from 1,856 the previous year. The court maintained its controversial record of virtually never rejecting a government surveillance request, doing so zero times in 2013. The last rejection of such an application was in 2009. The court did modify 34 applications for surveillance and/or physical searches, the Justice Department said in a letter sent to leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees.

The government made 178 applications last year for business records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act -- the mechanism used to authorize the NSA's now-famous telephone metadata program. That's down from 212 such applications in 2012.

All requests for 215 orders made in 2013 were granted, but judges made changes to the vast majority of those -- with 141 modifications reported by the Justice Department. The FBI's issuance of National Security Letters -- administrative subpoenas for certain types of information from telephone companies, Internet firms and other utilities -- also ratcheted back a bit in that year. There were 14,219 requests in 2013 covering 5,334 Americans or legal residents, DOJ said. That's down from 15,299 NSL's in 2012, covering 6,223 individuals.

Why I’m Bullish on the News

[Commentary] The news business will be 10 or even 100 times the size it is today. That doesn’t mean a $60 billion business grows into a $6 trillion business, but the audience, the number of news outlets -- and yes, the financial opportunities -- will grow massively. Here’s how it happens.

  • The news business should be run like a business.
  • The end of monopolistic control doesn’t mean that great news businesses can’t get built in highly competitive markets. They just get built differently than before. Now, with everyone on the Internet, three things are happening simultaneously:
  • Distribution is going from locked down to completely open. Anyone can create and distribute. There is no monetary premium for control of distribution.
  • Formerly separate industries are colliding on the Internet. It’s newspaper vs. magazine vs. broadcast TV vs. cable TV vs. wire service. Now they all compete. Both No. 1 and No. 2 drive prices down.
  • The market size is dramatically expanding—many more people consume news now vs. 10 or 20 years ago. Many more still will consume news in the next 10 to 20 years. Volume is being driven up, and that is a big, big deal.

There are many ways to make money off journalism, but only if you abandon the race to the bottom.
News organizations are also going to have to mix and match revenue models. I see eight obvious ones: advertising, subscriptions, premium content, events, cross-media promotion, crowdfunding, micropayments and philanthropy. The total global expense budget of all investigative journalism is tiny, in the neighborhood of tens of millions of dollars annually. We can solve this one easily via crowdfunding, philanthropy and subsidization by otherwise healthy news businesses -- a combination that should easily cover the global tab of investigative journalism, and even increase the money available.

[Andreessen is co-founder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz]

1. Destroy the Village. 2. Save it.

[Commentary] Venture capitalists believe that, with the hard work of laying those digital pipes now behind us, there’s an enormous opportunity waiting for those who can figure out how to create an endless stream of content to flow through them.

Ken Lerer compares it to the content revolution he watched unfold in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Cable television, at first little more than a punch line to the gatekeepers of the big three broadcast TV networks, had by this time built out its distribution pipes across the country. Soon, ABC, CBS and NBC were joined by dozens, then hundreds, of new channels.

The need for content exploded. New channels -- TNT, TBS, Bravo, National Geographic Channel and hundreds of others -- flowed into the vacuum, satisfying niche audiences and generating billions of dollars in profits.

Lords of the Viral Internet

Talk to some of the foremost practitioners of the dark arts of web journalism, and they'll all tell you the same thing: There's no secret formula for making a story go viral on the Internet.

It's a mix of informed guesswork, innate sensibility and trial and error. And as these three titans of traffic show, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Eric Cantor outlines House’s spring agenda

House Republicans will take up several 2015 spending bills in the coming weeks but have no plans to move forward on immigration reform or a minimum-wage increase -- key priorities for President Barack Obama and Democrats. In a memo sent to all House Republicans, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) also said the full House will take up a contempt resolution against former IRS official Lois Lerner.

Lerner is the center of an alleged scheme by IRS employees to target conservative non-profit groups for special scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Lerner has refused to testify before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That panel has already voted to hold her in contempt.

The House is currently scheduled to be in for three weeks - a total of 12 legislative days - during May, according to the official calendar maintained by Cantor’s office. Cantor said that House Republicans will move forward on bills allowing states to use federal funds for charter schools, as well as six legislative initiatives designed to combat human sex trafficking, and issue with huge bipartisan support. In addition, Cantor said the House would move on a tax extenders package that includes a permanent extension of a research and development tax credit.

Behind the scenes, much of HealthCare.gov is still under construction

The Obamacare website may work for people buying insurance, but beneath the surface, HealthCare.gov is still missing massive, critical pieces -- and the deadline for finishing them keeps slipping.

As a result, the system’s “back end” is a tangle of technical workarounds moving billions of taxpayer dollars and consumer-paid premiums between the government and insurers. The parts under construction are essential for key functions such as accurately paying insurers. The longer they lag, experts say, the likelier they’ll trigger accounting problems that could leave the public on the hook for higher premium subsidies or health care costs.

It’s an overlooked chapter in the health care law’s story that has largely escaped scrutiny because consumers aren’t directly affected. Yet it bolsters the Republican narrative that the government has mishandled the implementation of Obamacare.

Michael Hayden joins Washington Times

Former CIA and NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden will write a bimonthly column called "Inside Intelligence" for the Washington Times.

“Gen Hayden is known as a broad-minded and independent thinker on military and intelligence matters. His columns will be must-reads inside and outside the Beltway,” Washington Times Editor John Solomon said. “We’re thrilled to have him as part of our growing team of columnists. His topics go to the heart of our mission as a newspaper.”