Please nominate us for the Open Publishing Awards!

We’ve recently found out about the Open Publishing Awards::

The goal of the inaugural Open Publishing Awards is to promote and celebrate a wide variety of open projects in Publishing.

All content types emanating from the Publishing sector are eligible including Open Access articles, open monographs, Open Educational Resource Materials, open data, open textbooks etc.

Open data? That’s us! We’ve got a pile of it and if you like the work we do, why not nominate us for an award?

Thanks!

We were sued by a copyright troll and we prevailed!

must be monetary compensation

On August 9th, 2018 we were served with a United States federal copyright infringement lawsuit over a handful of images displayed on our musicbrainz.org artist pages. These images were made available by Larry Philpot, a photographer, on Wikimedia Commons and we “deep linked” to the images (that note the license details and attribute the images to their creator) from our artist pages, in accord with the license terms.

The MetaBrainz Foundation prides itself in treading carefully in legal matters and so we were surprised to receive a lawsuit of this nature. All allegations in the suit were deemed false by our legal team. If you wish to find out more about this lawsuit, we encourage you to read the documents that were served to us.

Upon being served with the lawsuit, MetaBrainz contacted our legal guardian angel: Ed Cavazos of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, who has been watching over the foundation since its inception. Ed proposed our case to the pro-bono committee at Pillsbury and to our great pleasure the case was accepted! Pillsbury officially became our legal representatives in defending us in this lawsuit.

Ed assembled a team (Brian Nash, Ben Bernell, Sarah Goetz) who fired off an immediate response to the lawsuit. The team filed a timely response with the court and then began a lengthy journey of educating themselves on how MetaBrainz conducts business, how it hosts its websites, and how these websites came into existence. Over the course of many emails and calls, MetaBrainz produced volumes of conversations, bug reports, Git commits and various other forms of substantiating information that the legal team used to form a strategy.

Our legal team operated on the basis that “the best defense is a good offense”. The team’s filing showed that the accusations were unfounded and went on to question the motives and methods of the plaintiff, who has a history of taking legal action against Creative Commons users. In these legal actions he claims that the users have violated Creative Commons licenses, according to narrow, non-customary interpretations of the obligations and limitations set out in CC licenses. It didn’t take long for the plaintiff to feel our pressure and decide to cut their losses. On February 28, 2019 the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice!

Now that this is behind us, the MetaBrainz Foundation had to figure out what to do about showing Wikimedia Commons images on our websites. We talked with both the Wikimedia Foundation and Creative Commons to discuss what had happened. We learned that both Wikimedia and Creative Commons had started their own processes to examine and address the issues that led to the lawsuit being filed against the MetaBrainz Foundation.

We’re looking forward to seeing firm and decisive action from our friends at Creative Commons and Wikimedia, before other people and nonprofits are put in harm’s way by what in our opinion constitutes unacceptable, predatory misuse of CC licenses and Wikimedia Commons. MetaBrainz has made sure that CC and Wikimedia know about our experience and now we’re returning our focus to our core mission.

While we wait for Wikimedia Commons and Creative Commons to take action on this, we will not reinstate artist images or include any images that link to Wikimedia Commons. We prevailed in this lawsuit and thanks to our pro-bono legal team we suffered no harm. Being dragged through lengthy court proceedings by trolls hoping to make an example of us could exhaust our reserves and leave us broke — but that won’t stop us from vigorously defending ourselves. We are not going to let a bully push us around.

That’s about all we can say about this. The court filings speak volumes about the merits of the case and the problems of predatory abuse of CC licenses. It sucks to be the target of a pointless, predatory lawsuit. We’ve always been very careful about staying on the right side of the law, and we’re prepared to go to court to prove it, even if we can’t get pro-bono counsel.

The MetaBrainz Foundation owes a debt of gratitude to Ed Cavazos, Brian Nash, Ben Bernell, Sarah Goetz and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. We cannot overstate how fortunate we are that the team came to our rescue at a very critical juncture. Thank you to the whole team and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. Thank you!

We would also like to thank Cory Doctorow (one of our directors) for initiating and participating in many conversations. Not only was Cory’s advice critical in dealing with the lawsuit, but it was Cory and the EFF who connected us to Ed Cavazos in the first place, 15 years ago. Thank you!

I personally would like to thank Nicolás Tamargo and Michael Wiencek for their support in digging for documentation to support our side of the case. Thank you for your tireless efforts!

Finally I would like to thank our board of directors for their support in this process. Thank you Cory, Matthew, Rassami, Paul and Nick!

UPDATE: A few people have requested for us to publish our response to the lawsuit. On 28 September 2018, we filed this response with the court.  That is the only public filing we made — the lawsuit was dropped on February 28, 2019 as a direct result of private conversations with the plaintiff.

Google donates $10,000 in cloud computing credits. Thank you!

The Google Open Source Programs Office continues to support MetaBrainz in a number of ways and most recently they donated $10,000 in credit toward their cloud services. Thank you Google!

This credit allows us to run some services in the cloud to round out primary hosting setup — this gives us a some redundancy and allows us to not keep all of our critical eggs in one basket. We can also give our open source developers Virtual Machines from time to time, since a lot of our projects are very data heavy. Having access to a fat VM can sometimes turn a really frustrating project that makes your laptop melt into a project that is satisfying to watch chug along.

Thank you again, Google, the Open Source Programs Office and in particular, Cat Allman!

MusicBrainz Schema change upgrade downtime: 17:00 UTC (10am PST, 1pm EST, 19:00CEST)

Hi!

At 17:00 UTC (10am PST, 1pm EST, 19:00CEST) we will start the process of our schema change release. The exact time that we plan to start the change will depend on how long it takes to finish our preparations, but we expect it to be shortly after 17:00UTC.

Once we start the process we will put a banner notification on musicbrainz.org and we will also post updates to the @MusicBrainz twitter account, so follow us there for more details.

After the release is complete, we will post instructions here on how to upgrade your replicated MusicBrainz instances.

Google Summer of Code 2019: Accepted students and their projects

The accepted students for Google Summer of Code have just been announced! We’re please to announce that Akhilesh Kumar (BookBrainz), Aidan Lawford-Wickham (AcousticBrainz), Vansika Pareek (ListenBrainz), Anirudh Jain (MusicBrainz), amCap1712 (MusicBrainz) and Shamroy Pellew (CritiqueBrainz) have been accepted on behalf of the MetaBrainz Foundation!

To find out more about the accepted students and what they will be working on, please take a look at the list of accepted projects.

This year was quite challenging to decide which students to accept. We had more good proposals than we could accept — which is quite heartbreaking, since we hate having to turn away good proposals. Still, we have a very good spread of students across our projects and we’re quite excited for Summer of Code this year.

Thanks to everyone who applied, all of our mentors and of course, Google’s Open Source Programs Office for making Summer of Code a reality.

Mini ListenBrainz update released today

Following up on our release from last week, we found a number of minor problems in production that were really hard to spot on our test setup. Sometimes you need to have real data flowing through your system before you can find the real problems.

The following pull requests were merged and released just now:

This should hopefully make the follow page work a little better for everyone. 🙂

ListenBrainz: Our new follow page

As promised, here is another blog post about the exciting new Follow page. The goal of this page is to finally make use of the data we collect in ListenBrainz and expose a new feature designed to let our users discover more music.

To use this new feature, you’ll need to link your Spotify account to ListenBrainz. Ideally you should give permission to record your listens and to play Spotify content. But if you’re not ready to dive into recording your listens, start with playback first. N.B. In order to really take advantage of this new feature, you’ll need a premium Spotify account.

Then head over to the recent listens page and hover over the tracks that are listed there. If the user listened on Spotify, then a play button will appear and you can listen to the track. Please note that playing from this page will interrupt whatever you’re already playing on Spotify. If you find that a user is listening to interesting music and you’d like to follow the user, head to the follow page and use the Follow Users section to add this user to your follow list.

When a user in your follow list finishes listening to a track, that track will appear as a line in the Playlist. In theory, you’ll be able to keep listening to what your followed users are playing: the player will attempt to play as many tracks as it can play and to keep the music going. The player also has a previous and next track button that allows you to easily skip tracks that you don’t like. Our team has found this feature exciting and to some extent even has started DJing for each other!

We’re pushing into new territory trying to offer music discovery features and trying out new features that we’ve not seen before. Expect bugs, missing features, and reactions of “why didn’t they do X?”. To be honest, we’re not entirely happy with it and we know that there are features missing. But we felt it important to push this out in order to start getting feedback from you — and we are also excited about the Spotify integration! That said, please continue reading and if you feel that we screwed something up, please open a ticket!

Also, keep in mind that we’re pushing against the tide of the music industry. Established players want to keep everything closed, controlled and in their silo (Apple Music, Tidal, etc). Spotify is slightly more open and allows us to record user’s histories and music playback from web pages, so we focused on working on Spotify first.

This has the unfortunate side-effect of making these new features useful only if you have a premium Spotify account, and following users who are not on Spotify is useless: we don’t know how to play this content. This blows — we know it and we hate it ourselves. But we needed to start with something to show what we’re trying to do and to generate some interest. If people are interested, we can start working in supporting more services and making more of the music in our pages playable.

Finally, the recording user’s listens API endpoint at Spotify has an annoying tendency to fall behind sometimes, which means that the flow of listens from Spotify slows or stops altogether, which is… less than ideal. We’re prodding Spotify to keep the bits flowing if at all possible, but know that all of this is a work in progress.

In fact, the release has already generated a flurry of fixes that we’ll push live before too long. A lot of these sorts of fixes are for problems that you can only see when real-live data flows through the data pipelines: these are tricky features to debug!

Please play with the follow feature and tell us what you think! If you know other services that we can use to play music from the data we have available, please comment! If you find bugs or have suggestions for how we make these features better, please open a ticket!

Have fun and discover some new music,
The ListenBrainz Team