The ODI publishes two reports on Sustainable Data Institutions

The Open Data Institute has just published two reports: Designing Sustainable Data Institutions and Designing Trustworthy Data Institutions which include insights provided by us regarding our MusicBrainz project.

When I was starting out MusicBrainz and was trying to work out how to make the project sustainable, I would’ve given just about anything to have access to these reports. I am proud that, nearly 20 years later, I was able to contribute to these reports so that others may benefit from our hard work.

I find the section Suggestions for those scoping, designing and running data institutions on page 40 of the PDF version of Designing Sustainable Data Institutions quite enlightening:

  1. Ensure your revenue model aligns with your organisational goals
  2. Understand how your revenue sources will change during your institution’s lifecycle
  3. Consider both financial and non-financial aspects of sustainability
  4. Identify and mitigate future risks
  5. Learn from others

Each of these points represent a whole collections of small lessons that I’ve learned by (often painful) experience of the past years. Also, I feel that these points are not strictly limited Data Institutions, but many also apply to making open source projects sustainable. If you’re in the business of running a data or open source organzation, I would strongly encourage you to read this paper!

Also very interesting is the second report about Designing Trustworthy Data Institutions:

For example, the representative from MusicBrainz said, “[A culture of honesty] builds trust, and this trust builds sustainability”

Compared to sustainability, the concepts of trust were much more clear to me from the beginning. However, that doesn’t make this report any less relevant — especially in current times, I welcome an emphasis on trust!

Thank you to the ODI for including MusicBrainz and doing all of the hard work on these reports!

 

Welcoming Paula LeDieu to our board of directors!

Late in 2019, we finally filled our one vacant spot on our board of directors — we had been holding out until we found the right person and we finally have! And then towards the end of the year we all got distracted by holidays and world events and never got around to formally announcing that we have a new addition to our board.

With great pleasure I would like to announce that Paula LeDieu, an amazingly connected person who seems to know everyone, has joined the MetaBrainz Foundation Board of Directors! I first met Paula when I was bootstrapping MusicBrainz and pondering how to setup a foundation for the project — we would continuously bump into each other at various conferences in the world. Paula’s professional history includes a lot organizations that early on shaped the internet, including the BBC, iCommons and Mozilla. Paula’s professional experience and connections will be a great asset to our organization.

Paula lives in Sydney, Australia, stretching our board of directors across 3 continents and far too many time-zones. Thank you for agreeing to join our board of directors and welcome to the team, Paula!

Thank you for your continued support, Google!

We’ve recently received our annual $30,000 support from Google. The brings the total amount donated by Google’s Open Source Programs Office to us to over $470,000 — hopefully next year we’ll cross the half million dollar threshold!

I can’t quite express my gratitude for this level of support! Without Google’s help, especially early on, MetaBrainz may never have made it to sustainability. Google has helped us in a number of ways, including Google Code-In and Summer of Code — all of these forms of support have shaped our organization quite heavily over the past 15 or so years.

Thank you to Google and everyone at the Google Open Source Programs Office — we truly appreciate your support over the years!

Thank you Microsoft!

Microsoft reached out to us back in early 2018 in order to use our data in Bing — we followed the normal sort of on-boarding procedure that we use for our supporters. During one of these on-boarding calls we were asked if there was more that Microsoft could do to help us and support our mission. Soon thereafter I provided them with a list of things that would be useful to us. Sadly, the request to buy a major record label and then to give it to us to manage was turned down for being too expensive. 😦

However, Microsoft did like two items on our list and agreed to support us — they were:

1) Azure hosting credits — we’re always looking for more hosting capacity and these credits will allows us to provide virtual machines to our team and to close collaborators who are doing good work, but might be lacking the computing power to push their projects forward. This contribution is of direct benefit to our community — often times our projects contain quite a lot of data and thus have some heavy processing requirements. We’re currently using our hosting credits to do some large data set crunching and some testing for the Virtual Machine that we provide to users who wish to get up and running with MusicBrainz data quickly.

2) Sponsoring our summit — our annual team meeting and foundation summit happens at the end of each September, normally in Barcelona where we have our main office. Microsoft’s sponsorship allows us to invite more people to the event, since we have the means to cover their expenses. Our summits have traditionally been our annual forum for meeting the other team members and volunteers and to take a breather from the normal course of business. At the event we see a more human side of each other and we’re more easily able to discuss our challenges and the vision for the future.

We really appreciate our supporters who go above and beyond the normal levels of support for us — these contributions really sweeten the deal of hacking on open source software!

Thank you so much to Microsoft and everyone at Microsoft who helped move this contribution forward!

State of the Brainz: 2019 MetaBrainz Summit highlights

The 2019 MetaBrainz Summit took place on 27th–29th of September 2019 in Barcelona, Spain at the MetaBrainz HQ. The Summit is a chance for MetaBrainz staff and the community to gather and plan ahead for the next year. This report is a recap of what was discussed and what lies ahead for the community.

Continue reading “State of the Brainz: 2019 MetaBrainz Summit highlights”

GSoC 2019: JSON Web API for BookBrainz

The time has come to wrap up the very productive and learning summer of the last 3 months as a GSoC student with MetaBrainz.

Hello Everyone!!

I am Akhilesh Kumar, a recent graduate from the National Institute of Technology, Hamirpur, India. I have been working on BookBrainz for MetaBrainz Foundation Inc. as a participant in the Google Summer of Code ’19. It has been an amazing experience and I’ve learned a lot over the summer. I was mentored by Nicolas Pelletier (Mr_Monkey on IRC) during this period. This post summarizes my contributions to the project and the experiences that I had throughout the summer.

Continue reading “GSoC 2019: JSON Web API for BookBrainz”

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.