APPLE MUSIC & TAYLOR SWIFT: A GOOD TIMELY LESSON, June 29
However dazzling it might be, technology doesn't relieve companies of their fundamental moral and legal obligations to compensate people for their work. Ask tech giant Apple, which just received a much-needed reminder about that from music superstar Taylor Swift.
As The Associated Press reported, Apple intended to not compensate artists for streaming their music during 90-day free trials of its upcoming Apple Music service; it would pay musicians only after listeners begin $10 monthly subscriptions.
But, in an open letter, Ms. Swift objected, declaring she would withhold her smash "1989" album from Apple Music over the issue. Apple, recognizing a burgeoning PR disaster as it prepares to compete with the likes of Spotify, quickly reversed course. Thursday last, Swift reversed course, too; "1989" will be a part of the Apple Music mix.
Swift's popularity gave her the clout to enforce the fair-play principle of compensation for work done. Lacking "1989" would have put Apple Music at a disadvantage to competing streaming services in attracting listeners. Thus, the company's reversal made business sense. And many artists who dream of Swift-like success, not just superstars like her, will benefit.
As we marvel at the latest technology, it's all too easy to forget that someone had to toil to produce the content it conveys — someone who deserves to be paid for that work. Hopefully, Apple and other tech giants won't forget that again, thanks to Taylor Swift.
— The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
LEGISLATORS DON'T KNOW WHEN TO HOLD, June 30
Gambling revenue has declined almost everywhere in the East for the obvious reason that the enterprise has hit its saturation point.
Even though gambling is a major industry, generating more than $3 billion a year in Pennsylvania alone, there are only so many gamblers and they only have so much money. Yet the response of lawmakers is to give those same gamblers more options to spend the same amount of money, rather than recognizing that the saturation point is not a bluff.
In New Jersey, legislators have responded to the crashes of five big Atlantic City casinos by authorizing online gambling, challenging a federal law that precludes the expansion of sports gambling and exploring the creation of casinos in Northern New Jersey.
Across the Delaware in Pennsylvania, where new casinos created the competition that crushed the Atlantic City casinos, gambling revenue declined by just under 1.5 percent in 2014, following a 1.4 percent drop in 2013. Revenue from table games actually increased over those two years but decreases in slots revenue — about 70 percent of casinos' take — more than negated those increases.
State legislators have reacted with a bill to put slot machines in off-track betting parlors, is if the issue was an inadequate number of machines in the casinos.
Now some legislative croupiers want to introduce Internet gambling. Sen. Kim Ward, a Westmoreland County Republican, has proposed that Internet gambling be allowed for players who register through 10 of the state's 12 casinos — an important measure to not create new competition for those enterprises, which are de facto partners with the state government. Each casino would pay the state a $10 million permit fee, renewable for $1 million every five years. All told, if all of the eligible casinos went all in on Internet gambling and OTB slots, the state would realize up-front fees of $260 million and 54 percent of annual online gambling revenue. That would produce about $150 million a year, although it's unknown how it would affect regular casino and the state's take.
Some lawmakers appear ready to proceed, even though Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada have reported lower revenue from Internet gambling than they had projected.
If the Legislature approves Internet gambling it will be available quickly because all of the infrastructure is in place.
Lawmakers are motivated by the impending $1.3 billion state deficit, and by the fact that it is very easy to expand gambling. It's harder to impose a fair severance tax on the gas industry, close tax loopholes, enact property tax reform and otherwise increase revenue while more fairly spreading the tax burden.
For Pennsylvanians, the real gamble remains in the voting booth.
— The (Hazleton) Standard-Speaker
SHIFT IN POWER, July 1
Pennsylvania occupies a unique nexus in the nation's ongoing transition from dirty to cleaner power generation.
Market forces created by the massive Marcellus Shale gas field are driving a shift from coal-powered to gas-powered electricity generation. The proposed Invenergy plant in Jessup is just one of four big gas-power projects in the state, and utilities generally are moving away from coal whenever possible.
The state also is an enormous potential source of wind-generated power because of the consistent wind along Appalachian ridges, although renewable growth slowed over the last four years because of Corbett administration policy favoring fossil fuels such as coal and gas.
Meanwhile, the state remains a major producer and consumer of coal. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the state is fourth nationally in coal production and 36.1 percent of its power generation was coal-fueled in 2014.
And, because of its geography, the state is downwind from the environmental fallout from even more coal-fired power production.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Environmental Protection Agency had not adequately considered cost in formulating new clean power plant rules.
Pennsylvania will benefit from strong rules because of its shift to gas and renewed interest in renewables under the Wolf administration. The state government should embrace the drive for cleaner air, which already is under way in the marketplace, and which will benefit Pennsylvania environmentally and economically.
— The (Scranton) Times-Tribune