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May 11, 2003

2003 May 11 [10:03 am]

(entry last updated: 2003-05-11 13:09:02)

  • Noted elsewhere, this Slashdot article points out that an iTunes P2P-like network (SpyMac - their announcement) is up and running: Mac P2P Music Sharing with iTunes is Online. Strictly speaking, this seems to be about streaming your iTunes, so this may become a Webcasting royalties issue, rather than a copyright infringement thing. Either way, as the article says, how long will this last before Apple mucks with their closed protocol?

  • Slashdot points to the SecurityFocus article that suggests that posting spoof files to the P2P networks is actionable under the recent VA anti-spam law. The Slashdot discussion: The War Between p2p and Record Companies Heating Up? is notable for pointing to the current IEEE Spectrum Online, which includes this piece introducing the May issue (with several articles accessible): The Copyright Wars:

    A new world of digital entertainment beckons, but industry clashes impede progress

    From Hollywood’s point of view, the best way to prevent copying from getting out of control is to prevent copying at all. “What we really want to do is not to stop copying, simply to stop redistributing. But the technology available doesn’t distinguish between the two,” said Larry Kenswil, president of the eLabs division of Universal Music Group (Universal City, Calif.), speaking at the January Consumer Electronics Show (Las Vegas, Nev.).

    Meanwhile, the consumer electronics industry, while working with the entertainment industry on copy protection technologies, is not willing to make copying outright impossible. Without the freedom to copy music from CDs to digital jukeboxes and portable players, for instance, entire categories of products, like MP3 players and hard-disk recorders, would disappear. People just aren’t going to pay for the same album three or more times—once to use in their car CD player, again to use in their home audio jukebox, and once again to listen to while jogging.

    At the same time, the electronics industry is not going to put out technology for totally unrestrained digital copying, in case the content owners retaliate. So the introduction of new products, such as portable TV players that download content from home video recorders into pocket-sized devices, is reportedly being delayed. The fear is that systems will never even be imagined because of the copy control constraint. Consider the broadcast flag, a technology intended to prevent unauthorized retransmission of digital TV broadcasts by inserting a coded signal into programs (though the signal may also end up preventing copying). Had some form of it existed 30 years ago for analog products, the consumer VCR, sales of which were worth over US $2 billion annually in the late 1990s, might never have reached the market, says Joe Kraus, cofounder of DigitalConsumer.org (Palo Alto, Calif.).

    …So wave your broadcast flag, load your DVD burner, or pack up the CDs you filled with MP3 tracks and send them with a letter of apology to the MPAA or the Recording Industry Association of America. It is time to pick a side; the fight for the future is now.

  • !Shock! I had to go to Technorati to find that one of my nephews has a weblog - and then only found it because he found me first!

  • Howard Berman defends the P2P Privacy Prevention Act over at Findlaw’s Modern Practice [via Doc]

  • Denise Howell has an update on the Pooh/Milne/Disney copyright suit [Fortune summary].

  • Wired News has an interview with one of the students who recently got a settlement with the RIAA, Joseph Nievelt: P2P Whipping Boy: Know the Risks

    “It seems the RIAA thinks that shutting down the index would prevent any file trading from going on, but that is not the case,” said Nievelt, who compared his former site, Flatlan, to Google rather than Napster. “The functionality is built into Windows. All you do is go to a folder, set the folder to share and then people have no problem accessing it or anything inside of it. Anyone who lives in the dorm can access the files in the folder that is being shared.”

    …But an RIAA spokesman disagreed: “When you search on Google, you get links to Web pages. These mini-Napster networks do not create indexes of links to websites; what they create are indexes of media files. Then with a single click of your mouse, the file is immediately downloaded to your hard drive. This is just like Napster,” he said.

  • New “Get Your War On” - in case you miss the underlying joke, The Book of Virtues is a book by that gambling specialist (joke site!), William Bennett, protector of our nation’s moral fiber.

  • While we’ve been hearing about how pop music is being homogenized by media consilidation, the effect on country music has been less discussed. This article from today’s NYTimes Magazine section adds quite a bit to the discussion: The Country of Country [pdf].

    There was a time when the fire that country music lighted beneath its listeners was to get down to the bar, get drunk and see if you couldn’t find somebody to go home with. But the only rabble being roused these days is the call to arms. Country music has become so squeaky-clean that a recent song in which Tracy Lawrence claimed that his grandfather taught him ”how to cuss and how to pray” was banned from several radio stations, cussing being too strong a concept for airplay. Long gone are the days when Merle Haggard took care of his searing morning hangover with an ”afternooner” and sang about it. This is thanks in large part to the vice grip of Clear Channel Radio, which buys up radio stations and makes carefully researched decisions about what Americans are free to listen to. Clear Channel has decided that patriotism sells, and that cussing and afternooners are definitely out. As a result, the music industry is frantically trying to find people who look and sing like whoever was on the top of last week’s chart.

    Until the invasion of Iraq, the band that everybody in Nashville most wanted to copy was the Dixie Chicks, whose most recent album, ”Home,” had the best of the war singles, a Vietnam ballad called ”Travelin’ Soldier.” Then, in a concert in London, the group’s lead singer, Natalie Maines, told a cheering audience that ”we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” And that was it for the Dixie Chicks. Suddenly they were standing on the other side of the Merle Haggard line in the sand. They had become those hippie-liberal protesters they should have been singing against.

  • Another music business piece in today’s NYTimes - a look at a BeeGee’s finances: Harmony on the Stage, Solo at the Bank [pdf]

  • A little more on the music biz: No. 1 With a Bullet: Madonna Opens Big, and She’d Better [pdf]

    To create big first weeks, labels use “smoke and mirrors,” says a manager who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    “It’s a well-known dirty secret,” he said. “Some labels buy their own records. It’s part of the marketing plan, to buy CD’s wholesale at $6 a pop, and Sound-Scan them.”

    Two years ago, a Los Angeles Times article reported that record companies hired “independent consultants” to generate falsely high sales, and although all five record groups denied engaging in such duplicitous behavior, SoundScan eliminated some stores from its tallies because of what it called anomalies in the reporting system.

    Because a strong first week creates self-fulfilling momentum, leading to more airplay, press and touring opportunities, most blockbuster records have big debuts. Of the top 10 albums of 2002, eight had first-week sales of 220,000 or higher. One exception was the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack, a sleeper analogous to the surprise hit film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

  • Say what you will about mash-ups, once they start getting reviewed in the NYTimes, you have to ask how long it will take to get these legal issues on the table: Um, Beyonce, Meeting Jimi Isn’t Such a Good Idea

    BEYONCE VS. JIMI HENDRIX “Work It Out With a Foxy Lady,” the mash-up track created by merging Beyonce’s “Work It Out” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” (It is hearable online at www.gohomeproductions.co.uk.) Odi et amo. Whoever’s behind Go Home Productions (we don’t know the names, for obvious legal reasons) created stop-time sections in the Hendrix to drop in Beyonce’s melismatic vocal track; her phrasing fits as an effective counter-rhythm against the music of the Hendrix Trio. It’s like a superhero, this compound: a mixture of rock’s groove and pop’s gleam. (Beyonce’s song even uses the word “foxy.”) But the seduction lasts for a verse and a chorus. Then its machine-soul becomes suddenly, repulsively manifest. Call it a cheap holograph. It drives me back to the real thing, people making music together in the same room.

  • For a look at conventional wisdom throwing up its hands when confronted with the promise and perils of the internet, read this little piece from the NYTimes: ‘New Media’: Ready for the Dustbin of History? [pdf]

  • From today’s Boston Globe Magazine, a look at the modern pop music business: Idol Worship: The Making (and Unmaking) of a Teen Idol [pdf]. Not a great piece from the viewpoint of improving one’s understanding of the business, but a little insight into pop stardom then and now.

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