November 11, 2003

Slashdot on the Broadcast Flag [6:48 pm]

What Critics of the Critics of the FCC Rule Miss, citing this BusinessWeek article: What Critics of the FCC’s TV Rule Miss. Closing paragraphs of the editorial (note the leap of faith on the effect of the broadcast flag):

Finally, critics say loading PCs with content-protection rules will prevent new innovations, such as the next TiVo. But as the PC and media worlds meld, such regulations may become unavoidable. True, the feds must use a light touch to avoid interfering unnecessarily with innovation.

All in all, the FCC has taken a reasonable first step. If consumers want their HDTV, they have to accept limits on the ability to redistribute TV shows on the Web. Shelter from pirates will help broadcasters venture into the digital era. And that will benefit everyone except the pirates.

One commenter describes just what will kill the domestic consumer electronics industry once and for all:

That’s why I’ll make a killing. (Score:5, Insightful)

by Quasar1999 (520073) on Tuesday November 11, @05:13PM (#7448487)

(http://www.customsoftwareshop.com/ | Last Journal: Thursday October 10, @03:54PM)

When companies like Apex, simply ignored the Region coding stuff, they sold like hotcakes… So I plan on doing the same thing, simply ignoring the flags (or whatever they end up being), manufacturing my units in some country the US can’t touch (say China), and making a fortune…

What part did I mess up? I must have missed something… This seriously is too good to be true… I’m gonna be rich!!!

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Barry Robinson Says “It Wasn’t Me” [6:35 pm]

The Register: Penn State trustee and RIAA lawyer denies conflict of interests, citing PSU’s The Collegian: Trustee member says work for RIAA played no part in deal

Despite recent speculation about a possible conflict of interest, Penn State trustee Barry Robinson said his work with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) played no role in a recent agreement to bring the Napster online music service to Penn State students in the spring.

[...] Robinson said he was notified of the agreement, which provides Napster’s premium service to Penn State students for no cost, 36 hours before it was officially announced Thursday in Anaheim, Calif.

He added there is no connection between his work as a trustee and legal counsel for the RIAA.

“I or any other trustee … want to make sure the [university's] broadband capacity is used legally,” he said.

[...] Robinson and Penn State President Graham Spanier serve on the Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Communities, a group investigating a legal solution to music piracy. RIAA President Cary Sherman and Motion Picture Association of American President Jack Valenti also serve on the committee.

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McJob, n [6:29 pm]

Although there’s an article at The Register, it’s clear that the real source to refer to is Ernest’s weblog:

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Commentary on the EU IP Directive [6:24 pm]

From the BBC: A continent full of criminals. The larger question is whether the EU process will be more responsive to this sort of complaint than the US Congress was when the DMCA was up for consideration. Note also that Bill Thompson is possibly a little conflicted about this topic.

As a writer I rely on copyright law to ensure that I get paid for the things I publish, and I do not want to see copyright disappear because of the ease of online file copying.

But any new law should attempt to balance the interests of rights holders, whether they are large multinational corporations or individuals, and those of the wider community.

We should never forget that copyright and patents are a bargain, a deal between the people and the creators of anything from a story to a song to a great film, and the bargain needs to work for both sides.

It is probably not a coincidence that Janelly Fourtou, the MEP who is pushing the current draft directive forward, is married to Jean-Rene Fourtou, the Chairman of Vivendi, one of the world’s largest media corporations.

All of the proposals she has made, especially the suggestion that even non-commercial file sharing over P2P networks should be a criminal act, favour large corporations like the one her husband works for.

[...] I don’t want to go to jail just because I share a few songs online in the way that I’ve shared cassette tapes and videos for years, and I don’t see why copyrights in music, movies or software should be enforced with criminal sanctions when my rights to make reasonable and fair use of the same material are taken away from me.

If I was sitting in a warehouse in Bristol making thousands of copies of the new Sophie Ellis-Bextor album, then I’d hold my hands up when the police came knocking at the door, but making a copy so my daughter can listen to it on her own CD player doesn’t seem like breaking the law to me.

Or, I suspect, to many other people outside the record industry.

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Does the Porn Industry, Once Again, Understand New Tech Better Than Most? [6:01 pm]

Ernest makes a strong case in Printed Porn Dying - Publishers Blame Old Models, Not Piracy (see also Porn Mag Sales Going Limp)

Certainly, the porn industry has been one of the key drivers for some of the technological developments, online and otherwise, and they have not been particularly squeamish about file sharing. It will be interesting to see what form Goldstein’s Screw will take if (when?) it comes back. And, it’s important to remember that there’s still that Acacia Technologies lawsuit and licensing out there.

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Commentary on Amazon’s New WWW Book Browsing Service [5:40 pm]

From CNet New: Steal this book online

The company says it has agreements with 190 publishers to publish their books’ actual pages online. But I’ve not heard of Amazon asking for permission from the books’ authors, and, as an author myself, I can say for certain that neither Amazon nor Random House directly asked me to participate in this feature.

Just like individuals who “share” digital music on the Internet without permission from the necessary intellectual property rights owners, a company that reproduces books without permission from the copyright owner may be responsible for copyright infringement. Part of the reason e-books have never taken off is because publishers have been concerned about widespread copying.

The legal issues surrounding “Search Inside the Book” are novel.

[...] If Amazon’s new search feature increases sales of my book, then I’ll be a happy author. If, on the other hand, this search feature somehow enables the technically savvy to easily create and distribute electronic versions of my book, or otherwise substitutes for sales, then I’ll be an unhappy attorney. For now, though, the author in me says the final chapter has not been written on the effect of this program, and, of course, the lawyer in me says the jury is still out.

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IFPI Announces "One Stop" Webcaster Licensing [5:35 pm]

Via Gigalaw: Recording industry announces new one-stop-shop for webcast licensing

The recording industry today announces a new international agreement that will allow internet webcasters to stream music programmes to consumers on the basis of a single “one-stop” licence.

The agreement will allow webcasters to clear record producers’ rights in a multitude of countries by entering into a licence in one participating country. It will come into force as it is signed by national collecting societies over the next few weeks.

The accord significantly simplifies licensing for webcasters, who up until now have needed separate producer licenses from different national licensing entities.

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I Can’t Resist….. [5:29 pm]

From Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. v. Passport Video

TALLMAN, Circuit Judge:

The King is dead. His legacy, and those who wish to profit from it, remain very much alive. To what extent may a film maker, under the banner of fair use, incorporate video clips, photographs, and music into a biography about Elvis Presley without permission from the copyright owners of those materials? The district court — weighing the four statutory fair use factors under 17 U.S.C. § 107 — held that the film biographer in this case likely did not use the copyrighted materials fairly and enjoined the film maker from further distribution of its biography. We affirm.

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A Bit of Existential Angst For Bloggers [10:41 am]

But a terribly funny cartoon from Tom Tomorrow: This Modern World: Nov 10-11, 2003 (Salon link)

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Benny Evangelista on Recent Berklee Music Moves [10:28 am]

First cited in the Lessig blog, we have this exposition on Berklee Shares from SFGate: Free music lessons thanks to file sharing: Noted school at odds with recording industry viewpoint

The recording industry has gone to war against file sharing, but a prestigious Boston music school is embracing the technology.

The Berklee School of Music, which has an alumni roster that includes Quincy Jones, Diana Krall, John Mayer and Melissa Etheridge, on Monday began giving away music lessons that are free to be downloaded, copied and passed around using popular file-sharing networks such as Kazaa and LimeWire.

Moreover, the school hopes its new program, called Berklee Shares, helps teach future musicians and recording industry executives to accept, not fear, online file sharing as the new future of the music industry.

[...] File sharing is a key promotional tool for the vast majority of musicians who derive their income or enjoyment from performing, not by selling records, [Berklee Associate VP Dave] Kusek said.

“Our charge is to teach students young and old about what the business is going to be like in five years, and for us to say those file sharers are evil . .. is just not practical,” he said.

Kevin Martin, whose band The HiWatts found success by offering free song downloads in an online promotion sponsored by the makers of Yoo-hoo Chocolate Drink, was encouraged that a music college was promoting file sharing.

“I’d rather you download my music and come see me live than buying my record and not come see me,” Martin said. “You have to embrace the change, and the major labels have not embraced it.”

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Canadian Recording Industry Speaks Out [10:14 am]

The Canadian Recording Industry Condemns Government Inaction On Copyright –note that this is a CRIA press release. I like this paragraph in particular

Recently, the Committee approved a motion that called for draft legislation to bring Canada’s copyright law in sync with Canada’s international commitments. The WIPO treaties will make it easier for traditional copyrighted materials like music, literature, art, audiovisual materials and software to be used legally on the Internet. 42 other countries have introduced such laws. [emphasis added]

"Easier," how, exactly?

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Morning Slashdot [9:47 am]

  • Sony Music Testing New Copy Protection (See also the Register article: Sony preps updated CD copy protection trial; Ed Felten sees new worlds to conquer; Wired News: Sony’s User-Friendly Copy Block)

  • Aussie Students Face Jail Over Music Sharing Site

  • Memory Holes and the Internet — what to do when online sites decide that their articles were double-plus-ungood and make them disappear? Libraries, perhaps? Consider this excerpt from a now-missing (?) Time magazine article:

    The Excerpt (Score:5, Informative)

    by ndunn (171784) on Tuesday November 11, @09:37AM (#7443621)

    Excerpt from “Why We Didn’t Remove Saddam” by George Bush Sr. and Brent Scowcroft, Time (2 March 1998):

    While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in ‘mission creep,’ and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.’s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasio route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different–and perhaps barren–outcome.

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Ah, yes — E-Voting [9:29 am]

From the November 9 edition of The Indianapolis StarVote count marred by computer woe

Lebanon — Boone County officials are searching for an answer to the computer glitch that spewed out impossible numbers and interrupted an otherwise uneventful election process Tuesday.

“I about had a heart attack,” County Clerk Lisa Garofolo said of the breakdown that came as an eager crowd watched computer-generated vote totals being projected onto a wall of the County Courthouse rotunda.

“I’m assuming the glitch was in the software.”

A lengthy collaboration between the county’s information technology director and advisers from the MicroVote software producer fixed the problem. But before that, computer readings of stored voting machine data showed far more votes than registered voters.

“It was like 144,000 votes cast,” said Garofolo, whose corrected accounting showed just 5,352 ballots from a pool of fewer than 19,000 registered voters.

“Believe me, there was nobody more shook up than I was.”

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Media Consolidation Protest Concert Tour [8:31 am]

Billy Bragg, among others, are conducting a “Tell Us The Truth” tour to protest against the recent FCC media concentration regulation changes: Musicians lobby against ownership rules [pdf]

Billy Bragg, Lester Chambers, Steve Earle and other artists on the “Tell Us the Truth Tour” contend the rules from the Federal Communications Commission will make it harder for many performers to get airtime. The musicians are making their case in song in a tour that began Friday in Madison, Wis., and ends Nov. 24 in Washington.

The tough part, says British folk-rock artist Bragg, may be find a way to work “Federal Communications Commission” into any of his lyrics.

“Entertainment’s the most important thing. These gigs will be entertaining, I promise you,” Bragg said. “The most we can do is offer the audience a different perspective and make people understand that music doesn’t just come out of the radio.”

While the tour is meant to inspire grass-roots activism on the issue, some well-known Washington political players are also involved. The tour, which also addresses trade issues, is partly sponsored by the AFL-CIO and Common Cause. Both are pressing Congress to undo the FCC rules, which eliminated decades-old ownership restrictions.

The tour site includes links to organizations opposing the relaxation of media consolidation, as well as some position statements.

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The Music Biz — Then and Now [8:26 am]

Today’s Boston Globe has a couple of stories on the ways of the music business. For a retrospective look, there’s Good times bad times, a profile of Unity MacLean, publicist for Led Zepplin. [pdf]

From 1975 until after drummer John Bonham’s death in 1980, MacLean worked in a two-story building on London’s Kings Road as Led Zeppelin’s publicist. They were the waning years of an era when rock stars were treated like deities, except God did not electrify his pearly gates to repel fans. Zeppelin hoarded the trappings of 1970s excess, including their own record label (Swan Song), a commercial-size Boeing, willing girls of hazy ages, and enough illegal substances to finance a South American dictator.

[...] Eventually, MacLean secured an interview with Peter Grant, Zeppelin’s manager. Grant’s size (almost 300 pounds) matched his reputation for intimidation.

[...] Grant, who died from a heart attack in 1995, ran the business “like the mob,” according to Bruce MacLean, who sometimes worked with obscure bands being considered for Swan Song recording contracts. “He thought he was the godfather.” One of Grant’s tactics was to maintain job insecurity in the organization.

So, we then can contrast that with this response to a current mechanism for selling rap records, the feuding record camps (and one can certainly wonder whether this article is in earnest, or just PR): A feud without rhyme o reason [pdf]

Yeah, I know beefs have always been a part of rap music. Even a cursory skim of the old-school files, when rap music was still largely consigned to block parties and small clubs, reveals a host of lyrical showdowns, including classic battles between Kool Moe Dee and Busy Bee, and KRS-One and MC Shan. But more than 20 years later Kool Moe Dee and Busy Bee are still friends, and KRS-One credits MC Shan with helping put him and his legendary Boogie Down Productions on the rap map.

Most important, the beefs never moved from wax to the streets. Even when MC Shan on “Kill That Noise,” his response to BDP’s “South Bronx,” rapped, “I don’t mind being criticized, but those who try to make fame on my name die,” no one believed Shan would be gunning for KRS-One.

But everything changed when first Tupac, then Biggie, died. This was a cautionary tale written in blood to rappers, their fans, and the media that helped stoke the so-called East Coast-West Coast rap war. Less than a decade on, it’s as if no lessons have been learned from the pointless deaths of two of the most influential artists in the history of rap music.

There’s nothing wrong with rivalries among musicians. The industry has always been competitive, and the need for one artist to top another has given the world remarkable music. Brian Wilson was so taken with the Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” that it inspired him to create his masterpiece, “Pet Sounds.” And in turn, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was the Beatles’ answer and attempt to top that Beach Boys’ 1966 album.

Finally, again in the modern business, the Rolling Stones are finding out that cut-throat competition at the retail level is leading to blowback for their decision to make an exclusive retail arrangement with Bet Buy: Retailers say they’re under Stones’s thumb [pdf]

Josh Bernoff, an analyst covering entertainment for Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, says the newfangled deals have arisen from the “ugly” climate in the music industry.

“Sales are down because of file-sharing, and the number of stores open is shrinking. There is less money to go around and everybody in the distribution chain is trying to take it out of somebody else’s hide,” Bernoff says.

[...] Meanwhile, the retaliation continues. Circuit City, a chief competitor of Best Buy, just canceled a Stones catalog promotion set to begin this month, according to Billboard. Trans World Entertainment, which operates 940 stores (including FYE, Coconuts, and Strawberries), is cutting the 72 Stones titles it usually stocks back to just five.

And the reaction has been even more severe in Canada, where retailers Pindoff Record Sales, Sunrise Records, and the 100 HMV Canada stores have pulled all Stones products off their shelves indefinitely, Billboard says. The Stones camp has expressed surprise at the developments, but not regret.

The band’s tour promoter, Michael Cohl, who brokered the deal under his company name of TGA Entertainment, says the Best Buy exclusive helps the band’s fans because they can get the four-DVD set for the “amazing price” of $29.99.

“The other offers we received from alternative distributors would have had the product being sold for at least $20 to $30 higher to the consumer, something which was unacceptable to the Stones and TGA,” Cohl said in a statement.

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