February 18, 2004

Henley in the Washington Post [8:04 pm]

[via Scrivener's Error] Killing the Music

Today the music business is in crisis. Sales have decreased between 20 and 30 percent over the past three years. Record labels are suing children for using unauthorized peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing systems. Only a few artists ever hear their music on the radio, yet radio networks are battling Congress over ownership restrictions. Independent music stores are closing at an unprecedented pace. And the artists seem to be at odds with just about everyone — even the fans.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the root problem is not the artists, the fans or even new Internet technology. The problem is the music industry itself. It’s systemic. [...]

Piracy is perhaps the most emotionally gut-wrenching problem facing artists. Artists like the idea of a new and better business model for the industry, but they cannot accept a business model that uses their music without authority or compensation. Suing kids is not what artists want, but many of them feel betrayed by fans who claim to love artists but still want their music free.

The music industry must also take a large amount of blame for this piracy. Not only did the industry not address the issue sooner, it provided the P2P users with a convenient scapegoat. Many kids rationalize their P2P habit by pointing out that only record labels are hurt — that the labels don’t pay the artists anyway. This is clearly wrong, because artists are at the bottom of the food chain. They are the ones hit hardest when sales take a nosedive and when the labels cut back on promotion, on signing new artists and on keeping artists with potential. Artists are clearly affected, yet because many perceive the music business as being dominated by rich multinational corporations, the pain felt by the artist has no public face.

[...] So whether they are fighting against media and radio consolidation, fighting for fair recording contracts and corporate responsibility, or demanding that labels treat artists as partners and not as employees, the core message is the same: The artist must be allowed to join with the labels and must be treated in a fair and respectful manner. If the labels are not willing to voluntarily implement these changes, then the artists have no choice but to seek legislative and judicial solutions. Simply put, artists must regain control, as much as possible, over their music.

I have to wonder, is this really the problem? Commoditization of music as the root of all evil? Somehow, there’s something missing here — I can’t help but expect to see "four legs good, two legs better" in a paragraph that says artists want to "join" the labels…….

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A New Challenge [6:46 pm]

The RIAA actionable under RICO? RIAA sued under gang laws

A New Jersey woman, one of the hundreds of people accused of copyright infringement by the Recording Industry Association of America, has countersued the big record labels, charging them with extortion and violations of the federal antiracketeering act.

Through her attorneys, Michele Scimeca contends that by suing file-swappers for copyright infringement, and then offering to settle instead of pursuing a case where liability could reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the RIAA is violating the same laws that are more typically applied to gangsters and organized crime.

“This scare tactic has caused a vast amount of settlements from individuals who feared fighting such a large institution and feel victim to these actions and felt forced to provide funds to settle these actions instead of fighting,” Scimeca’s attorney, Bart Lombardo, wrote in documents filed with a New Jersey federal court. “These types of scare tactics are not permissible and amount to extortion.”

[...] Even RIAA critics look at Scimeca’s racketeering-based countersuit as a long shot. But it’s worth trying, they say.

“It is the first I’ve heard of anyone attempting that,” said EFF legal director Cindy Cohn. “I guess that is a silver lining of the fact that the RIAA is suing so many people, that there are a lot of lawyers trying to figure out ways to protect folks.”

Slashdot discussion: RIAA Countersued Under Racketeering Laws

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Is Dave Winer Crazy? [9:53 am]

Or just hideously misguided <G>:

Editorial about the weather. After a promising beginning this winter has been a major disappointment. One good snow storm in December. I thought “Gee this is fun but I bet I get tired of it by the end of the winter.” Bzzzt. Not. Since then we’ve had flurries. Every week they predict a good storm, and every week it fails to materialize. I want my money back. Let’s get it together. Snow now. Snow now. Snow now. Snow now!

Were it not for the fact that I would have to suffer too, I would ask that he gets his wish — there is nothing WORSE than a major snowstorm in a city that has no real facilities for snow removal. I’m surprised that our one big snow wasn’t enough to convince him.

This winter still has plenty of bite left in it, and the last thing we need is someone ASKING for more snow!!!

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SCO End-User Suit Deadline? [9:44 am]

Slashdot posts that the self-declared 90-day deadline for SCO to file an infringement suit against a Linux end-user is up today: Today Is SCO’s Deadline To Sue Linux User

More interesting is GrokLaw’s analysis of the potential for DMCA mischief under §1202: Attacking With The DMCA’s Section 1202

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More Different Thinking from the BBC [8:46 am]

While the BBC has been a leader in making their WWW content available, this is a new one: BBC ponders P2P distribution

The BBC is to make its programme archive available over a peer-to-peer network, it said at the International Broadcasting Convention last weekend.

BT, meanwhile, has confirmed that it is in talks with the BBC to find a way “of ensuring that their plans have a positive impact on broadband Britain”.

The BBC plans to develop a “super electronic programme guide”, which allows users to record content as they do with a personal video recorder, New Media Age reports.

The announcement comes after confirmation that Auntie* will be making its archive accessible via the Internet, and clarifies the mechanism by which this will happen.

The BBC’s new media director, Ashley Highfield, said that a P2P network will allow the BBC to handle the volume of traffic it expects when the Internet Media Player (IMP) goes live. The IMP will enable users to download or stream content to their PC, laptop or palmtop computer.

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More Entertaining Fallout from the Pepsi/Apple SuperBowl Ad [8:42 am]

Film makers join revulsion at Pepsi RIAA doublespeak

Award-winning film maker and Apple user Brian Flemming has become the second artist to release his critique of the now notorious SuperBowl commercial, which promoted Apple’s iTunes store.

Documentary film maker James Saldana posted his annoted version here.

Now director Flemming, who created the intriguing spoof documentary Nothing So Strange about reaction to the fictional assassination of Bill Gates [our report - official website] has juxtaposed the idealism of Apple’s 1984 Superbowl commercial with its Pepsi-sponsored, RIAA-blessed counterpart.

“I’m still a huge Apple fan, as I have been for years,” explains Brian on his weblog. “Apple’s products have had a huge, and positive, influence on my life. That’s why I’m so let down by Apple’s involvement in this propaganda. Pepsi sells slow poison to children - it’s hardly surprising that they’d stoop to this. From Apple I expected better.”

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Wippit [8:38 am]

P2P service makes beautiful music with EMI and others

UK online music service Wippit has added a second music major to its roster, hot on the heels of becoming the first P2P system to attract the attention of the industry’s big boys.

The company this week signed its second major contract having already shaken hands with EMI. It says it has two more deals at contract stage.

Wippit has survived the last few years on indie music only, signing 200 of the less well-known independent record labels and only now having the credibility to open negotiations with the big guys.

[...] Myers has a different model and charges £30 ($54) a year (not per month) to each of his 180,000 registered users. He splits revenue - including any advertising revenue he gets - 50/50 with all of his partner labels, and they each get an pro-rata amount related to the number of downloads that happen on the network.

His system is to gradually place content on the site; not deliver it all in one go. He treats it like any other publishing process. “BskyB doesn’t put all of its good films on all in one go,” he said, “and it’s a bit like that. You have to keep new stuff coming in all the time.”

Because so many of his record labels are independents, many of them cannot get air play on the radio, and so they opt for unprotected MP3 files to be placed on his site and give permission for file-sharing rights between all of the Wippit customers. Others need the security of Windows Media DRM wrapped around them and file sharing is not allowed.

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CRIA Takes Up the Challenge [8:23 am]

Canadian recording industry pleased with progress in legal process regarding online music pirates

CRIA filed court orders last week to require five Canadian internet service providers to disclose the identities of large scale pirates who have been openly and illegally distributing thousands of digital music files over public networks. CRIA filed motions in the Federal Court of Canada to identify large-scale infringers using Internet services operated by Bell/Sympatico, Rogers Communications Inc., Shaw Communications Inc., TELUS Corporation and Videotron Telecom Ltd.

See also: File-swapping lawsuits loom in Canada and Canada’s Music Industry Seeks Song-Swap Crackdown

Canada’s biggest music producers asked the courts on Monday to order Internet service providers to identify customers who swap songs illegally on the Internet as the Canadian firms try to match a U.S. crackdown on music piracy.

The music companies, including the Canadian units of giants Universal Music and EMI Music, asked the Federal Court of Canada to order the providers to disclose the identity of 29 large-volu

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Words Without Borders [8:02 am]

Innovation in content distribution: Online Magazine Removes Cultural Blinders

First the statistics that helped inspire Ms. Mason: a widely cited 1999 report from the National Endowment for the Arts calculated that about 3 percent of the books published in the United States were translations, compared with 40 to 50 percent in Western European countries.

Then, the zeal: “I really thought after Sept. 11 we would feel more of a need to know about the rest of the world, to realize how urgent it was to know what people were thinking and feeling and writing about America and themselves,” Ms. Mason said. “It’s very easy to throw out phrases like `the Axis of Evil,’ the enemy, and we really don’t know who these people are.”

“Words Without Borders” (www.wordswithoutborders.org), supported by two grants totaling $65,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts, went online in July by presenting what the editors call “literature from the Axis of Evil.” The first three issues had essays, reporting and book excerpts from writers in North Korea, Iraq and Iran who might be famous in their own countries and regions but are almost unknown in the United States.

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RamBus Dodges a Bullet [7:58 am]

For now, anyway — Rambus wins major round in FTC case

An FTC administrative law judge dismissed the case, which centered on allegations that Rambus deceived the industry and a standards body by not disclosing its patent plans regarding synchronous dynamic random access memory while SDRAM-related standards talks were under way. Once standards had been adopted, Rambus filed intellectual-property suits against several major makers of SDRAM, the most common memory found on the market.

The JEDEC Solid State Technology Association, to which Rambus belongs, requires members to disclose or license relevant intellectual property to other members, but how the organization applied those bylaws has been a controversy in the case.

By ruling for Rambus, the FTC judge effectively said Rambus’ alleged conduct didn’t occur, or wasn’t illegal. Although the judge tossed out the FTC case Tuesday, the details behind the decision will not be made available until Monday.

Slashdot: FTC Dismisses Complaint Against Rambus

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Partnering for Content DRM [7:55 am]

Intel, Movielink co-star in Web movie push

Movielink, a venture backed by five Hollywood film studios, lets people pay to download and watch feature-length films on a PC. Its partnership with Intel will give it more muscle in promoting the service, and it will give it a inside edge on emerging technologies designed to let people transfer films wirelessly from the PC to the TV.

[...] As part of the Intel-Movielink deal, the companies will explore various content-protection technologies to be used in the wireless transfer of films from a home PC to a television set. They said that they will look for content protection that works seamlessly with digital media adapters (DMAs), or connectors that allow the transfer of data among various electronic devices.

Intel is developing a prototype of an Internet Protocol-enabled DMA. Movielink will support the Intel project with technical information, such as user scenarios.

Marketing plays a large role in the deal, too. Intel will sponsor and promote Movielink’s college Web site, which gives college students lower rental rates for online films. In addition, the chipmaker will promote Movielink at major retail outlets that sell PCs based on the Intel Pentium 4 processor with HT Technology. The companies plan to advertise jointly in print and in online media.

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BitTorrent Gets NYTimes Ink [7:48 am]

File Sharing’s New Face (yes, it’s from last week, but still…..)

If Napster started the first generation of file-sharing, and services like Kazaa represented the second, then the system developed by Mr. Cohen, known as BitTorrent, may well be leading the third. Firm numbers are difficult to come by, but it appears that the BitTorrent software has been downloaded more than 10 million times.

And just as earlier forms of file-sharing seem to be waning in popularity under legal pressure from the music industry, new technologies like BitTorrent are making it easier than ever to share and distribute the huge files used for video.

[...] BitTorrent, however, uses what could be called a Golden Rule principle: the faster you upload, the faster you are allowed to download. BitTorrent cuts up files into many little pieces, and as soon as a user has a piece, they immediately start uploading that piece to other users. So almost all of the people who are sharing a given file are simultaneously uploading and downloading pieces of the same file (unless their downloading is complete).

The practical implication is that the BitTorrent system makes it easy to distribute very large files to large numbers of people while placing minimal bandwidth requirements on the original “seeder.” That is because everyone who wants the file is sharing with one another, rather than downloading from a central source. A separate file-sharing network known as eDonkey uses a similar system.

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The RIAA Keeps It Up [7:42 am]

New Flurry of RIAA Lawsuits Also, Record Industry Sues 531 More File-Sharers

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Grey Album Goes Down [7:27 am]

While the Grey Album was a big hit with fans of DangerMouse, it apparently hasn’t been so pleasing to EMI executives:

  • Ananova: EMI blocks ‘Grey Album’

  • TeenMusic: Jay-z’s Grey Album Blocked By Emi

  • Boston Globe: EMI puts it in black and white: No `Grey Album’

    When DJ Danger Mouse began garnering attention for “The Grey Album,” his inventive remix of a cappella tracks from Jay-Z’s “The Black Album” and music from the Beatles’ eponymous 1968 album commonly known as “The White Album,” it was always a question when — not if — his unauthorized project would be shut down.

    [...] For his part, Danger Mouse said he always understood that his recordings were “illegal” and that “it may get me in trouble, but if I had thought about that I would have never made what I thought turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.”

  • BBC News: EMI blocks Beatles album remix

    “He’s not going to produce any more, sell any more or distribute any more - which is what they’re asking of him,” a spokesman for DJ Danger Mouse told BBC News Online.

    “He’s done that in an effort to avoid any legal proceedings. But the album’s very much out there.”

    The DJ was “just happy for people to burn it, bootleg it and post it on the internet”, the spokesman said. “Consequently, people are doing it.”

DangerMouse’s description of the project:

In November of 2003 Jay-Z released ‘The Black Album’….

Now, Producer and DJ - Danger Mouse, Presents….

‘The Grey Album’

The Grey Album is an art project/experiment that uses the full vocal content of Jay-Z’s Black Album recorded over new beats and production made using the Beatles White Album as the sole source material. Danger Mouse insists he can explain and prove that all the music on the Grey Album can be traced back to the White Album and its musical content via sampling. Every kick, snare, and chord is taken from the Beatles White Album and is in their original recording somwhere.

This Incredible re-interpretation will be one to look out for and will be made available worldwide around Feb/March of 2004. The resulting record is a unique hybrid of work from one of hip-hop’s fastest rising production stars via two of the most important musical and cultural forces ever.

In an incredible year, Danger Mouse has already received critical acclaim from his status as the Producer and DJ of the DM & Jemini duo. His work on their ‘Ghetto Pop Life’ debut showcased his enormous potential and 2004 will see Danger Mouse involved in several further projects.

Both the Beatles own remix project (’Let It Be… Naked’) and Jay-Z’s retirement Black Album are in stores now. At the time of writing, neither Jay-Z nor The Beatles were available for comment.

See also Mary Hodder’s thoughts: Yet Another Copyright / Remix Culture Struggle With a Mouse or Why I Get Whiplash Thinking About the Disney Diachotomy

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February 2004
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