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April 16, 2004

The Drive To Digital [6:17 pm]

Doc Searls points to an incisive, if depressing, summation of the state of play at the FCC: “Overread”

This “drive to digital” isn’t about new services, its about control. Its difficult to keep an analog signal from being copied, but a digital receiver can have technology embedded to keep the bits under a DRM scheme.

its about copyright. Basically someone is using the FCC to not only limit the first amendment, but by breaking the 1st, the copyright culture gets stronger in the process.

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Beatallica [6:02 pm]

Sellout Central (thank you Dave Sifry!) points readers to Beatallica. From their FAQ

Q: Who are the guys in the band?

A: Two musicians with day jobs pulled the whole thing off. One (Krk) did all the music, the other (Jaymz) lent his Hetfield impersonation. All the tracks on the first EP were recorded in one day. The second EP took even longer…

Both guys have their own separate bands, and they write and perform original material. They’ve been friends for years.

Q: Oh come on, you’ve got to know more than that!

A:Sure, but for obvious legal reasons (imagine the lawyers that two of the biggest bands in rock history can buy), the band wants to remain anonymous. I can’t even reveal where they live… I can say that they’re from the Midwest in the US.

Personally, I think it’s too bad they have to worry about litigation. It badly reflects the money-driven intolerance of the music industry, which has a history of squashing independent artists who reference popular culture in their work.

Q: Have Metallica or the Beatles contacted you?

A: Not yet. At least two members of Metallica (Kirk and Lars) have mentioned in interviews that they’d heard Beatallica and enjoyed it. We know that Hetfield’s heard it too, but he hasn’t said anything publicly about it that we know of. We’ve heard nothing from the Beatles camp. Paul and Ringo seem to have a good sense of humor, so we don’t expect any problems from them.

But the important thing to realize is that the bands’ opinions do not matter in the current music industry. For example, in the U2/Negativland case, the lawsuit was initiated by U2’s record label, Island records, not the band itself. The band actually thought the Negativland track was pretty funny, but by the time Island let U2 know about the lawsuit, it was too late to stop it. Read Negativland’s book for the whole sordid tale.

And here’s their disclaimer:

Disclaimer

Beatallica is not, I repeat, not Metallica in disguise.

These tunes are parodies, but due to the likely exorbitant publishing costs that would be involved in releasing them for sale on CD, they are being offered free for download and distribution. If you like the tunes and want to burn CD-Rs for your friends, feel free! But please do not sell them. Free music needs to be free.

If you discover someone trying to sell a bootlegged copy of these free tunes, let us know.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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C&D Pending? [5:49 pm]

Troops Blast Music in Siege of Fallujah [pdf]

In Fallujah’s darkened, empty streets, U.S. troops blast AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” and other rock music full volume from a huge speaker, hoping to grate on the nerves of this Sunni Muslim city’s gunmen and give a laugh to Marines along the front line.

Unable to advance farther into the city, an Army psychological operations team hopes a mix of heavy metal and insults shouted in Arabic — including, “You shoot like a goat herder” — will draw gunmen to step forward and attack. But no luck Thursday night.

The loud music recalls the Army’s use of rap and rock to help flush out Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega after the December 1989 invasion on his country, and the FBI’s blaring progressively more irritating tunes in an attempt to end a standoff with armed members of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas in 1993.

[...] The young Marine looked out over grim city blocks around a dusty soccer pitch and a trash-strewn lot, as a rain shower passed over. He said during the long hours of duty, he wonders what the insurgents are doing, how many there are and if they’re watching him.

Adding to the eery feeling up, he said, are the music and speeches in Arabic that come over mosque loudspeakers.

[...] Later, the team blasted Jimi Hendrix and other rock music, and afterward some sound effects like babies crying, men screaming, a symphony of cats and barking dogs and piercing screeches. They were unable to draw any gunmen to fight, and seemed disappointed.

The Marines’ psychological operations came as U.S. negotiators were pressing Fallujah representatives to get gunmen in the city to abide by a cease-fire.

Cary Sherman really needs to get cracking on these continuing violations!

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Reversing Vandalism [5:38 pm]

Slate has a moving photo essay about an exhibition deriving from the surreptitious defacing and destruction of books with gay and lesbian themes (according to the perpetrator — demonstrably illiterate since books by Gay Talese were included): “Reversing Vandalism” By Lisa Davis

For nearly a year, a vandal mutilated more than 600 books on gay and lesbian themes at the San Francisco Public Library. Without explanation, he carved up covers and pages and left small typewritten slips of paper advertising a Bible radio station tucked inside the damaged works. Ironically, his attempt to rid the library of these books resulted in a far stronger statement from the community: With help from artists around the country, the San Francisco Public Library transformed the crime into an art show titled “Reversing Vandalism,” which features more than 200 works of various mediums and is on view in three galleries at the library through May 2.

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It’s Friday — The President Daily Brief as PPT [5:27 pm]

The Aug. 6, 2001, President’s Daily Brief (direct link to the PPT)

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Review of Free Culture at FindLaw [5:20 pm]

Butterflies May Be Free, But Should Expression Be?

Lessig’s last book, The Future of Ideas, was at times weighed down by passages on technology that were less than accessible. In contrast, Lessig’s Free Culture does a good job of presenting legal battles and the basics of copyright law in laymen’s terms. It’s a useful primer for non-lawyers, or even lawyers like me who regret not taking intellectual property courses back in law school.

What is less easy to swallow, however, is the unrelenting scorn Lessig heaps on the leading media empires and their Washington lobbyists.

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Canada Tax Dollars for DRM Research [5:16 pm]

Electronic Copyright Fund [via BoingBoing]

The specific objective of the Electronic Copyright Fund is to assist in the development and implementation of online copyright management and licensing systems and mechanisms which will facilitate access to and the exploitation of one or all types of existing copyrighted works, in particular Canadian, including works where multiple ownership arrangements exist (such as music and video), preferably through the development of a single window model.

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Sharman Trial Judge Panel Set [5:08 pm]

Federal Court Rules Panel Of Judges To Hear Sharman Networks’ Leave To Appeal Against Anton Piller Order

The Federal Court of Australia today ruled that a panel of three judges will be appointed to hear an application for leave to appeal by Sharman Networks in relation to the recent granting of an Anton Piller order to the Australian recording industry.

In his judgment today, Justice Tamberlin also ordered that the application for leave to appeal be expedited. It is expected the court will set dates shortly to hear the application for leave to appeal.

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Webcasting Progress [5:06 pm]

Top Internet Broadcasters Show Significant Audience Gains According To Arbitron Internet Broadcast Ratings

The top five Internet Broadcasters, AOL’s Radio@Network, Yahoo!’s LAUNCHcast, Live365, Musicmatch and Virgin Radio, had an average audience increase of over 30 percent between June 2003 and February 2004, as measured by Arbitron Internet Broadcast Ratings.

The combined monthly Cume, the total number of unique users that listened for five minutes or more during the month, increased for these broadcasters from a June 2003 total of 8,034,793 to a February 2004 total of 10,644,450. These ratings reflect an average overall increase of 32 percent.

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Good For Goose = Good For Gander? [5:04 pm]

Australian Record Industry Association CEO Called To Resign

Music business veteran and industry analyst Phil Tripp today called for either the resignation of Australian Record Industry Association CEO Stephen Peach or his suspension while Australian record companies and publishers audit his reported ‘CD Freeloading’ of pages of titles with multiple copies as printed in the Spike Column of the Sydney Morning Herald today.

“Former longtime ARIA/PPCA PR consultant Marcella McAdam–an unimpeachable music professional with several years dedicated service to ARIA–revealed what many of us in the industry suspected.” states 30 year veteran Tripp. “While organisations like ARIA and major record companies like to play the robbed artist and songwriter card when lobbying government over supposed losses by consumers downloading music off the Internet, it will be interesting if they take action against their own for ‘freeloading’ mass quantities of CDs for which artists and songwriters do not get paid and that are supposed to be used solely for ‘promotional purposes–usually restricted to media and business samples.”

[...] “In our industry, the abuse of free CDs being used as a form of ‘trading cards’ or ‘musical favours’ between staff at record companies coupled with the massive number of promotional copies of CDs that end up in used CD stores sold by media and industry sources is a long-running travesty which in the end, the artists pay for from denied income. It’s time the industry turn its attention to cleaning house if it is to be taken seriously in the battle against free music.” [said Phil Tripp, publisher of the AustralAsian Music Industry Directory, CEO of IMMEDIA!]

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A Slow, But Exceedingly Fine, Grind? [5:00 pm]

Is it possible that the SCO show is starting to lose its luster? BayStar seeks to retrieve investment in SCO

BayStar sent SCO a letter Thursday “requesting that SCO immediately redeem BayStar’s 20,000 shares of SCO’s Series A-1 Convertible Preferred Stock,” SCO said in a statement Friday. SCO disputes the basis of BayStar’s request, that SCO breached terms of a Feb. 5, 2004, exchange agreement by which SCO exchanged one type of preferred stock BayStar owned for another.

The move represents a serious threat to a $50 million investment that SCO described as “war chest” it would use against Linux. The Royal Bank of Canada, which chipped in $30 million, could follow suit.

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GrokLaw Profiled at Salon [2:01 pm]

Making the world safe for free software

About the only party not happy with Groklaw is SCO. The firm’s CEO, Darl McBride, has publicly accused IBM of secretly funding Groklaw (Pamela Jones denies this.) In an interview with Salon, Blake Stowell, a spokesman for the firm, dismissed the idea that Groklaw can be a source for well-researched insight into the SCO case; in his view, much of what goes on at Groklaw is unabashed SCO-bashing. “One of Groklaw’s biggest roles is to provide an opinion,” Stowell said. “I think they have been successful in having an awful lot of people come to their site to gain an opinion on things. But it’s a very one-sided opinion, and if that’s the only thing that people read to gain an opinion on things they’re getting a very one-sided view.” Stowell doesn’t think that Groklaw has uncovered anything of lasting import legally. “I don’t think they’ve influenced at all what we’ve done in our lawsuit,” he said.

Slashdot: nsuring Linux, Thanks to SCO

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Microsoft FAT patent [10:59 am]

This should be interesting: Patent Office asked to review Microsoft FAT patent (press release)

According to the Public Patent Foundation’s request, “the ‘517 patent is causing immeasurable injury to the public by serving as a tool to enlarge Microsoft’s monopoly while also preventing competition from Free Software.” “Microsoft is using its control over the interchange of digital media to aid its ongoing effort to deter competition from Free and Open Source Software. Specifically, Microsoft does not offer licenses to the ‘517 patent for use in Free Software. As such, the ‘517 patent stands as a potential impediment to the development and use of Free Software because Free Software users are denied the ability to interchange media with machines or devices running Microsoft owned or licensed software.”

The [sic] says that Microsoft’s FAT patent (5,579, 517) is invalid because of three prior art patents, filed by IBM and Xerox in 1988, 1989 and 1990. Microsoft was not granted ‘517 until 1996.

Slashdot: PUBPAT Challenges Microsoft’s FAT Patent

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Charlie Cooper on Glaser’s Blunder [9:50 am]

Jobs to Glaser: Buzz off. Worth reading in parallel to a related CNet article: Will iPod suffer fate of the Mac?. At this point, the prognostications about Apple’s future in the second article are about as worthwhile as the last 15 year’s worth of “Apple is dead” claims, but Cooper shows why Real, with a single e-mail, showed just how bankrupt their position is:

[...] But Glaser gambled wrong on several counts.

Apple couldn’t care less about a promise from RealNetworks to rejigger its RealPlayer jukebox so as to support the iPod. RealNetworks attributes its declining share of the media-streaming business to illegal competition from Microsoft. The courts will decide that one. I long ago deleted RealPlayer from my desktop, because I found it to be an annoying, inferior product. Lots of other people apparently feel the same way.

Glaser also trusted Jobs to remain discreet about the offer. What was he thinking? Putting a revolver on the table while you offer terms may work in Tony Soprano’s world–but not in Silicon Valley. In Jobs, Glaser faces an executive with an ego even bigger than his own. “You gonna’ mess with me? No, I’m gonna’ mess with you!”

Worse, Glaser’s gun had no bullets. The Listen.com digital music service RealNetworks operates sells subscriptions. But at the San Francisco debut of the iTunes store a year ago, Jobs scoffed at the assumption that people want to rent and not own their music. Given the history, you can understand why Glaser’s offer has left Apple underwhelmed.

The biggest blunder was to put any of this in e-mail. If there’s one takeaway from Microsoft’s antitrust trial, it’s that hot e-mails always come back to haunt the author.

Update: Slashdot discussion - Apple Rejects RealNetwork’s Pleas

Further update - official announcement: Apple’s Jobs nixes iPod partnerships

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Music Culture: Shuffling [9:42 am]

Music Magic Found in the Shuffle

“I have seen the future, and it is called Shuffle,” writes Alex Ross, the New Yorker’s music critic, who seems to have recently acquired an iPod.

Stuffy old listening habits — like listening to albums from beginning to end — are being thrown out in favor of allowing machines to choose songs at random, which often leads to unexpected, and magical, juxtapositions of music.

“There is something thrilling about setting the player on Shuffle and letting it decide what to play next,” Ross writes. “The little machine often goes crashing through barriers of style in ways that change how I listen.”

[...] Randomly selecting tracks really comes into its own with giant music collections: libraries that stretch to tens of thousand of songs. In a giant library, random shuffle is a good way — sometimes the only way — to hear music that would otherwise go unplayed.

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Pop Culture and Corporate Motives [7:01 am]

Today’s NYTimes has a look at an implicit problem for any pop culture critic — if it’s “pop,” how can it be critiqued?: Corporate Culture Clash: Elitism, Popularity and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Elitism has its dangers, or at least its amusing paradoxes, for a pop-culture critic. Sometimes you can wander so far into the byways of your own peculiar passion — small-town indie rock bands or lesser-known Japanese anime directors or obscure 1970’s TV sitcoms that never made it past the pilot — that you forget that popular culture is, by definition, supposed to be popular. But who defines what is popular? Sales charts, more or less rigged, measuring those artists with access to the giant distribution machine controlled by large corporations, that’s who.

Nothing is more contentious among pop-culture critics than the role of corporations in the dissemination of that culture. Terrifyingly evil or merely monstrous seems about the range of the discussion. The subtitle of Lawrence Lessig’s new book tells it all: “Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity.”

[...] Good CD’s and movies and television shows still do get made, along with the inevitable avalanche of vulgarity. Somehow a few musicians and directors and producers manage to fight their way through layers of corporate bureaucracy and mendacity and produce outstanding work that gets distributed to the broader public by the very corporations it’s so easy to excoriate.

Elitist pop-culture critics must, in the end, be mindful of what large numbers of people actually see and read and listen to. Because the underlying mythology of pop culture is still the idea that the approval of large numbers of people validates that culture and the society that produces it. If something is truly loved by millions of people, it has touched those people, has tapped into some stream of universality that indicates a life force attenuated in more elitist art.

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