May 26, 2004

The Perils of Fame [7:20 pm]

From Slate: Beyoncè, Your Mix Tape Sucks - The perils of iTunes celebrity playlists

Since October, Apple has been collecting playlists from musicians and celebrities at its iTunes music store. For Apple, of course, these celebrity playlists are another way to package their 99-cent songs. They help Apple maintain its position as the musician-friendly computer company—an image they’ve successfully cultivated since their first music-based ads in 2001. But for musicians, iTunes celebrity playlists offer a unique form of public humiliation. Just as Us Weekly’s feature “Stars—They’re Just Like Us!” presents schadenfreude-laced shots of a makeup-free J. Lo chowing down on a Filet-O-Fish, iTunes celebrity playlists call forth visions of Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas nervously offering you a mix tape. A mix tape that sucks.

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The Beeb And CC [6:49 pm]

The BBC press release: BBC Creative Archive pioneers new approach to public access rights in digital age

The BBC Creative Archive, first announced by former BBC Director-General, Greg Dyke at the Edinburgh Television Festival in August 2003, launches in autumn 2004 and will allow people to download clips of BBC factual programmes from bbc.co.uk for non-commercial use, keep them on their PCs, manipulate and share them, so making the BBC’s archives more accessible to licence fee payers.

However, the initiative also has broader public service ambitions to pioneer a new approach to public access rights in the digital age.

[...] Access to the BBC Creative Archive will be based on the Creative Commons model already working in the United States (www.creativecommons.org) which proposes a middle way to rights management, rather than the extremes of the pure public domain or the reservation of all rights.

[...] Professor Lawrence Lessig, chair of the Creative Commons project, adds: “The announcement by the BBC of its intent to develop a Creative Archive has been the single most important event in getting people to understand the potential for digital creativity, and to see how such potential actually supports artists and artistic creativity.

“If the vision proves a reality, Britain will become a centre for digital creativity, and will drive the many markets – in broadband deployment and technology – that digital creativity will support.”

Also see

BBC Creative Archive licensing to be based on Creative Commons and

Slashdot: BBC Creative Archive Based On Creative Commons

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TechDirt on the Ringtone Biz [10:49 am]

Recording Industry’s Next Trick? Killing Ringtone Sales

Already we’ve seen applications like Xingtone take the industry by surprise by daring to let users make ringtones out of music they’ve legally purchased - and it won’t be long until ringtones are easily downloadable directly to mobile phones via a Napster-like application (if it doesn’t exist already). Still, the music industry sees money, and are increasing the royalty rates they charge for ringtones, making them more expensive. In fact, ringtones that are mere snippets of songs cost much more than actually downloading the full song from any of the various download music stores out there. Of course, all this will really do is drive more people to investigate alternatives like Xingtone, and make the “market” for selling ringtones disappear quite quickly. This was going to happen eventually no matter what, so maybe, by raising prices, the industry is just speeding up the process.

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Eric Idle On The FCC, and Others [10:17 am]

Eric Idle’s FCC Song — starts with the FCC and the profanity brouhaha, and then moves on to other concerns. [via Doc]

Eric Idle presents… The FCC Song.

“Here’s a little song I wrote the other day while I was out duck hunting with a judge… It’s a new song, it’s dedicated to the FCC and if they broadcast it, it will cost a quarter of a million dollars.”

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Adapting To A Changing Role [9:59 am]

R.I.P.: The Counterculture Aura of Linux

The handling of intellectual property in open source software projects like Linux, to which many developers from around the world contribute code, is a sensitive issue, given the potential for litigation, said George Weiss, an analyst for Gartner Inc.

“It’s not SCO that concerns corporate executives so much, but post-SCO and the uncertainty of facing intellectual property claims if they use open source software,” Mr. Weiss said. “And this Linux move is a step in the right direction.”

Slashdot discussion: Linus Adopts Enhanced Tracking Process; Wired News: Linux: Whose Kernel Is It?

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Consequences of Outsourcing Military Functions In A Battle Zone [9:51 am]

This has been bandied about for a while; here’s the latest take from the NYTimes: The Law: Who Would Try Civilians of U.S.? No One in Iraq

Prosecuting civilian contractors in United States courts would be “fascinating and enormously complicated,” said Deborah N. Pearlstein, director of the U.S. law and security program of Human Rights First.

It is clear, on the other hand, that neither Iraqi courts nor American courts-martial are available.

In June 2003, L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator in Iraq, granted broad immunity to civilian contractors and their employees. They were, he wrote, generally not subject to criminal and civil actions in the Iraqi legal system, including arrest and detention.

That immunity is limited to their official acts under their contracts, and it is unclear whether any abuses alleged can be said to have been such acts. But even unofficial conduct by contractors in Iraq cannot be prosecuted there, Mr. Bremer’s order said, without his written permission.

Similarly, under a series of Supreme Court decisions, civilians cannot be court-martialed in the absence of a formal declaration of war. There was no such declaration in the Iraq war.

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PIRATE Act Up For A Vote Soon? [9:18 am]

That’s what this CNet News article suggests: ‘Pirate Act’ raises civil rights concerns

A proposal that the Senate may vote on as early as next week [search 'General Orders'] would let federal prosecutors file civil lawsuits against suspected copyright infringers, with fines reaching tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The so-called Pirate Act is raising alarms among copyright lawyers and lobbyists for peer-to-peer firms, who have been eyeing the recording industry’s lawsuits against thousands of peer-to-peer users with trepidation. The Justice Department, they say, could be far more ambitious.

[...] The Pirate Act represents the latest legislative priority for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and its allies, who collectively argue that dramatic action is necessary to prevent file-swapping networks from continuing to blossom in popularity.

“We view this as a key component of an enforcement package,” RIAA lobbyist Mitch Glazier said Tuesday. “If you’re going to try to make sure that you have effective deterrence, then one of the tools you’ll need is to make sure that prosecutors have flexibility.”

Foes of the Pirate Act have been alarmed by the unusual alacrity of the proposal’s legislative progress. It was introduced just two months ago, on March 25, and not one hearing was held before the Judiciary committee forwarded it to the full Senate for a vote a month later.

Time to write some letters, everyone. Here’s Ernest’s take: PIRATE Act Sneaking Through Congress

Update: Slashdot: ‘Pirate Act’ Would Shift Copyright Civil Suits To DoJ

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Clear Channel and Music Distribution [8:35 am]

Clear Channel Limits Live CDs [via IPNews Blog]

In the past few years, fans leaving some concerts have discovered a souvenir far better than a T-shirt: a live recording of the show they just attended. [...] The recording-and-burning company DiscLive estimated on April 12th that it would gross $500,000 selling live discs this spring alone.

But in a move expected to severely limit the industry, Clear Channel Entertainment has bought the patent from the technology’s inventors and now claims to own the exclusive right to sell concert CDs after shows. The company, which is the biggest concert promoter in the world, says the patent covers its 130 venues along with every other venue in the country.

“We want to be artist-friendly,” says Steve Simon, a Clear Channel executive vice president and the director of Instant Live. “But it is a business, and it’s not going to be ‘we have the patent, now everybody can use it for free.’”

Artists net about ten dollars for every twenty- to twenty-five-dollar concert CD that’s sold, no matter which company they use. But with Clear Channel pushing to eliminate competition, many fear there will be less money and fewer opportunities to sell live discs. “It’s one more step toward massive control and consolidation of Clear Channel’s corporate agenda,” says String Cheese Incident manager Mike Luba, who feuded with Clear Channel last year after promoters blocked the band from using CD-burning equipment.

The Pixies, who are booking a fall reunion tour with several probable Clear Channel venues, say Clear Channel has already told them DiscLive can’t burn and sell CDs on-site. “Presuming Clear Channel’s service and product are of equal quality, it may be best to feed the dragon rather than draw swords,” says Pixies manager Ken Goes. “Still, I’m not fond of doing business with my arm twisted behind my back.”

[...] Clear Channel executives maintain that they have the right to stop anyone who tries to infringe on the patent. Many say this strategy prevents inventors from jumping into a marketplace and creating further innovation.

Slashdot: Clear Channel Buys Patent For Instant Live CDs

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May 25, 2004

Two Hot Copyright Articles [6:15 pm]

Freedom to Tinker: Must-Read Copyright Articles — on Copyright’s Communications Policy and Ex Ante Versus Ex Post Justifications for Intellectual Property.

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Broadcast Flag Fallout in Japan [5:31 pm]

Viewers upset over digital TV taping restrictions — Slashdot discussion: Japanese Digital TV Viewers Complain About DRM Restrictions. Note that the article not only discusses the DRM features, but also raises some privacy questions…….

Measures implemented by NHK and private TV broadcasting companies to control the copying of digital television programs have drawn a flood of complaints from TV users, with some saying they have been deprived of certain editing freedoms.

On April 5, NHK and the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan began airing their programs with a special transmission signal that allows only a single copy of the program to be made.

Because programs that have been copied once cannot be duplicated or edited digitally, editing the programs via a personal computer has become impossible.

In addition, the broadcasters’ move has made it necessary for viewers to insert a special user identification card, known as a B-CAS card, into their digital TV sets to watch programs.

[...] In the week after the measure was implemented, NHK and the grouping of private broadcasters received more than 15,000 inquiries and complaints about the scheme.

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Private Distribution Over Electronic? [10:10 am]

There’s something weird going on here: 9/11 Panel Chooses Publisher for Report

The panel’s plan to designate an “authorized” private publisher was announced last week. The choice of Norton has created consternation among publishing executives whose companies were turned down for the prestigious and potentially lucrative assignment.

Those executives said they could not recall a similar arrangement in which a high-profile federal commission turned over the work of its investigators to an outside publisher before public release. Under the agreement, Norton will make no payment to the commission and will be allowed to keep any profits.

The 10-member bipartisan commission said the agreement was designed to make the report more readily available to the public by allowing Norton to stock bookstores with a private soft-cover version on the same day it is made public in Washington and released on the Internet, probably July 26, the Congressionally mandated deadline for completion.

A letter to the editor, contrasting Bantam’s past efforts with this on: Publishing History

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Salon on Christian Music File-sharing [8:08 am]

Thou shalt not steal

[UCDavis computer science student Jonathan] McPherson, whose musical taste runs from electronic ambient to Celtic music and piano ballads, argues that even if Christians don’t agree with current copyright laws, they still have an obligation to follow them, because they’re the law of the land. With a nod to Romans 13, he writes, “Our government has been established by God, and we ought to obey its rules unless they conflict with God’s rules … Is the pleasure of entertainment worth the moral price of lawbreaking? I don’t think so.”

The record companies would undoubtably love it if today’s music-pirating teens switched gears and came around to McPherson’s viewpoint. But their problem is that McPherson’s tough line on the morality of zapping around fave Enya tunes puts him firmly in the minority, even among devout believers. Because it doesn’t make any difference if you prefer gospel or death metal; you’re still just as likely to file-swap.

Plus, we get this peculiar analysis, conflating pure copyright infringement with the more complex problem of fair use copying:

“What you have to understand about teenagers is there is this hierarchy of moral decision making,” says Kinnaman, who specializes in Christian research, and has done projects in the past for the Campus Crusade for Christ, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Focus on the Family. “What’s more important, my friends or the record companies? It’s a simple choice for them.”

To the teens in the Barna study, “hooking up” a friend with a copy of your new CD is like giving a pal a free Coke if you work at McDonald’s — no big deal, and an accepted, even expected sign of friendship.

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May 24, 2004

Cory on the Broadcast Flag for Radio Fight [7:22 pm]

Leaked docs show the CEA standing up (finally) to the RIAA

The RIAA is arm-twisting the FCC over a “broadcast flag” for digital radio, to keep you from recording and saving digital radio broadcasts. They’re trying to get the Consumer Electronics people — who sold us all out in the digital TV Broadcast Flag fight — to play along, but this time around, the CEA has grown a spine and is pushing back.

Slashdot discussion, with more links: The RIAA’s Push for an Audio Broadcast Flag

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Ernest on Kevin Murray [7:20 pm]

Ernest Miller gets upset with Kevin Murray, a California state senator who routinely shills for the copyright industries: Copyfight: Calif. “True Name” Bill Passes Senate - Sponsor Misleads About Purpose

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N+493 [7:10 pm]

RIAA Press Release: More Copyright Infringement Lawsuits Brought Against Illegal File Sharers

As with all the lawsuits filed so far this year, the RIAA is utilizing the “John Doe” litigation process, which is used to sue defendants whose names are not known. In addition to the “John Doe” lawsuits against 493 illegal file sharers, the RIAA, on behalf of the nation’s leading record companies, brought a lawsuit against 24 named defendants — individuals who were identified through “John Doe” litigations and then declined or ignored a RIAA overture to settle the case before it proceed any further.

CNet: RIAA sues 493 more music swappers; Wired News: RIAA Bags 493 More Swappers; Slashdot: RIAA Sues Nearly 500 New Swappers

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MS v. Lindows Update [1:19 pm]

Microsoft loses Lindows appeal

Microsoft wanted the trial to concentrate on what consumers make of the word “windows” today, while Linspire wanted a longer timeframe. The original judgement ruled that the jury should look at what the word meant to consumers when Microsoft Windows 1.0 became available in 1985. This decision will now be upheld because Microsoft’s appeal was rejected.

Slashdot: Ruling Clears Way For Lindows Trial

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Free Speech, Satire and Image Ownership [1:10 pm]

The NYTimes editorial page on the governor of California’s recent lawsuit: Whiplash

Mr. Schwarzenegger has every right to claim full legal ownership of himself and his image as an actor and to guard it jealously against infringement. It’s a little tougher for him to do so as a politician. A company cannot legally make money by selling ordinary Schwarzenegger merchandise without his permission. But it can do so if something is done to the image to make it satirical or a commentary. That’s something political figures have to learn to live with.

For the governor, this bobblehead case may be the first clear indication that he has crossed an invisible line from one kind of public life to another. As a politician, he belongs to the people now, especially if they’re making fun of him.

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A Rose By Any Other Name [12:47 pm]

Internet Companies Turn to Games of Skill

FOR United States companies locked out of the lucrative global industry in Internet gambling, there is still money to be made - as long as they don’t call it gambling.

[...] “We refer to this as competitive entertainment,” said Stephen J. Killeen, chief executive of WorldWinner, which runs a game site that charges tournament players and head-to-head challengers about $1.50 for every game they play, while awarding winners roughly $3.20. “The idea behind this is ‘Loser buys drinks.’

[...] The generally accepted standard for legal gaming is that it must involve a contest where skill is the predominant factor in winning or losing; if a game is too easy or too hard for the participants, skill is less a factor in the outcome than luck.

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Selling What The Customer Wants? [12:43 pm]

Some Hit Singles Are for Sale While They’re Still New on Radio

Catchy singles reach radio as much as eight weeks before the full-length CD’s they are on land in stores, but even customers willing to pay for legal downloads have been forced to wait until a day - or at most a week - before the CD’s release date. Music companies feared that issuing the songs any earlier could fuel piracy, upset traditional marketing plans and anger brick-and-mortar retailers.

But in the last six months, recording companies have had a change of heart. Songs are now routinely released for sale by download through iTunes, Napster, RealRhapsody and other services on the same day those tracks hit radio.

Companies now largely agree that the early releases, rather than encouraging piracy and hurting sales, combat file-swapping by offering fans a way to obtain songs legally as soon as they turn up on the airwaves.

[...] “It seemed silly not to give listeners the opportunity to purchase, and for them only to have an opportunity to steal,” said Amanda Marks, senior vice president of eLabs at Universal Music Group. Protests from retailers about early downloads have been minimal, she said, in part because some major outlets, like Tower Records, FYE and Wal-Mart, have their own download stores.

[...] A growing singles market represents an opportunity for labels not just to capture lost sales, but also to gauge fan interest in coming recordings. Record companies in the 1950’s and 1960’s tested the waters for new artists by first issuing singles to decide if an album was warranted, Mr. Mayfield said. As the market for downloading grows, data from early downloads are expected to play a similar strategic role for modern labels.

“We know exactly who’s buying what, when and at what frequency,” said Micah McKinney, a senior director for content programming for the Napster download store operated by Roxio. “All that data is very valuable for them developing their marketing plans and initiatives.”

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Thursday’s Frontline [8:48 am]

the way the music died

The modern music scene was created in 1969, at Woodstock. Half a million fans, dozens of artists, and the politics of the times came together as a big bang moment that eventually would generate billions of dollars. But over the last twenty years, MTV, compact discs, corporate consolidation, Internet piracy, and greed have contributed to a perfect storm for the recording industry. FRONTLINE examines how the business that has provided the soundtrack of the lives of a generation is on the verge of collapse.

PBS’ press release: The Way the Music Died

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