August 15, 2004

MP3 Blogs [6:58 pm]

Blogs Build Buzz, Raise Copyright Questions [pdf] [via micropersuasion]

Acclaimed acts like Interscope’s Scissor Sisters, Rough Trade’s Fiery Furnaces and Epic’s Franz Ferdinand have been successfully hyped on blogs.

The majority of blogs have low traffic but can accurately target a specific audience. A typical blogger may have a following of only 30 or so friends, but those 30 are likely to have similar musical tastes.

Some of the most influential blogs are sidelines written by media professionals associated with the music industry. Among the blogs developing strong tastemaker credibility: stereogum.com from vh1.com’s Scott Lapatine and ultragrrrl.com from Spin magazine’s Sarah Lewitinn.

[...] Bloggers are taking it upon themselves to evangelize music they love by hosting or posting links to unlicensed MP3s on their sites — often without the prior consent of the label or artist in question. That’s a potential problem for copyright owners.

Sites specializing in hosting music represent a special subset in the blog world — the MP3 blog. These sites are known for offering free music.

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Prince’s Business Model [6:39 pm]

A writeup of the Prince tour, making a stop in Boston: It’s good to be Prince [pdf]

Though he has long endured a reputation as being petulant and mercurial, on this day, he’s in high spirits — perhaps, in part, because his tour, which concludes next month, has been an unqualified success, one of the biggest of an otherwise balky summer touring season.

[...] [B]etween 1991’s “Diamonds and Pearls” and “Musicology,” Prince seemed bent on confusing and alienating his fans. He changed his name to a symbol and was embroiled in a protracted battle with Warner Bros., his longtime record label, to free himself from a long-term contract worth $100 million. He compares record companies to Satan trying to tempt Jesus with the riches of the world.

[...] Unwilling to sign another long-term deal, he set up the NPG (New Power Generation) Music Club, and through its website, he released a series of little-noticed albums, such as last year’s all-instrumental “N.E.W.S.” From the name change to his eccentric albums, Prince still defends his actions and his music.

[...] During his performance that night, Prince takes swipes at his former label, with the ad-libbed lyrics, “Warner Bros. used to be a friend of mine, now they’re just a monumental waste of time.” For “Musicology,” Prince struck a one-off distribution deal with Sony. It was released on his NPG Records, and he retains complete control over the album.

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Reason: John Perry Barlow Interview [4:17 pm]

John Perry Barlow 2.0: The Thomas Jefferson of cyberspace reinvents his body — and his politics. [via Lessig Blog]

Reason: How would you assess the accomplishments of EFF so far?

Barlow: Every existing power relation is up for renewal with cyberspace, and it was only natural there would be an awful lot of fracas where cyberspace met the physical world. EFF has been the primary mediator on that border. We have been very successful at protecting against excessive government encroachment into the virtual world.

Copyright and intellectual property are the most important issues now. If you don’t have something that assures fair use, then you don’t have a free society. If all ideas have to be bought, then you have an intellectually regressive system that will assure you have a highly knowledgeable elite and an ignorant mass.

Reason: Is it your goal to annihilate intellectual property?

Barlow: Let me differentiate my own view from ex cathedra EFF. I personally think intellectual property is an oxymoron. Physical objects have a completely different natural economy than intellectual goods. It’s a tricky thing to try to own something that remains in your possession even after you give it to many others.

Reason: You’ve said it’s better to think of intellectual work as a service you are paid for rather than an object of which you retain ownership.

Barlow: The way most people get paid for work done with their minds is on that basis. Lawyers, doctors, and architects don’t work for royalties, and they’re doing fine. Royalties are not how most writers or musicians make their living. Musicians by and large make a living with a relationship with an audience that is economically harnessed through performance and ticket sales.

Trying to own intellectual products and creating an economy of scarcity around them as we do with physical objects is very harmful to the development of culture and the ability to speak freely, and a very important principle not talked about much, which is the right to know. I think we have a right to know. It shouldn’t be something we have to purchase.

That’s me. EFF takes a somewhat more moderate view, but they are very concerned about fair use, and they don’t believe present copyright laws, especially as defined by the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, are in the service of fair use at all. It was a very dumb piece of legislation, and if we could get rid of it, the world would be a better place.

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Dahlia Lithwick on “Re-Activists” [3:48 pm]

Dahlia Lithwick is making the most of her guest columnist time, IMHO. For example, today’s attempt to reframe the language of “activist judges:” Activist, Schmactivist

We all evidently believe that you’re either for the liberal activist judges or against them. Folks on the left say they protect minorities from majority tyranny, as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court did last year in the gay marriage decision. Folks on the right say they act as unelected superlegislators. Folks on the left say they are interpreting a living Constitution. Folks on the right say they are unmoored from any fixed point, save, perhaps, the Harvard Law School.

We can disagree about outcomes, but we have, at least as a matter of political language, internalized the fiction that liberal judges “make” law, while conservative judges “interpret” it.

A modest proposal, then: Let’s invent a new term right here, today, for judges or judicial nominees on the right, who claim to be merely “interpreting” the Constitution, even when they are refusing to impose settled law; law they deem unsettled because it was invented by “liberal activist judges.” And while I am open to better suggestions, here’s a tentative offering: “Re-activist judges.”

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3G Phones and Music Downloads [3:42 pm]

Downloads on the Move in Europe

The ability to download complete tracks directly over cell-phone networks to mobile phones is becoming a reality in Europe. O2 Music, the music arm of U.K.-based international telecom operator mmO2, has started offering songs for download in Germany and the United Kingdom.

The emerging trend of selling full-length songs directly to mobile phones in Europe has been triggered by better understanding and cooperation between mobile phone operators, handset manufacturers and record labels. In addition, the launch by year’s end of the new third-generation networks is expected to give consumers a range of new services in which music downloads will play a major part.

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