March 18, 2005

The Rise of Grime [8:41 am]

From the New Yorker, a look at the dynamics of pop music in the age of accessible distribution: True Grime [pdf]

Electronica and crunk passed through this stage not long ago, and grime, a British genre, has now entered it. Grime emerged from the rave culture of the late nineteen-nineties, and will sound to most Americans like hip-hop performed by m.c.s with English accents and really fast raps. Hip-hop, even at its harshest, is dance music. By contrast, grime sounds as if it had been made for a boxing gym, one where the fighters have a lot of punching to do but not much room to move.

[...] Grime exists largely in an informal economy. Some artists make their débuts on homemade DVDs, which feature shaky footage of competitions between m.c.s–a little like spelling bees, but louder. Some of the most popular battles are filmed in a long, narrow basement in Leytonstone, at the home of Jammer, a producer who runs Jahmek the World, a respected independent label. The DVDs, with names like “Lord of the Mics” and “Eskimo Dance,’ are sold in barbershops and record stores around London; pirate radio stations like Raw UK and Rinse FM broadcast tracks made days earlier; and, on cable, Channel U plays videos, including crude productions shot with handheld digital video cameras.

The grime artist Americans know best is Dizzee Rascal, a twenty-yearold from Bow, a working-class neighborhood in East London, where many grime artists live. Dizzee and his mentor, Wiley, who created one of the first grime tracks, “Eskimo,” have both released albums in the United States in the past year. And both appear on “Run the Road,” a new compilation that documents the genre’s industry and energy.

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Interview With Larry About The Code Wiki [8:31 am]

On This Wiki, Everyone’s a Critic [pdf] (the Code wiki)

Q: How will this work, then, for the new edition of your book?

A: The version on the wiki will be available to all forever. I won’t be changing that version. Then I will do a standard, edited version, with a standard copyright license. I couldn’t get Basic Books, the publisher, to agree to a Creative Commons license.

Q: Some folks have suggested this is just a way for you to get free help.

A: Anybody who thinks that hasn’t edited a book. It’s going to be a lot more work than just pulling together research assistants.

Q: So, do you think this will actually work?

A: Quite frankly, I think this is an experiment. My hope is to take advantage of the range of knowledge out there. If it turns out to be a bust, all I’ve lost is the royalties.

From Larry’s blog: Code v2.0 and the CC-Wiki license

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Can’t We Just Make The Internet More Like TV? [8:07 am]

This Register article, Don’t let etopians define net literacy, is based upon a larger paper, Influence and Control: Getting Citizens to Behave in a Digital Society, part of Manifesto for a Digital Britain from the Institute for Public Policy Research. While the Register article is something of a muddle, the paper has a clearer, albeit surprisingly disturbing, message:

The current state of the Internet is often characterised as being in the midst of a battle between anarchy and control: a fight between proprietary models and the open source movement, consumers and producers, rights-holders and the “copyleft,” and moral guardians against misbehaving users. The outcomes of these battles do have important public policy ramifications, especially for the intellectual property regime and the mere conduit status of ISPs, which should be taken seriously. It is important the Government consider in the long term the choices we are currently facing and that, should either side win outright, the public is likely to be the loser.

For the majority of the public, the battles go unnoticed, and bear no direct relevance to the every day workings of their lives and we should not lose sight of this. In so far as it is the role of regulation to protect the public, we need to find a policy approach which navigates a way through anarchy and control, does not compromise the functionality of the Internet for all but only provides choice where choice is needed. [...]

[...] If media literacy is about empowering consumers and enabling them to go online with confidence then providing so much choice will lead to failure. Instead there is a strong argument for limiting choice, in Internet terms the number of available sites to visit, with a focus on fitting the services to the citizen. This is not to recommend the World Wide Web as a whole be filtered to provide only government-endorsed services citizens feel safe with, but instead to recommend the provision of a ‘walled garden’ service aimed at adults, and with a non-commercial bias that can provide access to functional services –– e-banking, local government information, news etc. –– limit choice and empower citizens to use the Internet in a way which works for them, rather than being forced to consider the ‘battles’ that may rage in the wider Internet world. [...]

[...] A ‘‘limited’’ World Wide Web in the sense suggested above, combined with an eBay-like rating system, would provide a guarantee of safety and validity of content accessible within the walled garden. It would thus reduce chances of individuals accessing harmful or undesirable content accidentally and could limit calls to the government to further censor the Internet using ‘cleanfeed’’ technology.

Of course this system may not meet all of the future challenges the entirety of the Internet poses. However it limits the panic that suddenly people will have no idea what and when to watch programmes with the absence of a watershed. Even in the absence of such a longstanding regulatory tool it is likely that people will continue to stick with known brands, such as the BBC, Channel 4 etc. and watch output created by them. They may do it at times more convenient to them, and powerful brands may not remain the BBC and Channel 4 for long, but nonetheless consumers will not be thrown into a frightening wilderness without assistance.

“Panic?” And here I thought that the perception was that the US policy paradigm was too paternalistic. This is spooky stuff, arguing that we need to regulate the internet for the good of the mass consumer.

And, although she asserts that the copyright/control fight is somehow beside the point for the majority of online users, I would argue that a large number of the agents responsible for the “panic” among online users are acting specifically to advance their position in the fight between copyright and information anarchy.

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Charlie Cooper and BBSpot: Same Wavelength [7:46 am]

So, here’s the BBSpot spoof from March 7: Supreme Court Bans Violent Video Games

In a landmark 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court found in favor of the people in the controversial case “The People vs. TakeTwo Interactive Software.” The ruling effectively bans not only violent video games, but all forms of violent media. People found to possess such media could be subjected to fines, imprisonment, or burning at the stake.

[...] Jace Wheeler, a member of the group Christian Advocates, had mixed feelings about the outcome of the case his group had lobbied for over six months. “While I’m delighted about getting rid of the Grand Theft Auto and them Matrixes, I don’t understand why they had to ban the Bible too.”

The decision stunned many across the country and resulted in banning of The Bible, written by God, for its violent and sadomasochistic themes, including a popular story about a man who liked to be whipped and hung on crosses. The book has also been criticized for its graphic descriptions of the male and female anatomy, and its detailed accounts of wars, plagues, and global catastrophes.

And, today, here’s Charlie Cooper’s opinion piece: If video games kill, what about the Bible?

Even when lawmakers are driven by good intentions, you run into problems when they spell out the details. Consider, for example, a recent push by Washington state legislator Mary Lou Dickerson that targets manufacturers and retailers of violent video games whose products wind up in the hands of minors.

Dickerson’s bill would allow for wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits if “the game was a factor in creating conditions that assisted or encouraged the person to cause injury or death to another person.”

That’s a mouthful, and don’t you know a good defense attorney could drive a truck through the holes in that argument. [...]

Dickerson’s is only one of several proposals making the rounds these days. But as long as the nation’s punditry is intent on examining causes and effects that contribute to aberrant behavior, why stop with computer and video games? Page through the Bible sometime. Not only do you have your pick of X-rated segments–a parent should serve as chaperone when tender young readers get to the recounting of all that “begetting”–but the good book is also chockablock with tales of one neighbor smiting the next.

Who do you think is going to get more hate mail?

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Cutting Off One’s Nose To Spite One’s Face? [7:38 am]

Fiona Apple Is Cookin’ on the Net

Songs from Fiona Apple’s latest album are widely available on the internet and are being played on the radio, but much to the chagrin of fans, the album can’t be bought for love or money.

Apple apparently finished Extraordinary Machine in 2003 but it was never released by her record label, Epic Records. (Epic is a subsidiary of Sony BMG Music Entertainment).

[...] The five-year absence of a follow-up record has baffled fans. In January, a handful of fans protested outside the Sony building in subzero weather to let the record honchos know they wanted the album.

So far, fan pleas haven’t swayed the label, which reportedly shelved the album because there was no obvious hit single. But the Seattle radio play and the songs online have created plenty of buzz.

BigChampagne, which monitors songs available on file-sharing services, found that at any one time about 38,000 users in the United States are downloading songs from Extraordinary Machine. The most popular track is “Please Please Please,” with more than 20,000 simultaneous downloads, according to the company.

[...] “I wish Sony and Epic would take advantage of this opportunity and sell the album, because Fiona Apple fans want to buy it,” said Dave Muscato, founder of the Free Fiona campaign. “The only way we can get it right now is illegally.”

Muscato said he does not condone file sharing, but he can “hardly blame people for stepping outside the lines” in this case.

Music industry observers said the situation illustrates a missed opportunity for record labels, the fans and the artist alike.

“You can’t buy what they won’t sell you,” said Eric Garland, CEO of BigChampagne. “The whole (music) migration online is still one huge unrealized opportunity.”

Wired News: Fiona Apple Is Cookin’ on the Net

TechDirt’s take: Fiona Apple Teaching Sony A Lesson About The Long Tail, citing this SFGate story - Who Will Free Fiona Apple? [pdf]

This, then, is the bottom line. The rules are changing fast. Great songs want to be free. Fiona Apple is singing anew, despite the corporate crackdown and the RIAA sneers, and it’s all just more proof positive that you can’t really contain or restrain raw human talent, can’t kill the need for true creative prowess, and that goddamn flower is gonna crack through that corporate concrete no matter how much weed killer they pour on it. The commercial dictatorship is crumbling. New songs are being sung, in spite of the old rules. Really, really good songs. Sung by a goddess.

Later: Salon’s Entire Fiona Apple record leaks

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I’m Shocked. Shocked That …. Well, No, I’m Not [7:20 am]

Europeans Doubt Microsoft Is Obeying Antitrust Order

The European Commission has “strong doubts” that Microsoft is obeying an order issued a year ago in a landmark antitrust ruling against the company, a commission spokesman, Jonathan Todd, said Thursday.

It plans to discuss its concerns with Microsoft, and could impose fines up to 5 percent of daily worldwide sales until it decides that the company is complying.

[...] Mr. Todd said that despite statements from Microsoft that it was committed to complying with the antitrust ruling, the commission suspected that it was still discriminating against open-source software companies by denying them access to the Windows code. Companies that buy the rights to Windows code “have to take it all in one license,” he said, “and so pay for things they don’t need.”

Mr. Todd said that in addition to blocking open-source companies, failing to share technical documents, and bundling all code into one licensing contract, Microsoft also intends to charge too much. “The royalties applied appear unjustifiably high,” he said.

BBC: EU warns on Microsoft behaviour

Later: Slashdot’s Microsoft Fails to Comply With EU Requirements

Later: EU Threatens Microsoft With New Fines; Slashdot - Microsoft’s European License Dissected

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Gone, But Not Forgotten — or Even Gone [7:11 am]

So, is this part of the deal that kept Specter in the chairman’s seat? It would be typical to use copyright as a sop to the opposition — after all, only a handful of people are effected by it anyway, right? Hatch to Head Senate Panel on Copyright [pdf]

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), one of the entertainment industry’s most powerful congressional allies, will remain at the forefront of the national debate over copyright and illegal downloading after being named to head a new subcommittee on intellectual property.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) today officially christened the panel, which will have jurisdiction over copyright, trademark and patent law, as well as treaties intended to protect American intellectual property overseas.

[...] Given the full slate of non-copyright issues before the full Judiciary Committee, the new panel will help keep intellectual property issues on the front burner, said Mitch Glazier, the Recording Industry Association of America’s senior vice president of government and industry relations.

“Any time you have a subcommittee whose job it is to focus on your issues, that’s a positive,” Glazier said.

[...] “We’ve all been a little bit surprised by how willing they’ve been to carry the content industry’s water,” Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn said of Hatch and Leahy. She said, however, that the formation of the subcommittee wasn’t a surprise, and would probably be a “wash” for groups like hers that oppose many of the copyright measures backed by the entertainment industry.

Those groups had hoped Specter’s ascension would bring a shift in a battle they say has been stacked against them. But, Sohn added, there was never any doubt that Hatch would continue to be a major player in the debate, subcommittee or no.

“If you thought Hatch was going to ride off into the sunset and not participate in this issue,” Sohn said, “you’re not in touch with reality.”

Later: Slashdot’s Orrin Hatch to Lead Senate Panel on Copyright, Patents

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