A Discussion of Music “Theft”

From the Pho list: glenn mcdonald’s TWAS 503: (Warnings and Promises) from The War Against Silence www site. (Comments on the posting here and here)

I have been one of the last independent apologists for a moral kernel, elusive now to perhaps the point of imagination, in your corrupt and desperate retreat, but now even I have given up. I still buy, but now I also steal. You have forfeited your right to my loyalty. And maybe you’re too lost and beaten to care, and even more likely it’s too late to matter, but for a few minutes I’m going to pretend that neither of those things are so. I’m going to pretend that you’re still capable of awareness and reason, and in a spirit of truth that you long ago stopped deserving, while I’ve still taken little enough to list, I’m going to tell you exactly what I have stolen from you, and why.

[…] And these are only the handful of reasons I have for stealing. Arguably some of them are good, some are not. Other people may steal less, and for better reasons, and I’m sure plenty steal more for worse or none. But know, in the end, that you created this crisis. You had decades of control, and you spent it on complacency and greed, and so evolved this inevitable rebellion. You took everything you thought you could get away with, and now you are wheezy robber barons begging the government to protect your dwindling hoards. I’ve defended you for far too long. You smiled when you first got away with selling a Billy Joel LP for $8.98, and you can damn well smile again now when we fold the worthless thing into jagged thirds and ram it up your ass. You created the aesthetic of disposability, and now you are its most beautifully disposable work. We will mourn you in infinite song.

Waking Up?

Exploring the strategies the industry might pursue: Digital shakes up entertainment

The people who make films, TV and music are trying to work out how to survive in a digital era where the consumer is in control.

This was the predominant theme at a conference on the future of digital content held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London earlier this week.

Delegates heard about a world where TV and music companies would struggle to stand out in what one TV executive called “digital fog”.

But the days when an entertainment giant could largely influence what people do in their spare time are over.

“TV has moved from being a fairly passive medium into this digital era,” said Simon Gunning, Head of Interactive Media at Celador, the company behind Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

“Audiences expect more control and greater access to stuff,” he told the In the City Interactive conference.

Related: Hollywood’s Boogeyman Is Getting Bigger

Wired IM and Hollywood

Never IM in This Town Again!

Movie producers, directors, actors and crew workers bouncing from one job to the next have traditionally relied on agents and Rolodexes for finding their next gigs. But these days, many are discovering it’s easier to post their job availability on IM.

Instead of displaying simple “away from my computer” messages, Hollywood buddy lists now overflow with come-ons, from “need work” to “wrapping up shoot.” Producers hiring for a new production can tell at a glance who’s available now, who’s not and who might be free in the near future.

[…] So popular is this new form of recruiting, many say that they’ve seen an increase in the use of Apple Computer’s IM client, iChat AV over the last several months — at least in the production of television commercials. Hollywood is a Mac town, of course.

They add that many people in their corner of Hollywood are chatting away on a regular basis to hire temporary employees or to find work for themselves.

Is Today the Day? (Nope)

The Supreme Court is in session today. As DigitalMusicNews asks, will the Grokster decision come down today? Big Supreme Court Decision Looms, Investors Watching

A big Supreme Court decision in MGM v. Grokster is now reportedly very close, with several legal insiders and news outlets bracing for the bomb. The High Court could deliver a resolution on the matter as soon as today, with sources also pointing to a possible verdict on Monday of next week. That has prompted the record industry to rally its top artists to react to the verdict, urging top managers to engage their clients. Meanwhile, investors are also closely watching the decision, with Legg Mason viewing the court battle as a “California Civil War, with Hollywood battling Silicon Valley for control of copyright protection”.

Later: Grokster is not listed in SCOTUSBlog’s quick post: Court limits race-based peremptory challenges

Later: The first article discusses the fact that business is watching and waiting — see this BusinessWeek article on SnoCap to get a sense of why – Snocap’s Song: Luring File Sharers? [pdf]

The (Freedom to) Tinker Ethos Gets A Magazine

A New Magazine’s Rebellious Credo: Void the Warranty!

The people who put out Make magazine are well aware that you could use the information in it to break the law, void your warranty, violate a user agreement, fry a circuit, blow a fuse or poke an eye out.

“Technology, the laws, and limitations imposed by manufacturers and content owners are constantly changing,” an editor’s note warns. “Thus, some of the projects described may not work, may be inconsistent with current laws or user agreements or may damage or adversely affect some equipment. Your safety is your own responsibility, including proper use of equipment and safety gear, and determining whether you have adequate skill and experience.”

How scary. And how refreshing. Make, a new quarterly put out by O’Reilly Media, a publisher of computer and technology books in Sebastopol, Calif., is a throwback to an earlier time, before personal computers, to the prehistory of geekiness – the age of how-to manuals for clever boys, from the 1920’s to the 50’s. Its compact, booklike format, in fact, directly mimics a 1959 copy of Popular Science, according to its publisher, Dale Dougherty.

Another Scary Frank Rich Column

I found this one particularly distressing: Don’t Follow the Money

THE morning the Deep Throat story broke, the voice on my answering machine was as raspy as Hal Holbrook’s. “I just want you to remember that I wrote ‘Follow the money,’ ” said my caller. “I want to know if anybody will give me credit. Watch for the accuracy of the media!”

The voice belonged to my friend William Goldman, who wrote the movie “All the President’s Men.” His words proved more than a little prescient. As if on cue, journalists everywhere – from The New York Times to The Economist to The Washington Post itself – would soon start attributing this classic line of dialogue to the newly unmasked Deep Throat, W. Mark Felt. But the line was not in Woodward and Bernstein’s book or in The Post’s Watergate reportage or in Bob Woodward’s contemporaneous notes. It was the invention of the author of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Marathon Man” and “The Princess Bride.”

This confusion of Hollywood’s version of history with the genuine article would quickly prove symptomatic of the overall unreality of the Deep Throat coverage. Was Mr. Felt a hero or a villain? Should he “follow the money” into a book deal, […] Such were the questions that killed time for a nation awaiting the much-heralded feature mediathon, the Michael Jackson verdict.

Richard Nixon and Watergate itself, meanwhile, were often reduced to footnotes. […]

[…] Such is the equivalently supine state of much of the news media today that Mr. Colson was repeatedly trotted out, without irony, to pass moral judgment on Mr. Felt – and not just on Fox News, the cable channel that is actually run by the former Nixon media maven, Roger Ailes. “I want kids to look up to heroes,” Mr. Colson said, oh so sorrowfully, on NBC’s “Today” show, condemning Mr. Felt for dishonoring “the confidence of the president of the United States.” Never mind that Mr. Colson dishonored the law, proposed bombing the Brookings Institution and went to prison for his role in the break-in to steal the psychiatric records of The Times’s Deep Throat on Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg. The “Today” host, Matt Lauer, didn’t mention any of this – or even that his guest had done jail time. None of the other TV anchors who interviewed Mr. Colson – and he was ubiquitous – ever specified his criminal actions in the Nixon years. Some identified him onscreen only as a “former White House counsel.”

Very upsetting. See also this Maureen Dowd op-ed from June 15: The Interactive Truth

Mercora Profile in the WashPost

Mercora Turns to Users To Generate Streaming Music [pdf]

[…] Mercora introduced a new, Google-like music catalogue last week that lets anyone use a Web browser to search and see a list of matching songs, artists or albums from among the 6 million tracks Mercora users make available on a typical day.

[…] Unlike most legal music services on the Internet, Mercora doesn’t require users to subscribe or pay anything to listen to its tunes. Its basic library — categorized by genre, artist, time period and artist influences — is viewable and playable for free. Sampath said Mercora’s song-sharing is legal because it involves streaming, not downloads, so it amounts to Internet radio — and Mercora has taken pains to comply with royalty and copyright laws governing Internet radio.

“We are basically one of the world’s largest radio networks, with 25,000 to 30,000 channels of music available at any given time,” he said.

Alexandria Starts Its Wi-Fi Experiment

And the usual suspects come out: The Web Is in the Air [pdf]. The article suggests that the Alexandria officials are claiming that security is what distinguishes their free service from commercial services to get around the competition argument against wi-fi as a public utility.

Of course, anyone using *any* wireless access should be extremely dubious about “security” anyway, and act accordingly.

This week, Alexandria began providing free wireless Internet access in its historic center, the first local government to offer alfresco Web surfing at no charge.

The one-year pilot program provides outdoor wireless service in an eight-block zone stretching from Washington Street to the Potomac River along King Street — the Old Town main drag that attracts tourists and residents with its shops and restaurants.

[…] Craig T. Fifer, Alexandria’s e-government manager, said the city wants to provide a luxury amenity to its residents while testing a system it could use for more prosaic municipal tasks, such as monitoring traffic.

And it’s great public relations.

The service will “promote Alexandria as a high-technology area,” Fifer said. “We often market ourselves as a historic area, but this technology helps put us on the high-tech map.”

[…] In providing free wireless, Alexandria and other cities — dozens of which have existing wireless Internet hubs — in some cases have raised the ire of private network providers. Verizon recently tried to block Philadelphia’s $10 million effort to connect the entire city.

Fifer said Alexandria’s effort is narrowly tailored not to compete with or replace private providers. He said the network is not secure.

[…] David P. McClure, the president of the U.S. Internet Industry Association, said many municipalities waste taxpayer money when they provide such networks because they are used only by “very affluent techno elites.”

“If you don’t have a job where you can take your laptop and do your work in a city park, it’s not going to benefit you . . . .We’re just taking money from hardworking families and giving it to people who can afford [personal digital assistants] and laptops,” McClure said.

[…] Alexandria resident Che Jarrell, 34, a public policy analyst, has used the service to send e-mails fountainside at City Hall and from bookshops and coffeehouses.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Jarrell said. “I think every municipal government should offer it as a public good. It has positive benefits — helping the populace in a city to be more linked to information.”

Prosumers, Creativity and Distribution

While I’ve seen this term applied to the digital photography market (characterizing a class of cameras), it is apparently getting wider application — as well as raising some interesting questions about the creative classes: Are you a prosumer? Take this hand[y] quiz [pdf]

The word ”prosumer” was coined in 1979 by the futurist Alvin Toffler. Initially, it referred to an individual who would be involved in designing the things she purchased (a mash-up of the words ”producer” and ”consumer.”) These days, the term more often refers to a segment of users midway between consumers and professionals. This kind of prosumer doesn’t necessarily earn money by making music, videos, or photos, but is still willing to invest in more serious hardware and software than the typical dabbler, and spend more time using it.

Prosumers don’t necessarily embrace the term. They’re just using the best technology they can find. But don’t call them hobbyists, either.

[…] Prosumers use the Internet to communicate, and pine after the latest gear. In the early 1990s, Cambridge resident Philip Greenspun started the site Photo.net, where photographers can post their work and their opinions about equipment.

Money isn’t usually a central goal for prosumers. ”What a photographer earns is so minimal,” says Greenspun, a retired entrepreneur who teaches at MIT and flies his plane around the country with his Samoyed. ”It’s not really worth trying to make money at it. The satisfaction I get is that other people are learning something from it.” Greenspun adds that he also allows anyone to reproduce his work, so long as they credit him and provide a link to his website. ”Nonprofits and government organizations often use the photos, which is nice,” he says.

[…] The prosumer market is increasingly important for tech companies. […]

[…] Prosumers already have a nice assortment of tools to choose from. What they need are better ways to distribute their stuff, aside from simply handing it to friends on a CD or DVD, or posting it to a website. As music marketplaces like Apple’s iTunes Music Store open up to individual producers of songs and podcasts, and as video marketplaces evolve (two to watch are Cambridge-based Brightcove Networks and California’s Open Media Network), prosumers may be able reach larger audiences and potentially even turn a profit.

Limits to File Sharing

From today’s Boston Globe op-eds: The downloaders strike back [pdf]

Looking to the Internet for a moral education is a dubious activity, but the new digital world — in which copyrighted material can be had either for free (unofficially) or at a greatly discounted price (through licensed download services) — makes me wonder what content is worth nowadays. The time when you had to pay $18.99 to own one great song on an otherwise mediocre CD is gone. Thanks to the licensed download services, you can get a digital copy of that one good song for less than a buck. Maybe this will encourage performers to put more than one song worth buying on a record.

[…] So, the other night, after everyone else in my family was asleep, I snuck downstairs, put on my headphones, and launched my pirated ”Revenge of the Sith.” It looked great, but I closed the file after less than three minutes. Watching Jedi joust across a laptop screen is not the way to enjoy something as loud, fast, and blunt as a ”Star Wars” film. I could transfer the file to a DVD and view it on a larger television screen, but if I want the real experience of seeing the movie, I have no choice but to see it at a theater. Forget legal arguments or feelings of guilt. Paying to see ”Revenge of the Sith” on the big screen is the best way to enjoy this sort of big entertainment — at least until downloaders figure out how to steal entire movie theaters.