What an Expansive Intepretation of “Property” Gets You

“Biopiracy,” among other things, including a policy run amok: As Brazil Defends Its Bounty, Rules Ensnare Scientists

Fears of biopiracy, loosely defined as any unauthorized acquisition or transport of genetic material or live flora and fauna, are deep and longstanding in Brazil. Nearly a century ago, for example, the Amazon rubber boom collapsed after Sir Henry Wickham, a British botanist and explorer, spirited rubber seeds out of Brazil and sent them to colonies in Ceylon and Malaya (now Sri Lanka and Malaysia), which quickly dominated the international market.

In the 1970s, the Squibb pharmaceutical company used venom from the Brazilian arrowhead viper to help develop captopril, used to treat hypertension and congestive heart failure, without payment of the royalties Brazilians think are due them. And more recently, Brazilian Indian tribes have complained that samples of their blood, taken under circumstances they say were unethical, were being used in genetic research around the world.

Brazil has in recent years passed legislation to curb such practices. National sentiment favors the laws, but scientists complain that they go too far, are too vague, confer too much power on authorities who have no scientific knowledge and have created a presumption that every researcher is engaged in biopiracy.

Hey, if you wanna live by the sword, you gotta expect you’ll die by the sword.

A “Counter-Gould” Goldberg Recording

And some notes on Glenn Gould’s expectations for music: Simone Dinnerstein plays the Goldberg Variations

We hear a lot about meteoric careers, but Gould’s—his concert career—really was. In 1964, at the height and breadth of his fame, he renounced the stage to devote himself to making records. Two years later he set forth the method to his madness in an essay in High Fidelity titled “The Prospects of Recording [Ed: sorry about the hideous HTML].” In prose of a puckish fustiness as distinctive as his playing, he made three predictions: One: that recording would supplant live performance. Two: that much of the real action, musically speaking, would take place in the studio. Three: that, as technologies of sound manipulation got better and cheaper, the line between artist and audience would be smudged and maybe even—in a distant, Gouldtopian future—erased.

At last count Gould is two for three, which beats the hell out of Nostradamus, Ezekiel, and St. John the Divine, despite their far greater fudge factors and grace periods. Sampling, mashups, remixes, the laptop studio; the recognition, at long last, of the art I’ve called “phonography”—prophecies Two and Three have come true in spades, most strikingly in the realm of popular music (about which Gould had relatively little to say). Prophecy One, though, looks dead wrong.

Over the past eight years, concert ticket sales have doubled. For the average musician, recording has never replaced live performance as a way of paying the rent, and in the post-Napster age—unless you’re a superstar or a studio regular—making a living from records is harder than ever.

All of this goes double for a classical player. […]

See also this earlier post; the New Yorker article; Alex Ross’ blog entry

The Line Between Promotion and Infringement

Depends on what you get out of it: Digital DJspdf

[T]he hip-hop and gossip blogs have a forebear in mixtapes: the R&B and hip-hop music compilations that the record industry has used for decades to create early excitement for music. But mixtapes have faced perennial legal hardships because of crackdowns by the Recording In dustry Association of America. As mixtapes’ popularity wanes, fans have turned to black gossip and hip-hop blogs to find songs by artists such as Kanye West, Beyoncé, Common, and Ne-Yo. The music often arrives on the Web weeks before the official CD is released.

[…] Like the DJs who make mixtapes, bloggers have received a mixed reception in the record industry. Many executives recognize that Internet exposure can create a following for the artists that can translate into record sales. The Game’s CD “Doctor’s Advocate” leaked last year yet still debuted in the No. 1 spot of the Billboard album charts, selling 358,000 copies. A recent Capitol Records press release about J. Holiday’s R&B single “Bed” featured a quote from Concrete Loop’s music editor Brian Davis, as a sign of the single’s growing popularity.

[…] [T]here’s a limit to how much exposure the record companies want to give. Capitol, for instance, prefers handing out streaming audio, because free downloads can curtail single and album sales. Relationships can grow tense when material by a major artist or a potential blockbuster song leaks. The day after Rawlins posted “She Wants It,” from 50’s highly anticipated CD, “Curtis,” he received an e-mail from an executive at 50 Cent’s label, Interscope, asking Rawlins to remove the song from his blog. Bloggers have been sent cease-and-desist letters from the legal departments of record labels or received calls from record executives asking them to remove songs. One recent Concrete Loop post featured five downloads from M.I.A.’s new CD, “Kala”; the next day the links to the downloadable songs were dead. Nah Right featured a yet-to-be-released video for Talib Kweli’s new song “Hot Thing/In the Mood.” Within hours the video window simply read “removed by copyright holder.”

Interscope Records, which represents M.I.A. and 50 Cent, declined to be interviewed for this story. But there’s an increasing realization in the music industry that it needs to adapt to the digital music age. As the number of new media departments at record companies increases, executives are trying to change the way they do business.

“We need business models of our own out there in an offensive way to get people to work with us so we can get paid for our music,” says Christian Jorg, a recently hired senior vice president of new media and commerce at Island Def Jam. “We can’t go back to selling as many CDs as we did five years ago — that’s just unrealistic.”

Responding to an Online Campaign

Taste of Victory: Online Outcry Revives a Chocolate Bar

Companies everywhere are monitoring blogs and other online discussions for feedback on their brands and providing them with information about coming products, as well as placing so-called viral advertisements on video-sharing sites. But the company insisted that the expressions of affection for Wispa on the Internet were genuine.

The campaign for Wispa, and the decision by Cadbury to revive it, shows what can happen when nostalgia about lost brands converges with user-generated content and social networking sites.

“This is the first time that the power of the Internet played such an intrinsic role in the return of a Cadbury brand,” the company said.

[…] Still, was it wise for Cadbury to give in to the consumer campaign? After all, Wispa was pulled off store shelves for what seemed like solid reasons in 2003. Sales were flagging, and the company said at the time that a majority of consumers preferred a candy bar that was introduced to replace it, called Dairy Milk Bubbly.

“Clearly you want to listen to consumers,” said Karl Heiselman, chief executive of Wolff Olins, a brand consulting firm. “But I think we have to be careful about relying on them to do our jobs.”

More Jurisdiction

Yahoo defends obeying Chinese lawpdf

Yahoo Inc. on Monday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the Internet company by civil rights advocates, arguing that it had become unfairly ensnared in a political debate over free speech in China.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company is fighting efforts to hold it accountable for the imprisonment and alleged torture of two Chinese citizens after it disclosed their identities to government officials. Yahoo says its Chinese subsidiaries did so to comply with the Chinese government’s rules.

[…] This is a political and diplomatic issue, not a legal one,” Yahoo spokeswoman Kelley Benander said. “The real issue here is the plaintiffs’ outrage at the behavior and laws of the Chinese government. The U.S. court system is not the forum for addressing these political concerns.”

Now *there’s* an interesting question!