A Little Realism from the IHT

A followup to A Little Bickering Going OnRecording Companies Show New Interest in a Global Music Licensepdf

What’s going on here? Is it really possible that we could get the right to copy the music we own digitally and move it among our various music players in return for something as simple as a monthly fee? One group a year ago proposed the fee at €6.66, or $8.66, a month, which would then be distributed by the traditional collecting societies to musicians and other copyright holders.

Three key changes have taken place in the past year that make the environment a bit friendlier to such a proposal, at least from the point of view of the major recording companies, which the phonographic industry group represents. [….]

David Pogue’s Rewrite of the Village People’s “YMCA” Lyrics

Ode to the R.I.A.A. (you might have to click twice; the NYTimes’ server sometimes thinks the URL doesn’t point to anything)

Young man,

You were surfing along,

And then, young man,

You downloaded a song,

And then, dumb man,

Copied it to your ‘Pod,

Then a phone call came to tell you:

You’ve just been sued by the R.I.A.A.!

You’ve just been sued by the R.I.A.A.!

Their attorneys say, you committed a crime,

And there’d better not be a next time!

They’ve lost their minds at the R.I.A.A.!

Justice is blind at the R.I.A.A….

“You’re depriving the bands! You are learning to steal,

You can’t do whatever you feel!”

….

Regional Market Control In Digital Distribution

How poorly it works, except as a mechanism for “control via obscurity” — which this article works to subvert. For example, did you know there are places where songs are available on iTunes at variable prices (i.e., different prices for different songs)? I didn’t. The insanely great songs Apple won’t let you hear

The iTunes Music Store has a secret hiding in plain sight: Log out of your home account in the page’s upper-right corner, switch the country setting at the bottom of the page to Japan, and you’re dropped down a rabbit hole into a wonderland of great Japanese bands that you’ve never even heard of. And they’re nowhere to be found on iTunes U.S. You can listen to 30-second song teasers on the Japanese site, but if you try purchasing “Killer Tune”—or any other tune—from iTunes Japan with your U.S. credit card, you’ll get turned away: Your gaijin money’s no good there.

Go to iTMS Japan’s Terms of Sale, and the very first three words, which berate you in all caps, are:

JAPAN SALES ONLY

So, what’s going on here?

Music labels have a good reason to lift up the drawbridge: iTunes spans 22 countries, often with somewhat uneven pricing between them, and the specter of cross-border music discounting has already been raised by services such as Russia’s much-sued allofmp3.com. But in Japan’s case, the blockade becomes downright tragic. If your knowledge of Japanese music barely extends beyond the Boredoms, you’re in for a shock at iTMS Japan: There are thousands of Japanese bands that play circles around ours—and they’re doing it in English.

The NYTimes on Ruckus

Another university-targeted music delivery/student addiction/RIAA-litigation-avoiding/WMA-promoting mechanism: Big Labels Offer Free Music to College Students

In one more attempt to counter music piracy, major music labels have agreed to support a service that will offer free music downloads — with some substantial restrictions — to any college student.

The service, from Ruckus Network, will be supported by advertising on its Web site and on the software used to download and play songs. The four major record labels and several independent labels have agreed to license their music to Ruckus at lower rates than they charge other mass market music services on the theory that college students would rather steal songs than pay the $10 to $15 a month that such services normally charge.

[…] Ruckus uses Microsoft’s Windows media technology, so songs can be played only on a user’s personal computer. For $4.99 a month, users can buy the right to transfer the songs to portable devices compatible with the Microsoft format, including those made by SanDisk and Creative.

But the music will not play on Microsoft’s Zune player or, more important, on the Apple iPod.

User Content and the Big Media Challenge

Hollywood is seeing fans pull a power playpdf

Sorkin may spend much of his show exploring the conflict between artists like himself and soulless media conglomerates, but in the new era of You Stardom, Sorkin and GE are in the same leaky boat. Just as the music industry saw its business crumble before its eyes as kids began sharing songs from unauthorized downloading services, media behemoths are scrambling to protect their content as it migrates to YouTube.com and other fan-driven video sites.

“Ultimately these big media companies are all wrestling with the same thing — the power is being taken out of their hands,” says Jordan Levin, the onetime WB network chief who now helps run Generate, a production and management firm active in Internet projects. “This is an industry that for its entire history has imposed its model on consumers. They’ve always said, ‘We’ll tell you when you’ll watch our TV show or see our movie.’ But that’s fundamentally changing. The whole structure of people who control content is being supplanted by the content users themselves.”

[…] The day isn’t far away when some studio executive, instead of buying a bestseller, will acquire the rights to a Web thriller that’s become a lonelygirl-style phenomenon. “The problem for us will be that people are going to create a movie character on the Web and they’ll own the content — we’ll end up just renting it,” says Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal. “We’ll buy the movie rights, but they’ll own everything else. We haven’t bought anything from YouTube yet, but it’s going to happen. Trust me, when ‘lonelygirl’ was happening, everyone was asking, ‘Is that a movie?’ ”

Ninth Circuit Slaps Down Kahle

Orphan works are just locked up, like everything else – or we can just say “Eldred Forever!” U.S. court upholds copyright law on “orphan works”pdf

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision to dismiss Kahle v. Gonzales, which argued that legal changes made in the 1990s had vastly extended copyright protections at the expense of free speech rights.

Orphaned works are a hot-button issue for the publishing industry, which has resisted efforts by Web companies Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO – news) and the Internet Archive — working with major academic libraries — to scan orphaned and out-of-copyright works to make them available for free on the Web.

[…] “They (the plaintiffs) make essentially the same argument, in different form, that the Supreme Court rejected in Eldred. It fails here as well,” the eight-page opinion written by Ninth Circuit Judge Jerome Farris stated.

The opinion: Kahle v. Gonzales

Although the Supreme Court recently addressed similar issues in Eldred, Plaintiffs argue that their specific claims were not answered — or if they were, only in dicta. They place particular emphasis on the increased possibilities for archiving and disseminating expressive content over the Internet and the detrimental impact the change from an opt-in to an opt-out system has on those efforts. Plaintiffs articulate policy reasons behind their position; they do not, however, provide a legal argument explaining why we should ignore the clear holding of Eldred.

[…] Both of Plaintiffs’ main claims attempt to tangentially relitigate Eldred. However, they provide no compelling reason why we should depart from a recent Supreme Court decision.

Microsoft Gearing Up For Vista Release

With an anti-piracy push (see Microsoft to use comics in antipiracy campaign). The Microsoft Software Piracy Protection page is rife with the usual sort of stuff, but I was drawn to this assertion at the top of their types of piracy page:

While you may know that copying and/or distributing copyrighted software illegally is considered piracy, you may not be aware that even possession of software that has been illegally copied is piracy. There are actually many distinct types of software piracy, and familiarity with them can protect you from any connection, even if unintentional, to intellectual property theft.

Note the careful language — “you may not be aware that even possession of software that has been illegally copied is piracy.” Not illegal, though, but why not scare the reader?

Slashdot: Microsoft Launches Comical Effort to Fight Piracy

European Governments and DRM

German, French groups want open iTunespdf

German and French consumer groups have joined a Nordic-led drive to force Apple Inc. to make its iTunes online store compatible with digital music players made by rival companies, a Norwegian official said Monday.

[…] Last June, consumer agencies in Norway, Denmark and Sweden claimed that Apple was violating contract and copyright laws in their countries.

[…] In a written statement after one such meeting in Oslo in September, Apple said it “is working to address the concerns we’ve heard from several agencies in Europe, and we hope to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.”

Thon said Norway gave Apple until September to change its polices, or face possible legal action and fines in the country.

Later from Reuters: Norway tells Apple change iTunes or face court pdf — or, as we know, there’s another option – close iTunes Norway.

A Little Bickering Going On

Also, a promoting a false dilemma: Music industry divided over digital futurepdf

Critics of the major players in the industry argue that they have been distracted by the fight against piracy and in doing so, hindered the growth of the legal business.

In response, the accused argue that they had little choice.

“Many people around the world tell me that we’ve handled our problems in an incorrect manner but no one tells me what we should have done,” John Kennedy, the head of the industry’s trade body IFPI, told Reuters in an interview.

“Free is just impossible to compete with.”

See, for example, this analysis of the recent arrest of mixtape artist D. J. Drama: Cracking Down on Mixtape CDs

Fans and music executives say the raid will most likely push the production and sale of mixtapes further underground — and encourage more efforts to skirt the edge of laws against the sale of unauthorized songs. At one major mixtape Web site, fans can choose from an array of current mix CDs on display. To get one, though, they must pay $7 for a sticker bearing the Web site’s name. Each sticker comes with a free mixtape.

See also Slashdot’s pickup of some wishful thinking: Music Companies Mull Ditching DRM; later – the NYTimes takes the same approach in its coverage – Record Labels Contemplate Unrestricted Digital Music

Another Entertainment Sector Gaining from Internet Delivery

It’s not all porn, apparently: Comics get last laugh with tech boompdf

While the entertainment industry is still wondering how to make new technology work for it rather than against it, one group of performers appears to be hitting the digital jackpot.

The speed and enthusiasm with which fans now trade, e-mail, upload and consume all kinds of comedy — everything from short films to isolated sketch bits, classic TV moments and entire stand-up routines — has become a “huge driver of business,” say industry executives who gathered here for the second annual South Beach Comedy Festival, which wrapped Saturday night.

[…] In fact, many teens lately are more apt to know the names of such hot comedians as Brian Regan, Dane Cook and Frank Caliendo than what new music tops the charts. With entire episodes of some shows and stand-up acts freely traded among fans (and most copyright-holders either looking the other way or hammering out new partnerships), comedians are enjoying unprecedented promotion. And because much of it is viral, it carries the added, elusive prestige of peer endorsement, those in the industry say.