Tag Archives: copyright

History Lesson from Alanis

On April 3, 2001, Don Henley spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the subject of “Online Entertainment and Copyright Law.” To hear Henley say, “Like it or not, Napster has changed everything” makes you realize how far in the past 2001 is, perhaps not in terms of time as much as in technology. And just as a historical side note, also speaking to the Committee was Hank Barry, then-CEO of Napster, who noted that Sean Fanning was in the audience and was 20 years old, which made him, Barry undoubtedly said to be funny as he spoke primarily to a group of people who had white hair, “over the hill.” As Barry is an attorney and a venture capitalist, he probably had a better sense of Congressional humor than I do. And speaking of senators, it did seem odd to see, while watching the C-SPAN coverage of the testimony, Senator Patrick Leahy, then as now representing Vermont (he is presently the longest-serving senator, besting both Chuck Grassley and Moscow Mitch McConnell), sitting next to Orin Hatch (who retired from Congress in 2019 after 42 years—bet you didn’t know you were going to be getting a civics lesson on GloNo), pull out a camera—yes, a full-size camera, as, remember: this was six years before the iPhone—and presumably take a picture of Henley.

It is also worth noting that following Henley, Alanis Morissette spoke, and I must say that she actually did a better job of making a presentation, raising—remember, this is 2001—an interesting argument that because when it comes to royalties musicians were pretty much not receiving them due the the accounting practices of the labels and consequently it wasn’t an entirely bad thing that listeners were getting access to music free from the Internet because from her perspective, she wasn’t seeing anything in the way of remuneration, so that music would help build community which would then allow her (and others) to make money from touring and merch. She also stated, “History has not been kind to artists who have candidly expressed points of view that differ from recording companies.’”

Last week, Henley was back in front on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property Law. The subcommittee is now chaired by Thom Tillis, who is in his first term representing North Carolina, and who is running for re-election this year. When I Googled him the first result is an ad that has below the text headline: “Support North Carolina’s Warrior in the Senate. Donate Here! Conservative. Father. Proud North Carolinian. Husband. Grandfather.” I wonder how his wife feels about her position in the rankings. Apparently the first live concert that Tillis, 59, Warrior, saw was. . .the Eagles. Which segues nicely to: “As a 55-year veteran of the music industry, I was asked, by the chairman of this Senate subcommittee, to come here and testify today on behalf of the creative community—songwriters, musicians, music publishers—also known, in today’s digital world, as ‘content providers.’”

Henley stressed that he was speaking on behalf of the little guy: “It is truly unfortunate—and patently unfair—that the music industry is perceived only in terms of its most successful and wealthy celebrities, when in fact there are millions of people working in the industry, struggling in relative obscurity, people whose voices would never be heard were it not for hearings such as this one being held today.”

Continue reading History Lesson from Alanis

Did Obama Violate Copyright?

God Save the Queen, we mean it, manBy now, you’ve all heard that President Obama gave the Queen of England an iPod. Turns out there were 40 songs pre-loaded on it. Showtunes to accompany a coffee table book he also gave her. When I heard about this, the first thing I wondered was whether or not the RIAA was going to go after his ass. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been wondering the same thing: iPods, First Sale, President Obama, and the Queen of England.

In the digital era, however, first sale has been under siege, with copyright owners (and even the Copyright Office) arguing that it has no place in a world where “ownership” has been replaced by “licenses” and hand-to-hand exchanges have been replaced by computer-mediated exchanges that necessarily make copies. But it’s precisely because first sale is central to everyday activities like giving an iPod to a friend, selling a used CD on eBay, or borrowing a DVD from a library, that EFF and others have been fighting for it in case after case.

So, how does President Obama fare in this? It’s nearly impossible to figure out. If he’d simply purchased a “greatest hits” CD of show tunes and given it to the Queen, the first sale doctrine would have taken care of it. But because digital technology is involved here, suddenly it’s a legal quagmire.

The fact that this is such a convoluted issue kinda proves we need to reform copyright law, doesn’t it?

Techdirt vs. ASCAP (Round 2)

Piracy is not theft

Six months ago, we linked to a Techdirt article wherein Blaise Alleyne challenged the premises of ASCAP’s “Bill of Rights” for Songwriters. One of our regular commenters immediately rebutted Alleyne’s arguments (“That post is BS and uses disingenuous comparisons to make untenable points.”). It took him a while, but Alleyne finally responded:

The problem with the copyright crutch is that digital audio files are an infinite good. The price naturally tends toward zero because the supply is infinite. Musicians and music fans alike would be much better off leveraging the infinite value of digital music (i.e. spreading thread music as far and wide as possible), and capitalize on the scarcities associated with their music (e.g. physical goods like CDs, concert tickets, access to the musician, the ability to create new music, etc.).

ASCAP is stuck trying to enforce artificial scarcity on music through draconian copyright measures. Good luck with that. Musicians would be better off not to get sucked into the sinking ship, but to leverage the economics of abundance to their advantage.

I’m linking it to here so it doesn’t just get lost in the itty bitty comments section…

RIAA Loses Another Filesharing Trial

Well, the RIAA didn’t technically lose the trial, but a federal judge declared a mistrial and threw out the verdict against a Kazaa user who had been ordered to pay the recording industry $222,000 for allegedly sharing music online:

U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of Duluth, Minn., declared a mistrial in the case against Thomas, who was charged in October with violating copyright law by making 24 songs available for others to download on the Kazaa network.

Davis set aside the verdict on the grounds that he misguided the jury, telling jurors that simply the act of making a copyrighted song available for sharing amounts to infringement.

Looks like that “Making Available” case that the RIAA lost back in April is setting a precedent. Just because someone made files available doesn’t prove that anybody actually downloaded them.

Via Idolator.

Wanna Buy Some Promo CDs? It's Legal!

Remember that case we told you about a few months ago where UMG claimed that it was illegal for recipients of promo CDs to re-sell them or even to throw them away? Well, a judge disagreed, and held the the “first sale” doctrine. Liberation Day for Promo CDs: Victory in UMG v. Augusto:

In its ruling (PDF), the district court found that the initial recipients of “promo CDs” own them, notwithstanding “not for resale” labels. The court rejected the notion that these labels create a “license,” concluding that the CDs are gifts. According to the opinion, “UMG gives the Promo CDs to music industry insiders, never to be returned. … Nor does the licensing label require the recipient to provide UMG with any benefit to retain possession.” (The court also found that federal postal laws relating to “unordered merchandise” establish that promo CDs are gifts to their recipients.)

So there you have it. If anybody wants to buy a bunch of crappy CDs (cheap!), we can hook you up…

Techdirt vs. ASCAP's Bill of Rights

Over on Techdirt, Blaise Alleyne rips apart ASCAP’s “Bill Of Wrongs” for Songwriters and Composers, point by point, item by item.

1. We have the right to be compensated for the use of our creative works, and share in the revenues that they generate.

Why? In what other industries do creators maintain control over their creations after they reach consumers? Lenovo has no right to be compensated for the use of my laptop or to share in the revenue I generate through developing software. This is not a given.

It’s all debatable, of course, and that’s the point. These are not rights granted by the U.S. Constitution or current copyright law, as ASCAP implies. It’s just a wishlist, “just an assertion of the status quo by those who depend on copyright law to protect their obsolete business models.”

Elvis Enters Public Domain, Sony-BMG in Denial

Elvis Album At The Center Of U.K. Copyright Row:

In one of the clearest signs to-date of Sony BMG’s tough policy of enforcing the copyright of its vintage Presley works — even though some sound recordings have become part of the public domain — the music major put pressure on Cargo to withdraw the release, “New York: RCA Studio 1: The Complete Sessions.” Sony BMG disputed that a handful of outtakes on the album, which was released by Memphis Recording Service, were public domain.

Songs originally recorded in 1956 entered the public domain on January 1, 2007, since the copyright term for sound recordings in the UK is 50 years (in the US, it’s the life of the author plus 70 years). Looks like the album in question has been pushed back to February 25, 2008. We’ll see…

Previously: UK Copyright Not Extended.

EFF Asks Matador to Fire Web Sheriff

Some dude posted a New Pornographers b-side to his blog. Web Sheriff sent him a condescending take-down notice and a dumb-assed follow-up. EFF’s Fred von Lohmann is outraged:

Here’s my question — does the band know what is being done in their name? Have they signed off on these emails being sent by Web Sheriff to their fans? Are they getting copies of the responses that the fans send after getting threatened like this? (For that matter, are the label’s own marketing people even seeing these?) I suspect not.

That’s the problem. No artist would talk to a fan like this (and if they did, they should be ashamed), to the person who just bought their forthcoming album. But the copyright enforcement lawyers are on auto-pilot, without any accountability to the artists or to the fans, threatening people, suing people, and all the while insisting that this is just how copyright law works.

I’m guessing Matador will not fire Web Sheriff. They’re very controlling when it comes to their mp3s…

The New Pornographers – “My Rights Versus Yours”

The New Pornographers – “Myriad Harbour”

From Challengers, due August 21. Pre-order.

Via bb.

Internet Radio Reduced To Silence

On Tuesday, June 26, thousands of U.S.-based webcasters plan to turn off the music and go silent in a unified effort to draw attention to an impending royalty rate increase that, if implemented, would lead to the virtual shutdown of this country’s Internet radio industry. Internet-only webcasters and broadcasters that simulcast online will alert their listeners that “silence” is what Internet radio may be reduced to after July 15th, the day on which 17 months’ worth of retroactive royalty payments — at new, exceedingly high rates — are due to the SoundExchange collection organization, following a recent Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) decision.

Further reading here, take action here.

Webjay: R.I.P.

Webjay is closing up shop. Webjay was a neat little service that allowed anyone to create playlists from mp3s already hosted somewhere on the web. It also ranked playlists by popularity and helped people discover new music. Yahoo bought it in 2006, and is shutting it down at the end of this month.

Until then, you can back up and move existing playlists.

Webjay, we hardly knew ye...

We first noticed the site back in 2004, and created a couple of quickie playlists. I backed them up to m3u and xspf (after the jump), so as long as the files remain on the internet they can be played in your favorite software.

Continue reading Webjay: R.I.P.