Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pilot Of The Airwaves

I’d planned an entirely different programme for myself today – and, if anyone figures out the film from which that line comes from and who the speaker was – leave a comment and I’ll make you up a cd of music that you might just like.

Earlier today, the creative juices were spouting fertility of thought elsewhere – brought upon largely by an entirely unanticipated e-mail received yesterday evening… but… comments left overnight by the mysterious Fifi have ignited a different spark.

The first relates to an AFP report from yesterday stating that Apple have said that their entire i-Tunes library will be offered DRM free by April 1st.

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management – therefore, everything sold off of their i-Tunes store will be made available without copy protection.

Has someone turned January 6th into April Fool’s Day?

Have I read this entirely wrong or… is this going to encourage and – dare I say or even think this – as near as dammit legalise illegal industrial-level music-file-sharing..?

By that I don’t mean the occasional copying of song A or album B for a friend – we’ve all done that since time immemorial. It used to be via tape, a cassette recording was made up – often times a compilation – and friend C became a happy camper with music for his or her car or home stereo.

Nowadays, it’s burning a cd off of one’s computer given that pretty much all of us have transferred our entire collections onto i-Tunes. Again, hardly a big deal besides which, the turning of someone on to music that maybe they’ve never heard before is such a thrill.

Way back when, there was an industry campaign called Home Taping Is Killing Music. Chris Blackwell’s response to that was the introduction of One Plus One Cassettes. On the A side was the entire album by such and such an artist, the B side was completely blank and allowed the end-user to record whatever they liked on to it. CB’s rationale being, its going on, it won’t go away so why not allow it to happen and share some music between friends or tape something off of your own collection for your car and that way you don’t have to re-wind the tape, you can play the B side too. Remember the days of auto-reverse tape players in cars… seems so long ago now, doesn’t it?

The 1+1 idea never really caught on, it was a decent enough wheeze and got us a fair slice of good old controversial publicity in all the right places but eventually was quietly dropped.

The other comment left by Miss Mystery relates to another story emerging from Rhode Island, three or so hours up and out of New York. Whereby a certain Joel Tenenbaum who is a 25-year-old Boston University graduate student, stands accused by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) of downloading at least seven songs.

No big deal that – but, this is what the RIAA are so cross about – he made 816 music files available for distribution on the Kazaa file-sharing network through 2004.

Its not clear if this bloke made 816 files of each song or 100 and some odd (my mental arithmetic not being what once it was) of each title.

However, whichever way you add it up – within my little Voltaire-world, this is nothing other than piracy of the airwaves.

Because lets look at who looses out..? It is the artist, the act, the creator of the work, the person or people who wrote and recorded the songs or pieces of music in the first place. Yes, of course, record company Z does as well but, from where I stand, it is the creator who really looses out.

And, as mad and maddening as this is, this case has been ongoing for the last 4 years… and, currently the legal-eagles on each side are squaring up to each manfully.

Or are they…?

In the red corner stands a certain Charles Nesson. He’s a Harvard Law professor and is representing Arthur and Judie Tenenbaum – parents of the accused – and his defence is based around this key point. He claims the parent’s computer (onto which the tracks were downloaded) contains information protected by attorney-client privilege and holds other sensitive and personal material that has nothing to do with the case.

In the blue corner stands one Daniel Cloherty on behalf of the RIAA who is saying the information on the computer is directly relevant and material to the underlying claims in this case.

Friend Neeson has countered with – You can hardly imagine anything more intrusive than asking anyone to disgorge a computer.

Strikes me that someone – I wonder who – isn’t exactly being squeaky clean here. If there is nothing to hide, then where is the issue in allowing the relevant bits of the hard disk to be examined?

Maybe the parents operate some kind of swinging ring within Rhode Island… and have a barrel load of tacky tasteless pictures of similarly like-minded friends on their hard disk. Probably not but you never know, do you? A hugely grown-up medical man who once treated me during a rather unhappy time in my own life told me – walk around WH Smiths and, every third person there will have or will sometime in their own life suffer from a similar ailment to yours. Equals, you just never know, do you? As is often the case, a slight digression… apologies…

In any event, the son has already offered a sum (measly admittedly) to close the case. So… is that not an admission of guilt..? Is that not him saying – yeah, I did wrong, you caught me and here’s a certain amount of dollars to pay the rightful owners of the copyrights I infringed.

But… should he (or his conscience) not also be saying… yes, I’ll help you all I can – which’d mean experts examining the relevant… I’ll say that again… the relevant parts of the computer on which this all occurred. It’s a very similar method that’s been adopted within professional cycle-sport of late whereby the dopers who have been caught in the last couple of years are encouraged to shame the names of their illegal medical suppliers in an ongoing effort to eradicate that form of cheating.

Anyway… the RIAA are demanding over twenty times the amount that Tenenbaum the younger has offered to settle – presumably out of court – with Cara Duckworth saying During the past several years, thousands of regular working class folks in the music community have lost their jobs precisely because of the illegal activity involved in this case. While this might be an interesting academic exercise for the professor and his class, there’s been real world consequences for those who create music.

And that’s the nub of it. Or, rather, one nub. Cara is correct, a creative person – the knitter of the cashmere jumper if you like – should be… must be… paid for their creativity. The jumper can, of course, be shared but that’s not the point.

The second is – why aren’t the bastions of a once great industry hammering… and I mean absolutely walloping Peter Grant style the crap out of the truly evil people who operate sites such as the one that Tenenbaum used to ‘share’ his files through.

It is highly probable that the Kaza site has had the baseball-bat treatment but, there are masses of others of that ilk in operation right now. And, it doesn’t take much to find them either.

Because, the reality here is, it is these people who are creating absolute havoc for the creators of music; they’re the Pirates of Penzance whose swash and buckle attitude operates from the mindset of – hey, they’re already rich enough, these rock stars… so fuck it, we have the know-how, we can make some money from this so... why not.

I write this – my broken english Voltaire – for a number of reasons; firstly, it’s a bit of fun, secondly I’ve come to rather enjoy allowing free-form thoughts to emerge and thirdly – there are more than enough downtimes within the creation of Project X and therefore, writing occupies my mind.

However, there is also (or, rather there could be) a parallel between all of the above and what I write. How so..?

Well… just suppose… how would I feel if any reader of that which I write decided to lift the lot and publish it for sale… without asking me or seeking permission or offering due recompense.

Music issued without a DRM in place… hmmm, I dunno – ultimately it probably won’t make any difference which is why, I suppose, the industry have finally backed down on it. There are undoubtedly people out there far more versed in the salient facts than ever I could be so, it will be what it will be.

And will I continue with my own (probably illegal) hobby of making up cd-compilations of music that I like which I reckon friends may get off on as well..? Damn right I will.

The sharing of music is a wonderful gift to give.

And is something that no artist I know would ever have an issue or problem with.

But, the sharing of it on an industrial level whereby money is made and no royalties paid is another matter altogether and… totally wrong.


Anonymous said...

interesting stuff. you've made me think twice.
john in newcastle

Anonymous said...

Stumbled over this, more like tripped over it, looking for something else, like you do. And - its good... interesting. Does anyone pay you to do this? And, who are you? I sort of agree with what you're saying, but - if I was in Coldplay, would I care? I'm not - obviously. I'm thinking, as what you say is interesting, gonna read more now.
Jackson, Nova Scotia (even more obvious that I'm not a member of Coldplay but I do like them even though the singer looks like a muppet)

Fifi Dessein said...

... and just to top it all... the US recording industry have just been given far too much power ...


Wall Street Journal (c) December 2008

After suing thousands of people for allegedly stealing music via the Internet, the recording industry is set to drop its legal assault ... which has had proceedings against 35,000 people since 2003. and created a PR disaster for the music industry... lawsuits targeted, among others, several single mothers, a dead person and a 13-year-old girl.

Instead, the Recording Industry Association of America said... it has hashed out preliminary agreements with major ISPs ... which will send an email to the provider when it finds a provider's customers making music available online for others to take.

The ISP will alert customers to stop uploading music illegally,.. if continued, will get 2 more alerts, perhaps accompanied by slower service from the provider.

Finally, the ISP may cut off their access altogether.

Some ISP providers have cut entertainment deals with RIAA and certain labels.