Wednesday, October 27, 2010

All The Boys Love Carrie

And so… and finally… a little cause for celebration – LimeWire is no more. Or, to put that into its proper context, the illegal part of LimeWire’s file-sharing activities has been closed down. At last, a little bit of action that will (hopefully) see the copyright holders reap their just rewards… as they should.

Mind you, its taken four years of legal wrangling for the RIAA to bring about this injunction that ‘compels the Lime Group to disable its searching, downloading, uploading and file trading features.’

If you link across to the LimeWire site, you’ll find a notice posted that says ‘This is an official notice that LimeWire is under a court ordered injunction to stop distributing and supporting its file-sharing software.’ Scroll on a bit and you’ll discover this nugget, ‘downloading or sharing copyrighted content without authorisation is illegal.’

Well well well… that’s big of them, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, LimeWire don’t – yet – appear to have been hit with the colossal fine that they so richly deserve; a fine that once imposed – and paid – should be plonked into the RIAA coffers and re-distributed amongst all those artists and writers (the creatives) who LimeWire have knowingly ripped off.

Meantime and besides striking (something the French are particularly adept at), their ISP’s are acting on that Government’s ‘three-strikes’ legislation. They are sending out an average of 25,000 letters a day to suspected illegal filesharers. Now, the French love paperwork and compiling what they call le dossier – I know this first hand since I used to live there.

But… sorry fellas… it won’t work… because you’re targeting the wrong people.

And, if I still lived there I’m wondering if I’d be on their radar for illegally sharing a (music) file?

Lets take a very recent example. A pal of mine (a highly respected musician for what its worth) recently got in touch asking if I had a copy of album X by artist Y. Frankly, while reading his email, I couldn’t remember – this being a pretty obscure record that I knew had never been digitally released.

Anyhow, a quick fizz through my bulging I-Tunes folder and… lo and behold… there it was; way back when I did live in France, I must’ve digitised this album myself by transferring the vinyl version across to my computer. Actually, it’s a fairly easy process to do that using gadgets (programs) like Audacity… and, even easier nowadays ‘cos one simply buys a turntable that connects to one’s computer via a USB cable.

So… I loaded it all up and, via a file-sharing program I subscribe to (regularly sending large graphics images and so forth) I fizzed the individual music files that comprised the full album over to my buddy in Ireland. Next again day, he writes back saying thanks (like you do) and… he’s happy that he can listen to something he’d been trying to find for some time and I’m happy ‘cos I helped an old friend out.

Does anyone have a problem with that..?

I should hope not – after all, the album in question was purchased – albeit many moons ago – legally.

In fact, now that I come to think about it, I probably paid 32 and 6 for it (which, in old money / pre-decimalisation equates to one pound sixty or so) thereby demonstrating just how elderly a recording it was.

However… IF I still lived in the semi-remote region of France that I once did, then chances are the cyber-authorities would have me ear-marked as a criminal. Indeed, how soon would the knock on the front door come… and would I face the prospect of being collared by the local Gendarmerie? Very probably.

And… this is why it (this three-strikes initiative) won’t work.

Because, while I freely admit (guilty as charged m'lud) that I sent a music file – files plural to be precise – to my pal, I’d have contravened legislation that says what I did wasn’t legal (based on the fact that the recipient didn’t pay for said files).

And, this is where it is going to go horribly wrong for the French. They get many things right – such as Confit du Canard in amongst some very fine wines indeed as well as more spectacular cheeses than there are days in the year – but… this clamp-down isn’t one of ‘em.

As with LimeWire, it’s the upload and download companies that have to be targeted – MegaUpload, Rapidshare, HotFile and all of those companies (there are dozens). These are the people who distribute the goods; these are the people who’re making zillions via subscription charges that allow ordinary folk to post links to albums / singles / 12” mixes (whatever you want) for others to download.

The other day, Q Magazine awarded its album of the year to The National – pretty sound choice in my view; it’s a cracking record but I’d hazard a guess that it wouldn’t take more than five minutes of searching to find it as an illegal download via either Rapidshare or MegaUpload.

This little Voltaire out there on its grassy knoll of the windswept www prairie reckons that’s serious food for thought.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)

No, I don’t have a hangover tho’ by all accounts, I probably should – having enjoyed a bit of a stonking evening at the Liberal Arse last night. Mellow Johnny was in charge of slapping the Martini’s down, Mother Mary having taken an early bath from her usual duties.

In any event, by the time I’m awash with the third cup of coffee (meaning some sense of order had replaced that merest hint of morning fuzziness – brought about by the fellas wielding a large hammer and cordless drill in diabolical harmony upstairs at the hour designated as ‘how best to really annoy anyone within earshot’) – a small news item posted on the Music Week site via CNet had grabbed the weary eye.

It’s a leaked letter from a chap called James Pond… and Master Pond, so it appears, is one of the top dogs at Google… Splendid, we do love leaks don’t we?

And… a quick ‘Google’ of Master Pond – there’s no hiding place on the wibbly wobbly web, is there – reveals his ‘job title’ at Google is Product Counsel… no idea what that actually means but that’s how he has listed himself on LinkedIn.

And, after a bit more Google-fed prowling, its quite easy to discover he was previously a media lawyer at Osborne Clarke, a paralegal at both Freehill and Freshfields… having been ‘educated’ at both Oxford and Cambridge as well as at the Inns Of Court Law School… Marvelous – that’ll mean he’s one of their legal eagles.

So, doubtless he’ll be a bit cross that a letter of his has been leaked but… hey, its out there now. Besides, given that what he’s had leaked is – or should be – really important, equals... so much the better.

Because, it appears that Google might just be about to step up to the plate and… just might… get involved in stemming online piracy as well as helping copyright holders track down material that’s being put up and out there as ‘free’.

And this little grassy knoll out there on the windswept world wide praire says… about fuckin’ time too.

Google have a moral obligation to do this – not least, because theirs is the biggest search-engine this side of Mars.

CNet reports that Google will charge a fee for this service… yeah and they should ‘cos, after all, they’ll be offering a service… they have a ‘product’ (hateful word as it is) and… ‘products’ should be charged for in order that the person / people who have created said ‘product’ earn a living.

Don’t think anyone’s got an issue with that… have they?

I mean… c’mon… we all have to make a living… you go to work, do whatever it is you do… and, at the end of the week or month, you get paid… from that wodge of dosh, you pay your bills, put food on the table and… so on and so forth…

And, if you’re a creative kind of cove who… lets say… writes songs from which you make a living… then, you’d expect to be paid for that… wouldn’t you?

But, of course, the vast majority – and, especially those who’s careers are in their twilight years – most often do not get paid.

For why?

Ahh… and here’s the rub… and this is a critical aspect of all of this file-sharing that’s going on – and a part that doesn’t affect the successful artists out there at all (they have their own issues).

Lets take artist X who, in his (or her) career, has recorded – lets say ten albums.

Those records, in their time, gathered a certain degree of caché and sold pretty well on vinyl but have lain dormant for the last however many years. And, now that we’re well into digital middle age, most of those recordings in our example aren’t available via the modern medium. Why is that then?

It is because the Record Companies don’t consider the cost-effective equation viable.

Cost-effective means them (the Record Companies – who are the copyright holders) not making a decent return on the cost of actually digitizing and re-mastering those old recordings because they reckon they’ll only sell a handful.

Which, essentially, is food on the table for the companies that host the files – that the fans and collectors want – that, in turn, are put up by fans of the music in the first place. They – the fans / music bloggers – aren’t making any money out of this… if anything, they’re paying to put records up on the internet (‘cos, to upload X amount of music files via MegaUpLoad or RapidShare or any other Upload service you care to name costs).

They (the fans and bloggers) like the records and feel like sharing what they like.

Any examples? Hell yeah, as many as you like actually… but just one should suffice.

There’s one particular album I like rather a lot from the Seventies (ok, so it proves I’m quite old – get used to it) that I spotted the other day freely available to download.

And this came with a really interesting statistic attached to said download… it had one of those counter thingies attached… which showed that particular full album download had been accessed a smidge more than 29THOUSAND times.

And that was on one site among dozens offering the same full album download of an album that has (I know for a fact) never been digitized.

Oh – and do I have a copy? Sure I do – quite some time ago and when the technology first became available, I digitized my own vinyl copy… its not great quality but, it suffices.

By and large – and if one really wanted to – I reckon old fogies like me could not only replace their old vinyl collection for nothing other than an internet connection charge but also top up on all those old vinyl recordings that one never quite got around to purchasing.

In a sense, the fans who post these recordings are offering a service of their own yet it is highly probable that they’re the people who are going to get their teeth kicked in when the outraged might of Google comes a-knockin’

When in actual fact, its is Companies such as those named above who should be taken to the cleaners…

And, by that I mean, they should have the bejaysus audited out of ‘em – and yeah, I know it’ll take a long long time – and the money they have earned from those who have paid to upload files should be re-distributed to those who have lost out who are... the creatives.

Google helping out with the file-sharing issue – yeah, I’ll go for that BUT ONLY if they deal with the companies who are making millions out of it and feed that cash back to where it should, rightfully, be.

The other solution would be to bring in some form of legislation that would mean that the companies (as above but there are loads of ‘em) have to pay a royalty / percentage of their income to a central fund from which the creatives who are missing out would be paid.

File-sharing is a bit like prostitution, it’ll never go away. But, it can be harnessed and, if done correctly, then those whose work is being prostituted can, rightfully, earn.