Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Digital Rights Management (DRM) – A theory on how it got started.

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

DRM and all of the related problems to DRM really stemmed from the Compact Disk and CDs replacing the cassette and vinyl.

We all happily went out and rebought our existing music collection on CD as it was alot more convenient than LP’s or cassettes. In the process we generated a constant revenue stream as stuff was gradually re-issued. The problem is that this is now coming to an end for the record companies as they have re-released almost everything. They have certainly run out of the stuff with serious mass appeal.

So they now have to look for a new way of extracting similar revenues that they have grown used to over the last 15 years out of a back catalog which most of us already own, possibly in more than one format. The problem is that they have already made it about as convenient as it needs to be and the quality is mostly there as well.

So rather than try and go back to surviving off the revenues they get from new releases which would result in a huge drop in profits they need an alternative. Without an alternative the problems would be very far reaching. The stock market is used to constant revenue growth – if profits fall, it is far worse for a company than if they had never risen in the first place, expecially if the fall is not likely to be temporary. This is frequently what drives a company under if they are unable to downsize quickly enough.

So faced with this dilemma, the media publishing companies must find a way to keep the momentum of the CD years going, and being that they didn’t reinvest those record profits very wisely in new content production this is going to difficult. So they are choosing to try and keep the CD going by constantly selling us a new copy of stuff we already own.

If you contrast this with companies like BP (who sell oil) you see that they have invested their profits much more wisely. BP are now the world’s largest producer of solar panels and have started describing themselves as an energy company rather than an oil company.

In a single phrase, “Diversify to survive”. DRM does not stop piracy, just as gun laws don’t stop criminals from getting guns, just as airport security does not stop real terrorists.

Pennsylvania mother fights RIAA

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

From Slashdot:

A Pennsylvania mom is fighting back, suing Universal Music Publishing Group for having a home movie taken down off of YouTube. The movie, featuring her 18-month old bouncing to Prince’s song, ‘Let’s Go Crazy,’ was cited for removal by the Group for copyright infringement. Mom Stephanie Lenz was first afraid they’d come after her — then she got angry. She got YouTube to put the video back up, she’s enlisted the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and she’s filed a civil lawsuit (pdf). ‘I thought even though I didn’t do anything wrong that they might want to file some kind of suit against me, take my house, come after me. And I didn’t like feeling afraid … I didn’t like feeling that I could get in trouble for something as simple as posting a home video for my friends and family to see.'”

If you read the story then it seems as if this mother went to the EFF and they are representing her. The EFF isn’t a commercial organization, this isn’t a lawyer who is going to get his money wether he wins or loses.

Yet many will spout that she doesn’t stand a chance. Yeah, because the EFF lawyers are NOT leaders in their field with a long history of winning.

This is a video with music playing in the background. Imagine if that was illegal, does the same go for images? Well, you just destroyed all visual media taken in say Disneyland. Disney owns the image rights to their park. Hell, simply picture on the street is likely to have lots of copyrighted advertising signs. Your clothes? Owned by the designer. Could you only make home movies in a sterile white room with naked people? Might get a bit boring.

You could barely film/photograph anything without showing something that infringes on a copyright.

I am not going to watch a video of a baby, but the music was playing in the background, it was NOT a soundtrack added to the video. If we make it illegal to film normal life, we have really bent over to far to the music industry.

But hey, don’t take my word for it. Talk to a lawyer. A good one. Who does his work because he believes in a cause and does it without saying “win or lose, you owe me”.

List of artists against RIAA practices

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

For those that haven’t seen the links, here are just a couple of examples where artists do not agree with the RIAA and their practices.

Steve Vai

Courtney Love

Steve Albini – an independent and corporate rock record producer most widely known for having produced Nirvana’s “In Utero”.

DRM vs. Piracy

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

I used to pirate music all the time, especially back in the old Napster days (even though I never used Napster or any other p2p software. Then somebody brought up the “what about the artists?” argument, and I thought about it, and you know… they were right. All the excuses in the world won’t change the fact that if I get my music for free and don’t go to concerts, the artists don’t get a penny. Maybe they normally only get 10 cents of every dollar I spend on CDs and music downloads, but if I don’t pay anything at all, they won’t even get those 10 cents. Not exactly fair, is it? Did I care? Yes. Did I change my ways? No.

I continued to pirate music for a few more years, and when the Kazaa lawsuits started happening, I simply continued not to use p2p software and used my normal methods. Why? Because there was simply no viable alternative. I rarely liked more than one track on a CD, and DRM sucked (and still sucks) balls.

Then iTunes came out with their DRM-free selection. Did I start buying? Like you said, nope. Not one track. I hated the iTunes interface and their limited selection. But by this point, the RIAA had further tightened their grip and using other legit places to buy music became difficult because of the DRM attached to it. Solution? I continued to pirate music, although much less music at this point. What can I say – I’m not a fan of “pop music” and that’s all the music industry was really churning out at this point.

Then the RIAA cracked down some more, and they started throwing lawsuits at anyone and everyone based off of little information such as an IP address. Solution? I just stopped bothering with music altogether. Nobody got paid, but at least no music got pirated either. I guess they figured that since a win-win solution wasn’t possible, we’d just have to settle for a lose-lose situation. And that’s exactly what I did. Oh well.

But then fast forward a few months, and something quite miraculous suddenly happened. Amazon got into the MP3 game, and ALL of their tracks were DRM-free and available via a one-click download directly from my browser. No more bullshit psuedo-OSX interface and most of the songs I wanted were actually available for purchase. On my first day, I paid for and downloaded some my favorite tracks.

Maybe most people still pirate. Maybe I’m one in a million. All I can say is that I never liked pirating music. I always believed they deserved some payment for their work. But until now, there simply wasn’t a good way to actually buy what I wanted. DRM’d tracks were more like rentals or even slavery, binding me to particular computers, devices, and stores. Screw that. And then Amazon came along, and you know what? They actually made what I wanted available for purchase. And now I’m a paying customer again. Maybe if they keep that up, there will be others like me, and soon, they’ll even have something that approaches a sustainable business model. And who knows, maybe some day in the far, distant future, they’ll have mastered this “sell them want they want, not what we want” philosophy and actually be able to produce music, reap a reasonable profit, have non-bitter fans. Yeah, they’ll still trade tracks among themselves once in a while. Oh well, it was being done before, but at least you’re getting paid more for it now and you’re not pissing everyone off. All that and to actually maintain a non-hostile business relationship with their customers. All at the same time!

Wow. What an amazing concept, eh?

Stealing vs. copyright infringement – there IS a difference

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

I never understood this idea that downloading stuff that you didn’t pay for is somehow not stealing.

It is wrong, and illegal, but it isn’t stealing.

Stealing is where you take something and the owner no longer has it. This is a criminal offense.
Copyright infringement is where you copy something. The owner still has it, but the owner doesn’t get paid for the copy (note: this is not the same as the owner “losing money” since the infringer may not necessarilly have bought it anyway). This is a civil offense.

Stealing and copyright infringement are covered by different laws and they have different effects on the victims of the crimes and society in general, they are not the same thing.

That doesn’t make copyright infringement right. However, there needs to be some flexibility here.

For example, I generally download an album before I buy it. If I like what I hear I go out and buy the CD, if not, I delete what I downloaded. If I can’t hear something before buying it I probably won’t buy it because I’ve bought too many CDs I thought were going to be good and turned out to be complete crap. And what’s wrong with this? Consider it promotion for the bands – if their music is good then it makes them more money because I’m more likely to spend my money on CDs I know are good rather than taking a gamble.

Can anybody fill me in as to why downloading music without paying for it is ok?

It isn’t. But can you fill me in as to why the following behavior is ok:

  • Suing thousands of people who can’t afford to defend themselves despite having only circumstantial evidence that they have committed any crime and thus forcing potentially innocent people to settle at great expense.
  • Preventing customers from accessing content which they have legitimately purchased, by means of various (potentially illegal) DRM systems, which often the customer is not informed about prior to purchase.
  • Criminalising people who who want to listen to their legally purchased CDs on their MP3 players.
  • At the moment, the quality of the official product is frequently substandard compared to the blackmarket product. People generally like paying and staying within the law, but when it starts to become impossible to use the legally purchased product, is it any surprise that people stop buying it?

    The RIAA – an outdated business model

    Sunday, October 14th, 2007

    Verdict article here
    Appeals article here

    To the point – assuming either compensatory claim is made (either the $200,000 fine or a much reduced $200 fine) will any of the actual musicians who produced the music Jammie is alleged to have offered to be copied receive even a single penny from the settlement? Does the RIAA even have an accounting mechanism to determine who should get the money, presuming that Jammie is being convicted of a copyright violation of several explicit songs that can be named by both title and artist, including song writer and performer?

    If the RIAA is truly acting as an agent for and in behalf of these musicians and seeking compensation directly for them in terms of violating the copyright of these genuine artists, I would probably agree with what they were doing. I do not condone Jammie, but at the same time I question the legal standing of the RIAA, who only represents the record labels… and even that indirectly. A class-action lawsuit (which this court case seems to fit the rough definition of one… the class being defined as the musicians whose music was distributed illegally by Jammie) in any other industry would be considering these settlement terms to be unconscionable and unconstitutional just from the standpoint that those “harmed” have not been fairly compensated at all. It would be like an ACLU lawsuit where the lawyers kept 100% of the settlement. All this said, there should be some mechanism in place where an ordinary musician can actually make some kind of financial compensation for electronic distribution of their music. From nearly everything I’ve read regarding the current state of the music industry, this mechanism simply is not in place at all, so there is little incentive for new and emerging musicians to really care about the RIAA cartel. By far the worst thing a new musician can do is sign a contract with an RIAA company, except for the hope that you can eventually hit the major leagues of the top musicians. But don’t expect the label to assist you in that journey.

    American Idol, Pop Idol, and other similar music competition are a symptom of an industry falling apart: The system is so rigid and unable to be able to find new talent that they have to go through gimicks like a national talent search. For every Ruben Stoddard and Kelly Clarkston that has been found by the major labels, hundreds of otherwise good musicians were passed over and thrown overboard, many of whom could have earned a professional wage to perform music, even if it wasn’t necessarily living life as millionaires. It is this level of talent that the current RIAA system has completely failed.

    Copyright infringement – the punishment should fit the crime

    Sunday, October 7th, 2007

    For the longest time, I’ve thought that there should be two punishment scales for copyright infringement. Let’s call the first “professional infringement.” This would involve infringement with a profit motive. An example of this would be the people who sell copies of DVDs on street corners. These people would face the fines currently imposed for copyright infringement.

    The second type would be “household infringement.” This would involve infringement via a P2P network or other type that didn’t involve attempts to make a profit. This type of infringement would take the number of files infringed, multiply them by the market cost per file, and then multiply that number by 100 (to get a “punishment” number that is worse than simply buying the songs outright).

    In the case of Jammie Thomas, she was found guilty of infringing 24 songs. Since she wasn’t attempting to make a profit, she would fall under household infringement and would be charged 24 * 0.99 (the cost of the songs on iTunes) * 100, or $2,376. This is more than the $150+ that she’s looking for, yet a lot less than the $222,000 that she was originally fined for. A $2,000+ verdict isn’t going to financially ruin most people, but it will also be enough of a significant amount for most people that it would serve as a deterrent against future incidents.

    RIAA lawsuits – where do they come up with those numbers?

    Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

    If you steal a single apple from your neighbour, it’s not reasonable to argue that the risk of being convicted after having stolen a single apple from a neighbour is 1:1000000, so despite the apple being worth $0.20, you should be fined $200000. It’s an unconstitutional excess to put someone in debt for life for the crime of stealing a single apple.

    A different problem is that when a huge part of the population is guilty of breaking a certain law, but the risk of being investigated are very low, and punishment very high, this has the effect of giving whomever decides who to investigate the power to essentially punish people at will.

    Politicians should make law. Police should investigate. Courts should convict (or not). That’s the way it’s supposed to work. With filesharing and these RIAA lawsuits it works more similar to this:

    Politicians make a law, that a huge part of the population breaks regularily.Police essentially never investigates anyone for breaking it. Private companies are free to, according to their own criteria, decide who to investigate. Courts tend to convict (not surprising, since most people are guilty)

    This puts a HUGE amount of power in the hands of those private companies. I’d guess in a average group of college-students, that company is, currently, free to bankrupt for life anyone they chose to. Well, not EVERYONE but close enough. (certainly 90%)

    DRM – a theory on how it got started

    Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

    These problems all really stemmed from the Compact Disk and it replacing the cassette and vinyl. We all happily went out and rebought our existing music collection on CD as it was alot more convenient than LP’s. And in the process we generated a constant revenue stream as stuff was gradually re-issued. The problem is that this is now coming to an end for the record companies as they have re-released almost everything. They have certainly run out of the stuff with serious mass appeal.

    So they now have to look for a new way of extracting similar revenues that they have grown used to over the last 15 years out of a back catalog which most of us already own, possibly in more than one format. The problem is that they have already made it about as convenient as it needs to be and the quality is mostly there as well (Vinyl have better infrasonic performance).

    So rather than try and go back to surviving off the revenues they get from new releases which would result in a huge drop in profits they need an alternative. Without an alternative the problems would be very far reaching. The stock market is used to constant revenue growth. If profits fall it is far worse for a company than if they had never risen in the first place, expecially if the fall is not likely to be temporary. This is frequently what drives companies under if they are unable to downsize quickly enough.

    So faced with this dilemma the media publishing companies must find a way to keep the boon of the CD years going, and being that they didnt reinvest those record profits very wisely in new content production this is going to difficult. So they are choosing to try and keep the boom of the CD going by constantly selling us a new copy of stuff we already own indefinately.

    If you contrast this with companies like BP (who sell Oil) you see that they have invested their profits much more wisely. BP are now the worlds largest producer of solar panels and have started describing themselves as an energy company rather than an oil company.

    In a single phrase, “Diversify to survive”. DRM does not stop piracy just as gun laws don’t stop criminals from getting guns just as airport security doesn’t stop real terrorists.

    RIAA vs Limewire

    Monday, February 26th, 2007

    Article here.

    While our government is trying to pass a bill that makes the DCMA look like a future “good old days” story, the RIAA is still trying to support their outdated business model by suing everyone.

    Here’s the deal – when you download limewire, you are prompted to make the following decision before your download begins:

    1) I might use LimeWire BASIC for copyright infringement.
    OR
    2) I will not use LimeWire BASIC for copyright infringement.

    If you choose ‘I might use LimeWire for copyright infringement’:

    Important information about using peer to peer software safely

    LimeWire LLC does not distribute LimeWire Basic to people who intend to use it for purposes of copyright infringement.

    Thank you for your interest; however, we cannot complete this download.

    Case closed.

    This is pathetic. But it was bound to happen. I mean, look at the people they have sued:

    The RIAA has been criticised in the media after they subpoenaed Gertrude Walton, an 83-year-old grandmother who had died in December of 2004. Mrs. Walton stood accused of swapping rock, pop and rap songs.

    The RIAA in 2003 attempted to sue Sarah Seabury Ward, a 66 year-old sculptor residing in Boston, Massachusetts. They alleged that she shared more than 2,000 songs illegally. The RIAA dropped the suit when it was discovered that she was a computer novice. The case was dismissed, but without prejudice.

    The RIAA has also been criticised for bringing lawsuits against children, such as 12 year old Brianna LaHara in 2003.

    The RIAA also attempted to sue Candy Chan of Michigan, for the alleged actions of her daughter, 13 year old Brittany Chan. The court dismissed Priority Records v. Chan because it was ruled that the mother could not be sued for the alleged infringements of her daughter. When the court ruled in favor of the mother, dismissing the case, the RIAA proceeded to sue her child. However, prosecuting a minor is more difficult, and many previous adult defendants have said that the peer to peer software installation and copyright infringement was done without their knowledge by one of their children.

    And on a related note: The RIAA’s recent targeting of students has generated controversy as well. An April 4th story in the MIT campus newspaper The Tech indicates that an RIAA representative stated to Cassi Hunt, an alleged file-sharer, that previously, “the RIAA has been known to suggest that students drop out of college or go to community college in order to be able to afford settlements.”

    Is that PATHETIC or what?!

    Listen up, pigopolists. LimeWire isn’t responsible. YOU are responsible. Your rampant, unchecked greed is the reason we download music using peer to peer instead of obtaining it directly from you for a nominal fee. LimeWire may be the current conduit, but you are not going to stop peer to peer by stopping LimeWire. In fact, you are making your own lives more difficult by encouraging the peer to peer community to devise and deploy a new music sharing system that has no central controlling entity that you can sue. The more heavy-handed you get with us, the harder we are going to fight back. We are NOT going to succumb to your greed. You made your bed, now you can sleep in it.