Sunday, February 24, 2002
Behind the Grammys, Revolt in the Industry
"Many say that concern increased as Napster and its followers created a generation of music fans used to getting free songs on demand. Yet major label heads say that while attention has been focused on these services, a bigger worry is the practice of CD burning. Last year, sales of blank CD's are reported to have outnumbered recorded CD's.... (emphasis mine)
So the artists are taking matters into their own high-profile hands. The night before the Grammys, more than 15 superstars — including Billy Joel, the Eagles, Stevie Nicks, No Doubt and the Dixie Chicks — are to perform at four different concert halls in Southern California in a benefit for their own advocacy group, the Recording Artists Coalition. Their aim is to overturn legislation exempting artists from a California labor code that limits service contracts to seven years, but the long-term goal is to get adequate compensation from the labels. If an act sells a million albums and has a No. 1 hit, chances are that, on the books, they're still in debt to their label....
Mr. Joel, who is headlining the fund-raiser on Tuesday, is being toasted by the industry as its Man of the Year on Monday. Tori Amos, recently dropped by Atlantic, will be up for two awards, including best female rock vocal — for a song she recorded on Atlantic. She will be competing against Ms. Nicks, who will have performed in the artist benefit the night before. What will be interesting about this year's Grammy Awards will not be the anachronistic choices (nominations are, for the most part, on point compared to those of past years), but in the way the industry's escalating tensions and doomsday scenarios bubble to the surface on live TV." [at NY Times]
Heh, heh, heh. Here's what I think will be interesting to watch on Wednesday. Last year, Blue Man Group, Jill Scott, and Moby did an incredible performance of "Natural Blues," and within an hour, you could find it on Napster. This year, I may actually time how long it takes for a performance to show up on Morpheus.
And as a consumer, what am I supposed to do if I want a copy of that recording from last year but the record labels don't provide a way for me to legally buy it? Is it still stealing if I download it from Morpheus because there is no other way to get it?
CNET Interviews John Perry Barlow
"I feel like we're in a condition where private totalitarianism is not out of the question because of the increasingly thickening matrix of channels of communication owned by the same companies that own content, that own Web properties, that own traditional media.
In essence, they're in a position to own the human mind itself. The possibility of getting a dissident voice through their channels is increasingly scarce, and the use of copyright as a means of suppressing freedom of expression is becoming more and more fashionable. You've got these interlocking systems of technology and law, where merely quoting something from a copyrighted piece is enough to bring down the system on you....
[Court challenges will] get rid of the DMCA because it's unconstitutional. And at some point, we'll get to a level where the courts agree with us. It's clearly a violation of the First Amendment, and it's being used to create all kinds of secondary violations. I just can't believe that a court could continue counting putting a link to a text file as a criminal act in the United States of America." [via Slashdot]
My commentary, which you should read after you've finished Lessig's article posted below.
A few years ago, I read an interesting article in Entertainment Weekly that I can't seem to dig up anywhere. It was about the new generation of film directors and how they think differently, which means they create differently. I really wish I had saved the article because the only director I can remember them mentioning specifically was Mike Figgis, the guy that directed Time Code. TC splits the screen into four different windows and follows different characters in each. Talk about multitasking!
And that was the point of the article - that these directors were growing up in the age of the computer and it was influencing their styles of filmmaking. They no longer thought of movies in terms of one linear sequence, a start to finish proposition. You can see the effects of this new, often frenetic, style very clearly in films like Memento, Run Lola Run, and Moulin Rouge. A lot of adults don't like these movies because they embody the new style, but they all take cliches from the past and re-invent them.
And to my mind, that's the type of creativity that Lessig warns we are losing every time we extend copyright. This new generation of directors will give way to the Net Gen directors, and who knows what they could create if given the opportunity, much like rap and hip hop became new genres inspired by reinventing earlier works. What if Baz Luhrmann couldn't have made his version of Romeo + Juliet because Shakespeare's work was still copyrighted? Of course, some of you are saying that might be a good thing, but the point is that it would have stifled innovation and creativity.
So by keeping artistic works out of the commons for longer and longer periods of time, we're taking away one of the major inputs for the next generation of artists. So even if you are not passionate about why the DMCA, SSSCA, and copyright law in general is hurting libraries, you should care about what our culture is losing.
Control & Creativity: The Future of Ideas Is in the Balance, an excellent commentary by Lawrence Lessig that includes a little history and some proposals for remedying the current situation. Apologies for the long excerpts, but I actually cut it down from what I originally wanted to quote, so I encourage you to read the whole thing yourself.
"Apple, of course, wants to sell computers. Yet their ad touches an ideal that runs very deep in our history. For the technology that they (and of course others) sell could enable this generation to do with our culture what generations have done from the very beginning of human society: to take what is our culture; to “rip” it—meaning to copy it; to “mix” it—meaning to re-form it however the user wants; and finally, and most important, to “burn” it—to publish it in a way that others can see and hear....
But just at the cusp of this future, at the same time that we are being pushed to the world where anyone can “rip, mix [and] burn,” a countermovement is raging all around. To ordinary people, this slogan from Apple seems benign enough; to the lawyers who prosecute the laws of copyright, the very idea that the music on “your” CD is “your music” is absurd. “Read the license,” they’re likely to demand. “Read the law,” they’ll say, piling on. This culture that you sing to yourself, or that swims all around you, this music that you pay for many times over—when you hear it on commercial radio, when you buy the CD, when you pay a surplus at a large restaurant so that they can play the same music on their speakers, when you purchase a movie ticket where the song is the theme—this music is not yours. You have no “rights” to rip it, or to mix it, or especially to burn it. You may have, the lawyers will insist, permission to do these things. But don’t confuse Hollywood’s grace with your rights. These parts of our culture, these lawyers will tell you, are the property of the few. The law of copyright makes it so, even though the law of copyright was never meant to create any such power....
The first real Napster case was cable television. Congress’s aim in part was to assure that the cable industry could develop free of the influence of the broadcasters. The broadcasters were a powerful industry; Congress felt—rightly—that cable would grow more quickly and innovate more broadly if it was not beholden to the power of broadcasters. So Congress cut any dependency that the cable industry might have, by assuring it could get access to content without yielding control....
The same solution—compensation without control—is available today. But instead, copyright interests are in effect getting more control over copyright in cyberspace than they had in real space, even though the need for more control is less clear. We are locking down the content layer, and handing over the keys to Hollywood....
Congress should empower file sharing by recognizing a similar system of compulsory licenses. These fees should not be set by an industry set on killing this new mode of distribution. They should be set, as they have always been set, by a policy maker keen on striking a balance. If only such a policy maker were somewhere to be found." [at Gilder.com, via Slashdot]