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05/06 Editorial: Stream an MP3, Go to Jail?!?

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  • 05/06 Editorial: Stream an MP3, Go to Jail?!?

    (Every month, a new editorial is posted in Sound, Studio, and Stage. Your comments and feedback are encouraged!)

    Stream an MP3, Go to Jail?

    This is not a good day for technology, legislation, listeners, musicians, or the music industry.

    S. 2644, "the PERFORM Act" ("Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act of 2006") has been sponsored by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and majority leader Bill Frist (R-TN). It's scary stuff that has several nasty provisions: It would essentially require that anyone streaming content (webcasters, satellite radio, TV, cable etc.) use some kind of DRM/protected format that would restrict the recording of broadcasts. The thinking is that entities like XM are "distribution" services, not "listening" services like radio. Well, they have a point there: I often record things off XM, run off zillions of CDs, and sell them on the streets of New York...NOT.

    Currently, webcasters can transmit music under a statutory license that makes provisions for paying royalties, however, they are not allowed to help listeners record the webcasts. DRM is required only if the format has it; in other words, it can't be stripped out for re-broadcast. Fair enough.

    But the new law would require that DRM be included that would prevent recording, except for "reasonable recording" (a throwback to the days of cassettes; basically, personal, non-commercial use if so permitted by the DRM). But it gets worse: "Reasonable recording" now means you couldn't choose the rsong you wanted to listen to and record, although you would have the right to change channels. Say what? Yes, the idea of "taping a song off the radio," as has been done for decades (and has also been protected by copyright law) would be off limits.

    There are some allowed uses of recording based on "specific programs, time periods, or channels selected by the user" but not "specific sound recordings, albums, or artists." If you did record the music, you would be prohibited from taking cuts or transferring material to portable media devices unless they were part of a DRM-enabled network.

    Haven't we been down this road before? Wasn't it established by Sony and the Betamax that time-shifting devices are okay? Whose rights am I trampling on by recording a broadcast of a particular artist on XM and listening to it after dinner instead of having to listen to it during dinner, when it airs and I might not want to hear it?

    Again, let me emphasize that I am a strong supporter of intellectual property rights. I believe artists should be compensated for their work, and just as I believe in "buy the software you use," I believe in "buy the music you listen to." But let's face it, buying music is only half the issue: Being exposed to the music you'd like to buy is another. With AM and FM radio totally moribund as ways to expose new talent, all we're left with is the internet, satellite radio, and other innovative providers.

    What's even worse (yes, it does get even worse) is that companies like XM and Live365 already pay much higher royalties than terrestrial radio, and hardware manufacturers pay extra licensing costs to enable recording features. Now, to be fair, consider that XM can deliver a song to you that you can record without paying the bucks you'd need to pay to, say, iTunes, which has negotiated a license fee. But iTunes offers convenience: If you want a particular song right now, you can get it. Who knows when XM or your favorite web station will play that song, or even if they'll play it at all? If you want to hear a favorite song whenever you want, you buy a copy. I suppose you could also just camp by a radio and hope they'll play it so you can record it...and no, XM is not the same quality as a CD. And my XM to go sure doesn't have a digital out: I have to record analog, from the headphone output.

    Then again, the whole point of copyright is to allow the owners of said copyright to control the means of distribution, and if this is the way they want to control it, that's their right if they can get the law passed (and considering that the RIAA is a formidable lobby and senators/representatives are bought and sold by lobbyists, that's a very good possibility). Okay, do it your way. But ask yourself: Will this promote the music industry? Will it truly get more people to buy music? Will it expose listeners to new music and create a vital listening environment? Or will artists end up making less, except for a few blockbusters like a Beatles back catalog, because the music industry will continue its downward spiral due to a refusal to come with innovative ways to re-invent itself?

    We'll see. I have a simpler solution: If they're really concerned about XM and Sirius being "distribution networks," just mandate that all players can have only analog outs. Just like cassette decks, which after all, did not kill the music industry.

    In my opinion, S.2644 is a stupid, hastily contrived bill that puts a band-aid on a gaping wound. It may make the lobbyists feel they're getting their money's worth from campaign contributions, but far from saving the music industry from itself, it will be just another nail in the coffin of the music industry as we know it.
    _____________________________________________
    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

  • #2
    i'm not really familiar with xm or even things like itunes, but i appreciate the editorial. dunno if it's the first, but it's the first time i've read it. so, thanks, anderton.

    one thing though is the amount of red in the article. seems like it's almost half. kind of distracting, imho. (i ended up selecting the text so as to not be destracted by it.)
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    • #3
      I agree with object -- while I like different text styles to call out the opinion sections and so forth

      That particular style is very very hard for me to read

      Q : Is the bill entered in the Thomas system yet?

      Comment


      • #4
        An interesting editorial.

        My desire to download songs is not to sell them or even listen to them on an iPod, it's mainly to learn songs so that I can do them in my classic rock cover band. I don't need excellent quality, I just need to be able to hear the lyrics and make out the notes.

        I really don't want to shell out 17 bucks to buy a CD so I can learn one song.

        I do tape record off the radio and then listen to see if there are any songs worth learning (usually not).

        I also use tablature, chord and lyric websites, but you pretty much need to have a good idea of what the song sounds like in order to use the sites.
        Michael D. www.mdlmusic.webs.com "I'm tired of rock-and-rolling Let's get married, Honey, let's go bowling" --Martin Mull

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        • #5
          Originally posted by MDLMUSIC
          I really don't want to shell out 17 bucks to buy a CD so I can learn one song.


          couldn't you just buy the song online for a dollar?
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          • #6
            Originally posted by object.session


            couldn't you just buy the song online for a dollar?


            +1. And who pays $17 for a CD?!

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            • #7
              Craig...KUDOS for doing an editorial about this....This is such bogus crap! It's surely worthy of discussion here as well as getting the word out to everyone we know.

              Comment


              • #8
                Congress is about to give control of the Net over to the telcoms, so it all might not matter in the end after they screw it up and want to charge per minute for access.


                Forced DRM? I suppose they'll enforce it by going after the independent ISP's that host the files, thereby eliminating our options?

                Another aspect of allowing the government complete control over all media/information.

                ... and the Know Nothing Sheeple will pat them on the back and say "we feel so much safer!".

                / can one be a political luddite?
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                • #9
                  <<Forced DRM?>>

                  This means that Internet radio stations will have to use RealPlayer, Windows Media, or whatever. Bet they're thrilled about that!
                  _____________________________________________
                  There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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                  • #10
                    Times have changed. To make a long story short, back in the 80s California proposed well-intentioned, but technically highly flawed, copy protection legislation. I was tipped off to this by a reader at EM (I was Editor at the time) and called one of the chairpersons. I explained what was going down, the guy's attitude was "wow, no one explained that part of things," and the bill was killed.

                    The entertainment industry is very powerful in California, and that's Feinstein's turf. As to the RIAA, I think they are so clueless it's unbelieveable. It's like there's a grocery store in town. A new grocery store opens up next to it with lower prices, girls in flashy uniforms, and giveaways. To compete, the older grocery store raises prices, reduces parking, and installs a metal detector that customers have to walk through...then wonders why everyone's at the other store.

                    I should point out that I DO believe artists should be compensated for their work. I DO believe that artists should have control over the disribution of their works. But I don't believe the methods that worked in 1976 are necessarily the best way to do business in 2006. One computer company with a tiny market share figured out an option that worked; can't the mighty Entertainment Industry do likewise?
                    _____________________________________________
                    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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                    • #11
                      Eegads. With lawmakers on both sides of the spectrum making up garbage like that, our country is in for a world of accelleration in the hurt department. Then again, we get the government we deserve...

                      The thing that gets me about this is that it makes me wonder how the RIAA got to be such buddies with lawmakers on diametrically opposed sides.
                      Hopefully, this is just an act of desperation on the part of the RIAA that will end up nowhere.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Anderton
                        But it gets worse: "Reasonable recording" now means you couldn't choose the rsong you wanted to listen to and record, although you would have the right to change channels. Say what? Yes, the idea of "taping a song off the radio," as has been done for decades (and has also been protected by copyright law) would be off limits.

                        what hasn't been done for decades is distribute technology to every kid that enables them to make perfect digital copies of broadcast music and then provide them with web-based distribution networks that make Tower Records look like a mom and pop shop.

                        [warning: unpopular view ahead...] Times have changed, really changed, as in easy-digital-distribution-of-recorded-music changed, and so must the law.

                        Originally posted by Anderton
                        Then again, the whole point of copyright is to allow the owners of said copyright to control the means of distribution,

                        As I understand it, the whole point of copyright, from the point of view of the framers of the original law, was to provide incentive for the creation of new work. Copyright law was and is for us!

                        At its base, copyright law was established in order to give rights to creators of new works that would encourage them to create new works. The thinking was that by enabling music creators to profit from their work, they would create more of it, thus enriching culture and filling people's lives with more new music. (and it's worked)
                        Originally posted by Anderton
                        and if this is the way they want to control it, that's their right if they can get the law passed

                        Revolutionary production and distribution technology change everything, turning existing copyright law into quaint relics. So the question is, what to do? How do you continue to provide financial incentives to society's creative producers so they are compensated for spending their time making wonderful music? To say "I do this because I love it" is a nice thought, but with copyright law in place and the opportunity for musicians to profit from the work, society enjoyed an explosion of music creation.

                        The trick, I guess, is to fully exploit all the new means of production and distribution that give unprecedented opportunities to talented people, without gutting financial incentive. If someone writes and produces a song that everyone wants to hear, they should be able to be paid just like anyone else who works hard and creates something that other people want.

                        Originally posted by Anderton
                        We'll see. I have a simpler solution: If they're really concerned about XM and Sirius being "distribution networks," just mandate that all players can have only analog outs. Just like cassette decks, which after all, did not kill the music industry.

                        The problems with that is that you have one industry telling another industry what type of equipment they can or cannot produce. I believe this very battle has been fought and lost in the courts.

                        As a result content creators cannot limit the holes hardware creators may punch into the back of their boxes. The next best thing (from the point of view of the content producers)... hobble the digitial stream so that what comes out of the hole does not flow into the rives and oceans of free digital internet distribution.
                        Originally posted by Anderton
                        In my opinion, S.2644 is a stupid, hastily contrived bill that puts a band-aid on a gaping wound. It may make the lobbyists feel they're getting their money's worth from campaign contributions, but far from saving the music industry from itself, it will be just another nail in the coffin of the music industry as we know it.

                        The sky is falling!!! The sky is falling!!!

                        I don't think this law is the final answer, but an intermediary step as the industry continues to transform itself. Just look at the confusion in France, with a bunch of old men writing ridiculous laws about iPods they probably have never even used and then backing down when their kids starting screaming at them over (no doubt fabulous dinners of fine French food) that they were chasing their beloved iTunes out of town.

                        This whole transformation of the music industry is absolutely wonderful and emancipating. I bet that we are only just starting to glimpse what the New Music Order will turn out to be. Copyright protections have proven to be invaluable to musicians and the development of the music industry in the 20th century. We are a far cry from the King's servants of yesteryear, and copyright law has a lot to do with that.

                        that copyright law is an old frumpy man trying to keep up with the sprightly innovation of youthful technology and the web is no surprise. but that doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. Laws like this are just a little huffing and puffing as the old man catches up, and when the music industry finally settles down as new technology matures, I think we musicians will be more than happy that the old man is still with us.

                        -peace, love, and blips

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Anderton
                          Again, let me emphasize that I am a strong supporter of intellectual property rights. I believe artists should be compensated for their work, and just as I believe in "buy the software you use," I believe in "buy the music you listen to." But let's face it, buying music is only half the issue: Being exposed to the music you'd like to buy is another. With AM and FM radio totally moribund as ways to expose new talent, all we're left with is the internet, satellite radio, and other innovative providers.


                          Exactly.

                          The copyright belongs to the creator of the work. That individual should have control over how freely something is distributed. A certain amount of freedom in distribution sows seeds for more sales.

                          I believe the model for albums being cash cows by selling a $17 product to people who want one song is over. Single songs rule.

                          Do the major music conglomerates not see that having a vital broadcast medium moves product? The content on radio seems to be strictly packaged formats. "New music? What's that?" The chance of being surprised by something on commercial radio (nevermind pleasantly surprised) is virtually nil.
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                          • #14
                            The RIAA continues to dig its own grave deeper and deeper. This law might be the little nudge they need to stumble into it...

                            The law infringes on my right to distribute my own IP in the way I see fit.

                            In a broader sense, only certain people will continue to consume music under these conditions. That will be those who think the music the mega-corporations are trying to shove down our throats is the best thing for all of us.

                            Maybe its time to give up on music and take up oil painting or something...

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                            • #15
                              <<As I understand it, the whole point of copyright, from the point of view of the framers of the original law, was to provide incentive for the creation of new work. Copyright law was and is for us!>>

                              Yes, but with the incentive being that you're protected and can control your work. It's exactly what you alluded to later, that people need to be compensated to have this kind of incentive.

                              <<The sky is falling!!! The sky is falling!!!>>

                              For record companies, the sky IS falling. Sales are way, way down. Digital distribution hasn't been figured out yet. Companies have merged into a few "superpowers" that aren't doing all that well.

                              This is NOT the time to alienate consumers and make it MORE difficult and expensive for people to enjoy your music. Ask anyone who had a rootkit installed in their computer when they played a CD...or those who bought a DualDisc and found out it wouldn't work in their player.

                              If I buy a recording, I want to be able to play it, and I think I should have the right to play it in a portable player if I want without having to ask for permission. Protect music from piracy? Yes! Absolutely. But protect it from paying, legitimate consumers? Big, big mistake.
                              _____________________________________________
                              There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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