4 December 2002
Another one bites the dust

Aimee Deep hasn't mentioned it yet in her blog, but the Madster file-sharing service which used to bear her name (when it was Aimster) has been ordered to shut down. What's more, a contempt-of-court hearing has been scheduled for 19 December, to determine whether Madster's failure to comply with a previous order to block all sharing of copyrighted files qualifies as such.

Madster has argued that the encryption used by its network makes it technically impossible to separate copyrighted from non-copyrighted files, as demanded in the previous order, and that breaking encryption is in itself a copyright violation.

While the swapping of copyrighted music files seems to be clearly illegal, I remain persuaded that, regardless of how many injunctions the music industry can obtain or how many lawsuits they can win, their current batten-down-the-hatches business model is way past its sell-by date, and they know it. Surviving a kick in the McNuggets from Aimee Deep's Manolo Blahniks merely prolongs their agony, and ours.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:47 AM)
19 January 2003
Where the pockets are deepest

First, the families of a pair of DC-area sniper victims announced they would sue Bushmaster Firearms and a gun dealer for ostensibly making it possible for the snipers to pick them off.

Next, Hilary Rosen of the Recording Industry Association of America announced that local ISPs should be required to pay the RIAA for allowing their customers onto peer-to-peer file-swapping networks.

Finally, the Farmers and Miners Bank of Oronogo, Missouri is expected to announce that it will file a claim for damages against the Ford Motor Company, one of whose vehicles was used by Bonnie and Clyde as a getaway car following the robbery of the bank in 1932.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:24 PM)
6 May 2003
Share and share alike

Kevin Aylward explains the popularity of P2P file sharing in terms even a record executive can understand:

The P2P services flourish because there is no good way to get a legal compilation of songs you want from the record industry!

Still, sharing of copyrighted files is illegal, and the music industry has been making noises about hacking into people's computers, a maneuver worthy of the Mafia — except, of course, that the Mob would never telegraph its blows in this manner. Aylward approaches this from another angle: what if we allow them to check our computers for illicit files, in exchange for a piece of the action?

Seriously. Here's his example:

Say, for example, that I "steal" 50 albums a year at a loss to the record industry of $750 per year. Keeping my PC copyright infringement free would lead me to spend some portion of that $750 dollar loss on actual recorded music. For this example let's say that by participating in the "program" I buy $250 worth of CD's that I would not have otherwise bought. At this point the record industry has made incremental revenue gains of $250 with the added benefit that I cannot share the music with millions of my closest friends. Forrester estimates the record companies [lose] $3.1 billion dollars a year to 1 million or so users of P2P systems. In that case I would be costing them about $250 a month as an average user (sound a little high to me). So if the net benefit of my departure from the P2P field would be $3250 dollars a year, what would I really like from the record companies in return? How about a cut of the profits, by way of some free songs? The exact number and frequency are really not the point, market conditions and rational self interest will determine at what point I agree to "buy" the monitoring program. Is it one song a week, month, year? There are any number of levels that will satisfy various percentages of the P2P community.

I'm not entirely sure this would work, but I have to admit I like the idea of the RIAA paying, um, protection money.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:10 AM)
1 August 2003
Not available

As everyone knows by now, the RIAA has declared a jihad on people who swap music files, and regardless of my opinion of the premise that customers who buy "intellectual property" don't quite own it, this particular offensive strikes me as so clueless, so ill-advised, so devoid of common sense, so violently opposed to building a bridge to what's left of the RIAA's customer base, that I really don't understand why Terry McAuliffe isn't getting paid some sort of royalties for it.

Another wrinkle now suggests itself, and the suggestion arises from this single line at Fly Over Country:

I mainly used Kazaa to search for live U2 stuff.

Live U2 stuff being generally unreleased (we used to call such things "bootlegs"), there's no possible way the record company is losing any revenue off this kind of material. Therefore, I must assume, any RIAA efforts to stomp out distribution of same far exceed whatever dubious legitimacy the DMCA has conferred upon the jihad — unless, of course, they have a note from Bono.

(This reasoning would not, of course, apply to material that has been released but has been locked up in the vaults, such as the Cameo-Parkway catalog; the company's ownership of that material is not in doubt.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:32 PM)
7 September 2003
The law is an asshat

The Recording Industry Association of America has had mixed results in its efforts to clamp down on file-sharing, and Congress hasn't been asking "How high?" when the RIAA insists that they jump, so the industry's latest attempt to kill off peer-to-peer networking is disguised as an antiporn measure, which naturally attracts dimbulbs like Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK).

The amusing aspect of this bill, of course, is that it mandates the use of a software flag that's supposed to prevent a P2P client from being installed without "verification of majority" or "verifiable parental consent." Where is this flag? According to the bill, the FTC is supposed to manufacture a specification for it over the next year, at which time software developers are supposed to fall all over themselves to adopt it.

Says Bigwig:

Nothing like using something that doesn't even exist to enforce the law of the land. Might as well give the job to the underpants gnomes.

The last thing we need is Congress in proximity to anyone's underpants — unless, of course, they and their "friends" plan to dine upon same.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:24 PM)
19 December 2003
ISPs need not squeal

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has overturned a trial judge's ruling that Verizon must reveal the names of subscribers involved in file-swapping to the Recording Industry Association of America.

The idea that Verizon shares responsibility for the trading of files because at some point it may take place over their network, said the court, "borders on the silly."

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:08 AM)
6 May 2006
Yet another tech bleg

If you want QuickTime 7, you install iTunes; Apple has so decreed, and I have done so.

I now find myself increasingly tempted by the offerings therein, and indeed one marginally-obscure album track caught my eye this evening. (You'll never guess what it was.) I am no expert on AAC-format files, which is what iTunes serves up, and I own no iPod, but it's my understanding that they can be converted to the more flexible MP3 format, perhaps with some loss in fidelity, or burned directly to CD right out of iTunes. I do know that Nero (6.6) will not accept AAC files directly; however, I have to assume that once on a CD, the files are in normal CDA format and can be handled accordingly.

If you have experience superior to mine, which in this case is any at all, please feel free to pass along whatever enlightenment may seem appropriate.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:30 PM)
7 May 2006
Adventures in iTunes

I am now resorting to quoting myself:

I now find myself increasingly tempted by the offerings therein, and indeed one marginally-obscure album track caught my eye this evening. (You'll never guess what it was.)

Actually, it was a bit more dramatic than that; I opened up the Store and said, "If they have [insert song information here], I will sign up, and I will purchase that track, and no doubt there will be others to follow."

They had that track. It was, in fact, "The West Wind Circus," a narrative by Adam Miller that Helen Reddy cut back in '73 for her Long Hard Climb LP; it has stuck in the back of my head for lo, these many years, but never pushed its way far enough to the front for me to track down either the LP or the current CD release. (Yeah, yeah, I know: Helen Reddy. Forget those 45s you threw away; this is a lovely song, beautifully sung.) Ninety-nine cents well spent, I'd say.

There were some surprises in the Music Store, not all of them pleasant. No Johnny Nash tracks, not even "I Can See Clearly Now"; the wrong (which is to say, "not the 45") version of Gerry and the Pacemakers' "I'll Be There," and not even the usual incorrect version, but a different incorrect version; the crummy stereo mix (with the wrong vocals) of Marianne Faithfull's "Summer Nights." On the upside, they had Garnet Mimms' solo single "I'll Take Good Care of You," which I'd been wanting, and both 45 and six-minute LP versions of Bebu Silvetti's dance classic "Spring Rain."

I don't think I'm going to spend an incredible amount of money on iTunes; after all, I've spent the last forty years accumulating records in more tangible forms, and most of the ones I've wanted, I have. But once in a while, I have to assume that something there will demand my attention, and since Apple's DRM is a bit less annoying than it could have been, I'm not averse to giving them a buck for something I don't feel like searching for elsewhere — or, as in the case of Quarterflash's "Take Me To Heart," something I'm too lazy to clean up from vinyl.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:50 PM)
12 May 2006
Adventures in iTunes (2)

I've started snagging podcasts via iTunes.

What motivated this, actually, was a statement from Lileks to the effect that he'd maxed out his bandwidth, and I wondered, "Hmmm. If I don't download it from the site myself, but get it through iTunes, maybe that will help."

Which, as the discerning reader has already discerned, it won't.

Still, it's a handy way to get the podcasts (except Lileks, who apparently has maxed out his bandwidth) without juggling a bunch of bookmarks, which means more to me than you'd think.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:21 PM)
22 May 2006
Adventures in iTunes (3)

So I did my daily trip to the Music Store, and waiting for me (with the dreaded "Beta" notation) is "Just for You." Here's what they decided was Just for Me:

  • Edwin Starr, "Stop the War Now"
  • Salsoul Orchestra, "Magic Bird of Fire"
  • Peter Schickele, "New Horizons in Music Appreciation"
  • Little Milton, "Who's Cheating Who?"
  • Freddie Scott, "Are You Lonely For Me Baby?"
  • Roger Williams, "Born Free"
  • Brian Hyland, "The Joker Went Wild"
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Ebay"
  • Barbara Mandrell, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool"
  • Norah Jones, "Don't Know Why"
  • Shalamar, "Dead Giveaway"
  • Sammy Hagar, "Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy"
  • Michael Jackson, "Thriller"
  • Daryl Hall and John Oates, "Family Man"
  • Lindsay Buckingham, "Go Insane"

I am more impressed with this than I might have expected: I have only six of these already, and none of them have an automatic emetic effect, although I should note that I haven't spun the Thriller album in probably ten years.

There are also a few full-length albums they'd like to sell me, which are a bit more dubious. I pushed the "Tell Me More" button, which served up more albums and 15 more singles, one of which I actually bought, even though I have the 45. (Never underestimate the drawing power of a good stereo mix of something you've always heard in mono.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:10 AM)
19 June 2006
The 99-cent solution

"Weird Al" Yankovic has an Ask Al page, and this question came up:

Al, which of these purchasing methods should I use in order to make sure the most profit gets to you: Buying one of your albums on CD, or buying one of your albums on iTunes?

Says Al:

I am extremely grateful for your support, no matter which format you choose to legally obtain my music in, so you should do whatever makes the most sense for you personally. But since you ASKED ? I actually do get significantly more money from CD sales, as opposed to downloads. This is the one thing about my renegotiated record contract that never made much sense to me. It costs the label NOTHING for somebody to download an album (no manufacturing costs, shipping, or really any overhead of any kind) and yet the artist (me) winds up making less from it. Go figure.

Grant Robinson of the Digital Music Weblog decided to go figure:

According to DownhillBattle, Apple pays the labels $0.65 (some say it's as high as $0.80) of the $0.99 paid for your song.

So, for an album with the average 12 songs, like your current release "Poodle Hat" which has exactly 12, Apple takes in $11.88. Apple sends the label $7.80. That's $4.08 cents for the boys in Cupertino. And, it might be a pretty reasonable split if you then received the whole $7.80.

Not even close:

According to widely circulated data from the coverage of the Allman Brothers' suit against Sony BMG, you could expect something like $45 of each thousand songs sold to be paid to you in royalties. That's around 4% of the amount paid to Apple for your work, and around 5.7% of what was paid to the label. For the Allmans, that works out to $24,000 when taking Nielsen SoundScan data of 538,000 Allmans songs sold as downloads since mid-2002.

A couple of points here:

  • Obviously the record company is entitled to something; after all, they've done a fair amount of heavy lifting.

  • Poodle Hat and other Yankovic albums, and a lot of everybody else's albums, are, in fact, $9.99 each. (Of course, if you buy them one track at a time ....)

That said, I think it's time for Al and other aggrieved artists to re-renegotiate.

(And I buy more stuff from CDBaby than from iTunes and amazon.com combined. As the man said, go figure.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:27 PM)
29 June 2006
Torrential brilliance

A Swedish firm is offering RIAA insurance: if you are busted by the music industry for file-sharing, they say they will pay whatever fines are assessed against you. The annual premium is 140 kronor, which is nineteen American simoleons.

Says Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow:

I have no idea if these insurers can be trusted with $19/year, but it actually sounds like a pretty plausible business model. If you count up all the file-sharers on the net, and divide it by the all the fines and settlements ever paid to the RIAA, my guess is that it's way less than $19/year.

I'd recommend it to all those dead grandmothers who wind up on the RIAA's hit list.

(Via The Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:07 AM)
24 July 2006
Adventures in iTunes (4)

I think it's safe to say that I haven't gone totally berserk in the iTunes Music Store; total number of tracks purchased is now a modest thirteen. (If you're curious, the most recent was a spoken-word thing by Henry Rollins.)

Which means that by and large, iTunes is serving mostly as my conduit for podcasts, six of which are on my subscription list. One is a quickie, about 50 seconds every day; three come out weekly and run half an hour or thereabouts; two are on irregular schedules. I really don't know if I can accommodate too many more of these, since it's now up to about two hours a week, longer than I spend watching TV. Then again, I never envisioned this much time in blogdom either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:40 PM)
7 August 2006
Adventures in iTunes (5)

Since the podcasts I'm already getting take up all my time, one more can't possibly make any difference, right?

The first edition of Ready Steady A Go Go: From Merseybeat to Mod, a half-hour-ish program devoted to the British Invasion bands, compiled and hosted by Michael Lynch, has found its way to my listening station, and it's massive fun, especially since Lynch doesn't feel compelled to confine the playlist to the tried and true. (The very first track he played was an Arthur Alexander remake — by Gerry and the Pacemakers! What's next, Helen Shapiro covering Ruth Brown?) The sound is just lo-fi enough to be evocative, and the proffered biographical detail is impressive. Besides, it's good for me to be exposed to people who know more about this stuff than I do.

You can subscribe via iTunes or listen through the site's own player. (And a tip of the old Beatle wig to Rich Appel, who passed this link to me.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:18 PM)
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