Saturday, May 10, 2008

Uh-oh, Troubling News in the Music Business

A couple quick items I found on tonight's edition of

House passes bill that will let the RIAA take away your home for downloading music

The poster notes:
This isn't a judgment on my part as to whether piracy is good or bad (I think copyright deserves to be protected through reasonable methods), but I am always horrified when civil enforcement morphs into criminal enforcement. Conservatives and liberals should be up in arms alike that local prosecutors and/or police could intervene as they desire in essentially a private affair arranged by the RIAA, and permanently seize thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in private property in addition to any civil penalties.
Oh goody. The RIAA greases the right palms in Washington, and they get to use our cops to bust in our doors. There's more good info at the link.

RIAA says DRM is coming back -- in the future, you won't own music

Oh, this is nice. The music you "buy" will not actually be yours. There was a recent case with Microsoft that should tell you how this will turn out. Microsoft sold (or licensed, if you prefer - in any case they took money) music that carried a bit of code that checked with Microsoft to be sure it was legal before allowing the music to play. OK, whatever, people paid up and rocked out. Then the decision was made to close down that enterprise, and the server that granted the play permissions was turned off. Now, none of that paid-for music will play. (If you buy iTunes music, it's encrypted to only work on iPods, right? What happens when Apple stops making iPods? When yours dies, what happens to the music you paid for?)

As a non-lawyer, I look at stuff like this and think they can't possibly be serious, that no judge would go along with it, and surely no lawmaker would pass such a law. Are our "representatives" actually under the impression that they are creating good laws? Or am I simply not squinting just the right way to see how good this is?

On a different front, songwriters and composers are urged by ASCAP to sign this "Bill Of Rights":

But what will it really mean? I've seen too many examples of people being asked to sign on to something that has vast consequences that were never explained up front. Careful with that pen, Eugene!

One thing that even I can see in this "Bill of Rights" is some declarations of worthless rights, such as the "right to decline participation in business models that require us to relinquish all or part of our creative rights" (which artists already have, but like "right to work" it really means the right to not do business with the music business, which is to say, the right to starve) and "the right to advocate for strong laws" which of course all Americans have had for at least a couple centuries. But item 4 is the real meat of it, basically an authorization (or at least an endorsement) of aggressive legal action against "pirates" which, in America, where ASCAP has any jurisdiction, means downloaders. The real pirate operations are in the other countries like China where ASCAP is nothing but a distant noise. So, coupled with the new HR 4279 mentioned above, it looks like the music industry wants to grind non-buyers into the dust (in fact, music buyers won't even own what they buy), to the point of taking away their computers or even their houses, and they want the artists to say we think that's great. Well I do not. And if you look at the lessons learned when Metallica pissed off (or on) millions of fans over downloading, no sane artist would want anything to do with the image, however improbable, of storm troopers bashing in citizen's doors in search of that kid who's been downloading music. (By the way, rent the video "Some Kind of Monster" to see inside the Metallica organization, and watch Lars lament what a fool he was in this matter)

I, as a songwriter and improvisational performer, want my joyful noises heard and hopefully enjoyed by the largest number of people for the longest time possible. That's why I've granted The Internet Archive, and my listeners, blanket permission to record my shows and post them, exchange them, or wear them as a hat if they want, until further notice. With the stipulation that nobody gets the right to do so for money without my written permission (which I probably will grant for a written check).

It's been said that in recent decades the music industry "has consumed itself". So I wonder, when the last gullible musician has been ripped off by sleazy contracts, and the last shred of creativity has been starved out for not being "commercial", what will we have in the future instead of music? Who will play the music at music's funeral? Fortunately, we won't have to face a world without song because the RIAA's devil is our savior; the Internet will be where new art is found and purchased. Or, not purchased. Help yourself to LOTS of free legitimate media here.

I may be mistaken about parts of this. Oh Lordy, I sure hope I am. If so, please tell me.

UPDATE: It pays to watch your web tracker. I use StatCounter (an excellent freebie) and it spotted a reader in California who had just come from a website called OpenCongress, which looks really impressive! Check out what they show for HR 4278 as discussed above.

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