Category : RIAA

The value of music labels

Wired has a great interview on their site. It’s a Thom Yorke interview conducted by David Byrne. You should check it out.

This is the part that stuck with me:

Byrne: What about bands that are just getting started?

Yorke: Well, first and foremost, you don’t sign a huge record contract that strips you of all your digital rights, so that when you do sell something on iTunes you get absolutely zero. That would be the first priority. If you’re an emerging artist, it must be frightening at the moment. Then again, I don’t see a downside at all to big record companies not having access to new artists, because they have no idea what to do with them now anyway.

Byrne: It should be a load off their minds.

Yorke: Exactly.

We won’t be so lucky to have the major labels slit their own wrists, but they’re doing everything up to that to kill themselves. It’s almost as if they’re dinosaurs hoping for the asteroid to come. In Rainbows wasn’t the asteroid, but it might be a harbinger comet. I feel compelled to stand before RIAA headquarters with a big sign saying “REPENT!”

The end is nigh.

AG Alberto Gonzales, wounded by his recent string of lies and spin before Congress, is proposing a crackdown on copyright infringement.

  • Permit more wiretaps for piracy investigations. Wiretaps would be authorized for investigations of Americans who are “attempting” to infringe copyrights.
  • Allow computers to be seized more readily. Specifically, property such as a PC “intended to be used in any manner” to commit a copyright crime would be subject to forfeiture, including civil asset forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture has become popular among police agencies in drug cases as a way to gain additional revenue, and is problematic and controversial.
  • Increase penalties for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention regulations. Currently criminal violations are currently punished by jail times of up to 10 years and fines of up to $1 million. The IPPA would add forfeiture penalties too.
  • Add penalties for “intended” copyright crimes. Currently certain copyright crimes require someone to commit the “distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of at least 10 copies” valued at over $2,500. The IPPA would insert a new prohibition: actions that were “intended to consist of” distribution.

This is typical of the neocons. The wind is blowing against them, so they’ve redoubled their efforts rather than wondering if it’s a good idea to pursue the same goals so mindlessly.

She’s a witch! Burn the witch!!
It might also be an attempt to woo Hollywood Democrats by making them an offer they can’t refuse. Many Democrats (and Republicans too, of course) take large amounts of money from the MPAA and RIAA (collectively known as the mafiaa), which is fully in support of this legislation. One gets the idea they’d be in support of a bill that called for executions on the spot for suspected pirates. Piracy is much like terrorism that respect; it’s a word used almost exclusively to demonize a certain group, which gives power to those who are able to prosecute and persecute them. Basically, it’s a 21st century witch-hunt.

Instead of burning people at the stake we need to take a look at the laws on the books and find ways to make them less draconian in an age of easy file-sharing. The ability to share/copy files is one of the greatest uses of the internet and it demands a new way of thinking about copyright and intellectual property. The endless roadblocks we get from politicians and businessmen (including legislation like the DMCA, copy-protection like DRM and lawsuits like the RIAA’s campaign against music-sharing) only serve to slow down innovation and erect huge barriers of entry that make it hard for start-ups and small businesses to make a dent in the marketplace with a new idea.

This legislation (the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007 [pdf]) might backfire if it is passed. It will push more and more people to use free and open source software in order to avoid potential liability. Even having a copy of Microsoft Word is dangerous if you don’t also have a receipt proving ownership.

The War on Common Sense
Add the War on Piracy to the growing list of ideological wars we’re fighting, including the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. If it seems odd to you that we’re waging “war” against a tactic (terrorism) and an inanimate object (why don’t they put the drugs in jail?), that means that you don’t have sufficient faith in our dear leaders.

I would argue that the Big 3 Unwinnable Ideological Wars constitute an undeclared War on Common Sense. The War on Common Sense is designed to make the general populace believe that up is down, day is night, freedom is slavery and George Bush is a genius.

Please notice the tremendous power that is derived from a war, even a fake one. There’s a reason why we don’t still wage the War on Poverty (well besides the fact that the ruling elite don’t give a fuck) — there’s not an easily-demonized enemy that the ruling class can disparage in order to increase their own power and prestige. If such an enemy exists, it’s almost certainly the ruling class itself. That’s not gonna work! It’s best to have a war on somebody who can’t really fight back.

So what’s next? Well, I’d guess we’ll have a War on Illegal Immigration, which will do nothing to stop the flood of immigrants coming into the country because it won’t go after the root problem: the economic disparity between the U.S. and Mexico. Like the War on Drugs, illegal immigration is a problem caused by the policies of the wealthy elite and far from suffering from this problem the elite actually make a shitload of money from it. The CIA runs drugs to pay for their illegal black ops and a whole parasitic class of DEA agents and police officers have grown fat arresting nonviolent drug offenders in order to continue the charade.

Similarly, the corporate elite have grown even more wealthy from illegal immigration. Instead of paying their workers a fair wage they employ illegal immigrants for a fraction of the salary a naturalized citizen would earn. This simultaneously impoverishes Americans who can’t find a job and enslaves illegal immigrants to a corrupt system that gives them just enough money to get by and not a penny more… all while making the CEOs of these corporations even richer by saving money on labor costs, which is reflected in their end of the year bonus. What a great scam!

The War on Terror is a money-making scheme as well. If you doubt this, I suggest you watch Iraq for Sale, a documentary about war profiteering in Iraq. The government sends incredible amounts of money to private contractors like Blackwater and Halliburton, then some of this money is funneled back to the very people who came up with the idea of going to war in Iraq in the form of campaign contributions (you know: legalized bribery). It’s an endless loop of corruption! Legal corruption!

The War on Piracy will have to evolve to a similarly corrupt state if it wishes to become self-perpetuating. Certainly, there is some money to be made by suing college students, but that’s chickenfeed. Clearly the RIAA is getting better at extortion so they don’t even have to go to trial in most cases, but I’m guessing there’s still a lot of overhead. If they really want to make a mint they should look into what Canada is doing. Making innocent people pay for “crimes” they might or might not commit is so much more fun and profitable. The copyright tax is applied to everybody and it’s institutionalized so it will be damn near impossible to get rid of. As bad as the RIAA is, they haven’t managed to achieve something that evil… yet.

How long before people wake up to the fact that these ideological wars are always ineffective at achieving their stated goals because the real goals are hidden — and they involve profiting off the situation, not solving it. I suppose it takes a certain amount of cynicism to believe your fellow man is capable of such two-faced corruption. But that’s the way it is, folks.

Maybe we should declare a moratorium on bullshit wars.

Digg.com pioneered social media and social bookmarking. They helped create a community who believed in the “wisdom of the crowd“, but today the crowd bit back.

After Digg started burying stories and deleting user accounts because of the HD-DVD crack controversy the Digg community hit back the only way they knew how: They took over Digg’s front page. As of 11:15 pm CST, every single story on Digg’s coveted front page has something to do with the suppressed number.

The hexadecimal number ( 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0 ) unlocks the DRM copy-protection on HD-DVD discs. HD-DVD is the successor to DVD, which is already cracked. Blu-Ray is apparently affected as well since it also uses the AACS content-scrambling system that was designed to restrict who can watch the next-generation movie discs.

It was revealed that the HD-DVD group was a sponsor of Digg’s podcast. The blatant conflict of interest riled up the Digg community, which has taken the story to other social media sites such as Reddit and even the old standard, Slashdot, which has added digg-like features such as the Firehose.

It’s fair to say the internet community has been in open revolt all day, against a site that was until yesterday a shining example of how Web 2.0 businesses can work — trust your users. Digg has apparently forgotten that lesson and has sided with corporate interests and knee-jerk lawsuit-phobia instead of it’s own users — the people who (literally) make the site work. Unfortunately, it looks like Wikipedia is falling into the same trap (although it often freezes pages during periods of great controversy to prevent editing wars).

With the incredible storm of rebellion racing across the internet there doesn’t seem to be a way out of this mess for Digg. Far from blowing over, the brouhaha appears to be getting worse. Digg’s half-assed attempt at putting out this fire only fanned the flames. It appears Digg might have temporarily blocked new story submisisons, but the link appears to be working now.

Diggers are pointing out the fact that Reddit and Slashdot have not taken down stories concerning the suppressed number, nor have they deleted comments. Because of that it’s looking more and more like a situation that Digg and Digg alone created through heavy-handed policing (which is no doubt allowed by their EULA) and overreaction in general, all of which has led to the current PR shitstorm.

Far from suppressing the number Digg has managed to enshrine it for all time in the annals of internet history. It’s interesting that it happened on May 1st, International Workers’ Day. Hopefully today will long be remembered as the day when the internet community took a stand against the evil DMCA, the law which is at the root of the problem.

Let no one say the social media community is afraid to bite the hand that feeds.

Update (5-2-07): Digg has come to their senses and declared that it will no longer delete posts containing the suppressed number. That’s probably wise since they would’ve had to ban half their users and remove all the stories from their front page for several hours. A little late, but the users have spoken, and Digg finally decided to listen.


09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

It's just a string of numbers and letters, right?

A simple, almost random, collection of hexadecimal characters.

No harm could come from posting them, right?

I hope that's the case
.

Digg has censored this number and any story submissions or comments referencing it have been buried (well, they haven't found all the comments). Peoples' accounts have been deleted simply for submitting it. Amazing, isn't it?...

Makes you wonder why.

This is why.

In a nutshell: It's the processing key for HD-DVD movies, enabling users to crack the DRM and watch the movie on non-approved hardware (like Linux).

Please, spread this number around. The idea of censoring a number is so silly and totalitarian that I can't sit by in idle silence. We have to resist.

You hear that bell ringing in the distance? That’s the sound of DRM dying.

What is DRM and why is it dying? Well, DRM is the collection of anti-copying technologies that record companies and movie companies use to try and prevent their products from ending up on the P2P networks (like Limewire and eDonkey). DRM stands for either Digital Rights Management or Digital Restrictions Management, depending on who you ask (I say the latter).

It is my considered opinion that DRM sucks donkey balls. It impedes fair use and generally creates havoc. Files were meant to be copied, but DRM tries to erase this feature. DRM is even built into Windows Vista in an attempt to make DRM more effective since earlier designs have failed miserably.

That brings us to Apple and EMI. Their announcement today is the first crack in the industry facade. Previously, the industry titans were aligned and spoke in unison of DRM’s necessity. Now it has become clear that many in the industry recognize that DRM is a failure, a waste of money and (this doesn’t seem to matter to the RIAA) virulently anti-consumer.

Steve Jobs started things off with his broadside against DRM. He said:

Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Right now an iPod can’t play music purchased from Microsoft’s stores, just as a Zune can’t play music purchased from Apple’s iTunes store. This is a ridiculous state of affairs since both companies went out of their way to make their songs incompatible — at the RIAA’s request. Every MP3 player can play unprotected MP3s, but once you start putting DRM on those songs it gets really sticky.

That’s why DRM must die. The only thing keeping our portable music players from being able to play any song out there is simple human greed. The technology is there, but new technology was erected to prevent sharing. Worst of all, it didn’t work. Every major DRM-scheme has been broken. Geeks like myself know how to avoid and circumvent it, but the average user probably doesn’t know what the hell DRM is — until it smacks’em in the face. This lamentable reality took a body-blow today.

EMI agreed to sell DRM-free music this morning, with Apple at their side. This is not an ideal scenario since the songs cost $1.29 instead of the customary 99 cents, but Apple sweetened the deal by bumping up the bitrate to 256 kbps — double the previous amount — granting audiophiles the extra sound quality they need. Many of the tricks to eliminate DRM (including simply burning the files to CD and re-ripping them) result in reduced sound quality. This solution manages to fix both problems and should satisfy most geek/audiophiles.

In short, today’s announcement was a long time coming (some may argue that it’s 4 or 5 years overdue), and it is just the beginning of DRM’s death. Even as I celebrate DRM’s passing new anti-consumer technologies are being developed by the MPAA and others in the music industry. Indeed, the 3 other major labels are still heavily invested in DRM and committed to using it as a bulwark against the internet age.

So maybe I’m digging DRM’s grave while it’s still on the operating table, but I’m not the only one who wishes it would go away. We can’t sit down and start slacking now. We need to keep letting these huge companies know that they can’t control our content after they sell it to us. They want to have their cake and eat it, too — and that just ain’t happening.

Burn in hell, DRM!

They make it so easy to hate them. The RIAA is trying to screw artists even harder, even as it steps ups its anti-consumer lawsuit campaign. The Recording Industry Association of America has always claimed that they are defending artists when they sue consumers (nevermind that few recording artists seem to be all that keen on suing their fans), but now it’s clear that the only thing driving their insane lawsuit campaign is what most of us long suspected: Greed.

Watch the RIAA make their case for lower royalties by complaining about a changing business landscape (that they have failed to adapt to, unlike the publishers):

During the period when piracy was devastating the record industry, the RIAA argues, profits for publishers rose as revenue generated from ringtones and other innovative services grew. Record industry executives said there was nothing strange about seeking a rate change that would pay less to the people who write the music. “Mechanical royalties currently are out of whack with historical and international rates,” RIAA executive vp and general counsel Steven Marks said. “We hope the judges will restore the proper balance by reducing the rate and moving to a more flexible percentage rate structure so that record companies can continue to create the sound recordings that drive revenues for music publishers.”

Oh, so since you RIAA guys fucked up and sued your customers and failed to bring out a quality digital music store until Apple did it for you, that means you deserve a better deal from music publishers/songwriters? How the fuck does that add up? This is a capitalist system, fuckheads. Survive or perish.

I should also mention that the RIAA represents the evil record companies who insist on paying lower royalties to musicians for downloaded music — including taking a cut for “breakage” in shipping. Newsflash, dudes: If your MP3s are “breaking” you’ve got some serious fucking problems with your distribution model.

The RIAA is pleading with the government for help, but I doubt they’ll be able to push people around as easily since the publishing companies have their own teams of lawyers (most of whom aren’t tied up suing fans — although they do sue lyric sites and tab sites). Let’s hope the publishers string the RIAA up by the balls and demand higher royalty rates.

The RIAA is almost as bad for rock ‘n’ roll as MTV. I hope they all burn in hell.

On the plus side, there are some innovative new ideas out there for musicians and music fans to bypass the RIAA. Check out SellaBand.com for a cool new business model.

Perfect Porridge blogger Greg has finally cracked the spine of the beast. Sony ponied up the tracks and a settlement check!

UPDATE #2 (6/22): Would you believe we got 28,000 hits on this post yesterday? That’s a lot of people reading/talking/blogging about Sony and their incompetence. Would you believe that as a result, Sony somehow got their act together to e-mail iTunes settlement codes AND a settlement check the next day? Guess it only took 232 days of persistence and a blog swarm of 8,500 unique user hits to get them moving. Thanks Sony!

This is why everyone needs a blog, people! Do you want a voice? Because without a blog you don’t really have one (unless you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company). You can bitch and whine all you want, but without the power of the internet, not many people are going to hear you.

When it’s time to take a stand will you be armed with a megaphone or a ballgag?

Sony Rootkit debacle continues

I never got a chance to blog about this as it was happening, back when my blog was a bitch to update, but I’ve always felt very strongly that this was a horrible, unforgiveable and unprecedented move on Sony’s part. What the fuck were they thinking?!

Who knows, but my man Greg over at Perfect Porridge was infected by the rootkit when he bought a Trey Anastasio CD (his first mistake – haha,… just kidding. I like Trey). This resulted in a reformatted harddrive and lots of emails to Sony support as he winded his way through the settlement process.
It’s been 230 days and he still hasn’t managed to get Sony to pony up the settlement in iTunes tracks. They’re trying to screw him into using Sony Connect, whatever the hell that is. Why should he use Sony’s store after Sony screwed him over royally? Head on over to PP and lend Greg some much needed support. Don’t give up man!