Weekly Recap Sunday September 16, 2012

Grab the coffee!

Recent Posts:
* Safe Harbor Not Loophole: Five Things We Could Do Right Now to Make the DMCA Notice and Takedown Work Better

Beck’s new album, you provide the labor!
Beck is a genius in choosing to release his new album as sheet music only. The implications of this gesture touch upon many of the current issues that musicians face from respect for their labor to addressing the illegal exploitation of their work and internet piracy. Critics of the story in Forbes by Will Burns don’t get it. Yes, Beck did not invent sheet music. And, we all know that sheet music can be pirated as easily as the music itself, if not more so. But the implications here are greater in the commentary of the act itself. If you want to hear the music from Beck’s new album you can either 1) invest your own labor and play/record it yourself and/or 2) you can buy a ticket to see him on tour. The irony of this gesture is lost on most. We often hear from critics that musicians pine for a return to the 90’s, an age of the past prior to the internet when things were different. What is truly astounding is that those same critics want to return artists and musicians to the 90s themselves… the 1890s. Beck’s unique and thoughtful commentary on our times is an acknowledgement of the current reality for musicians. You can pre-order his new album [here].

Google Pro-Artist Policy Changes Challenge Allegations of “Net Censorship”
In the latest in a series of practices Google removes “Pirate Bay” from auto complete. There is a saying that the journey of a thousand miles begins with but one step, and Google has begun to take that journey. These moves should be celebrated by artists, musicians and creators – however we’d suggest some cautious optimism given Google’s history of appearances over actual meaningful change. None the less, this recent move can’t be seen as anything less than positive.

In addition to this latest change, Google has:

1) Created a (relatively) easy to use web form for de-listing up 10,000 infringing links from Google Search in just one DMCA notice.

2) Begun to drop the rankings of sites identified as predominantly dedicated to infringing activity (as determined by the volume of accurate DMCA notices for de-listing).

3) Providing Content Management System (CMS) tools to individual artists, musicians, filmmakers and creators on YouTube.

The most important thing to take away from all of this is that these policies reinforce what we have always said, reducing online piracy is a question of will not capability. As Google implements more of these policies the shallow talking points of the freehadists become more diminished. Online piracy is about free beer, not free speech and we applaud Google for these early and hopefully meaningful baby steps towards an Ethical and Sustainable Internet for all citizens. And uhm, no Torrent Freak, it’s not censorship… let the screaming begin…

The other side of “Disruptive Technology” and “Permissionless Innovation”
Perhaps we’d be indulging in a little to much of wearing a tin foil hat as to suggest that the YouTube glitch effecting Michelle Obama’s DNC speech was somehow calculated, but you never know, right? We find it amusing that when “Disruptive Technology” and “Permissionless Innovation” are employeed to protect the rights of artists the amount of outrage there is to “control the machines.” But aren’t these the same machine and bots that we’ve been told repeatedly over the past decade can not be controlled by humans? That they are too complex to be managed? Well, funny how the shoe in on the other foot. The truth is pretty simple, the YouTube Content Management System flags content that has been claimed by rights holders. No doubt someone between Google, The DNC and YouTube could have easily preemptively waived those claims prior to broadcast. As with all the alleged complexities of the technological age of the internet the simplest answer is usually the most accurate one, human error, not rouge machines.

But it’s only Bits? The carbon footprint of free…
Unfortunately all of that allegedly free music could have a larger carbon footprint than CDs. Although this article from Paid Content specifically comments on streaming content, there is a large carbon footprint across the entire digital ecosystem. Anyone who thinks that Media Piracy has almost no cost isn’t paying the electric bills or maintenance costs to keep a server farm up and running. These costs specifically illustrate how the exploitation economy works. The internet does not operate on fairy dust, it does in fact require capital. We’ve heard it said, denial is not just a river in Egypt. There’s even a carbon footprint to spam. So the next time someone mentions that the internet is a post-scarcity economy, they might want to rethink that… and review this piece from Harper’s on “Google’s Addiction to Cheap Electricity.”

And finally, check out the Arts & Labs Podcast with David Lowery.

One thought on “Weekly Recap Sunday September 16, 2012

  1. What Beck is doing is indeed intriguing and thought-provoking. Undoubtedly many of his fans will record his songs, put them up on SoundCloud and YouTube, etc.

    What I wonder is whether Beck expects to make a nickel on performance royalties from any of that. For example, none of those cover versions are likely to appear on services that pay compulsory licenses, such as web radio or even terrestrial broadcast (except maybe a few college stations that don’t pay SoundExchange anyway).

    I read through the comments on the Forbes piece; only one mentioned copyright issues: “So, if loads of “artists” record this music and sell it, and then Beck enters into a publishing/recording agreement with them and makes money from his own music without even playing it… ? Now that’s genius.” No. I think the more correct word is “impossible.”

    This gambit can be viewed from many angles. Maybe one of them is the 80/20 rule: don’t expect to make money from recordings, so don’t bother making them in the first place?

Comments are closed.