Copyright and Control | The Cynical Musician

Faza at The Cynical Musician explores the question of control in copyright.

Copyright “skeptics”, like TechMike, tend to focus on the language of the “Copyright Clause” and construct elaborate theories about what “promoting the progress of science and the useful arts” really means. While they’re at it, they may wish to also consult the dictionary with regards to the meaning of the word “secure”2 and how it isn’t a synonym for “grant” – though that is besides the point here. Giovanetti rightly points out that promoting progress is the goal of the Copyright Clause and doesn’t actually say much about the means (that’s done in the other bit, about securing exclusive rights). What I wish to do today is to examine how the control aspect of copyright helps promote progress and why it is important.


“Artists Should Expect Nothing” from Spotify says George Howard

Why George Howard should stop chasing what’s best for musicians and focus on academics.

George Howard just wrote an article for Forbes, “Why Artists Should Stop Chasing Spotify’s Pennies And Focus On Top Fans“. It’s amazing how decade old talking points can keep being recycled. It’s always interesting to see an academic (and/or business consultant) telling artists what is best for them. But it’s kinda disturbing when they let loose with gems like this…

Artists must therefore recalibrate not only their expectations with respect to payments (they should expect nothing), but also their approach generally.

There you have it, artists should expect nothing. Not that George Howard doesn’t make valid points earlier about the meaninglessness of Spotify royalties to musicians. Although the irony of how bad he misses the point is astounding.

Certainly, the payments to artists from streaming services are immaterial to the artists. This does not mean that these services aren’t paying out some, prima facie, big numbers to certain artists. It’s just that even if, for instance, Pandora pays out a million dollars to Jay Z, this amount, when compared to the money Jay Z earns from other ventures, is immaterial. It works the same way for a new artist who gets a payment of $0.25 from Spotify; it’s immaterial when compared to what they got paid for playing a club gig or selling a t-shirt. Same deal for mid-level and heritage artists.

And this is where the tired, decade old, tech lobby talking points come in (Bueller, Bueller…). Focus on building a fanbase and the money will follow from other revenue sources like t-shirts and touring. OH MY GOD… did this guy actually, really say this in Forbes? That horse from 1999/2000 could not be any more dead than the original Napster that spawned such out of touch suggestions.

It’s thirteen years later. There is no magical unicorn business model that pays artists while their work is being either devalued for fractions of a penny, or they are not being compensated at all.

Here’s a brief recap of what these so called “business experts” and “internet technology consultants” see as the “new” models for artists… Ready, set, go!

* Touring… existed BEFORE the internet…
* Merchandise (T-Shirts)… existed BEFORE the internet
* Film/Sync Licensing… existed BEFORE the internet
* Sponsorships/Endorsements… existed BEFORE the internet

These are not NEW models or revenue streams.

So “touring and t-shirts” (CwF+RtB babee!) is not a business model for artists, but rather an open admission that the internet has completely and undoubtedly failed to empower artists. In light of this fact George (and others) instead suggested that musicians and songwriters revert to pre-internet ANCILLARY income streams to now be their PRIMARY revenue streams. Wow, what genius is this?

As seen as a potential catalyst to herd more casual and active fans — fans who may become Passionate Fans — into this funnel, these services take on a real value. This value far exceeds any direct financial payment (whether that number goes up or down 10%). To this end, the artists must learn to use these services and benefit them in the same way the artists are being used by and benefiting these services.

In fact, the “new music business” looks pretty much exactly like the “old music business” with revenue from recorded music sales removed.

Repeat after us, “Exploitation is NOT innovation“.

[UPDATE] : When asking investors for a new round of funding, while getting bad press from upset musicians you probably are looking for some spin control. We don’t think George Howard is that solution. More than anything else, Spotify like Pandora might only be of interest to investors if musicians are completely screwed on royalties. Maybe the ask for cash, and the call for musicians to accept nothing are not related, but that would be suspicious timing at best.

Spotify Is Now Asking Investors for More Cash, Swedish Paper Reports…

Lessig Mixes it Up | The Illusion Of More

David Newhoff at The Illusion Of More challenges Lawrence Lessig’s “Laws That Choke Creativity.”

So, as a legal layman but active observer of these things, it seems to me Mr. Lessig’s presentation, though charming, contains at least two fallacious premises.  The first is that the positive aspects of remix culture are actually threatened by the copyright system; and the second is that remix culture is universally positive.  I don’t know of any cases in which rights holders are stopping “the kids” from singing the songs of the day on YouTube.  But there are plenty of cases in which adults are profiting from remixing culture in ways that benefit neither fans nor creators. While it’s almost rote these days to call everyone a shill, I don’t think this is very helpful. I prefer to assume intelligent people mean what they say and believe in their positions, and Lawrence Lessig is certainly an intelligent man.  Of course, that might be why his ideas are ultimately so dangerous.


Pirates Won’t Stop Us from Creating, They’ll Stop Us from Sharing…

We recently reblogged a link to Trent Reznor’s interview in Spin Magazine where he stated his current feelings over the value of music as a creator. Below is a comment in response to that article that we felt deserved it’s own post.

Music, like a certain other activity, is usually done for love or money. A lot of pirates nod enthusiastically at this right up until they realize that, if there’s no money in it and a musician has to do it for love … that if I don’t love you, you don’t get any. :-)

They keep missing this part. Yes, musicians will MAKE music no matter what. But we don’t have to share it with anyone other than the people we want to share it with. In order to get into that room, now you need to persuade me you should be there. Before, you could throw money at me, and I’d let you in. Now that there’s no money in it, I need another reason. Be an asshole, and you don’t get in.

Even the threat of not making money will only work on artists for so long. They won’t just hang around and starve. Eventually, they will read the writing on the wall, bow to reality, and simply get other jobs and decouple their artistic output from their financial input. And then they really don’t have to share our music with just anyone.

The pirate kids really aren’t following this thing to its logical conclusion:

1) Decouple money from art. Then,
2) Artists get day jobs and keep them. Hence,
3) We don’t need to share our art with anyone if we don’t want to.

So make me want to.

Oh … and without handing me money, which would have been the simplest way to accomplish that, but that’s not working anymore, is it?

Neither will acting like a tantrum-throwing, entitled brat. :-)

For those in doubt, we can reference Beck who first made available his album “Song Reader” as sheet music, encouraging people to supply their own labor to hear his new songs.

Tell Us Again “Streaming Is The Future” As Paid Downloads Are Down 2.3 Percent In the US…

Let’s see… maybe streaming services are cannibalizing transactional sales, maybe? Streaming Royalties are small but they can really grow? Really? Let us guess… the good news is streaming is reducing piracy? In Norway and Sweden

According to half-year stats shared by Nielsen Soundscan with Digital Music News this weekend, paid downloads are slumping 2.3 percent at the half-point, meaning the period from January 1st through June 30th.

All of this points to the same issue of streaming services paying too little, while illegally operating, infringing businesses pay absolutely nothing at all. So much for sustainability…


Julian Assange : Google Is Evil in “The New Digital Age”

Very interesting reading as Julian Assange comments on Google, CEO Eric Shchmidt and his book, The New Digital Age. Read on…

“THE New Digital Age” is a startlingly clear and provocative blueprint for technocratic imperialism, from two of its leading witch doctors, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who construct a new idiom for United States global power in the 21st century. This idiom reflects the ever closer union between the State Department and Silicon Valley, as personified by Mr. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Mr. Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton who is now director of Google Ideas.”

He goes onto say,

“This book is a balefully seminal work in which neither author has the language to see, much less to express, the titanic centralizing evil they are constructing….If you want a vision of the future, imagine Washington-backed Google Glasses strapped onto vacant human faces — forever.”

What does this have to do with artists rights you may ask? Well, the way we see it is that Privacy and Anti-Piracy are bound together by the same common bond of respecting the rights of individual citizens. Which is why individual citizens are granted BOTH the right of individual privacy and the right to protection of their labor under Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Why I Was Banned From Speaking At San Francisco Music Tech #SFMUSICTECH

this photo says it all

“This says It all”

I was supposed to speak at the SF Music Tech Summit Feb 19th 2013.   A few days before my scheduled appearance I received a call from  SF Music Tech and Fututre of Music Coalition co-founder Brian Zisk explaining that I would not be allowed to speak because I tweeted/blogged the above picture with the following caption “this says it all.”   Further he noted that “certain sponsors” would not “appreciate” me speaking at this event.

I love the hypocrisy of the Silicon Valley. They are all for free speech until they aren’t.

The fundamental American right is Free Speech. SF Music Tech (and Silicon Valley in general) do not really respect this right. Especially when it begins to interfere with their bottom line.

So what do you say we just end the charade? SF Music Tech Summit is biased against creators/musicians and their rights. It’s a pro-tech industry event.  It’s held in the Kabuki Hotel in San Francisco.  Because it is a giant Kabuki.

Three times a year  you find Tech Industry “entrepreneurs” who’ve never turned a profit “debate” un-elected artists rights advocates who as it turns out work for opaque 501C  foundations and organizations  that are funded by technology companies like Google.

If it’s not clear I’m talking about you, Future of Music Coalition and Cash Music.  Sorry guys/gals you had your chance to do the right thing and  speak out publicly against me being banned and you didn’t.  That makes you at best quislings and at worst shills.

SF Music Tech and Brian Zisk have every right to do whatever they want with their #SFMUSICTECH summit but I just ask them to stop pretending it reperesents anything other than the technologists that wish to exploit artists.

Have a good SF Music Tech.  I’ll be off touring the UK.

Two Sincere Questions for The Future Of Music Coalition #SFMUSICTECH

We notice that Future of Music Coalition has submitted testimony to congress asking that they “represent” artists in the Copyright Reform process begun by Congress.

So since they’ve  volunteered to represent us.  We feel it only fair that they answer these two questions:

1. Who selects your advocacy positions?  
AFM, AFTRA, NARAS, Nashville Songwriters Assn, and ASCAP all have democratically elected boards who set the organizations’ positions.  Do you have members who vote for leadership?  If not, who is making those decisions?

2. Who funds your organization?
Google is listed as your first sponsor of your primary event.

How much money do you get from Google?  Do you think you should be taking funding from a source many artists believe to be opposed to their interests?

FOMC Spondors

Loser Generated Content – The Exploitation Economy Explained

Essential reading by Soren Mork Petersen, “Loser Generated Content: From Participation to Exploitation.”

In this article [1] some of the critical aspects of Web 2.0 are mapped in relation to labor and the production of user generated content. For many years the Internet was considered an apt technology for subversion of capitalism by the Italian post–Marxists.

What we have witnessed, however, is that the Internet functions as a double–edged sword; the infrastructure does foster democracy, participation, joy, creativity and sometimes creates zones of piracy. But, at the same time, it has become evident how this same infrastructure also enables companies easily to piggyback on user generated content.

Different historical and contemporary examples are provided to map how the architecture of participation sometimes turns into an architecture of exploitation.


Permission, Privacy and Piracy : Where Creators and Consumers Meet

It’s amazing how situationally dependent perspectives about the internet appear to be that something as fundamental as consent (aka permission) would be controversial. Much ink has been spilled over a consumers right to privacy in the digital age and that concern now extends beyond the internet to personal privacy fears over the potential misuse of domestic drones.

The irony of course about all the hysteria being discussed about drones (military, commercial or private) is that the greater threat to personal privacy is much more local than an unmanned aircraft at 14,000 feet, or even a home built quad copter. The real threat that will bring the real world to the same persistent observation (and cataloging) of our daily lives will be Google Glass (where is the EFF when you need them?).

Google Glass is a device that records to the cloud a persistent stream of visual and audio data as the user experiences it. Anything, and everything a person would have experienced as a personal and private experience will be recorded, cataloged, geo-tagged, and stored online. Automated face recognition technology will make it less possible to be anonymous in the real world than it currently is in the online world via the use of avatars.

But what does this have to do with piracy? Specifically what does this have to do with content piracy? How are privacy and piracy related? It’s simple, both privacy and piracy revolve around how we view the importance of the individuals right to grant consent. An individual should have the right to grant the specific permissions to access information about us and how that information can be used. Agreed?

This is the same fundamental individual right that governs the protection of a creators work from illegal exploitation. Permission is the cornerstone to a civilized society. Maybe ask these women in Texas about it?

Below is a recent example of how ordinary people, who are also creators got a first hand lesson in “permissionless innovation” aka, “you will be monetized” or “all ur net proceeds now belong to us.”

When Instagram attempted to change it’s terms of service that would allow the company to monetize the work of the individual without the individuals permission, consumers went ballistic. It seems that permission is not such a difficult concept to grasp when people are personally effected. This is why privacy is a much more universal issue, because everyone is effected by it.

It is strangely ironic (or not really) that the companies who were so quick to threaten an “internet blackout” really have no such motivation in detailing how individual personal data is being collected and monetized. Even when that data is from children. So much for being open and transparent.

What’s worse is that Google has been repeatedly caught red handed violating the privacy of not just it’s users but also unsuspecting consumers. Two cases that immediately come to mind are the Safari privacy scandal and resulting settlement and the much broader real world illegal data collection scheme known as Wi-Spy.

So, just like everyone understands the basic fundamental right to privacy is built on the permissions we grant by consent to other citizens, businesses and institutions, individual creators also have the same right to grant permission to who and how their work can be exploited (yes their work, as in labor) for profit and gain.

This is even more important when those doing the profiting are corporations and businesses like Google, various advertising networks and others.