Friday, May 2, 2008

Canadian recording artists support peer-to-peer downloading

Last fall, the Canadian Music Creators Coalition (CMCC) -- an organization of 201 Canadian recording artists, including Avril Lavigne, called for the Canadian government not to pursue the U.S. approach allowing recording companies to sue individuals for large statutory damage awards for downloading copyrighted songs via free file sharing programsi:

This call comes in the wake of the landmark judgment October 4 against Jamie Thomas, the single mother of two from Brainerd, MN who was hit with a penalty of $222,000 US for downloading 24 songs (approximately 90 minutes of music with a retail value of less than $25) and the Federal Government’s addition of “copyright reform” to its list of priorities in last week’s throne speech.

“When the Canadian Record Industry Association (CRIA) says ‘copyright reform’ what they really mean is ‘give a free hand to sue fans who download like they have in the US,’” explained CMCC representative and Barenaked Ladies front man Steven Page. “We hope the government has a better solution in mind.”

“We think lawsuits like the one in Minnesota would be terrible for the music business in Canada. It’s shortsighted to say ‘See you in court’ one day and ‘See you at Massey Hall’ the next,” Page continued. “If record labels want to try and sue fans, we hope that they’ll have the courtesy to stop trying to do it in our names.”

The CMCC suggests a more effective legislative approach to peer-to-peer technology would be one that accepts current technological and music-business realities. “It’s been nearly ten years since peer-to-peer file sharing changed the music industry and, despite what some people suggest, suing people isn’t going to make it 1995 again,” Page elaborated. “Capitol Records v. Thomas is just another example of the drastic measures American record labels have been taking against their fans for years. Despite all this ill will, peer-to-peer downloading hasn’t shown any sign of going away. If the Canadian government wants to reform copyright it should be creating a made-in-Canada solution that looks to where the music industry is going, not where it was.”

It's the Total Recut Video Remix contest, Lawrence Lessig, and Net Neutrality

"Create a short video remix that explains what Remix Culture means to you. Using video footage from any source, including Public Domain and Creative Commons licensed work, we want you to produce a creative, educational and entertaining video remix that communicates a clear message to a wide audience. The video is to be no shorter than 30 seconds and no longer then 3 minutes in duration.

"This contest is being run to promote awareness of remix culture in an educational capacity by encouraging the fair use of a wide variety of content and also to create a new pool of work that explains what remix culture is to the general public."

One of the judges is Lawrence Lessig, who is to the remix culture' sort of what Allen Ginsberg was to the beat generation and who is depicted by Brett Gaylor in his video "The Lessig Remix":

I, of course, found all this via Lessig's own blog. And Lessig, of course, was recently publicly criticized for espousing a "quasi-Socialist Utopianism" and for being "a demagogue and a hypocrite" who wants "Soviet"-style, "Orwellian" intellectual property laws because somehow those law will convince "America to embrace 'the idea of placing the design of the Internet into the hands of government.'"

At bottom, this criticism isn't aimed at Lessig's views on copyright, but, rather, his arguments for "Net Neutrality":

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Technology, the recording industry, and business sense

The KLF wrote The Manual (see also here and here) in 1988, but they certainly seem to have been prescient:
From now on, whether or not the technology makes the traditional musician's craft redundant, the young creative type will become more aware that he is able to control more areas of the way his music is communicated to the masses. The manipulation of this control will become a very important creative form of expression in itself.

Of course there is a place for the major record company in the future as there is still a place for brass bands, large national orchestras and Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. The precise function the major record companies will play in the music business as we turn the corner into the 21 st century is something we are not going to bother guessing at. One thing they and we suppose all major international companies are good at is moving the goal posts; probably because they owned them in the first place.

As more and more creators of music begin to realise that it is possible to make records themselves and steer those records in whatever direction they want, at the same time as retaining all the copyright in the product thus a bigger chunk of the action, the attractiveness of signing your soul and its products away from now to eternity (well at least fifty years after the day you die) will become to look rather silly. Nothing to do with ideology, just straight forward business sense.

An interview with Jimmy Cauty

From Rocknerd, the KLF's James Cauty:

IP laws were invented by lawyers not artists.

* * *
I'd like to see the total collapse of the music, TV and film industry, I noticed Metallica got upset about the Napster thing. Their argument is that they should get a royalty every time someone downloads a track. Isn't that like the plumber getting royalties whenever you turn on the tap? I think if I was in a band I’d tell the record company to fuck off and release it all free on the internet. Just forget about trying to make money and just concentrate on the music.

Everybody's a mixed bag, but who gets the money?

"'Walter Boudreau is frustrated by the attempts of cultural institutions, such as the Académie Française, to keep language, art, music, whatever, pure. 'How foolish. We're all impure. Everybody's a mixed bag. Everything is in constant transformation.'"

Lloyd Whitesell "chose to pose more questions. Who owns music? Do people borrow or steal music, or is music in the public domain? Drawing on anthropologist Steven Feld's observations, Paul Simon's Graceland was a blend of rock and roll, Cajun, and South African pop, but Simon is the one who gets the money."

Monday, April 28, 2008

collage is art, not theft

From Negativeland:

[F]rom an artistic point of view, it is ponderously delusional to try to paint all these new forms of fragmentary sampling as economically motivated "theft", "piracy", or "bootlegging". We reserve these terms for the unauthorized taking of whole works and reselling them for one's own profit. Artists who routinely appropriate, on the other hand, are not attempting to profit from the marketability of their subjects at all. They are using elements, fragments, or pieces of someone else's created artifact in the creation of a new one for artistic reasons. These elements may remain identifiable, or they may be transformed to varying degrees as they are incorporated into the new creation, where there may be many other fragments all in a new context, forming a new "whole". This becomes a new "original", neither reminiscent of nor competitive with any of the many "originals" it may draw from. This is also a brief description of collage techniques which have developed throughout this century, and which are universally celebrated as artistically valid, socially aware, and conceptually stimulating to all, it seems, except perhaps those who are "borrowed" from.

No one much cared about the centuries old tradition of appropriation in classical music as long as it could only be heard when it was played live in front of your ears. But now all music exists as a mass produced, saleable object, electronically frozen for all time, and seen by its owners to be in continuous, simultaneous economic competition with all other music. The previously interesting idea that someone's music might freely include some appropriated music of another has now been made into a criminal activity. This example is typical of how copyright laws now actually serve to inhibit or prevent the creative process, itself, from proceeding in certain interesting ways, both traditional and new.

This has become a pressing problem for creativity now because the creative technique of appropriation has jumped from the mediums in which it first appeared (principally in the visual fine arts of painting, printmaking, and sculpture) to popular, electronic mass distributed mediums such as photography, recorded music, and multimedia. The appearance of appropriation techniques in these more recent mass mediums have occasioned a huge increase in owner litigations of such appropriation based works because the commercial entrepenours who now own and operate mass culture are apparently intent on oblitering all distinctions between the needs of art and the needs of commerce. These owners of mass produced cultural material claim that similarly mass produced works of appropriation are a new and devastating threat to their total control over the exclusive profits which their properties might produce in the same mass marketplace. They claim that, art or not, an unauthorized appropriation of any kind can not be allowed to directly compete in the appropriated material's avenue of commerce, as if they were equal in content, and equal in intent. The degree to which the unique nature and needs of art practice do not play any part in this thinking is more than slightly insane.

Consider the starkly stupid proposition that collage has now become illegal in music unless the artist can afford to pay for each and every fragment he or she might want to use, as well as gain permission from each and every owner. Consider how this puts a stop to all independent, non-corporate forms of collage in music, and how those corporately funded collage works which can afford the tolls had better be flattering to the owner in their usage. . . .

Please consider the ungenerous and uncreative logic we are overlaying our culture with. Artists will always be interested in sampling from existing cultural icons and artifacts precisely because of how they express and symbolize something potently recognizable about the culture from which both they and this new work spring. The owners of such artifacts and icons are seldom happy to see their properties in unauthorized contexts which may be antithetical to the way they are spinning them. Their kneejerk use of copyright restrictions to crush this kind of work now amounts to corporate censorship of unwanted independent work.