OH. YEAH. We’ve just heard that the Canadian Federal courts have stopped the major labels’ plans to sue individuals for filesharing, in a ruling that says making files available in a shared folder is not copyright infringment. This is great news: Canadians, start your uploading. (More details at p2pnet.net)
Archive for March, 2004
TODAY WE HAVE the first of several Downhill Battle interviews with DJs and sample-based musicians. It is crucially important that anyone who is thinking about sampling rights and issues hear from the people that make this music, as well as hearing the music itself. We hope the interviews will bring musicians’ perspectives to the table, while our new bannedmusic.org helps keep some recordings accessible.
DJ Quixotic is a very skilled and well-respected turntablist. Here’s a snippet of what he has to say about the double standard people use for cover songs and sampling:
“I don’t see why people can’t treat what we do on the turntables the same way they treat a band covering another band’s songs for an album… That’s what we do when we do routines, we basically cover that person’s song, we just happen to be using a record to do it.”
ONE MONTH AFTER Grey Tuesday, we are proud to announce BannedMusic.org — a site to distribute music that the major labels are suppressing with lawsuits and legal intimidation. When they try to ban music, we simply won’t let them.
Many of the people that were involved with Grey Tuesday helped get this site running, and are helping to host and share the music. Like Grey Tuesday, this is a truly collaborative effort that’s taking a stand for creativity, against an industry that stifles innovation in so many ways.
And a big thanks to Mark at Splinter for the hot graphic design.
TOMORROW IS THE one month anniversary of Grey Tuesday, and Downhill Battle will be announcing a new follow-up project that we are very excited about.
THIS WEEK’S New York Times Magazine has a very good article about Grey Tuesday. Of course, there’s much more info at greytuesday.org. And we’re preparing a follow-up project that we hope to announce in the next few days.
This is probably a good time to mention that Downhill Battle is looking for some help managing our press database. We need someone to track and compile news clippings and to build a list of reporters’ email adresses and phone numbers. After all, one of our primary goals is to shift the debate. To do this, we need to keep close track of everyone who’s writing about this issue so that when news hits we can get to reporters quickly and lend some balance to the industry’s spin. We’d been pretty effective at this up until Grey Tuesday, but at that point press coverage ballooned and it became a much bigger job for us to track it all. This is a detailed and meticulous task, but it’s extremely important for what we do. If you have the time to take this on, either as a one-time blitz or as an ongoing role, please email us.
THERE’S A SOLID video circulating on BitTorrent and filesharing networks called “Music Industry Mafia”. It’s worth checking out. You can find the “torrent” file here . If you don’t have BitTorrent, we highly recommend it– get it here for mac and windows. But if you are using windows, we like Torrent Storm even better. “Music Industry Mafia” could be the first entry in our upcoming major label video contest.
Here’s a perfect example of how the entertainment industry has captured members of Congress and state legislatures: California’s Attorney General has recently been distributing a letter to other attorneys general that describes p2p software as a “dangerous product”. He’s wrong, but you might think that’s just his honest assessment of the situation. Except someone figured out that the letter had been authored by a senior VP at the MPAA. Oops.
WE HAVE BEEN IMMERSED in work on simply too many new Downhill Battle projects, some of which will hopefully be ready very soon. Meanwhile, there have been some interesting developments in the news that we should comment on.
-First, the RIAA just netted themselves a sweeping exemption from anti-trust law by slipping a wording change into a digital broadcasting bill that passed last week in the House. A one-word change in the “Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act” (HR 1417) extended an anti-trust exemption they already enjoyed “from a market currently worth about $12 million to … a market worth approximately $12 billion”. Read more at Webcaster Alliance. The RIAA represents an industry that’s well known for their anti-competitive behavior and that has already been caught price fixing, twice. The fact that the House would give these repeat offenders immunity from rules that most business have to play by is simply an insult to the public interest. Incidentally, James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), the representative responsible for slipping in the change, went on an $18,000 junket to Thailand and Taiwan last year paid for by the RIAA. One assumes he stayed in nice hotels.
-The RIAA’s lawsuit campaign against filesharers took another hit this week, when a judge ruled that suits had to be filed individually, rather than in big clumps of several hundred at a time. This could be a major blow to the major record labels’ efforts to drive families into debt. At the minimum, it will cost them significantly more in filing fees and legal costs, though it’s not clear to us whether or not it will make the suits impractical to continue filing. We’d have to bet that the major labels will go to significant lengths to keep the sword hanging over the heads of people using filesharing networks. Of course, your chances of being sued are still smaller than your chances of getting hit by lightning.
-Leading copyright reform intellectual, Lawrence Lessig, has a new book coming out soon called “Free Culture” which is about copyright and the public domain. The best introduction to Lessig is this flash presentation. And Wired has just published an excerpt from the new book– read it here. In a similar vein, Downhill Battle is teaming up with the Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons on a new website and organizing project for college students that are interested in getting active on issues of copyright reform, music industry activism, online rights, the creative commons, and more. It’s gonna be big — look for it soon.
-One of the big challenges that anyone who’s trying to discuss sampling rights or DJing faces is skepticism that it’s a real musical art form. We heard this a lot on Grey Tuesday. “Why don’t they learn a real instrument instead of ripping off someone else?” is a more common reaction than you might expect. Now Berklee School of Music has introduced a class in turntablism that will bring some more mainstream respect to the art form (of course, if people would just listen to the music, that would work too…). Berklee has also been breaking ground in the world of public domain by offering serious online music lessons free on their website Berklee Shares. Try one out, they’re fun.
-p2pnet.net, the filesharing and music industry news site, is looking for help. They’d like to add a writer and get some assistance on their php backend. And you can always find headlines from p2pnet in the news tab at the top of this blog.
A FEW ITEMS TO REPORT:
-The extremely popular rock band Korn just came out with a very good music video about the major label monopoly and radio consolidation. Korn plays a concert in a CD store, and trashes the CD store. Watch it.
-A 3-minute segment on Downhill Battle and Grey Tuesday has been in the MTV News rotation this weekend. Today (Monday) is your last chance to catch it, here are the times: 6:50 AM, 8:50 AM, 10:50 AM, and 1:50 PM. It’s also on at 6:30 PM on MTV2, and exactly one hour before each of these times is another segment on DJ Danger Mouse and the Grey Album.
-The translations section is finally up. Check it out. We’re working on accumulating content in languages other than English, and that’s where it will all go. If you’d like to help us translate parts of the site, get on our contacts list.
CLAIRE CHANEL AND SCARY SHERMAN have created the new Jay-Z Construction Set. It’s a CD-ROM that collects 9 remixes of Jay-Z’s Black Album (including the Grey Album) along with the a capella vocal track, hundreds of samples and breakbeats, and photos of Jay-Z, his rivals, hot cars, and picturesque scenes– all the pieces you need to make your own Black Album remix and the cover art to go with it. The Construction Set is already blowing up like you knew it would. You can get a copy using bit torrent, and then burn it for your friends.
Big things are happening in music right now, and the Grey Album and its fallout represent the cutting edge. The Construction Set is another shining example of ways that people are starting to take music and music culture into their own hands– from the bottom (production) to the middle (distribution) to the top (redefining the entire industry). Grey Tuesday showed that these new developments are not just internet curiosities; a huge number of people are getting involved, enough to challenge the major labels head on. How much longer will it be before the entire dam bursts and the major labels wash away in a flood of freed music?
And we’ve got some new Downhill Battle projects that we’re hoping to get underway this week, so please stay tuned.