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Archive for March, 2005

Do an interview with NPR

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

Laura Sydell is an NPR reporter who is doing a piece on what the potential consequences of the Grokster decision could be. She’s looking for someone in the Bay Area who shares copyrighted files and plans to continue regardless of the decision. You can remain anonymous if you’d like. If you’re interested, contact: lsydell@npr.org or call 415-503-3164. This is another good chance to get out the message to a wide audience. If you do this, please think carefully about what you’ll say and why you think the system needs to change.

From Birmingham to Western MA

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

The “Eyes on the Prize” issue has in many ways been about paradoxes and ironies – The MLK Committee in North Carolina couldn’t get a hold of a copy of “Eyes on the Prize” for their civil rights tour of the South and was looking to a political activism organization (us, Downhill Battle) to get copies. It is too close to insane irony that people who are seeking out our history of the civil rights movement can’t learn more about it because copyright industries are holding back a flood of historical video content. The tour organizer writes, “I am looking for a copy of the video “Eyes on the Prize” and unable to find in local libraries or stores. I saw on your website where there are copyright issues; therefore making them virtually impossible to find. I am with the MLK Committee in Raleigh NC. We sponsor a Civil Rights Heritage Tour to Tuskegee, Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, and Memphis each year and the tapes we have used in the past are not available this year. We leave next Mon night (March 21) and I need a copy of the video.”

People are writing to tell us that they are showing “Eyes” until they run out of episodes, at their libraries, as a part of their school curriculum, at their nonprofits and community centers. People seem to be making sure “Eyes” continues to be a part of public discourse, or maybe more simply, “Eyes” has become a part of public/civic discourse. I also heard from a librarian friend (he and his punk noise band from Western, MA played in Worcester last weekend) that he had just heard of us because librarians were forwarding emails around in their great activist spirit about “Eyes on the Screen” and that libraries are screening “Eyes” continuously – remember, it’s not Black History Month anymore and people are saying that the struggle continues. People don’t feel the need to publicize their screening with the“Eyes on the Screen” campaign, which shows that the access conversation is sticking to public discourse and not just to the campaign. One women from Atlanta writes that professors have since agreed to offer students extra credit for attending a screening – A MAZING.

Judy Richardson and Lawrence Guyot are continuing to give talks at schools and on TV – so invite them to your school or screening before they’re all too tired to fight your way.

Loss of the Self is good or bad?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

The two sides in MGM vs. Grokster both have very compelling core arguments that hit on some fundamental human instincts.  Our side (filesharing companies should be legal) says we need to protect the right to innovate and the social empowerment that can come from this technology, ultimately: “this technology is good for the public and for the future”.  It plays to the part of ourselves that wants to see societal progress.

On the other side, large content corporations say “I’ll die and your music and movies will too”, a sentiment that ultimately plays to a sense of personal defense and loss.  They get us by making us feel like we’re supposed to feel for these companies and feel threatened that things we care about will slip away. And on an instinctual level, we all feel “scared” for them. (Of course, we totally disagree with the “I’ll die and your music will too” argument because people outside of the corporate music industry are making good music left and right and the mainstream artists are gonna have to go somewhere.)  They dress it up in all sorts of ways, and put things in terms of the public and artists, but what’s ultimately most convincing about the other side is that they’re talking about themselves and the threat that they feel. So, the landmark case is “loss of the self, existential and personally” vs “public interest”. Since the major content companies have been bad companies, it’s hard to commiserate with their selfish desire for existence.

There were two editorials in the Washington Post and New York Times that were favorable to the content communities – very unfortunate.


Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Copyfight has the latest on the Grokster arguments, happening today in the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s decision could determine whether a small group of entertainment companies can monopolize and control our culture.

Thanks to Fenwick and West

Monday, March 28th, 2005

We want to give a huge thank you to Mitchell Zimmerman and everyone at the Fenwick and West law firm for giving us great legal help over the past couple months with a few ‘issues’ arising from the Eyes on the Screen campaign. Here is their press release about the pro bono hook-up, which was a surprise and a relief– it’s amazing what good lawyers can do, and even more amazing when good lawyers actually care about issues like this and have an understanding of copyright and the public interest. Mitchell actually approached us and offered his help, which we feel honored to be in the position to receive. He and his team really helped us out, so again, thank you. We’ve just dispatched a bunch of Downhill Battle merch in their direction for when things get rowdy in the Valley. And also a big thanks to some other folks who were also immensely helpful on this, and may want to remain nameless.

Canada on the verge of banning filesharing

Monday, March 28th, 2005

Filesharing is legal in Canada, much to the chagrin of the major record labels. A musician in Canada recently wrote to tell us that new laws banning filesharing are about to be introduced. Here’s his call to arms for all Candians– pass the word.

Hello my name is Greg and I live in Hamilton ontario canada. I have been in music for quite some time now. The music industry totally ignores the indie scene really badly up here. Because of P2P technology, our stuff has been able to get across to people. Especially in the United States and Britain. Now because people hear our stuff, they buy our CD’s. Now the industry wants to shut down P2P networks because they want to control all the advertising, networking and stuff like that. Because we are a christian heavy metal band, the industry as a whole ignores us. If they get their way and try to shut down the p2p networks and/or sue people for using them, we will not be able to get the message across. If we wish to get signed by these major labels, we have to sell our faith down, meaning we preach in how they want us to preach. And that usually means a very watered down message.

I am very concerned up here because now the industry has convinced the federal government in all the major political parties to invoke two elements of the World Intellectual Property Organization treaties forcing internet providers to give the CRIA(canadian recording industry association) information in the whereabouts of p2p users so they can take them to court. This includes me. A musician’s musician but also a technologist. A p2p user using the technology to get my stuff out and to share other musician’s music.

We need to get the message across to people that the music industry is not for our benefit but for their own.

Subscribe to our RSS feed– it’s fully functional!

Friday, March 25th, 2005

Until Jascha hooked up a fix about a month ago, our site had a horrible RSS feed– posts were being truncated in the feed, but there was no indication that you weren’t seeing the full post, so you wouldn’t know to read more. Ridiculous. Anyway, now it’s fixed and we have the full posts in the feed, so this is a good time to subscribe to our RSS Feed. We’ve been blogging a lot recently, but we are usually very sporadic, especially when we get deep into an imminent project, so RSS is a pretty good way to keep up with what we’re doing without a bunch of disappointing reloads.

For those who use webpages the old fashioned way, RSS let’s you ‘subscribe’ to a blog and get notified when new posts are made. It’s simple, but very important and it’s going to be a bigger and bigger part of how people use the internet. If you don’t have an RSS reader already, try this for Windows and this for mac.


Friday, March 25th, 2005

Fiona Apple has been found by the internet after a 6 year exodus! Her never released album, “Extraordinary Machine” got on the internet, some DJ in Seattle has been playing the full album and people are gushing over it. I haven’t heard it yet, but from what I can tell, it’s good; some fans are demanding that Sony release the album. The online campaign is at Free Fiona and they’re getting press on MTV and Rolling Stone. The cool thing here is that music is making an end run around the corporate music industry’s barriers and the public is getting activist about music (they’re fighting for the sake of this music). A similar thing worked for Wilco, maybe it’ll work for Fiona.

What’s kind of interesting is that the internet becomes a testing ground for how good music is – when it or the story is good enough, people motivate and might actually be politically effective. It’s bottom up and the middlemen are becoming less and less irrelevant.

In similar spirit, Business Week and the Economist have just printed articles about how restricting filesharing is making it worse for technological innovation in light of the Grokster case. Grokster is the most important case to deal with online rights and will draw a line between what part of technology will continue to progress and the part of technology that will flounder in copyright purgatory. A big, big shout out to Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, rapper Chuck D, and songwriter Janis Ian who are the few musicians who are siding with Grokster because they say all this music exploration on the net has brought them new customers. The Consumer Electronics Association is holding a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court on on Tuesday at 9AM. DC people – do you have a reason to be there?


Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Some close friends of ours from Worcester (who now live in NYC and LA) have just put out a few songs with their band DraculaZombieUSA— formerly ‘Andy Influence and Will Collision featuring Travis Gravitas’. I love these jams. Try “Thomas Window Paine” first.

Ringtones–the strategic decoy we’ve been waiting for

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005

Of all the theories about how the corporate music business can be saved, this has to be the most idiotically absurd, and it keeps getting talked about:

One growing market is mobile-phone ring tones. Scott Andrews, senior director of internet and mobile entertainment for royalty collection agency BMI, said ring-tone revenues are expected to double from $250 million in 2004 to $500 million in 2005. “This is a business that has scaled very quickly,” Andrews said.

He added that potential synergies with other mobile technologies such as Bluetooth wireless could create even more opportunities for artists.

“Can you imagine being at a concert and saying, ‘OK, everyone turn on your Bluetooth. We’re going to send you a ring tone for free just for being here at the concert’?” Andrews said.

from WN

Holy crap– ringtones getting distributed at concerts??? I’m sorry, Scott Andrews, but I don’t think I can imagine that– it’s just too wonderful. And I really can’t believe that all my musician friends haven’t been talking about it already.

Please, please, major labels, bet your future on the ringtone market. After all, it’s been doubling for the past few years, so what could possibly go wrong?