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Archive for April, 2005

US Attorney General goes to schools, gets schooled

Friday, April 29th, 2005

This is a really awesome article: Students Do Not Share Gonzales’ view on Filesharing (reg req’d… full text posted in the comments). US Attorney General Gonzales is trying to send the message that filesharing is illegal by visiting high schools, pulling together groups of students, and basically saying to them that they can stop being criminals if they stop the downloading. Here’s one of the more devastating responses quoted in the article:

“Record companies are using the courts and law enforcement to try and protect their profit margins…. When I buy a CD I feel like I’m paying for corporate lawyers and corporate headquarters and, no offense, but I don’t want to do that. And I don’t have to.”

It seems the common reaction is that nobody thinks what they’re doing is criminal (or even wrong), nobody gets why Gonzales should be spending time and money pushing an issue that doesn’t have pressing significance, and that the entertainment industry is corrupt and more money is the last thing they need. Well, that’s it: students in America are waging a war with the Federal Gummint, Hollywood, and the RIAA and they’ve got way better sound bites (and morals too, we think).

The funny thing is, while Gonzales is moralizing to highschool students on behalf of the major label cartel, the man we like to call “America’s real Attorney General” Elliot Spitzer is trying to nail them for illegal bribes to radio stations.

People Produced Commercial Radio

Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

This is pretty amazing. It’s a new radio station that will play audio from listeners who send it in over the internet on 1550 AM in San Francisco. It means a whole bunch of new people-produced media will be going out over the mass media airwaves, and that will change people’s idea about what makes for ‘real’ radio. Mass media becomes more accessible and people feel more like they can be a part of pop culture. Sure, it’s a Viacom thing, and that means there’s some weird downsides (you can’t download shows after you listen to them and they’ll probably censor some political ideas), but in general it’s a big step forward. We’re not interested in holding a grudge against big media corporations, we’re just interested in how to take advantage of tools that let people make mass culture for themselves, and usually that means getting corporations out of the way. So if Viacom starts moving out of the way on their radio stations, that’s a big improvement. And if the major record labels started acting like indie labels, that would be great too (but don’t hold your breath).

Spitzer has been our hero since Enron

Tuesday, April 26th, 2005

A while ago, Eliot Spitzer said that he was going to start investigating radio stations, record labels and the people in between for possible payola-like activites. For those of you who don’t know, payola was banned in the 60’s but has cropped up again in the past few decades where the major record labels pay “independent promoters” who in turn pay off radio stations to play their music. When major labels have their foot in the door with radio stations, it is extremely hard for independent labels to get their little guys out there — payola makes radio bad and it makes the most popular music bad. Industry executives were quoted as saying they were stopping any payola-like activities as soon as they heard Spitzer was going to do a really good job at wiping out payola. I was surpised to see this recent NY Post article called “POLICE PAYOFF PROBE” which was sent to me with the title “payola is back”. Geez, give the next guy a heart attack. The article is not really about payola and it seems Eliot is still doing a good job of being a good guy, as payola is still dormant for now. The article talks about two police officers who allegedly took money from the Motion Picture Association of America in order to get support for arresting those who pirate movies. It’s pretty nasty that the MPAA finds all those payoff outlets. You can read the full article in the comments section. But the real juice is here, Universal is getting in trouble for getting independent promoters to make fake invoices so that they can recoup promotional costs from “rappers like Nelly”. So, Universal is ripping off musicians on their lablels and stealing airwaves from independent musicians. Major record labels anti-musician?

Copynight on Tuesday, April 26th

Sunday, April 24th, 2005

Ren at the EFF reminds us that CopyNight is this Tuesday:

The Revolution is Thirsty
April’s CopyNight is upon us, and we’ll be celebrating alongside WIPO’s “World Intellectual Property Day” on Tuesday, April 26th. CopyNight is a monthly social gathering for fans of free culture, and conversations range from file sharing to IP-reform to whatever else is on your community’s radar. This month we’ve got events scheduled in:

San Francisco, CA | Chicago, IL | Toronto, Ontario | Austin, TX |
Raleigh, NC | Washington, DC | New York, NY | Cambridge, MA

Don’t see your community on the list? Volunteer to host a future CopyNight by sending a note to info@copynight.org! You can also read more about last month’s CopyNight in this article from InfoWorld and the Industry Standard.”

The Target Shoots First

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005

If you live near DB HQ (Worcester, MA), you can come by a documentary screening that we’re presenting today at Clark University. The movie is called The Target Shoots First, and it’s about a guy who takes a job at Columbia House record club. It’s not directly related to Downhill Battle, but it does touch on a lot of issues about how music and creativity get corporatized. We’ll be talking briefly afterwards about Downhill Battle.

The show is at 6:00pm in Jefferson 218 at Clark. It’s part of the brand new MassBay Film Festival.

New Version of Blog Torrent

Wednesday, April 20th, 2005

Nassar is putting out a new version of Blog Torrent today. This version adds server-sharing (the file gets saved to the server and shared from there, if you’re willing to sacrifice the storage / bandwidth). We’ve also much improved the ease of posting new files to share, on Mac and Windows. Since ease of publishing is the main purpose of the progam, this is a big step forward If you’ve ever dreamed of offering your own creations with BitTorrent, wait no longer!

Blog Torrent is forming the foundation of Broadcast Machine, the video publishing tool under development, which is why Nassar took some time away from DTV to work on this.

We had a great fundraiser, thank you.

Wednesday, April 20th, 2005

Thank you everyone for helping out with the fundraiser. We’re going to put your money to good use and make for a good, political summer. Nine copies of Kembrew’s book, “Freedom of Expression” are on their way to some great supporters: Doug, Soul Cipher Records, Victoria, and just a few others. Thank you again for supporting our work. We really appreciate it.

Software Patent Video

Tuesday, April 19th, 2005

A good video about why software patents are bad.

Can you make: SueThePresident.com ?

Monday, April 18th, 2005

Here’s a big, underhand lob waiting to be knocked out of the park: Bush’s staff put mp3s on his iPod. According to the RIAA, that’s “stealing music”.

Last week, when Siva and von Lohmann debated the RIAA at Cornell, Siva asked Cary Sherman, “When are you going to sue the president?” It’s a great question because everyone knows: a. what Bush’s staff did was normal and reasonable and everyone does, b. the RIAA only sues people who can get forced into submission (and debt), but most of all it’s a good question because c. it can help people remember how crazy this whole thing is in the first place.

I was reading about it this morning and decided to do what we do best at Downhill Battle — register frivolous domain names. So now we own SueThePresident.com, but we don’t have time to make a site for it. So… who will step up to the plate and make something smart, funny, sharp, nice-looking, and informative (but mostly funny) that can remind people why the lawsuits are so stupid? With decent execution on this, you’ll be able to reach hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have no idea what they think about this issue. It’s a cheap, grassroots tool to help counter the corporate PR machine.

Anyway, we’ll happily give you the domain if you want to make something and we’ll even give you hosting if we really like it. Quick concepts: fake lawsuit papers- RIAA vs. President Bush, fake conspiracy theory website about illegal whitehouse dealings, fake left-wing Bush outrage website w/petition, fake michael moore movie (same idea), street fight- Orin Hatch vs. Bush, etc. Include real info about what happened, real politics about the issue, and some easy jokes aobut what kind of music Bush probably has his iPod and you’ll be golden. And don’t forget to remind people not to buy major label music.

Beating WIPO

Thursday, April 14th, 2005

Huge congratulations to EFF et al, who did some amazing work at the WIPO meetings this week. I’ll let Cory and Donna tell it (a must read). The is wonderful news and all the more reason to ramp up pressure for the next meetings. If only we weren’t so swamped! If you’re in a position to mobilize people around this and aren’t doing it already, don’t miss your chance!