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Archive for September, 2005

Interview with Well-Rounded Radio

Sunday, September 25th, 2005

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Charlie McEnerney of Well-Rounded Radio about Downhill Battle and music activism. Here’s an mp3 of the complete interview, which is episode 19 and features music from Scott Lesniewski (and here’s the episode introduction).

Well-Rounded Radio is a very interesting and well produced show about independent music and musicians that “digs deep into the creation of music”. It’s another excellent resource in the growing forest of indendent media outlets that are getting ready to take over from the corporate music giants. Check out all of their shows.

Worcester Shopping: Happy Birthday Mike Leslie

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

Jacob Berendes, a wonderful musician, the head of Fujichia records, my lifelong friend, and Downhill Battle’s Chairman of the Board, is generally known for general awesomeness (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc) and is practically a folk hero among a small band of unwashed Worcester, MA residents, not to mention his constituency at large, which is, in fact, large.

All that is to motivate you to peek at the plans for the new store he is about to open in Worcester, MA called Happy Birthday Mike Leslie. You will not regret taking a moment to read the store plan, mission statement, and FAQ. Maybe you can even help out. From the FAQ: “since i was a small child i had wanted to run a dinosaur park– three or four enormous and garishly colored fiberglass dinosaurs alongside a gas station and a gift shop. opening up Happy Birthday Mike Leslie is an opportunity similar to this– the construction and maintenance of a mysterious eyesore, in which one’s cosmology is subtly advanced through inane dioramas, piezoelectric buzzers, and a glut of cheap, bright, and violent novelties.”

If you want more of Jacob, you can listen to him sing, get his new album, or buy a handmade parakeet that clips onto your shoulder. We’ll let you know when the store opens.

Solid Hang Interview with DJ Spooky

Monday, September 19th, 2005

Our friend Pravin has a good interview with DJ Spooky running on his site Solid Hang.

PS: Can you explain your position on the confluence of copyright and culture?

DJS: Yeah, I look at the way the law is written versus the way it’s lived, and see a huge gap. People will only respect the law as much as they see it as an integral part of their lives. The copyright law system of the U.S. was written several hundred years ago, and was based on medieval copyright and common law. How does that relate to us in our era of high bandwidth culture based on an experience economy? Go figure.”

Check out the full interview.

EFF’s Guide to DRM

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

The awesome and formidable Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have put out a webpage guide to help people intelligently swim through the Digital Rights Management (DRM) thicket of online music. DRM is a term that includes any method that digital/electronics sellers use to restrict or control the way people use digital content. You can get into a lot of trouble if what you do normally with your digital content happens to break any imposed DRM (under DMCA law, which was passed without opposition). What’s wrong with DRM? Here is a 5-point writeup. The point of the guide is:

“In other words, in this brave new world of “authorized music services,” law-abiding music fans often get less for their money than they did in the old world of CDs (or at least, the world before record companies started crippling CDs with DRM, too). Unfortunately, in an effort to attract customers, these music services try to obscure the restrictions they impose on you with clever marketing. This guide “translates” the marketing messages by the major services, giving you the real deal rather than spin. “

Knowing whether or not an online music service is good for you and whether or not said music service is an ingredient of healthy music industry politics is half the battle. Knowing about what DRM keeps you from doing before you buy the DRM-enabled thing might make you choose one music store/product over the next. This guide is a first step to revealing DRM’s hidden badness. The more you know about how people are controlling music, the more we can use our consumer/public powers to change the system.

You can read about the intersection of DRM and the following music services in the guide here: iTunes (remember, iTunes is Bogus), Napster, Windows Media, Real Networks. These restrictions and the protection of them is one of the reasons we are going open source all the way and using a video player that plays all video formats with the PCF video player project.

Prometheus at the Astrodome

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

Big shout out to our friends at Prometheus Radio Project who have been part of the crew trying to get a low-power FM station (LPFM) setup at the Astrodome.

For the same fucked-up reasons that the government blocked people from leaving New Orleans, for the same reasons that they are desperately trying to censor news and photographs, and for the same reasons they are trying to keep reporters away from survivors, officials have blocked the LPFM station, even after the group got an FCC license and jumped through hoops.

Why don’t they want a community-run low power station in the Astrodome? Because the people living there are pissed off and if they can organize, communicate, or tell their stories, there will be serious trouble for a lot of officials. Blogs, alternative media, podcasts: we need to hear these stories!

p.s. fuck this!!!

Hatch Rival Finally Unveiled

Friday, September 9th, 2005

We thought someone would come to our rescue — Senator Steve Urquhart is the new pro-filesharing Republilcan Defender. The Register writes, “US politician challenging the pro-Hollywood Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is supporting file-sharing as a means to promote business innovation and keep the internet free.” Read the interview, so let’s see how much a pro-legislator can do for business innovation and music industry reform. See-ya later, Hatch.

Eyes on the Prize is Back, oh HEck!

Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

You may remember that this past spring, Downhill Battle released the seminal civil rights documentary, “Eyes on the Prize” in digital format and organized national screenings of the film during Black History month in a campaign called Eyes on the Screen”. VHS copies of “Eyes” have been hidden away on dusty shelves for the past 10 years because the process to clear all the copyrights for songs and clips in the documentary is labyrinthine and archaic, making it so that the owners of the film had a heck of a time trying to get “Eyes” out of copyright purgatory. Because “Eyes” was locked away, students were deprived of an extremely important tool for understanding the civil rights movement and the public had lost a very valuable reference point for discussing the civil rights movement.

The ‘Eyes” story involves 10 years of fighting for copyright licenses, a series of plight articles leading up to MLK Jr. Day 2005, organizing wisdom from civil rights leader, Lawrence Guyot, and momentum created by the Bay Area Vets’ involvement in pushing things forward. Over 200 screenings of the film were organized and attended and a double baker’s dozen of articles focused on the problem that “Eyes” was facing came through the “Screen” campaign. Recently, we heard of good news! This news comes in the form of a large donation from someone probably pretty awesome and a possible deal to rerelease the documentary both on DVD and on TV.

To bring back “Eyes” on DVD and TV, a sort of miracle happens:

“I called my friend Richard Gilder and I told him about the situation and he put up $250,000 on the spot,” Gates said. “He did it purely because he believes in the civil rights movement and African-American history.”

You can listen to what NPR has to say about the future of “Eyes” and a mention of our work here or read the Wired article on it here.

I’m excited about what is happening with “Eyes” and the fact that people cared to have screenings, talk about how a messed-up copyright system could affect our education system, and do the work to make “Eyes” a part of public discourse again. Of course, not every documentary will have a special historic and educational position, have articles written about it, or even have a public interest direct action campaign to call attention to it. But many documentaries will face copyright purgatory one way or another given the current system that we have now. Thanks to all the readers who were involved with this past spring’s big “Eyes” push.