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CARP, RIAA Suit Setback, and Lessig

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.

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