As the Rolling Stones began their tour while welching on the more than quarter of a million dollar deal they made with my Friend, I started this e-Blogazine journal to document some of my experience of the fallout, and to create a forum for discussion and resources to reform the Music Industry. May Artists, Musicians, and Free People everywhere find it useful.
Got Something to say? Are You a Musician, Artist, or Person with an opinion about the Music industry, music downloads, contracts or royalties? Are You concerned about the RIAA and other industries' assault on our cyber-Freedoms? Copyright and Intellectual Property law? Well?
Recently I was in a discussion over at MusicPundit about Napster's demise. I let out a pretty good rant, published in it's entirety below. What got me going was the following comment:
"So, the shuttering of Napster has left independent artists with no way to make music, no way to promote it, no way to sell it? ... You're apparently 17, and thus are forgiven your naivete in this realm. Reynolds and his fellow 'The RIAA Sucks' adults don't have that excuse. There are legitimate issues of copyright to be sorted out -- even down to the very basic fundamentals -- before one can claim that copyright holders are morally bankrupt for protecting what is now legally recognized as their property."
Dale Stevenson (from whom we may hear more later) had a less vitriolic and more civil response than my own:
"While the death of Napter hasn't completely invalidated all avenues of self-promotion of independent artists, it has limited those available.
"The question I present to you is if the major labels actually have a moral right to hold the copyrights of the music that they produce. They don't write it, they don't play it. They only provide the venture capital to make the album. Capital that is legally required of the artist to pay back.
"The RIAA claims that they are protecting the artists interests in cracking down on copyright violations.
"The most that artists get after everyone elses cut of album sales is 10% of MSRP. The most!
"Until you gather more of the facts of the true issues involved, I suggest that you refrain from slinging insults in other directions."
To which the original commenter replied:
"Of course labels have a "moral right" to hold music copyrights -- if those rights have been assigned to them by the creator(s) of the intellectual property.
"If I write a song, and sign a contract that hands the rights to someone else, what's immoral about that? Nothing.
"Similarly, if I make an album and sign a contract that gives me a paltry 0.0003% cut of its revenue, nothing immoral has taken place. It might indicate I'm a lousy businessman, but it doesn't make anybody evil.
"It really is naive to romanticize Napster -- or at least its facility for copyright infringement -- as some bastion of Glory, Truth and Right."
At this point, I began chafing at the equation of "legal" and "moral" "right". Because Legal Rights, and what is morally "right" often bear little relation to one another. Moreover, with the bastardisation of Law perpetrated by the RIAA/MPAA and Congress through the passage of the DMCA, UCITA, and related intellectual property legislation since 1996, it gets less so every day. That is why Stoned Out Loud exists.
Anyway, Dale held his own, offering:
"[quoting]>Of course labels have a "moral right" to hold music copyrights -- if those rights have been assigned to them by the creator(s) of the intellectual property.[end quoting]
"That would be "legal right" to which you are refering.
"And those contracts to which you are refering are legally coerced from 'letters of intent'.
"The letters of intent have no terms other than that each party agree to sign a contract of mutual agreement, and that neither party may enter a contract with a third party with regards to publication, production, and/or distrobution of material contained in the as yet unwritten contract.
"Suppose I told you I could give you a job at my company making $100,000 per year. You agreed to come to an interview, but before you could enter you had to sign a letter of intent.
"You could at that point walk away from the job and go look for a different one, or you could sign it and go into the interview.
"You are told that you may take a job for $15,000 per year. You say "no thanks" and leave. On the way out you are reminded of your "letter of intent" and are told that you may not interview for any other job.
"That's moral? That's right?
"That is how the record companies recruit new music.
"Napster, in the beginning, was illegally facilitating infringement of copyrights held by the major record labels. Later, the company was attempting to do just at the labels asked: Stop distributing THEIR music. So what about the rest of the music that was legitimately traded?
"Unless you can offer a solution to the problem of the ill informed artists getting clearly taken advantage of, you can do nothing put spout rhetoric.
"And if you say that it just required education on the part of the artists themselves, then you, clearly, would be the myopic one."
To which I thought, "Bravo." But I still felt there were some vital issues that had not been addressed. Mainly, the stealth assault that has been - is being - made on the First Amendment. So, I cut loose:
I agree with the previous poster that 'there are legitimate copyright issues to be sorted out.' And that's where my agreement ends. I do agree with the comments of Dale Stevenson, which I found reasonable and well articulated. After I rant a bit, I want to check out Jeff Cooper's Site, which Eric recommended.
A big part of problem, as I see it, is that corporations have enjoyed the legal fiction that they are "persons" under the law. This is and has been the excuse for the erosion of Individual and Civil Rights in this country for a long time.Another part of the problem is in the legal language "work for hire." Contracts that contain this language should be nullified, in my humble opinion, when they are used - with perfectly legitimate legal precedent behind them - to screw People (not just Artists, but Consultants and others as well) out of the product of their work. It is an ongoing peonisation of the working man.
For the Producer of Value, "work for hire" usually amounts to...seems in practice to be defined under the law as...total and complete assignment of all rights irrevocably in perpetuity to the purchaser. Furthermore, it often amounts to and / or is combined with (in the music industry) indentured servitude.
If You don't believe me, read a recording contract, read the UCITA legislation, the DMCA, and then go read "Courtney does the Math" at Salon. I linked it from http://www.stoned-out-loud.com in the "Articles of Note" box.
While You're there, it might be good to look at the other articles written by working Musicians as well, Janis Ian's, and Steve Albini's "The Problem with Music."
So I have a problem, not with "work for hire" per se, but with how it has been applied in the Music and IT staffing industries. For starters.
Another part of the problem is Copyright law. The manner in which Congress has allowed the Industy lobbies to write legislation in exchange for campaign contributions has polluted the very concept of law itself, and the DMCA is a good example. It is an instance of the original intent of protecting intellectual property rights being turned inside-out and on it's head, converted into a tool for the legally fictitious "person" of the corporation to subjugate and rob the real living breathing creatively producing Person in the populace of their very means of livelihood, and the fruits of their labors. (brings to my mind the title of a great Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. essay "In a manner that would shame God himself.")
Next, is the question of innovation, the freedom to do it, and the Freedom of Speech and Assembly guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States of America's Bill of Rights. The real issue behind the RIAA/Napster case is the First Amendment, and our Freedom to peacefully assemble and share our ideas and music together in this very large virtual room that is the internet; Mankind's collective Living Room.
The problem the RIAA/MPAA has (and the IT staffing industry, among others, as well) is that they are used to riding the Artists and Producers of Value like cattle, and want to enlarge their Yoke to include the rest of us. *And it ain't gonna happen.*
They can buy all the Congressmen they like, pass as many laws as they like...bottom line is, if they take the Law down that road, it is the system of laws and jurisprudence that will suffer ... as it is suffering now the loss of respect and credibility Judge Patel's and other's goo-headed decisions have engendered.
When the law deserts the People, the People go elsewhere. ("...and when laws are outlawed, only outlaws will have laws." - kidding)
This isn't an opinion, just an observation of Human Nature.
So, what p2p needs to do is create a sharing application that incorporates micropayment, while keeping the Artist in charge of his own work. Anything less isn't worthy of pursuit, imo. It's time we, the People, reclaim some lost ground.
Yowza. Feels good to get a good rant out now and then! :-|
So, in summary, Sir, shame on You for Your age-ist patronising of our Hostess ("You're apparently 17, and thus are forgiven your naivete in this realm"). Don't go handing me any ""The RIAA Sucks" adults don't have that excuse". This RIAA Sucks adult, and legions of Artists and Producers, and Human Beings who have inaliable Rights endowed by their Creator have plenty of excuse.
And one can, in point of fact, "claim that copyright holders are morally bankrupt for protecting what is now legally recognized as their property", when one opens one's eyes to the context in which those copyrights were acquired: deceptively and/or coercively obtained "work for hire" contracts under which the Artists/Producers were required to hand over those copyrights.
Oh, yeah. Perfectly legal, legal as Church on Sunday. And that makes it less reprehensible, uh, how? It doesn't.
So, yes Sir. Morally Bankrupt. So, how to address it in a "government of Laws and not of Men?"
All we have to do now is work the miracle of real campaign finance reform and elect representatives that will do so, instead of being puppets of their corporate paymasters.
That, and create a p2p file-sharing micropayments system that is GPL'd.