Archive for August, 2008

the 4th Reich is alive in america

August 30, 2008
A comment from the internet:

I don’t know if anybody else saw the piece on ABC last night just before Obama’s acceptance speech, but it told of how the RIAA and MPAA have spent billions of dollars this week and plant again next week lavishing gifts and perks upon candidates and delegates to push new legislation to combat alleged piracy of movies and music.

One interviewee mentioned that the new set of laws they intend to run through Washington in January will make it possible for the RIAA or MPAA to seize your computer or MP3 player if you burn purchased music or video from such a device and they don’t get a royalty.

They are pushing for felony charges to be attached to such burning as well.

Imagine you go out and buy a DVD for $30 and you “rip” it so you can put it on your iPod to watch while you’re on a six hour flight. You can lose your iPod, your PC, the DVD you purchased, and you could face up to five years in prison if the RIAA, MPAA and ISPs like comcast who’ll report you have their way.

How much is enough?

I seem to recall that the price differential between music blank CD-Rs and regular computer CD-R blanks was attributable to a royalty for the recording of music on the blank music CD-R.

So, in adition to ruining the american system of justice, the RIAA and MPAA want to steal your equipment and put you in jail.  They can try to pull my PC away from MY COLD DEAD hands!

Ah, yes, from them, the Nazis could learn.



Is all music created equally?

August 20, 2008

Some people say “music is music” or that “all music is equal” but do they actually mean that “some music is more equal than others?”

And are they talking about music or the underlying rights in the music?


There is a lot of confusion about that although most people think they know what they’re talking about.


Brian Lee Corber

Riaa new tactic: comic books (a net comment)

August 20, 2008
The RIAA’s comic crusade

The recording industry and its allies are using a new tactic to shape the minds of would-be file swappers: comic books. No, we’re not kidding. Cringely has more.



TAGS: There’s an RIAA riot goin’ on

The Recording Industry Association of America probably sees itself as a band of caped crusaders fighting for truth, justice and the American way. (And in this case, “American Way” translates into propping up a dying cartel seeking to squeeze as many pennies out of consumers as possible before they sink into the ooze.)

Now those masked men and women have found a new way to spread the mantra about the evils of file swapping — via comic books. Even weirder is the ally they’re roped into this scheme: the National Center for State Courts, an organization founded in the early 1970s by then Chief Justice Warren Burger “to improve the administration of justice through leadership and service to state courts.”

The NCSC has begun publishing a series of graphic novels titled Justice Case Files to “provide a detailed, easy-to-digest explanation of how the criminal- and civil-justice systems work.” Their first colorfully illustrated 24-page file? The Case of Internet Piracy. (Download an 11MB PDF version here).

Per the NCSC:

The story traces the experience of Megan, a college freshman charged with illegally downloading music, and Ellen, Megan’s grandmother, who is fighting their city’s attempt to seize their home through eminent domain.

Don’t look now, but Archie and Jughead have been caught using BitTorrent again. What ever will Betty and Veronica think?

The “graphic novel” was created by Layne Morgan Media, a tiny ad agency in Springfield, Missouri, that specializes in comic books of a conservative persuasion. Other Layne Morgan titles include “Think Before You Drink,” a tome warning against the evils of teen drinking, and “To Wait is to Win,” where “readers can learn about the importance of abstinence.” As P2Pnet’s Jon Newton points out, however, the comic book appears to have been drawn with the invisible hands of the RIAA guiding the pen.

According to the comic book prosecutor:

“Megan Robbins was caught illegally downloading and sharing music files from several Internet Websites without paying for it over a period of three months. She is charged with theft at the state level. … Even first time offenders such as Ms. Robbins face stiff penalties – up to 2 years in jail and $25,000 in fines.”

Megan pleads guilty and vows to never download anything ever again. She gets a deferred sentence of three months, three years of probation, and 200 hours of community service. She also agrees to become a anti-downloading spokesperson for the RIAA. (By the way, Grandma ultimately gets to keep her house. She’s got a much more expensive attorney than Megan.)

I emailed Layne Morgan and NCSC asking who wrote these pamphlets and if they had any help from the RIAA. I’m still trying to connect with an NCSC spokesperson; when I do, I’ll post an update here.

The alleged point of the Case File is to point out the differences between civil cases (the eminent domain dispute) and criminal cases (the evil file swapper). So far I’ve found one example of a state prosecuting someone for illegal downloads (in Arizona), while the RIAA has sued an estimated 40,000 people in civil actions under the DMCA. What’s wrong with that picture?

The real point, of course, is to scare people who are likely to read comic books – ie, tweens and young teens — into thinking the police are going to bust down their doors if they start downloading music from “several Internet Websites.” It’s propaganda aimed at people who get their life guidance from comic books, which probably includes a significant percentage of office holders in Washington, DC.

Or as Newton puts it:

…the NCSC comic book is yet another blatant example of how the corporate entertainment cartels are able to abuse official American agencies and use taxpayer money to raise purely commercial issues to the level of serious crime at the expense of far more important matters which as a direct result are left by the wayside.

You might even say it’s comical.

UPDATE: I finally reached Lorri Montgomery, director of communications for the NCSC, who was able to explain some things. She says the reason they chose file swapping and eminent domain for their first comic was the desire to appeal to both young and old audiences — not some nefarious scheme by the RIAA. She says Megan’s case was not based on any real world cases or particular state laws, but general state laws about theft (and not copyright, which is the basis for the RIAA suits). The book was reviewed by several legal scholars (also not affiliated with the recording industry). The books are used in jury rooms to instruct jurors on the differences between civil and criminal cases and to teach young people that the courts are “fair and impartial,” Montgomery says. It’s not used in cases that involve eminent domain or file swapping.

Just the same, I’m sure the music moguls have to be pleased by the notion of the federales showing up at people’s doors and arresting them. Let’s hope this scenario stays mainly in the realm of fiction.

multiple titles for the same piece of music? not kosher?

August 16, 2008

A controversy has erupted about whether or not multiple titles for ther same piece of music is fraud or not.  Opinion is divided.

Here’s a comment:


There is a relatively new “sound matching” technology that actually allows one to search via sound, rather than title or other written criteria. It’s currently used more for sounds than songs, but the inroads being made to root out songs with more accuracy is quite impressive.

As this technology becomes more refined and more implemented (which I’ve no doubt it will, once it raises its accuracy percentages), it could certainly root out the compositions with multiple titles, and a lot of the issues you raise will likely be brought to the forefront.

As to whether the libraries are even registering their titles with the copyright office? … Good point, and one that composers should really think about and do themselves to protect their compositions — even if you put together several compilations with 20 works each to save $$. If done within five years of the actual creation date, it’s best, but even well after-the-fact is better than nothing.

A search of copyrights attached to Associated Production Music brings up various titles and compilations from 1998 through 2007, but definitely doesn’t scratch the surface of the titles they claim to own. A spot check of other library names shows what appears to be a fraction of what each claims as theirs as well.

I’m inclined to believe that due to the costs involved, many are eschewing formal copyright registration for a lot of their work and registering the works with the various PROs as a substitute instead of a companion. I don’t libraries believe they will ever be challenged because they view composers as desperate to get their music out there regardless of how they’re screwed. Yeah, and the major labels thought they’d own everything forever and no one would be able to make or sell a record without them…

And you’re right: derivative copyrights don’t even remotely apply, since no revisions to the underlying work itself are being made. There have to be “substantial” changes to the original work to qualify as a derivative work.

> Subject: RE: — The Big Picture

> Date: Wednesday, August 6, 2008, 3:42 PM


> …* In the case of limited duration licenses, it would seem that if a workable cross-reference were ever created for music (listing the original composition and the various libraries that retitle and license it), or even in the case of new licenses, a music user could then pit one retitling library against another to drive down the price.



should music be free to use?

August 15, 2008

This question is often asked.  Those who write music often wonder, themselves, how much is my music worth?  How much should i charge someone to use it (for whatever project, film, record, etc.)?  Many believe that music, which can be obtained by a mere download, should be free, many do not.

Here’s an e-mail I found on the internet that may be of interest:


More from the “Isn’t Music Free?” file. Pete


Natalie Finn (E! Online)

Jackson Browne is always up for a good protest. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has refused to take it easy, suing GOP presidential candidate John McCain and the Republican National Committee for using his biggest hit, “Running on Empty,” in an Obama-slamming campaign ad without his permission.

Browne, a regular fixture on the Democratic front, says that he’s “incensed” by McCain’s use of the song, which falsely creates a perception that he endorses the Arizona senator’s campaign, according to the copyright-infringement lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

He is seeking unspecified damages in addition to a permanent injunction barring further use of “Running on Empty” or any other Browne song.

“We are confident that Jackson Browne will prevail in this lawsuit,” the musician’s attorney, Lawrence Iser, said in a statement today. “Not only have Senator McCain and his agents plainly infringed Mr. Browne’s copyright in ‘Running On Empty,’ but the Federal Courts have long held that the unauthorized use of a famous singer’s voice in a commercial constitutes a false endorsement and a violation of the singer’s right of publicity.

“In light of Jackson Browne’s lifelong commitment to Democratic ideals and political candidates, the misappropriation of Jackson Browne’s endorsement is entirely reprehensible, and I have no doubt that a jury will agree.”

McCain’s people say, however, that the ire would be better directed (if at all) to the Ohio Republican Party, which produced the commercial in question.

We know, Browne’s camp said.

“We have sued the Ohio Republican Party as well, and we have been informed and believe that McCain and his campaign were well aware of the ad,” Iser told the Los Angeles Times’ Top of the Ticket blog. “We are also informed and believe that the ad was broadcast on television in Ohio and Pennsylvania…The fact that it appears on the Internet means it also reaches an audience well beyond those states.”

And this isn’t even the first pop-culture issue that McCain has had this week, according to the Huffington Post. Mike Myers reportedly requested that the campaign take down a web ad that used the “We’re not worthy” clip from Wayne’s World in dissing Obama’s celebrity prowess.

Harkening back to the days when Bruce Springsteen wanted Ronald Reagan to quit using “Born in the U.S.A.” to tout his candidacy, Indiana-born rocker John Mellencamp, who says in Rolling Stone’s latest issue that it can be pretty strange being the only left-winger for miles on his Indiana homestead, objected earlier this year to the McCain campaign playing “Our Country” and “Pink House” at events.

“Are you sure you want to use his music to promote Senator McCain’s efforts?” read a letter sent by his spokesman to the campaign. “Logic says that the facts might prove to be an embarrassment, were they to be circulated widely.”


more from the people at the RIAA and associates

August 6, 2008

Allegations of conducting unlicensed investigations continue to dog MediaSentry, the company hired by the RIAA to seek out and download music over P2P networks as part of the group’s legal campaign. Mary Roy, the Assistant General Counsel of Central Michigan University, has filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth (DLEG), accusing MediaSentry of conducting investigations without a Private Investigator license.


Brian Lee Corber

attorney at law

The complaint (PDF) was filed in mid-July and was just uncovered by attorney Ray Beckerman on his blog. In it, MediaSentry is accused of continuing its “unlicensed and illegal actions” in Michigan even after being informed by the DLEG in February 2008 that its activities could be in violation of state law.

Under Michigan state law, a private investigator is defined as an entity that investigates “the identity, habits, conduct, business, occupation,… activity,… transactions, acts,… or character of a person” or secures “evidence to be used before a court.”

CMU points out in its complaint that the fruit of MediaSentry’s labor is exhibits attached to RIAA complaints, and CMU lists eight Doe cases involving 99 suspected P2P users filed in Michigan federal courts between May 3, 2007 and May 28, 2008. In each of the lawsuits, the RIAA referred to MediaSentry as a “third-party investigator” that gathers evidence of copyright infringement.

“All of the above-noted sworn statements regarding the activities of MediaSentry would clearly establish that its activities fall within the scope of the investigative activities regulated by the PDLA [Private Detective License Act],” reads the complaint. “Nevertheless, MediaSentry has ignored any suggestion by the DLEG that it secure a license to continue its investigative activities within the state of Michigan.”

The RIAA has consistently held that MediaSentry is not an “investigator” according to state law. All the company does, according to the RIAA, is harvest data from publicly-available sources (e.g., P2P networks). Even so, MediaSentry’s corporate parent SafeNet decided to give the MediaSentry web site an “overdue” redesign this past February, removing all references to litigation and prosecution.

Since the issue of MediaSentry’s status as a private investigator was first raised, the company has been given a cease-and-desist order by the Massachusetts State Police, while a handful of P2P defendants have argued that the evidence collected by the company should be barred. To our knowledge, there has yet to be a ruling on the issue of the admissibility of evidence collected by MediaSentry, but with a North Carolina judge deciding to look at MediaSentry’s status as a private investigator in that state as part of a “fresh look” at the RIAA’s Doe lawsuits, that may be about to change.