Canadians continue to fight passage of DMCA-like laws

The DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) was sold to the American people as a compromise: give media companies stronger powers to prevent people from copying their content, for longer periods of time, and in return they will make much more of their precious content much more available to many more people via the internet.  Passed nearly 10 years ago (October 12th, 1998), the DMCA has been nothing but trouble, allowing large media concerns to operate with powers unimagined when most of the subject content had been created, and to this date, they make precious little that will run with any of the kinds of freedoms we enjoy elsewhere in cyberspace.

The Canadians therefore enjoy 10 years of legal hindsight as their government attempts to “harmonize” its copyright legislation with the US.  And they seem to know that what has largely failed to increase content availability, access, and certainly profits (when it comes to music) for the US population doesn’t promise very much in the way of goodness for the much smaller Canadian population presently contemplating the legislation.  Michael Geist is one Canadian who surely must be singing “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” as he launches a cyber campaign to stop the maddness.  According to the article:

“We’re talking about more than just copyright here. We’re talking about the digital environment,” he said. “This legislation represents a real threat to the vibrancy of that online environment.”

Industry Minister Jim Prentice introduced the bill in June, calling it a “made-in-Canada” solution to online piracy. But critics responded that the bill was a carbon copy of the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

If passed, Bill C-61 would make it illegal to circumvent “digital locks” on CDs and DVDs and impose a $500 fine on anyone caught downloading illegal copies of music or movies.

Geist also launched a video contest on YouTube inviting Canadians to give their thoughts on Bill C-61 in 61 seconds. A panel of five judges, including Ontario Privacy Commissioner Anne Cavoukian, will announce the winner on Sept. 15 — the day MPs return to the House of Commons.

It’s late at night, so I don’t want to start a tirade about just how angry it makes me to see a perfectly decent government contemplating something so stupid, not to mention harmful.  And it makes me wonder whether the Canadian government really can be up to something like this solely because some lobbyist got ahold of some MP, or whether there is some behind-the-scenes deal cooking with the US.  Whatever the case, citizens in both countries should protest, Americans for the rights we have lost and Canadians for the rights they could lose if C-61 passes.

Michael, keep up the good fight!

The Police Give Back…Everything!

In Thursday’s USA Today’s Life section (August 6th, 2008), the article Police will bring on the night one last time caught my eye, and not just because I think that Sting’s Bring On The Night is one of the great live albums ever produced. Reporting revenues of $141M for the past year and a total of more than $346M worldwide is pretty eye-catching, too. But beyond the sheer economics of their tour, Stewart Copeland gives us a most astonishing insight. He said

We’re proud of this enormous monster we’ve created. But it owns us. The music doesn’t even belong to us anymore; it belongs to the people into whose lives it’s woven.


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Yahoo! Music Store closes…taking the keys with it

As reported in Ars Technica, customers who bought digitally restricted media (DRM) from Yahoo! Music Store will lose the technical ability to play the music they lawfully acquired.

As Corey Doctorow has been teaching for years:

1. That DRM systems don’t work

2. That DRM systems are bad for society

3. That DRM systems are bad for business

4. That DRM systems are bad for artists

5. That DRM is a bad business-move for [in this case, MSFT]

But his lecture applied equally to AAPL, and YHOO.  But as Upton Sinclair said many years ago “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it,” and all these technology companies seem to believe that their paychecks depend DRM, whether practical, whether beneficial, whether profitable, whether fair, either in the general or in the particular.

But maybe this is a failure we can all learn from.  As long as the consuming public is ignorant as to the consequences of their actions, what cause have they to behave any differently?  Perhaps now that insult has become injury, more people will think twice about whether they really want to spend money on a right that can vanish with a shift of the economic winds. Perhaps they will reconsider the logic of a system which, after a finite time makes things less accessible to them instead of what the US Constitution promises, which is to shift the rights to the public after a limited time.

Slow Food makes its way to the table

The objective of Fast Food, it seems, is to maximize short-term profits.  The eater profited by “wasting” as little time as possible eating, and the producer profited by sourcing the cheapest possible ingredients from the global economy, assembling those ingredients as rapidly and mechanically as possible, without regards to any externalities (such as the health of the eater, the quality of the food, the fairness to the farmer, and especially without regard to the environmental costs of the endeavor).  By contrast, the the objective of Slow Food is to create food that is good (pleasurable to eat), clean (healthy and regenerative to the environment), and fair (to farmers, chefs, and all who bring the food to the table).  Good, clean, and fair create a new triple bottom line for measuring the quality of food, and as the New York Times now reports, locally grown food is becoming de rigeur among the trend-setters.

“What I’m seeing with my clients is not the trendiness or the politics,” [chef] Mr. Welch said. “They are looking only at taste.”

Mrs. Howard said she ate local vegetables growing up in northern Michigan and Chicago. But her husband, a private equity fund manager, ate a lot of expensive imported food with little thought about where it came from. But all that has changed.

“It’s like the first time you start drinking good red wine and you realize what you were drinking was so bad you can’t go back to it,” Mrs. Howard said. “It’s that same way with vegetables.”

If a hedge fund manager can get this excited about vegetables, what might the future hold for music that is good (pleasurable to listen to), clean (faithfully recorded and produced), and fair (to the musicians, engineers, and all who bring the music to the listener)?

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The Music Lesson

The Music Lesson (2006 Cover)

Last week Lyle Estill was scheduled to give a reading at Quail Ridge Books and I was asked to introduce him.  After his reading, which was excellent, and the questions, which were semi-interesting, he set himself to signing books for the 30+ people who came to hear him that evening.  And, being in one of the best real, local bookstores, I set myself to browsing.  I wandered over to the Music section, and was stunned to see that one of my favorite bass players, Victor Wooten, had written a book called The Music Lesson.  I cracked it to a random page, read the passage that said

“Sharing is on e of the most important tools needed for personal growth,” he once told me, also stating that many people never come to understand that point.  He said that many of us try to hoard our knowledge in order to stay ahead of everyone else.  I understood that completely because I used to use the same method.


I had a trip to Oregon coming up, and I realized that with this book, I could be spending time with my man Victor.  Do you want to know what it was like?

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Music: Food for the Soul?

Another article by Robert Frank confirms that the most desirable purchase these days is not a thing, but an experience (a memorable meal to be precise). What’s up with that?

For data, Frank provides that:

A new study by American Express of their U.K. Centurion card holders (read: titanium-toting super-rich) found that “self-fullillment and learning” is the second-most-important priority for high-end vacationers. Number one was “value for money.”

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Anya Kamenetz asks "Who's American Dream is it Anyway?"

Silly me. While I’ve been focusing on how the music industry seems hell-bent on its own self-destruction, Anya Kamenetz has been looking a far larger picture: the whole American way of life. And I think she has a point.

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small is possible: reconstructing local music

small is possible book coverI just read Lyle Estill’s manifesto small is possible, an account of how he and others in Pittsboro, North Carolina (population 2,500) discovered how to feed, fuel, heal, and govern itself as a community.

First off, the writing is simply first-rate. Lyle writes with humor, but also with a very keen eye to the forces and effects that operate on multiple levels. But unlike Alexis de Tocqueville or Michael Pollan or Malcolm Gladwell, he is not merely an observer, but a passionate actor as well. And because Lyle practices the teaching “be the change you want to see in the world,” he has learned to farm, write software, weld steel, wire buildings, extend credit, teach classes, pull permits, and make peace with hunters.

Not all these many careers have been successful: he tried and failed yoga. And he tells this story of how, at the peak of the Internet Boom, he had the opportunity to Make It Big and utterly failed to comprehend the potential, as he explains:

“When Scott came to me to explain the future, I yawned. We would sit around after hours with core employees and argue about the coming of the net.

One night, our sales manager, Skip, said “Travel. Let’s take travel. How do you buy your tickets right now?”

I thought of Lisa, the preacher’s wife turned travel agent, who matched up the itineraries of Tami and Lyle [who would later marry] like a marriage counselor scheduling appointments, and I answered Skip’s question honestly:

“The other night I came out of my bathroom and found my travel agent at the kitchen table cutting up a lime on the cutting board. She had let herself in, and had brought over a ox of Corona beer.

“I sat down, grabbed a beer, and she told me that tonight we were going to get clear on whether or not Tami and I were going to Belize or Jordan. Tami came home late from work, grabbed a beer and settled into the conversation.

“Are you telling me that one day I will replace that with a computer screen?”

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Power, Passion, and Beauty

Last month I had the opportunity to read Power, Passion, and Beauty, the story of the Mahavishu Orchestra, published by AbstractLogix. As many of you can imagine, I’m a huge fan of John McLaughlin, and as a fan, the book did not disappoint. Meticulously researched the book’s organizing structure of a timeline lets history tell the story without the author getting in the way. And what a history it was…

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Red Floor Records

Daniel Lanois is pursuing a new business model with Red Floor Records. I will be checking out the music of his first release, the soundtrack to the movie “Here is What Is”, but I have to confess, based on the description, I really want to see the movie (or the DVD)! From the site:

For those of you who might not know, the film is a camera following me around over the course of a year, in and out of recording studios documenting once and for all the way it really happens. We start in Toronto and end in Morocco.

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