Three years ago I caught a glimpse of a new social network built around music. You could follow people, chat with them, and enjoy the same music stream in real time.
There were many other clever things about it, such as a very slick integration of music news. But the killer feature, one that made it unique, was that you could also drop songs you liked into a little box, and keep permanently. This was genuine P2P file sharing. There were no strings attached – no DRM, no expiry, no locker (your stash was your hard drive) and no additional fees for this feature.
And it was all legal.
Continue reading “Web requires Brunel-scale thinking”
Wars over creators’ rights are pretty old – much older than copyright law. In one of the first “copyfights”, in 561AD, about 3,000 people died, writes Robert Levine in his new book Free Ride. St Colmcille and St Finnian clashed over the right to make copies of the Bible, with the King castigating Colmcille for his “fancy new ideas about people’s property”.
Levine’s book is a story of the digital copyright wars.
“I tried to write in an analytical way about something people get very emotional about. I don’t really believe the entertainment industry is good and the technology industry is bad; I just don’t see it as a morality issue. Businesses are in business to make money,” Levine says.
The book details the calamitous decisions made by the music business, particularly in its suing of end users for infringement. “In a few years,” he writes, “the major labels managed to destroy the cultural cachet they had spent decades building.”
The book also follows in detail Google’s “war on copyright” and the academics and activists who benefit from it. It comprehensively demolishes the arguments put by Lawrence Lessig, who helped create the cyberlaw industry. This is a book with masses of solid, meticulously researched detail.
I caught up with Levine in Berlin.
Continue reading “Free Ride: Disney, Fela Kuti and Google’s war on copyright”
“The EFF doesn’t have a plan, they barely have a theory,”
Jim Griffin’s bold plan to take P2P file sharing out of the black economy, and into the one that deals with green folding stuff, flopped because it couldn’t explain to songwriters how they’d get paid.
Continue reading “Legal P2P fails (again)”
“The technology was sort of there. That software was there, and it was good – I wouldn’t do it that differently now. The basic model was just as appropriate then as it is now.”
– Chris Castle.
Read more at The Register
Lucas is a self-styled libertarian, so he must realise the inherent contradiction of the state acting in this way.
The Lords this week discussed new compensation for copyright holders this week – including a voluntary ‘Hail Mary fine’ payable by file sharers, instead of suspension – but nobody noticed.
It was late on Wednesday night, and the Lords were six hours into their fourth session this month discussing the Digital Economy bill. Lord Lucas moved Amendment 156, giving an infringer a choice:
[It] requires the payment of an additional fee by the subscriber for the maintenance of unrestricted internet access, which is to be remitted to a licensing body established under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Lucas said he anticipated a more progressive licensing regime, similar to the performance right on compositions, which is non-exclusive:
"No one stops a person performing, but if they do perform, they have to pay a fee… Given the fact that someone is having a technical obligation imposed on them, it seems that they might choose to pay a fee to such an agency, which would go to relevant copyright holders. Terminating, suspending or limiting someone’s internet access just does someone harm."
Read more at The Register…
Opening Comments for the In The City P2P Panel, Manchester, on Sunday 18 October:
Although Rik [Falkvinge]’s in front of us in flesh and blood, he wouldn’t exist – the Pirate Party wouldn’t exist – without enforcement policies being the primary goal of the music business. The programme bills this as “two sides of a debate”, but as a journalist I get incredibly suspicious when I hear there are just two sides, because usually there are two, three or four more we don’t hear about. Let’s put this into context.
The Pirate Party exists because of a political vacuum. Politicians don’t do politics anymore. Compare them to Lenin and Thatcher, for example, who had ambitious programmes of what society should look like, that cut across social, economic and personal ideas of their time. If you look at what a politician does now, it’s focus groups.
So into this political vacuum you’ll have lots of fringe, single issue groups. The Pirate Party is the first and most successful.
Now Rik specifically evoked some Enlightenment values in his presentation – [individual rights against the church and state]. But I see this as a very conservative and reactionary movement in two quite specific ways. First it’s a techno-utopian movement that’s all about replacing politics. It presents itself as a political party, but it isn’t in politics at all. Politics is about people sitting down and working something out, a consensus.
It’s also reactionary in another way.
Continue reading “On the occasion of the Pirate Party's first UK address”
“So The Pirate Bay has executed the Web 2.0 business plan to perfection: give someone else’s stuff away for free – then find a bigger idiot to buy the company.”
It’s actually not so different from the potted history of every media company that rises to popularity on the back of a new medium – take radio, for example – then sells out at the top of the market. Only in the case of Web 2.0, companies go from “pre-revenue” to “post-revenue” without any revenue in between. That’s where you need a bigger idiot.
It’s cute to read arguments today that depend so much on historical inevitability – or else rely on natural, or physical “laws” – laws which turn out to be dodgy metaphors that only exist in the author’s head. When we look at history, we learn something quite different, which is that all media companies reach a settlement with creators, eventually. The two are mutually symbiotic: copyright is a social agreement created in response to technological innovation, and technology needs copyright material, or else it’s bunch of empty pipes, or at best a low-value telephone network.
Occasionally, history throws up odd wrinkles, such as the absence of a performance rights deal on sound recordings on US radio, but these are very rare exceptions. In the absence of a viable business, the hope of New Media startups has been to find a wrinkle they can drive a bus (or a business) through. The original Napster hoped to change the law, and when that failed, it tried to reach a settlement with the record industry.
…Read more at The Register
Ek said the buying habits of 80 per cent of Spotify users were unchanged, 10 per cent were buying more music, and 20 per cent were buying fewer sound recordings. No, this doesn’t add up to 100
…Read more at The Register
Tens of thousands of students have signed up to pay for a legal P2P music program in US universities, set to start later this year in experimental form. It’s Choruss, the incubator hatched by Jim Griffin – a long-time advocate of licensing P2P sharing on networks.
Choruss won’t ultimately be in the retail or service business, Griffin told us in Washington DC today – but it may provide an “umbrella” for managed service companies such as Playlouder MSP, the technology partner for the suspended Virgin Unlimited music service. “We’re not in the business of distribution,” he said. Griffin was also on a panel at the biennial World Copyright Summit, organised by CISAC, the global organisation for collective rights management societies.
Griffin says this year’s phase of Choruss is designed to experiment with pricing. Different colleges will get different pricing schemes.
“The plan is to use next school year to run tests and experiments,” he said. Only after the scheme has been running will an assessment be possible – but Griffin told Summit delegates that, “We’ve had students tell us it’s worth $20 a month – to share what they want to share.”
The fact that such large numbers have volunteered to pay for a P2P service defies the conventional music industry wisdom that the only way to compete with the pirates is with free offerings. It also shows how much Choruss has evolved since it first broke the surface last April, when talk was of opting students in automatically, in return for a “coventant not to sue”.
Continue reading “'Thousands' sign up for legal P2P”
A study of P2P music exchanges to be revealed this week suggests that the ailing music business is shunning a lucrative lifeline by refusing to license the activity for money.
Entitled “The Long Tail of P2P”, the study by Will Page of performing rights society PRS For Music and Eric Garland of P2P research outfit Big Champagne will be aired at The Great Escape music convention tomorrow. It’s a follow-up to Page’s study last year which helped debunk the myth of the “Long Tail”. Page examined song purchases at a large online digital retail store, which showed that out of an inventory of 13 million songs, 10 million had never been downloaded, even once. It suggested that the idea proposed by WiReD magazine editor Chris Anderson, who in 2004 urged that the future of business was digital retailers carrying larger inventories of slow-selling items was a Utopian fantasy.
The P2P networks are harder to quantify, but apparently show a similar pattern, where most of the action – and profit – is in the ‘head’. Each Top 100 CD on on PirateBay averaged 58,000 downloads a week, for example. Lady GaGa’s The Fame was downloaded 388,000 times in a week from PirateBay alone. Like its predecessor, the new study also finds that downloads follow a log-normal, rather a Pareto (or “power curve”) distribution as Anderson envisaged. The WiReD man had guessed the shape of the internet – and picked the wrong shape.
Read more at The Register.