Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Theatre Of Copyright Business

Dave Mustaine recently posted the following on Twitter;

It’s a big week for songwriters all over the country, on Tuesday, the Senate passed the Music Modernization Act, the most important piece of legislation in a generation, making sure songwriters are paid the fair market value when their songs are played.

Steven Tyler was one of the biggest lobbyist for this Act to pass.

Nikki Sixx posted the following on Facebook about another Copyright fight in Europe that looks like it’s going to get the green light;

Fantastic news. This started with artists who had the courage to use their voice’s and standing up to an industry that wasn’t willing to change.I am very proud of all those artists and happy to see the ball rolling in the right direction.Without compensation artists can’t afford to keep making the music.We are just getting started.

There is a lot of opposing opinions to Nikki’s post from EU citizens that highlighted issues with the new EU Copyright Reform especially Article 11 and 13.

The real rock stars these days are the fans.

The artists think they make a little coin and they’ve won some victory. They are clueless to the social impact these laws create in handing even more power over to the Corporation.

The enemy is the labels. Artists should take up arms against them, instead they are taking up arms against the consumption methods of their fans.

Remember the labels want the old world, in which they had control over the distribution and before Napster they tried real hard to get perpetual copyright. Then again Nikki Sixx owns his Masters and was involved in setting up a label. So his record deal is with himself. Isn’t he making enough coin?

Both of these Acts originated from the corporations instead of the artists. The labels always win and the public domain gets nothing again. The label executives fly private while 98% of artists fly economy.

No Government should be allowed to add new rights to works created decades ago. Those works got created under the laws at that time, which suited the artist just fine however they have been changed retroactively too many times and now those works are under copyright for close to 110 years.

Copyright law is about creating an incentive for new creativity and to enrich the public. It’s a trade off. Adding new rights to old recordings doesn’t create any incentive for new creativity.

If you want to read about the US Act, read these two articles;

EFF Article

Techdirt Article

For the EU law read the following articles;

EFF Article

Techdirt Article

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My Stories

More Berlin

My Saturday began with my wife waking me up at 5.30am.

“Pete, we have a problem”, she said.

“What is it?”, I replied back.

“I just got an email and they’ve changed our cruise departure point from Berlin to Copenhagen.”

“Okay I’ll deal with it later”, I said without really comprehending the situation.

In my head, I’m thinking, what the fuck. The cruise company didn’t just change it, they moved it to another fucking country.

Five seconds later I was fully awake, so I asked to see the email. And it’s true. Due to adverse weather conditions forecast for Berlin, which is actually a port called Warnemunde, three hours away from Berlin, NCL, the owners of Norwegian Breakaway moved the departure, with a goodwill gesture to reimburse us up to $300US for any extra costs.

So at 5.35am, I’m booking flights to Denmark and spending an additional 476 Euro for 5 tickets.

I haven’t had a trip to Europe without a hiccup.

Today was our public transport day in Berlin. We did the old West Berlin City Shopping Hub and caught a Bundesliga game between Hertha Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach with 51,800 other people. Hertha won 4-2.

The atmosphere was electric.

One thing that Europe does well is their public transport system. It’s so easy to use and everything is located close to the train stations. Australia is a mess when it comes to public transport.

However, one thing that I find ridiculous in Germany is the need to pay to use a public toilet. In Australia, we don’t have this problem.

Sunday was our walking day. Actually on Friday, we did 13.9km of walking, on Saturday we did 11.4km of walking and today (Sunday) we did 13.3km of walking. As I type this, my legs are aching and my calves are super tight. I’m getting too old for these kind of trips.

Today we did Alexanderplatz, Nikolaikirchplatz and the Wall Memorial. At Alexanderplatz, they are gearing up for Oktoberfest. One thing I like about Germany and Europe in general is that beer is available everywhere. Australia is not like that. But we have toilets everywhere and for free.

And on Sundays a lot of things are closed. They don’t tell ya that in the guides. Maybe I’m used to Australia and everything being opened 7 days a week.

I wanted to do a lot more in Berlin and explore more of the older settlements a bit further away from the city however time is short and tomorrow we depart to catch our cruise in Copenhagen.

Let’s see if the cruise ship is there waiting.

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My Stories

Berlin

Should countries put their history behind paywalls?

I saw it a lot in Barcelona in 2016. Every tourist attraction was available at stupid highly inflated prices. I’m seeing it in Berlin. Australia is no different.

I viewed a Berlin Wall panorama for 27 Euro for the whole family. To take a picture at Checkpoint Charlie, it cost us 6 Euros.

Brandenburg Gate was free. It’s massive but under repairs with a massive scaffold behind it. It’s a common European problem, where all the old stuff needs to be repaired and fixed. Another European problem is trying to find a toilet close to popular sites for my six year old to shit. These little detours take you way of course.

I also promised my six year old, we will view the LEGO Exhibition. We finally got to Postdamer Platz Sony Centre, walk up to pay our entry fee, thinking it will be no more than 20 Euro for a family and are left with open mouths, when the person on the other side of the counter tells us it’s 19.50 Euro for one person.

“One person” I exclaimed as she nodded.
“So that means a hundred Euros for five of us.”
She nodded again.
“That’s ridiculous”, I said and walked out. My little guy didn’t even care in the end.

We walked for a few more minutes down to a Espionage Exhibition, payed 35 Euro for the family and had a blast checking out all of the different spying techniques used through out the last 120 years. And Berlin being divided into East and Wast was a haven for the spies.

I saw a three story record store and I took the boys in so they could see what it was like when I was growing up to obtain music. They hated it.

They hated flicking through the records and finding out, that the record I asked them to look for is not there.

“What was the point?”

Because they’ve grown up in an on-demand society. Everything they want is available at their fingertips.

The thing that got me was the price to buy music. 29.99 Euros for one vinyl record is ridiculous, especially when you have Spotify available in Germany for 9.99 Euro and it has every artist you would need.

When we got back to the hotel, demonstrator’s had taken over the street. Police cars and escorts were everywhere. The cars are stopped and the trams are stopped while the protest moves past. They have loudspeakers and disco beats.

I asked one guy what is the protest about as I don’t understand German. The guy responds it’s a demonstration. And I’m thinking no shit, buddy.

So I change my question and ask, what are they demonstrating about?

He turns, looks at me and says “women rights”. Thanks for being so talkative.

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Music, My Stories

Flying

You need to have a lot of patience to travel with kids under the age of eighteen months on a fifteen hour plane journey.

On my Sydney to Doha flight we had a lot of them.

My kids are now thirteen, twelve and six. I travelled with them on a few local flights in Australia when they where under eighteen months, and it was messy with the crying and whingeing for the local trips, so overseas was a big NO. Our first long flight was in 2010 and the kids had a ball with the in-flight entertainment.

And as much as Dads are meant to do their share, it was the Mums standing in the corner of the plane, rocking the child and trying to calm him/her.

The more older crowd didn’t like it, and just kept breathing heavy. Me, I didn’t mind it. I put the headphones on and kicked back. Well, kicking back is not really true. I felt like I was sitting on a piece of wood and after one hour my bum cheeks started aching.

And when I can’t rest my elbows on the elbow rests because of the other passenger, I’m very uncomfortable. Guess I need to save some more and move up a seating class.

Anyway I caught up on the movies I said I would watch in the last twelve months but didn’t get around to watching like “War for The Planet Of The Apes”, “The Quiet Place” and “I, Tonya”.

On the second plane trip from Doha to Berlin, I watched “American Animals” and “Hotel Artemis”.

If you haven’t seen em, I recommend em all.

Also on the plane trip to Berlin, I checked the audio section of the planes entertainment. I was surprised at a few like Europe “Walk The Earth”, Judas Priest “Firepower” and “Turbo Lover”.

Then it had some albums I expected from artists like Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Oasis and Jeff Buckley.

Anyway I called up “Sonic Highways” from the Foos first and went straight to “I Am A River”. It was the first song that connected with me from the album.

I was pissed off because the headphone jack was playing up as it switched between one ear piece and then both. I played around with it, until I got it working and then clicked repeat.

The feel of the song towards the last 4 minutes is major key feel good happiness and you feel like you can accomplish anything. The same way rivers flow and bring life and sustenance to areas, I feel like I flow into each day with hope and optimism.

I couldn’t pass on “Turbo Lover”. I just dig the way it builds with bass, synths and drums, then vocals and the guitars. Even the guitars build in the song.

Then I was walking the earth with Europe. Pretty ironic since I’m landing in Berlin and Stockholm is in my itinerary a week later.

It’s daunting to some to check out an album, so I’ll set you on the path. Check out “Walk The Earth”, “The Siege”, GTO”, “Whenever You’re Ready” and “Turn To Dust”. If those songs don’t connect, then the others won’t either.

King King with the kilt wearing Les Paul playing vocalist/guitarist was next and their album “Exile And Grace”. The song I went to straight away to was “Find Your Way Home”. It’s one of those bluesy ballads that has killer playing and emotive vocals.

And like Europe, if you want to know what tracks to check out first, “Broken”, “Find Your Way Home”, “Tear It All Up” and “Betrayed Me”.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Look What The Copyright Dragged In

It’s sad reading the stories below, because it shows how far removed Copyright Law is from what it was intended to be.

There are copyright battles happening everywhere. Most of the news is on how the record labels and movie studios are calling on governments to pass stronger dictatorship style copyright laws which would give these organisations police like powers.

Because if being creative on the accounting side for the labels isn’t enough, they also need to have police gestapo like powers. And remember that Copyright was originally designed to help the creator of the art. However, it’s assisting the corporations to make billions of dollars while the creators make a lot less.

Remember the movie, “This Is Spinal Tap”. Well, the movie has made over $400 million in profits, however the co- creators have received $81 from merchandise sales and $98 from record sales.

If you think those amounts are pretty low, well the co-creators thought so as well, and off they went to court, for fraudulent accounting and to get the copyright back in the hands of the creators. And lucky for them they got a judge that saw their side, so the case is going to get interesting. Other cases, got judges that had backgrounds in the copyright industry, so guess how those cases turned out. A victory for the copyright corporation.

The “Spinal Tap” case is a perfect example of a large corporation using copyright to benefit the corporation instead of the creators. Unfortunately for UMG/Vivendi, the co-creators in this case, also found fame with “The Simpsons” and they have a voice in the market as powerful as the corporation.

In other copyright news, the creators of TV show “Empire” got sued by another person who claimed that “Empire” is based on his script called “Cream” which he pitched to the show runners 8 years ago. Both shows centred on a black record label executive.

Yep, that was the similarity between the two scripts and the judge basically said, an African-American, male record executive is un-protectable.

Is the creator of the “Cream” script to blame here?

No.

The blame rests solely with the movie studios and the record labels who lobbied hard to get copyright extended to these current terms (life of the creator plus 70 years). Instead of assisting the public domain and giving people an incentive to create, these organisations are intent on destroying the public domain and giving people an incentive to sue, because hey, someone stole their idea. Well think of another idea. Or take that original idea and make it better.

And speaking of long copyright terms, remember all those cases involving streaming company payments over pre-1972 recordings, because those high commercial recordings fall under various state laws in the US. Well, organisations were trying to get remastered editions of those recordings passed as new derivative originals so they could come under the current copyright laws that would only benefit the copyright holder, which as we know is usually the organisation and very rarely the creator.

Meanwhile, Disney made a doco about Michael Jackson and they used some of his music in it without asking the Jackson Estate.

The Estate didn’t like that and thought Disney should have asked for copyright permission, in the same way Disney asks other documentary makers to seek copyright permissions from Disney when they make documentaries on Disney. So Disney cited the principle of fair use, a small section in Copyright law, Disney and other large organisations tried to kill off as their actual defence.

Funny how a large corporation which tried to kill off fair use in various copyright revisions are now using it as their defence.

And the copyright dispute is still going on, but it never should have even been an issue. Both organisations are holding on to intellectual property that should be in the public domain because the creator of the said works is dead.

If the creator dies, then there are no more works from that creator, so their previous works fall out of Copyright and become part of the public domain. It’s exactly how the 60s music explosion happened.

And what about YouTube’s Content ID system taking down works that are copyright free.

Isn’t it funny (a lot of sarcasm here) as to how an algorithm created by YouTube to protect the interests of the copyright holders (mainly the large organisations) is now over protecting them, to the detriment of the public domain.

Read the Torrentfreak article to find out how much time is being wasted to “protect the interests of large corporations”. A Professor uploads copyright free music and YouTube is taking them down. Time wasted. The Professor then counter claims and YouTube then restores. Time wasted again to be back at the start again. And the way the algorithm works, it will pick up these videos again in due time.

Seriously, this is the world that Copyright controlled by Corporations has created and for YouTube to exist they needed to create something for the Corporations. And if users uploading copyright free music isn’t a problem, then allowing websites to stream rip videos from YouTube is a problem to the large copyright organisations.

I think people are forgetting that the “users” of the service are responsible for how they use the service. And if the record labels can’t get the message that the users are sending them, then they will continue to miss business opportunities to monetise these users. These users go to so much effort to find videos and use another third party software to stream rip that video. That is a lot of effort there by a user to own music in a digital form.

And YouTube is still in the firing line for not paying the copyright holders fairly. They seem to make billions in ad-revenue and pay thousands to artists.

The article states:

Artists claim that a song needs to be streamed 51.1 million times before they can make the average UK annual salary of £27,600. Revenue is based on the number of streams a video has received and funded through advertising.

It is claimed that YouTube pays creators 0.00054p per stream of music, meaning a track that is streamed one million times would earn about £540. Artists say that 85% of YouTube’s visitors come to the site for music, contributing £2.33 billion to the website’s revenue in 2017.

It’s a new world we live in. People want to get paid right away, even if they have a hundred thousand views. But be careful what you wish for.

Organisations like YouTube have given artists access to a world-wide market instantly. If you compare now to the past,  for an artist in the record label controlled era up to when Napster hit our internet lines, artists needed a record label and a lot of money behind them to have access to a world-wide market.

And this is the model the record labels want back. The gatekeeper control model. And misguided artists are pushing for it. Scary if you ask me.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Plagiarists or innovators? The Led Zeppelin paradox endures

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here:

(THE CONVERSATION) Fifty years ago – in September 1968 – the legendary rock band Led Zeppelin first performed together, kicking off a Scandinavian tour billed as the New Yardbirds.

The new, better name would come later that fall, while drummer John Bonham’s death in 1980 effectively ended their decade-defining reign. But to this day, the band retains the same iconic status it held back in the 1970s: It ranks as one of the best-selling music acts of all time and continues to shape the sounds of new and emerging groups young enough to be the band members’ grandchildren.

Yet, even after all this time – when every note, riff and growl of Zeppelin’s nine-album catalog has been pored over by fans, cover artists and musicologists – a dark paradox still lurks at the heart of its mystique. How can a band so slavishly derivative – and sometimes downright plagiaristic – be simultaneously considered so innovative and influential?

How, in other words, did it get to have its custard pie and eat it, too?

As a scholar who researches the subtle complexities of musical style and originality as well as the legal mechanisms that police and enforce them, such as copyright law, I find this a particularly devilish conundrum. The fact that I’m also a bassist in a band that fuses multiple styles of music makes it personal.

A pattern of ‘borrowing’

For anyone who quests after the holy grail of creative success, Led Zeppelin has achieved something mythical in stature: a place in the musical firmament, on its own terms, outside of the rules and without compromise.

When Led Zeppelin debuted its eponymous first album in 1969, there’s no question that it sounded new and exciting. My father, a baby boomer and dedicated Beatles fan, remembers his chagrin that year when his middle school math students threw over the Fab Four for Zeppelin, seemingly overnight. Even the stodgy New York Times, which decried the band’s “plastic sexual superficiality,” felt compelled, in the same article, to acknowledge its “enormously successful … electronically intense blending” of musical styles.

Yet, from the very beginning, the band was also dogged with accusations of musical pilfering, plagiarism and copyright infringement – often justifiably.

The band’s first album, “Led Zeppelin,” contained several songs that drew from earlier compositions, arrangements and recordings, sometimes with attribution and often without. It included two Willie Dixon songs, and the band credited both to the influential Chicago blues composer. But it didn’t credit Anne Bredon when it covered her song “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.”

The hit “Dazed and Confused,” also from that first album, was originally attributed to Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. However in 2010, songwriter Jake Holmes filed a lawsuit claiming that he’d written and recorded it in 1967. After the lawsuit was settled out of court, the song is now credited in the liner notes of re-releases as “inspired by” Holmes.

The band’s second album, “Led Zeppelin II,” picked up where the first left off. Following a series of lawsuits, the band agreed to list Dixon as a previously uncredited author on two of the tracks, including its first hit single, “Whole Lotta Love.” An additional lawsuit established that blues legend Chester “Howlin’ Wolf” Burnett was a previously uncredited author on another track called “The Lemon Song.”

Musical copyright infringement is notoriously challenging to establish in court, hence the settlements. But there’s no question the band engaged in what musicologists typically call “borrowing.” Any blues fan, for instance, would have recognized the lyrics of Dixon’s “You Need Love” – as recorded by Muddy Waters – on a first listen of “Whole Lotta Love.”

Dipping into the commons or appropriation?

Should the band be condemned for taking other people’s songs and fusing them into its own style?

Or should this actually be a point of celebration?

The answer is a matter of perspective. In Zeppelin’s defense, the band is hardly alone in the practice. The 1960s folk music revival movement, which was central to the careers of Baez, Holmes, Bredon, Dixon and Burnett, was rooted in an ethic that typically treated musical material as a “commons” – a wellspring of shared culture from which all may draw, and to which all may contribute.

Most performers in the era routinely covered “authorless” traditional and blues songs, and the movement’s shining star, Bob Dylan, used lyrical and musical pastiche as a badge of pride and display of erudition – “Look how many old songs I can cram into this new song!” – rather than as a guilty, secret crutch to hold up his own compositions.

Why shouldn’t Zeppelin be able to do the same?

On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the racial dynamics inherent in Led Zeppelin’s borrowing. Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf were African-Americans, members of a subjugated minority who were – especially back then – excluded from reaping their fair share of the enormous profits they generated for music labels, publishers and other artists.

Like their English countrymen Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones, Zeppelin’s attitude toward black culture seems eerily reminiscent of Lord Elgin’s approach to the marble statues of the Parthenon and Queen Victoria’s policy on the Koh-i-Noor diamond: Take what you can and don’t ask permission; if you get caught, apologize without ceding ownership.

Led Zeppelin was also accused of lifting from white artists such as Bredon and the band Spirit, the aggrieved party in a recent lawsuit over the rights to Zeppelin’s signature song “Stairway to Heaven.” Even in these cases, the power dynamics were iffy.

Bredon and Spirit are lesser-known composers with lower profiles and shallower pockets. Neither has benefited from the glow of Zeppelin’s glory, which has only grown over the decades despite the accusations and lawsuits leveled against them.

A matter of motives

So how did the band pull it off, when so many of its contemporaries have been forgotten or diminished?

How did it find and keep the holy grail?

What makes Led Zeppelin so special?

I could speculate about its cultural status as an avatar of trans-Atlantic, post-hippie self-indulgence and “me generation” rebellion. I could wax poetic about its musical fusion of pre-Baroque and non-Western harmonies with blues rhythms and Celtic timbres. I could even accuse it, as many have over the years, of cutting a deal with the devil.

Instead, I’ll simply relate a personal anecdote from almost 20 years ago. I actually met frontman Robert Plant. I was waiting in line at a lower Manhattan bodega around 2 a.m. and suddenly realized Plant was waiting in front of me. A classic Chuck Berry song was playing on the overhead speakers. Plant turned to look at me and mused, “I wonder what he’s up to now?” We chatted about Berry for a few moments, then paid and went our separate ways.

Brief and banal though it was, I think this little interlude – more than the reams of music scholarship and journalism I’ve read and written – might hold the key to solving the paradox.

Maybe Led Zeppelin is worthy because, like Sir Galahad, the knight who finally gets the holy grail, its members’ hearts were pure.

During our brief exchange, it was clear Plant didn’t want to be adulated – he didn’t need his ego stroked by a fawning fan. Furthermore, he and his bandmates were never even in it for the money. In fact, for decades, Zeppelin refused to license its songs for television commercials. In Plant’s own words, “I only wanted to have some fun.”

Maybe the band retained its fame because it lived, loved and embodied rock and roll so absolutely and totally – to the degree that Plant would start a conversation with a total stranger in the middle of the night just to chat about one of his heroes.

This love, this purity of focus, comes out in its music, and for this, we can forgive Led Zeppelin’s many trespasses.

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Derivative Works, Influenced, My Stories, Stupidity

Solo

Full disclosure, I’m a Star Wars fan and I devoured the Expanded Universe content that Disney threw away when they purchased Star Wars.

So, I finally got around to watching “Solo: A Star Wars Story”. I heard the stories of the troubled shoot, the director change and further reshoots.

Eventually the movie is completed and Disney tells every news media it’s expecting a loss on it before it even comes out. Not a good start.

Anyway the movie comes out, in a post “Last Jedi” world, and its basically a heist movie with double crosses, criminal gangs and action scenes. A “Fast And Furious” styled flick set in a galaxy far far away. The concept is good.

But I’m asking myself what is the point of the movie?

I have a similar feeling about the Boba Fett movie in the works.

What is the point of the movie?

If anything the Expanded Universe books which existed before Disney purchased Star Wars told the story better. But those books are not canon.

At least in the Marvel world when the Origin stories come out of certain characters, it feeds the larger Avengers story arc.

We already knew Han did the Kessel Run in record time, did we need to see someone’s version of it?

Actually Lucas and the original trilogy script writers did such a good job explaining the back story of Han that a movie showing his back story wasn’t required.

“Solo” has Lawrence Kasdan and his son, Jonathan Kasdan writing. Lawrence wrote “Empire Strikes Back”, “Return Of The Jedi”, “Indiana Jones” movies and a lot more. Lawrence wrote the first “Solo” draft and then handed it over to his son, when he was given “The Force Awakens” draft to write (which also involved re-writes).

It looks like the original Directors couldn’t bring it too life and Ron Howard tried his best to bring an uninspiring script back to life.

The problem these days is movies have a lot of action scenes and hardly any good dialogue scenes. Meanwhile TV shows are winning the story script war hands down.

And do movies need to cost $300 million plus to make. In my view the higher the cost of the movie, the less story it has. And people are attached to a story.

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