Copyright, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Copyright, It’s Been A While

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post on the insanity which Copyright has become.

Over at YouTube, the copyright holders like Warner Music Group (WMG) are sending takedown notices for a super popular video called “The Fans Deserve Better” which has been allowed to operate since July 2014. In this takedown, WMG even blocked it, so nobody could watch it.

All the video shows is an 11 second clip of Iron Maiden’s “The Number Of The Beast” to demonstrate what a great vocalist is and then 11 seconds of an Asking Alexandria song to demonstrate how bad a vocalist can be.

In my own backyard of Australia, the music labels and movie studios pumped up the political parties with lots of cash to get legislation passed and site blocking is a real thing in the land of Oz.

This time around, the music labels Sony, Universal, and Warner, with assistance from Music Rights Australia and the Australasian Performing Right Association, are asking Australia’s Federal Court to approve their demand for the ISP’s to block stream-ripping sites.

So the ISP’s need to be the Copyright Police for the labels, because they haven’t been able to figure out the stream ripping market, and why people stream rip and what relationship to music these stream rippers have.

Do they attend concerts? Do they buy any recorded music? Do they just want to have content? What do they do with the content?

I know people who have terabytes of books, movies and music on hard drives which they’ve never listened too, watched nor read and they will never have the time to devote to all of that culture. But they want to say they have it. And it makes them feel good. There are articles stating the same about people who hoard digitally.

Is site blocking really needed as the labels and studios profit and loss statements are looking pretty healthy.

Did you know that recorded revenue earned by the labels keeps going up and up and up?

Four years straight.

And of course streaming revenue was the star of the show, which offset the decline in physical and download revenues.

Along the way to these increases in revenue, something magical happened.

The record labels for a long time complained about Latin And South America being a haven of piracy activity. In previous blog posts I’ve mentioned how metal and rock bands continually tour these areas to massive crowds and the bands haven’t sold any recorded product in these areas. Basically the people were starved of legal offerings and resorted to bootleg recordings and then piracy.

Finally Spotify is allowed to open their servers for the people of these countries to stream and these areas along with Australia (which the labels class as another haven for piracy and needs more court blocks) have been the fastest growing markets.

The labels didn’t create this new income stream, the techies did, but hey, the techies are the bad guys here. And isn’t it funny when people are given the choice to stream at a super low price, the majority would pay for that. So instead of focusing on 90% of the music fans who do the right thing, the labels and their lobby groups believe the 10% who obtain music illegally is worth spending money on and to increase the price the other 90% pay for legal options.

Mmmm.

Speaking of the techies as the bad guys, you might have noticed headlines like “Spotify Sues Songwriters To Pay Less Royalties”. It’s all B.S. but with the way the internet spreads news and with people looking for someone to blame at their own failings in connecting with their fan base, these headlines spread like crazy.

What is happening is that Spotify and Amazon have taken issue with the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (which should never ever exist), raising the royalty rate amount that Spotify needs to pay to the Copyright Holders. So instead of paying 10% of their revenue, they need to pay 15% of their revenue.

Spotify is not suing songwriters at all. What they and other streaming services are proposing is a different payment model.

And then you have Apple, which went from an innovative leader to meh, coming out in support of these increases, because hey, since streaming is a small portion of their bottom line, it can only help them out if their competitors close shop. 

And the solution to make users pay more, will get some people paying more, and the rest will return to torrents and stream ripping.

But, what everyone seems to forget is that the money in music is due to the relationship a customer has with the music and the artist. They determine the price they are willing to pay.

Here are a few articles on the Spotify vs The Royalty Board to form your own viewpoints on.

Rolling Stone article which summarises the facts without any bias.

Music Business Worldwide article that has Sony and Warner Music reps urging composes to fight Spotify’s royalty rate challenge.

A Vulture article which explains the facts even better than the Rolling Stone article.

Here is the rock and metal worlds response via Loudwire.

And let’s not forget the reapers hand hovering over “Blurred Lines”, the song written by Robin Thicke and Pharrel Williams, which had no infringing riffs or licks, but a funk feel similar to Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up”.

In this case, a homage to funk led to $5 million being paid to the heirs of Marvin Gaye plus 50% of all future earnings. And the worrisome part is, these kind of cases put the idea out there that Marvin Gaye was so original and free from influence and that his songs did not pay homage to any artist or style.

From a rock perspective it’s the same as Led Zep suing Greta Van Fleet over a song of theirs for having a rock feel similar to a Led Zep song.

Ed Sheeran is also going to court to defend “Thinking Out Loud,” from the heirs of Ed Townsend who co-wrote, Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”

A few years before that, Ed Sheeran’s song “Photograph” had a few extra writers added to it (out of court) as well. In this case, the writers of a song called “Amazing” believed their song is so original and free from influence that other artists couldn’t resist copying it (that’s sarcasm by the way). The fact that Sheeran’s song went huge and their amazing song didn’t, meant a writ needed to be served. 

In relation to “Thinking Out Loud”, it looks like another out of court settlement is on the cards and an extra songwriter who is dead, will be added to the credits of an Ed Sheeran song. Yep, Copyright was meant to expire when a person died, but not in this lifetime. They still get songwriting credits.

And these out of court settlements keep coming.

The most ridiculous one out of them all was where a person called Alisa Apps, took Universal Music Group and artist John Newman to court, because Newman’s song had the lyrics “I need to know now” in it, which is the same lyric line as her song.

Are you serious on this one?

Lucky the Justice system actually came to the party on this one and said you can’t copyright generic words or short phrases.

And finally, here is copyright as a shakedown tool, as collection agencies sue bars, nightclubs, restaurants and any place playing music over licensing fees.

In this case, the place in question is meant to owe BMI (a collection agency for 900K plus artists) $6,850. BMI alleges the organisation played music without a proper public license in place. I’m just curious for which songwriter is BMI collecting these monies for. Because when a collection agency sends employees to visit establishments and log the music they hear being played, it sure sounds like a shakedown than a warning or to educate business owners.

P.S. COPYRIGHT AS AN ENFORCEMENT TOOL

One last special Copyright case is how the RIAA, and the labels are suing an ISP for the fast speeds it offers because those high speeds foster piracy and it wouldn’t kick off the people responsible because it might damage their brand. I kid you not. I’m waiting for the day, when the makers of knives are sued because the sharpness of their knives foster greater damage to human organs when someone plunges it through skin in a fit of rage.

P.S.S. – COPYRIGHT AS AN ENFORCEMENT TOOL

People who create a tool that connects to the TV and internet and allows people to watch content they didn’t pay for are jailed for a total of 17 years. I’m waiting for the day when gun makers (a tool created by people) get jailed for 17 plus years, when their tools are used to take the life of people who didn’t want to die.

P.S.S.S – COPYRIGHT AS A MONOPOLY

And one of the outcomes of the Music Modernization Act was that a new music collective would be created for streaming royalties and suddenly we have groups fighting over who should be in it and lots of money going into different people’s hands to approve.

I thinks that’s all I have patience for. Till next time.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Kill The Golden Goose

Back in 2011, there was an article I came across about how the movie studios tried to kill off Netflix.

If you look at the past, you will see the movie studios and record labels attempting to kill off anything that seems to threaten their 90 year old business model.

Any time a new technology or distribution method is successful, the movie studios and labels at first get greedy and either try to demand higher fees or more control of the new technology or the movie studios and labels try to kill the offering because of the monopolistic power they have in the market (plus a lot of politicians as well).

You just need to go back to the recording industry and when the labels negotiated a stake in Spotify. Of course, while the labels took ages to negotiate, YouTube as a by-product became the number one streaming service across the world and they pay even less than Spotify.

But the labels didn’t care about the payment per song, because they made serious coin on the licensing.

For example, if YouTube, Spotify, Apple or any other streaming service want to have music on their site, they need to pay the copyright holders (in this case the labels, because the majority of artists sell their rights to the labels in a crossroads deal with the devil) a large yearly fee for a certain period and then after that period is over, they re-negotiate again for another period.

Anyway, back in 2011, the movie studios had decided that Netflix had become too successful and it was time to put this streaming company back in its proper place as a rental company.

Remember when Netflix started losing popular content. Yep that was the movie studios playing their game by limiting what movies and TV shows they gave to Netflix as part of their licensing agreement.

As we know today, Netflix has countered this by producing more TV shows and movies than their counterparts anyway, in different languages and in any way the director would like it to be. A Netflix movie “Roma” won an Academy Award recently, and the director thanked Netflix for allowing him to make a movie, shot in black and white and spoken in Spanish. But old legacy directors like Spielberg want to ban Netflix from even appearing in Oscar nominations.

The problem that these studios made, and also the record labels, is that they believed the value was in the content. For some users of the service, those 10% of super fans that is the case, however,what does the other 80% care about. They care about the convenience. Netflix put up TV shows that no one had heard of and made that TV show part of the conversation. Spotify has the history (almost) of music at peoples fingertips and artists that no one has heard of are becoming popular.

Netflix is even more powerful than they’ve ever been, and their business model of bundling has changed the game. Disney merged with Fox to offer a streaming service to compete with Netflix. Warner Brothers merged with AT&T to offer a streaming service to compete with Netflix. Meanwhile, Netflix is trying to figure out ways to compete with Fortnite.

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

Change Happens

Change happens. It isn’t easy but the earliest you understand it and accept it, the quicker you’ll be able to move on and make a living in the post-change world. 

There is still too much focus from artists on things they cant control, instead of focusing on things they can control, like creating art, connecting with people, using data from streaming listens to organise tours and merchandise deals in those areas that have super fans.

Super fans according to Spotify are people who have streamed the music of the artist for 45 days in a row. Spotify then targets these fans with updates and pre-sales and turns this data over to the artist for free.

If you have noticed, when you go to your favourite artists account and you see the number of listeners on their account, well, a percentage of those listeners fall into the super fan bucket.

But it takes work to do all these extra things, and there are people feeding your ear with how unfair it is that Spotify is taking the Copyright Royalty Board to court because the Board increased the royalty base fee that these services need to pay.

In my view, the board should not have this power at all, because it is not the fault of the streaming service for the low payouts to the artists.

The record label and the artist did sign an agreement once upon a time which explains in great detail how these payments will be divided, once the monies the label spent on the artists have been recouped.

In the process, the songwriters also signed deals with labels and publishers once upon a time, and in most cases, they also pocketed millions in advance payments in lieu of future earnings, and now suddenly, the fault lays with the streaming services.

Has anyone seen Spotify’s financials to check how much of an expense Royalties are to their business?

They are not avoiding paying.

Music like any other form of economic business needs to operate in the economic world. That means the price and value of art will fluctuate based on market demand. If it has a government institution setting a royalty fee, then the whole business model is in trouble, because the government is over inflating the real value of the art, by setting prices which are out of touch with market demand.

But the oldsters in charge of the RIAA and the labels and their politician friends are all colluding, so the Government props up and shields a business that refuses to operate in the real economic world.

Let me tell you a story about Leo Feist and Harry Von Tilzer. If you don’t know who they are, it’s okay, and if you do, great. Remember how once upon a time there was a booming sheet music business. Well these two guys were influential in this business.

And they gainfully employed musicians to demonstrate playing the sheet music songs to people, as a way to sell amateur musicians on the idea to purchase the sheets of music. Music stores then started to employ these kind of musicians as well, and suddenly you had a new industry of musicians earning a weekly wage, playing other peoples songs to people.

But like all great things, change is around the corner. They had a feeling that these new technologies called the phonograph and radio would change the game and they also knew that songs would go from local cities to state wide to country wide faster than ever before and to more people than ever before.

In due time, the musicians employed by the sheet music corporations didn’t have a job and the music business model these two men built and profited from began to fall apart.

But benefits also came about from the new technologies as more artists and bands suddenly becoming popular.

Change happens.

And the way you used to make money is not the same anymore. It’s the same for every business. Apple makes its money very differently in 2019 to how it did in 1985.

You might not have the global dominance of artists from the MTV era, but more and more smaller artists are building a career, with a small cult audience which sustains them.

As artists, be open minded, embrace change and look for creative ways to monetize instead of being angry. And in the end, enjoy the highs and lows the process brings with it.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

It’s Here and Then It’s Gone

My son wanted to play “Domino” from The Night Flight Orchestra. It is on their “Amber Galactic” album released a few years back.

He went to Spotify search, typed in the band name, when into their account, clicked on discography and couldn’t find the album. He went to his saved playlist of TNFO on his Spotify account and the album wasn’t there anymore. For reasons only known to the band and their label, the “Amber Galactic” album is not on Spotify Australia for Premium Subscribers to enjoy. It was here and then it was gone.

Even though I have purchased the CD, it’s basically remained in its plastic wrapping, and it’s a purchase made because I am a collector of bands I like, not because I want to play the CD and look at the artwork and lyrics. Hell, I don’t even know what the booklet looks like inside.

And the decision by artists to remove their music from Spotify or any other streaming service is wrong. It’s even more wrong when one streaming service has it and another doesn’t. What is even more wrong then all of the above, is that YouTube has the full album, and it pays less and torrent sites have it available for download in mp3 and FLAC, and they pay nothing.

But Spotify started in Sweden, by a Swede and here we have a Swedish band pulling their product from it. Even though the streaming company has turned the recording business around, they still are the punching bag for many.

And the loser here is the fan, who does the right thing, takes up the legal alternative, only to feel short changed or as my son said, ripped off.

Remember if the artist has no fans to connect with, they have nothing and the label has nothing.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity

What Does Democracy Look Like?

While the rich pay for their kids to get into college and use other paid people to pass exams for them, the real and proper generation are out on the streets protesting about climate change and gun reform.

And people might say the Universities admissions scandal is a U.S problem, well it’s not. Trust me, there are plenty of wealthy people from other countries who have bribed University officials to get their children in. Hell, in Australia we even have judges applying the same rules of law differently to wealthy children compared to poor children.

In relation to climate change demonstrations, it’s happening world-wide.  Brexit and all of the crap that comes with it, about millions being lost to the economy means nothing to the next generation. The Wall that Trump wants to build means nothing to them. The state and federal government elections in Australia coming up means nothing to them at the moment, because if the world is not fit for living in, what is the point.

The days of tax cuts to sway voters are over. There is a new voter base in town, and they don’t wear the same clothes as their parents did. It’s about the environment, it’s about feeling safe and it’s about having a home to call your own.

They are showing what proper democracy looks like. Something that their parents have forgotten as they got too comfortable with life, concerned about keeping their job, making that mortgage and credit card repayment and ensuring that all the utility bills are paid.

Did you know that 90% of people live within their comfort zone in such a small crowded circle?

Well the next generation wants to change that. They want to change the status quo. If these old and out of touch politicians believe they have a chance at victory at the next election, well think again. Those 10% who live outside their comfort zone will grow even greater and we will have another defining moment like the 60’s revolution.

And the Governments better watch out when that happens.

These climate change protests started because of one person. A 15 year old Swedish girl called Greta Thunberg, started a solo protest in Sweden in August 2018. This movement by one person striking from school for one day, will have almost 2000 cities striking today.

And it’s needed. The weather is too severe. Summer is not summer anymore, its death by humidity. The rains are not just rains anymore, its flash flooding or severe flooding. Hail is not hail anymore, as they come down in clumps the size of tennis balls and cause severe damage. Everything is changing, except the politicians viewpoint on climate change or the viewpoint of the rich when it comes to getting their dumb kids into Universities.

And right now I feel the need to listen to “Little Fighter” from White Lion.

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

More File Sharing Equals More Music…

One of the main points of organisations or people who support stronger copyright laws and enforcement is the lies that stronger copyright laws act as an incentive for people to be creative or to make art. About 10 years ago, these lies appeared everywhere. What the public didn’t know, was that these organisations had a seat in the Government Policy room, to negotiate a range of bills in secret.

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) got introduced in 2011 in the US Senate for discussion. In January, 2012, people held protests in the streets and online about these bills which would put too much control of the internet into the hands of corporations and governments. Eventually, these bills didn’t pass. TPP was written in secret with the corporations, and it got passed without discussion, only for Trump to squash it and come out with another act, even better for the Corporations.

One thing throughout it all that hasn’t dropped off, is the creative output of people. There is so much more content being produced and created right now than ever before. And the consumers have choice, and a lot of it.

Multiple studies have shown that even though there was a massive increase in infringement once upon a time, at the same time there was also a large increase in creative output as well.

And of course, people will associate output versus money made. Like the way Gene Simmons did when he said “Rock is dead”. Some people create art purely for money. Others create art because they want to create or have a need to create. Money will come, merely as a by-product of creating art.

When the record labels acted as gatekeepers, they could put money behind artists and develop them. It used to happen and some labels did it better than others. But that boom in the 80’s, is not because the labels developed artists, it’s because those artists developed themselves outside the sphere of the record labels.

No one can say that a record label developed Twisted Sister, Motley Crue or even Quiet Riot. Even Metallica did their first album independently and had a cult live following before Elektra came in to sign them for “Ride The Lightning”.

For artists that had break out success in 1986, like Bon Jovi and Europe, I would say, yes, they got developed by the label and got the green light for a make or break third album.

Economist Joel Waldfogelm, did some research a while back.

He wanted to see if the rise in sharing had any drop off on the new music being produced. And the research said, no, as new music was being created continuously. However, the record labels claimed otherwise, a claim not based on evidence.

in my opinion, the study also debunked what Gene Simmons said, about “rock being dead”. Gene’s comments circled around how file sharing and streaming meant that no new acts are being developed and able to grow and release quality albums. In fact, the study finds no support for that claim.

The study looked at the best of lists on popular websites for each decade from the 80’s and found on average, about half of the best-of albums since Napster are from artists whose recording debut occurred since Napster.

The study even went further to check how many albums in the 80’s are from artists from the 70’s and how many are from artists who had their debut in the 80’s. And guess, what, the numbers match the post Napster numbers.

How can that be if no artist is being developed?

Basically, there is no evidence that new artists are no longer being developed or are not creating high quality, successful music. Then again, the great artists didn’t need an A&R rep to develop them. They had their own drive and their own motivations.

But the labels have great PR writers and they sure know how to spin a story, along with the publishers and the movie studios. But their theories are not backed by independent research evidence.

The big difference between pre and post Napster is that most of the new musicians are coming from independent DIY artists, rather than the majors. And the labels don’t like this. And they are taking money away from the legacy artists when it comes to recorded music but the legacy artists still make coin on the live circuit.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Moral Panics

Back in 2011, I started writing all these blog posts from articles I read that I had a laugh with, or disagreed with, or had a reaction to. And I felt they were unfinished to publish or I just didn’t have the balls to put my views out there, but I saved them anyway.

My digital saving life is no different to how people just keep physical items, but for me, a physical item will be thrown away to reduce clutter, but anything I create, I store away digitally, like it matters or means something. Once I am gone, who knows what happens to our digital lives stored in clouds and email accounts.

In 2011, there was an article I read, called “Track Piracy Is Killing The Music Business…. In 1976” over at a site called Techdirt. At that point in time, Spotify was still in the stages of gaining approval from the record labels to operate in America (it actually kicked off in July 2011).

And while the labels bogged down the negotiations to get a stake in the company, YouTube silently became the number one streaming service and it still is to this day. And it’s all because YouTube offers the users exactly what Napster offered its users back in 1999. A chance to share their love of culture, with others.

So while the labels negotiated a billion dollar deal that no artist would ever see the terms too (even though the labels had this bargaining power because of the copyrights they held from the artists), it really was funny to read the moral panic put out there by the labels and their lobby group RIAA.

Of course, every generation sees that moral panic it a bit different.

In the early 1900’s, the player piano was killing live music and the music industry along with it. Then from the late 60’s, the tape recorder and home taping was killing music and the recording industry along with it.

Then in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the MP3 player and mp3 was deemed to be killing the recording industry. At one stage, the mp3 player was deemed illegal. To make, sell and buy guns and knives was legal, but to make, sell and buy an mp3 player was illegal. Imagine how much money the lobby group of the labels would have donated (bribed) to the politicians to get that law passed.

Then in the early 2010’s, it became about streaming and how its payments to artists is killing the industry.  With every moral panic, the industry has survived, because in the end people gravitate to something that connects and they share their love of it. While all of this was happening, unknown to many, concert tickets increased at a rate triple the inflation rate.

Netflix said recently that they are not competing with other streaming providers but with Fortnite for peoples attention. At least they get it. It’s easy to be ignored and when that happens, what’s next. We are saturated with choice and it’s a good thing. For those who remember growing up, with three channels on TV, the current world is exponentially better for choice.

So what does all this mean for the artist?

Remember when Cheap Trick’s album from 2009, “The Latest”,  came out on 8-track as a unique marketing promotion, with the offer to download the digital tracks at a price lower than the standard iTunes price. Well it was a cool gimmick because it got the band back into the conversation. I also remember reading, how the guys we’re worried about being ignored than being ripped off, when the interviewer asked them about giving their digital tracks away for such a low price.

In other words, obscurity is a bigger fear than piracy. Just ask those artists who are part of the group of 30 million songs who have never been heard on Spotify.

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