Archive for November 6th, 2006
This edition of CopyCense Clippings may well have been subtitled “State of the Music Nation.” This week, we have lots of features and commentary on music, from The Clash’s manager talking about the downfall of Big Music, to Jay-Z’s contemporary musical and executive version of big pimpin’. In between, we point you to stories on where your politicians fall on technology issues (just in time for midterm elections); Gannett’s attempt to flip the newsroom script; JPEG patent activity; and continuing coverage of the recently concluded Internet Governance Forum.
Articles of the Week
Andrew Orlowski. Big Labels Are F*cked, and DRM Is Dead — Peter Jenner. The Register. Nov. 3, 2006. The former manager for Pink Floyd and The Clash speaks bluntly about the state (and future) of Big Music. Compare Jenner’s assessment with our own assessment (below) of how Jay-Z is planning to keep his career in tact.
Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache. Technology Voter Guide. News.com. Nov. 2, 2006. Just in time for midterm elections, McCullagh and Broache provide a voter’s guide to Congressional records on technology issues, everything from DMCA and computer restrictions to H1-B visas. Unfortunately, the guide does not track Congressional response to the Net Neutrality debate, but for good reasons. This is yeoman work by two of the nation’s best technology reporters.
Ars Technica. Understanding the WIPO Broadcast Treaty. Oct. 30, 2006. Ars is always one of our favorite sources, and this history of the WIPO broadcast treaty shows why we love it so.
The Patry Copyright Blog. Surf Music, Hip-Hop, Race and Copyright. Oct. 29, 2006. Patry pulls us down memory lane by extending the New York Times’ coverage of the reissue of “Apache,” one of hip hop’s most beloved break beats.
Quotes of the Week
“There is not as much sympathy for … the entertainment business from Congress as there would be if it was more of a traditional business that was impacted. If the paper tomorrow said that Boeing had just announced that a whole series of major engineering drawings on a military plane, a B-1 bomber replacement, had been taken and they were on a Norwegian Web site, the whole place would go crazy. The fact that music’s being stolen and movies are being stolen doesn’t draw that kind of attention. It’s the same issue.” – Bob Wright, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, NBC Universal.
— Reuters. Lawmakers Short on Sympathy for Piracy: NBC Chief. Oct. 26, 2006. So let’s get this straight: Bob Wright is whining that the so-called “war” on so-called “piracy” is not as important a Congressional priority as American men and women fighting and dying overseas. No matter what your position concerning the various “wars” American military personnel are involved in around the globe, we wretch whenever a Big Content executive equates the downfall of their industries with the gravity of armed conflict, and we are continually disgusted at Big Content’s hubris.
“I tour between albums. That’s 18,000 people last night, there may be 50,000 tomorrow. … Then when you get to a level of doing shows, the other rush is trying to beat the other show. You really just start trying to make epic joint after epic joint after epic joint. Once you hit arenas, it ain’t the same. … It costs a lot to make that show look effortless. You get to a point where, if you getting a $100,000, you put $10,000 into a show. Whatever you got to do to make the show look great. … In order to put on a good show you gotta spend. You get the LCD screens that are so bright and look like water. You gotta get the best sound and light guys. You gotta treat it like the rock guys treat it. It’s part of your craft. You gotta treat it like the studio, making the album. I got into the mindset that every aspect of my show has got to be the best. You gotta stay on par with your peers in the game. You don’t wanna go to a show and they’re just blowing you off the stage. That ain’t good for your career either. It’s all part of being a performer.” – Jay-Z, musician.
— XXLMag.com. Jay-Z: Countdown to Kingdom Come. Oct. 30, 2006. Forget the “CEO of Hip Hop,” which is what H-P calls him. Can we officially crown Jay-Z the King of Pop? His new album, Kingdom Come, is due to be released Nov. 21 and arguably is the biggest album release of the last five years. During a time when CD sales are declining, Jay-Z’s numbers may not suffer at all: it is conceivable that Kingdom Come could open with 750,000 units sold in the first week. (Remember, this is an artist whose album The Blueprint debuted at the top of the charts, selling more than 420,000 units in its first week even though it was released on Sept. 11, 2001.)
But more than anything else, Jay-Z seems to understand the music business better than most of his so-called executive peers. It’s not just that he has a keen eye for promotion. (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick appearing in the first video for your newest single? Priceless.) Jay-Z understood about five years ago that the key to remaining relevant in the music business would center on being able to excel at performing live. The manifestation of this understanding was his collaboration with The Roots for MTV Unplugged. Since then, Jay-Z has become the biggest act in music because he has learned how to do a great live show.
Remember Dick Wolf’s quote about no one ever getting rich again in entertainment? (QoTW, Clippings v. 0.92) We think he meant that no one will get rich using the old model of studio-based production and centralized distribution. In music’s old business model, it was conceivable that a person could get rich strictly by staying in the studio, producing good songs, funneling them through the record companies and radio, and (by the 1990s) looking good on video.
But given the way computers and digital media have changed the way people create, and the disruptive way the Internet has changed distribution, this is now longer the case. Keep a single confidential? That will never happen again. An unreleased record? Virtually impossible. Create a new sound and a new beat? There’s a 12-year old kid in a bedroom right now that has been up all night tweaking Reason, producing beats you can’t begin to conceptualize.
But a great live performance is the one thing that digital media cannot replicate or replace. Even if digital media captures a great performance, ultimately the recorded event just makes you regret you weren’t there to see it unfold in person. We recall Bonnie Raitt once saying that the reason she makes albums is so she can have 12 new songs to perform when she goes out on the road. Jay-Z started understanding this five years ago. And like the former King of Pop, Michael Jackson, Jay-Z will stay on top as long as he can continue to put on an incomparable show. Hands up and wave.
- Jeff Howe. Gannett to Crowdsource News. Wired News. Nov. 3, 2006. As one of the nation’s largest newspaper chains, Gannett decides to leverage its audience to make news more local. This is an interesting development coming from the creator of McPaper, but a bold — perhaps critically necessary — step toward improving journalism and helping newspapers survive.
- Ron Grover. HBO’s Bold Broadband Plans. BusinessWeekOnline.com. Nov. 2, 2006. Ever wonder why no one has seen episodes (or even tidbits) of The Wire on iTunes? Because the cable operators would go bananas. While we love that show, most of us cannot stomach paying more than $50 per month for that alone. We suspect that as the iPod generation matures, they’ll conclude the same thing, thereby jeopardizing HBO’s currently stable business model.
- SiliconValley.com (via The Associated Press). World Internet Conference Ends With Promise and Concerns. Nov. 2, 2006. This is the post-game report for the Internet Governance Forum, which recently concluded near Athens. (For the pre-game report, look to Ars Technica’s well-written summary, and still another strong article, which could serve as the halftime report.) Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this event is how it will affect the domain name system and ICANN‘s continued control over it.
- Matt Slagle. Forgent Settles JPEG Patent Case. Forbes.com (via The Associated Press). Nov. 2, 2006. One of the secrets about the digital world is that one of its major image formats (.JPEG) is not an open standard, but subject to a proprietary compression technology that is protected by U.S. Patent. No. 4,698,672. The patent’s owner, Forgent Technologies, quietly has been collecting millions of dollars in licensing revenue on this patent for several years. (Wired News has a 2002 story that explains the patent’s history.) This is one of the few cases that has made it into the public. What we cannot understand is why large technology companies have not supported an attempt to invalidate the patent, as they had in the NTP-Research In Motion matter.
- 27BStroke6. EFF Sues Sex Shamer, Says He Shut Down Critic With Fake Copyright Notices. Nov. 1, 2006. So the Electronic Frontier Foundation finds it essential to sue a person who is falsely filing Section 512 takedown notices. On the other hand, to our best knowledge, the organization has not gotten involved in helping defendants in Big Music file sharing lawsuits seek sanctions when the record lobby files sketchy complaints, or drops lawsuits with prejudice after conceding it hasn’t done the proper legwork before filing the claim. Release big sigh of exasperation here.
- Knowledge@Wharton. What’s Next for Netflix? Nov. 1, 2006. Conventional wisdom predicted Netflix would be dead three years ago. Instead, it has beaten Wal-Mart (Netflix swallowed its video business earlier this year), staved off Blockbuster, and recently beat Wall Street analyst estimates. Why? One reason is its distribution network is outstanding. Another reason, oddly, is that it hasn’t entered the video download business. Why get involved in the mess? Instead, let others hash out the hard part, then apply your distribution expertise to the final solution.
- BBC News. Copying Own CDs “Should Be Legal.” Nov. 1, 2006. This report (.pdf) is the first step toward a legislative allowance for home copying. Big Content is likely to invoke its strongest response for ensuring this issue is never even discussed in the United States.
- SiliconValley.com. ICANN Warns Mistake on Non-English Web Addresses Could Permanently Break Internet.” Nov. 1, 2006. Non-U.S. companies have been clamoring for a domain naming system that allows naming conventions beyond Latin-based characters. “Permanently break the Internet” seems awful dire. One would think that the collective intelligence within the organization would be able to keep that from every happening.
- Paul McDougall. How To Avoid The Patent Trap. InformationWeek. Oct. 30, 2006. Deeper perspective about the IBM-Amazon.com patent tiff, and its meaning within the broader context of U.S. patent reform. Also, see K. Matthew Dames’ analysis of IBM’s patent reform announcement in Information Today.
- BBC News. 50 Cent Copyright Claim Dismissed. Oct. 29, 2006. The infamous Fiddy can keep all his money.
- Grant Gross. Supreme Court To Review Microsoft Patent Case. PC World (via IDG News Service). Oct. 27, 2006. When titans collide: AT&T and Microsoft, in the U.S. Supreme Court, clashing swords over whether Microsoft is liable for patent infringement after it distributed an AT&T-patented technology on overseas copies of the Windows operating system. As we’ve asked several times before, can a Court that has shown itself to be quite out of touch with technology reasonably decide a technology case? We think not.
- CBC News. CDs Are Dead: Recording Company CEO. Oct. 27, 2006. It was a good run, fellas. You got another two decades of record revenue and profits effectively reselling the same material. Now it’s time to earn that fat paycheck.
- Creative Commons. CC Values. Oct. 25, 2006. Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig discusses the “sharing economy.”
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