The big news this last month has been the hijinks of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) who have taken their clown act to the courts by issuing subpoenas against Kazaa users whom the RIAA has (in some fashion) determined as being worthy of legal action for the "millions of dollars of lost revenue" which the recording industry is hemorrhaging right now. The RIAA has issued more than 900 subpoenas and is expected to issue more over the course of our lifetimes in their rabid attempt to nab every last one of your filthy downloader scum -- oh hang on, my Soulseek session is done, I need to queue up some more tracks -- okay, where was I?
There are a number of places where you can see the list of user names which the RIAA is targeting with this initial round of subpoenas, but instead of reading off that list, you should hit Tech Focus and download their .htaccess files which will allow you to ban the IP addresses which are known to belong to the RIAA. That's right, gang, show your solidarity by telling the RIAA that they can go surf somewhere else. I do love the Internet when geeks get start circling their virtual wagons.
A reader of The Inquirer does some math based on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's number that 60 million people in the United States have downloaded music in some fashion. Michaela Stevens says, "I pulled out my calculator to see just how long it would take the RIAA to sue all 60 million P2P music file traders at a rate of 75 a day. 60,000,000/75 = 800,000 days to subpoena each person or 800,000 days/365 days in a year = 2191.78 years to subpoena each person." So, who stands to make money from all of this? Not the musicians. Never the musicians. Most contracts limit their take from any given CD sale to about five percent of the wholesale cost. Which means that only 300,000 of us are actually hurting the people who are making the music. The other 59,700,00 downloaders are just screwing the system.
The New Math: Downloading = Felony Jail Time
You know, the world of American politics gets more and more surreal all the time. All the other dumb-fuckery of the current White House administration aside, the continued cluelessness of our elected officials this month comes via Representatives Howard Berman and John Conyers who introduced the Author, Consumer, and Computer Owner Protection and Security Act (ACCOPS) of 2003. Which says, in effect, if you download music you are a felon and will go to the Big House where you will be ass-raped by men who are in prison for actual violent offenses. Sure, the limit of the prison term is politely set to "no more than six months," but 180 days can be a real long time without Internet access, if you know what I mean.
The End Days Are Here, Part Deux
Here I am agreeing with Michael Jackson again. What is this? The second time in less than six months? The Apocalypse is nigh. While I'm shrugging into my sackcloth robes, here's a quote from Mr. Jackson about ACCOPS. "Here in America we create new opportunities out of adversity, not punitive laws and we should look to new technologies, like Apple's new Music Store for solutions. This way innovation continues to be the hallmark of America. It is the fans that drive the success of the music business; I wish this would not be forgotten." It's too bad most of his press this year has been focused on his wackier antics and when he actually posits some thoughts of calm rationality, the words get lost in the subsequent recollection of his crazier stunts this year.
So, in an effort to give Michael his due, we'll just add another quote from him here and move along: "I am speechless about the idea of putting music fans in jail for downloading music. It is wrong to illegally download, but the answer cannot be jail."
I'll Bitch Slap You Right Back
Pacific Bell Internet Services aren't taking the RIAA subpoenas lying down. Shortly after the initial round of lawsuits, PBIS filed a complaint in the US District Court in San Francisco wherein they alleged that the lawsuits filed by the RIAA were done improperly. The complaint is mainly a litany of technicalities, but one of the delightful details is PBIS's argument that the RIAA's use of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act in their subpoenas infringes some of the privacy rights of PBIS's customers.
It is essentially a lawyer slap fight, but it is nice to see that someone is calling the RIAA out. Too many other ISPs just rolled over and coughed up all the details when the RIAA came knocking.
Meanwhile, Senator Norm Coleman, R-Minn., the gentleman who chairs the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has begun an inquiry into the "excessive" campaign by the RIAA to corral these pesky thieves who are single-handedly bringing the music industry to its knees. "Theft is theft," says Senator Coleman, "but in this country we don't cut off your arm or fingers for stealing." Senator Coleman, who was a rock roadie during the 1960s, has admitted that not only does he know what Napster was, he has used it himself, though qualifying his statement by saying that once it was determined that Napster was "the wrong thing," he deleted the application.
The RIAA has, naturally, been all to happy to give Senator Coleman lip service about his requests to examine their methodology and efforts. This is the way zealots are, of course, they are all too eager to share their fervent ideology with those who are brave enough to set foot on their side of the road. Hopefully Senator Coleman has come to find the soft white underbelly of the beast so he can put a load of buckshot into it.
It's Not the Alcohol Content That Gets You
Over at www.slyck.com, several enterprising fellows have started to work their way through the subpoenas in an effort to find if there is any sort of pattern to the lawsuits. So far -- and bear in mind, they've only gone through a tiny fraction of the filings -- it would appear that if you've downloaded Busta Rhymes' "Pass the Courvoisier," there is a one-in-three chance that you're in the RIAA's crosshairs. The worst part of this is the realization that is about to sneak over you that the entire world will soon know that you willfully downloaded a paean to Tim Meadows' Ladies Man character from Saturday Night Live. There's a Mastercard commercial in this somewhere.
Our final bit of RIAA-related news is a pointer towards the RIAA Radar site. The lads at magnetbox.com have built themselves a database of RIAA members. Want to do your bit to send the RIAA a message about how much you support their efforts to piledrive the music industry into an early grave? Check the list and find out if the album you're about to buy is part of the organizational behemoth. Now I'm not actively advocating downloading of copyrighted material but we, as consumers, can only really vote with our hard currency (because we all know how effective our political vote has been in the last five years). Vote with your wallets, kids.
Thieves Are Scum (Knocking On Your Front Door Edit)
We received an e-mail recently from one Lola Chambers, wife of Lester Chambers (of the Chambers Brothers). We'll get out of the way for her own words.
I am truly heartbroken! My complete collection of my husband's (Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers) albums and 45s have been stolen from my home in Tarzana, California! This collection has taken me 25 years to collect and I had intended to pass them on to our two sons. Years before Ebay, I scoured record stores and swap meets to put this collection together. There were over 60 albums and over 100 45s stolen. Many were Chambers Brothers' Columbia albums released by Columbia under their many foreign labels and would be needed as proof of their non-payment of years of foreign royalties. These Columbia albums were released under Direction Records out of England, First Records out of Korea, etc. One of their 45s was released in Germany with an abstract orange coloring. Many of their 45s had photo sleeve coverings all in perfect condition. I had their complete recordings from their early years with Vault Records and one of their first albums recorded with Barbara Dane on the Folkways label.
I would like to put the word out to all record stores (especially in So. California), collectors, Ebay shoppers, etc in order to try and recover these extremely sentimental albums. Please contact me @ Chambersbros@aol.com or Larry Feldman @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, a large flap went around that Metallica had launched another lawsuit. In this case, they were suing a relatively unknown Canadian act, Unfaith, for the use of the E and F chord progression. The news of the lawsuit spread quickly and was even reported as God's Own Truth on a number of "respectable" news agencies.
The truth, however, is that the whole story is a joke. A well-crafted parody that shows just how quickly mis-information can be spread in this wired age, the Unfaith/Metallica controversy was quickly absorbed into the bloodstream of the media and no one bothered to read the fine print. Part of the initial report was two mocked up pages from MTV.com and Metallica.com which were meant to be the first blast of the news piece (you can see those mockups here and here.) Primary lesson for any intern on their first day ought to be "How To Parse A URL."
The merry prankster involved in this parody is the singer of Unfaith, Erik Ashley. Ashley's statement on Metal Sludge is an entertaining read of how a joke find its own life and scampers off into the realm of urban legend. Ashley winds up his explanation with this bit: "As for me? I'll quote from an interview I did with UGO.com last year, which you could easily Google-up. On the subject of my influences I answered, among other names, 'the "commercial era" Metallica. Everything since the Black Album. Yep, that includes Load and Reload.' I didn't mind saying it then, and I don't mind repeating it today. This hoax was merely a joke that America wished so hard to be true, that it slowly stopped mattering if it was or not. In the end, this leaves us with two ultimate ironies : First, none of our songs were ever based on an E-F progression (I can't sing that high). And second, MTV.com remains the only entertainment news website never to have touched this story."
One of Many, Many Reasons to Wash Up
Boulder, Colorado, based The String Cheese Incident has picked up an unwelcome member of their summer entourage. Like Phish and The Grateful Dead, The String Cheese Incident has a summertime following -- a large, unorganized mass of fans who devote their time to trailing after the band around the States. This season there seems to be a strain of Hepatitis A which is dogging the band and their shows.
Now, let's be clear: The String Cheese Incident is not to be blamed for the nasty virus which is primarily transmitted through a "fecal-oral" manner. That's right. You put your hand in poo, and then you put your paw in your mouth. Hepatitis A is known to be found in places where the sanitation isn't so grand and personal hygiene isn't strongly observed. The String Cheese Incident is workly closely with The Center for Disease Control to stop the spread of the virus through the -- you know I have to say it -- "great unwashed" who are trailing in the wake of the band.
Hepatitis A is not the grim killer that strain C is, and can treated with a solid jab in the posterior with a needle full of the good stuff that your local doctor can provide. There can be complications from the virus other than an afternoon of jaundice, vomiting, and dark urine so let's be careful out there when you're swapping fluids and sharing hot dogs on the lawn during a show, gang.
About Bloody Time
Kevin Shields, the once upon a time frontman of shoegazer icons My Bloody Valentine, hasn't been dead or resting like the Norwegian Blue parrot. He's been quietly busy, playing guitar for Primal Scream. That is all about to change. Sofia Coppola's new film, Lost In Translation, will include four new tracks from Mr. Shields as well as a previously released My Bloody Valentine track called "Sometimes." This news comes on the heels of a rumor that three of the members of My Bloody Valentine (Shields included) have been spending some studio time prepping material for an eventual box set release. Since the group barely had enough original material in the first place to fill a box set, fans are hoping this recent resurgence in the shivering fuzzbox wall of guitar sound will result in some new material. It has been 12 years since Loveless, after all. Not that any of us are counting.
Picture of the Month