Reading Around on February 12th through February 13th

A few interesting links collected February 12th through February 13th:

  • RIAA’s need for discovery was not so urgent : Internet law – Evan Brown – Internet Cases – Photo courtesy Flickr user swanksalot under this Creative Commons license.
  • Barking Mad by digby Chris Hayes has a… – "I've spent the past few months trying to sort out why the Blue Dogs get so much attention. The best I can tell, there are two main reasons. One has to do with the organizational mechanics of the Blue Dog caucus, which is more unified and cohesive than any other in the House. The other has to do with the ongoing Beltway love affair with "fiscal conservatism."

    Yep. And until we kill that phony meme, and put the Blue Dogs down, it will continue to make it nearly impossible to enact liberal legislation. The Republicans start unnecessary, hugely expensive wars and enact massive tax cuts, thus starving the beast, and then posture and preen like a bunch of fastidious schoolmarms when they are out of power."

End of Blogging

If GateHouse Media succeeds in their lawsuit, this blog, and many others will have to cease existence. What percentage of blog materials is quoted, fair-use information from other sites? Just using B12 as an example, I’d say over 75%.

GateHouse Media filed a lawsuit Monday against the New York Times Co. alleging copyright infringement after the NYT-owned Boston Globe frequently posted links containing headlines and the first sentences from articles on GateHouse’s community news sites.

-View the Document: The 25-page lawsuit [PDF]
-View the Document: Request for an injunction [PDF] to stop the Globe from posting GateHouse links.
-View the Document: 35-page support document for the injunction [PDF]
-View the Document: Affidavit by GateHouse Media Metro Editor-in-Chief Gregory Reibman [PDF]
Your Town Newton, one of the Boston Globe’s community sites that sparked the lawsuit. See the news links in the center content gutter.

The lawsuit, if successful, could create a monumental chilling effect for bloggers, news sites, search engines, social media sites and aggregators such as Topix and Techmeme, which link to articles, display headlines and use snippets of copyrighted text from other sites. Initiatives such as the Times Extra, which displays links to related articles from other sites, could be shut down for fear of copyright lawsuits. It could lead to a repudiation of one of the fundamental principles on which the Internet was built: the discovery and sharing of information.

In its complaint, GateHouse called the article links “deep links” because they do not link to the home page of the site. The “deep link” language in the complaint is meant to invoke cases such as the case, wherein a motorcross news site was successfully prohibited from deep linking to a competing site’s streaming video file, which bypassed the site’s advertising.

GateHouse’s assertion is that the Boston Globe community site’s use of the headlines cannibalizes GateHouse’s content and causes it financial harm because readers gather news from the links and snippets on the Globe’s site rather than visit GateHouse’s sites. Although not explicitly stated in the complaint, this means GateHouse likely believes the loss of readers from possible increased use of the Globe’s site will not be offset by the readers brought in by its competitor’s links.

[From Journalistopia » GateHouse Lawsuit vs. New York Times Co. has Dire Implications | Danny Sanchez]

I had never heard of GateHouse Media before today1, but they put out a lot of publications, mostly weeklies it looks like.

No joke, if this lawsuit is successful, I will have to shut down this blog immediately, as will the majority of other news-related blogs. The risk of liability is just too great.

  1. well except for being mentioned in the Tribune bankruptcy as a debt-ridden newspaper company []

Bookmarks for December 5th

Some additional reading December 5th from 16:14 to 18:40:

  • ESPN – Ex-NBA player Corie Blount channels a 2,700 year old Chinese shaman – HAMILTON, Ohio — Former NBA basketball player Corie Blount has been charged with picking up 11 pounds of marijuana in southwest Ohio.
  • Crediting photos leads to good things – Tammy Green – My Aggregated Life – "But this post isn't about bad cop, it's about the good that comes by being good to me. See, for a while now, I've had a policy of reposting Creative Commons images that have been correctly licensed by other sites. These I find in a myriad of ways — Google alerts, Flickr traffic, reverse image look-ups like Tin Eye, etc.

    Why is this tracking good for people who use CC the way it was intended?

    More links to your blog/website/etc = increase traffic!
    More external links also helps your SEO ranking for keyword search!
    I post at Tumblr blog which then gets reposted to this blog, Twitter, FriendFeed, etc. Your work gets exposure to my network!
    I also post links to the original photo reference in Flickr — more traffic, more link juice for you!
    There's a basis for a future partnership and/or collaboration."

    Amen to that. Creative Commons is so easy to follow, why don't more websites respect photographers?

  • Netflix Enters the Modern World: Watch Instantly for Mac! : The Core Junction – photo credit: swanksalot
  • Roger Ebert – Win Ben Stein's mind – awesome!
    "Ben Stein, you hosted a TV show on which you gave away money. Imagine that I have created a special edition of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" just for you. Ben, you've answered all the earlier questions correctly, and now you're up for the $1 million prize. It involves an explanation for the evolution of life on this planet. You have already exercised your option to throw away two of the wrong answers. Now you are faced with two choices: (A) Darwin's Theory of Evolution, or (B) Intelligent Design.

    Because this is a special edition of the program, you can use a Hotline to telephone every scientist on Earth who has an opinion on this question. You discover that 99.975 of them agree on the answer (A). A million bucks hangs in the balance. The clock is ticking. You could use the money. Which do you choose? You, a firm believer in the Constitution, are not intimidated and exercise your freedom of speech. You choose (B)."
    read more

YouTube Pulls Obama Spot

Now I’m really curious to see the ad, I wonder if it is available.

Google-owned YouTube has pulled a Barack Obama ad from its site at the insistence of NBC, which charged that the spot infringed on its copyrighted content and that it did not give Obama’s campaign permission to use the material.

The ad, titled “Bad News,” is designed to get out the vote by appealing to voters and potential voters who do not want John McCain to win the election. At one point, NBC’s Tom Brokaw and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann are shown — with Olbermann announcing that McCain has “won.”

NBC has demanded that Obama stop using the clip altogether. But his campaign balked and instead attached a disclaimer to it that said, “NBC and MSNBC did not cooperate in the making of this video.”

[From YouTube Pulls Obama Spot]

I checked YouTube, and found the ad, removed, with this disclaimer: This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by NBC

If I find a copy, I’ll post it. Must have really irked NBC to be hoisted with their own petard.

Running on plenty

“Harps & Angels” (Randy Newman)

The new Randy Newman album, Harps and Angels, is growing on me the more I listen to it. I was unfamiliar with his prior work, with the exception of the over-played classic, I Love LA, but I’m increasingly intrigued by his non-film work.

In an apathetic age, only Neil Young among his original peers still consistently sounds any musical alarm against injustice and corruption. Browne agrees with Gore Vidal’s assessment that America’s largest political party is the “nonvoting party”, so such opinionated motivation is nothing short of admirable. Don’t ask me, ask Randy Newman. On the ever-laconic Newman’s new album, Harps and Angels, a song called A Piece of the Pie mischievously measures America’s collective languid self-interest against the undimmed commitment of one man. “The rich are getting richer, I should know,” he writes. “While we’re going up, you’re going down, and no one gives a shit but Jackson Browne.”

So, is Browne the last protest singer? “He didn’t really say that,” he says of Newman’s portrayal. “What he said was even funnier, that no one else gives a shit. Not true, of course, but very funny. My friend Don Henley referred to [the actor] Ed Asner, who’s active for social change, and Henley called it the Dreaded Asner Syndome. I guess I’ve contracted it, and am proud to be afflicted. I don’t think there’s any choice but to throw in with those people who are doing what they can to make the world inhabitable and beautiful. I’m a card-carrying member of hedonists for peace. I just don’t think peace and prosperity should only be for the wealthy.”

[From Jackson Browne: Running on plenty – Times Online ]

I actually was unfamiliar with Jackson Browne’s music up until about two months ago, but his first albums are excellent, and I’m slowly working through his back catalog.

We had mentioned John McCain’s keen urge to steal from artists without compensating them previously, but here’s Jackson Browne’s direct response to the situation:

This is more than benign idealism, as John McCain recently discovered. Browne is suing the Republican campaign, seeking damages of $75,000, for using his 1977 song Running on Empty in an “attack” ad against Barack Obama, in the apparent belief that a lifelong liberal would either not mind or not notice. “They broke two very clear laws,” he says calmly. “That they can’t use your song without your permission, and that they can’t imply you endorse a candidate if you don’t. Either they don’t know the law or they think they’re above it. Either way, it speaks volumes about the style of governance.” Browne has given $2,300 in support of Obama’s presidential campaign, according to public record.

“McCain’s campaign [managers] are trying to say he knew nothing about the ad,” Browne adds. “Do we believe that? It may be that it plays well to his constituency to steal my song, unapologetically take whatever you feel like using, and work out the details later. I’m sure I’ll prevail, because the laws are clear-cut, but I think the Republicans have a culture of impunity.”

Now three weeks off his 60th birthday, a bearded Browne may be looking just a little older at last. As in a similarly long dialogue at the time of his 2002 album, The Naked Ride Home, however, he is likeably low-key. “The inspiration’s not a problem,” he says. “I’m not less inspired, I’m less free to shut myself away long enough to finish a song. I’m also not in a hurry. That’s the odd thing that’s happened, that there’s less and less time left, and I’m less in a hurry. Maybe I’ll get desperate towards the end. You want the things you sing about to be about life and other people’s lives, and if I shut myself away and tried to ramp up the output, it might limit the interest I take in things that are pretty universal.”

“Time the Conqueror” (Jackson Browne)

Brazilian visionary Gilberto Gil

Banda Larga

We’ve expressed support for Gilberto Gil previously1, but the subject of technology and music is still newsworthy:

Artists such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails recently enjoyed huge publicity windfalls by distributing their music for free on-line, but they’ve got a way to go before catching up to Brazilian singer Gilberto Gil as digital visionaries.

Long before peer-to-peer file sharing turned the music world into a free-for-all, Gil was distributing his songs on the Internet.

He launched his own Web site in 1996, began streaming his music for listeners to audition, and officially released the first song by Brazilian artist through the new medium. It was a stage in a journey that has obsessed him for a half-century. In the ‘60s he wrote the song “Electric Brain,” which presaged his Internet breakthrough three decades later, and his latest album is titled “Banda Larga” (Warner), or “The Broad Band,” in part a manifesto for a more democratic future driven by technology.

“It has been a dream of mine for a long time, this world we live in now,” Gil said in an interview from his office in Brazil. “It is a natural outcome, a world in which technology allows universal access. It makes music and tools available to large parts of society that didn’t have that kind of access before.”

That “natural outcome” is still a few years off from reaching the poorest of the poor in Brazil, a vast country in which many citizens in the remote interior still do not have electricity, let alone computers.

Which is why Gil, in his latest guise as his country’s minister of culture, is spearheading a project to ensure that each child in the country has a laptop within the next few years.

[Click to read more of Turn It Up – Brazilian visionary Gilberto Gil leads a second revolution]

Viva Mr. Gil! Computer technology has been a commodity long enough so that the basic building materials are available for pennies. Why shouldn’t access to computers be a basic human right?

“The electronic culture is our future, and it needs to be open to everyone as quickly as possible,” he says. “I consider it my main goal as a politician.”

It’s not a role one would’ve predicted for Gil. In the ‘60s, he and fellow iconoclast Caetano Veloso were thrown out of Brazil by the dictatorial government for making music that openly questioned the status quo. Gil, Veloso and a handful of young artists led the subversive Tropicalia movement, which melded Brazilian sounds with rock and avant-garde music. Tropicalia embraced hybrids of seemingly incompatible styles, and tacitly celebrated the multiracial makeup of Brazil’s population. It was a time when music played a critical role in pushing a nation forward, at great personal risk.

“Gil himself, with his incredible ear and mastery of the guitar, his pulverizing sense of rhythm, was a constant promise that the limitations of our environment could be overcome,” Veloso wrote in his memoir, “Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil” (Knopf).

  1. at this blog’s previous address, and one article republished already []

João Gilberto’s Pioneering Records In a Legal Limbo

“The Legendary João Gilberto” (João Gilberto)

This is really a shame, I’ve often wanted to hear these albums, and have hoped eventually the copyright issue would get settled.

A NUMBER of notable concerts of Brazilian music around the world this year, including one by João Gilberto next Sunday at Carnegie Hall as part of the JVC Jazz Festival, are being advertised with the line “50 Years of Bossa Nova.” Mr. Gilberto is considered by many to have defined the musical form, which was embraced internationally and has never really gone away in Brazil. Yet Mr. Gilberto’s first three albums, some of the best music of the 20th century, have largely been unavailable.

For 10 years or so they haven’t been in record stores, nor on (unless you’re willing to pay $100 or more for used copies) nor on iTunes. The only way you may have found them was through illegal file sharing, or, if you were lucky enough, to know someone who had copies. This is a weird turn of events in an age that keeps valuable cultural artifacts at close reach.

After 1997, when Mr. Gilberto sued EMI, his former record label, the company ceased manufacturing the albums. Mr. Gilberto and his manager declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but according to Ana Trajan, a lawyer at EMI Brazil, the music is still caught in a long legal process. There are no plans for its reissue, despite a 50th anniversary being the obvious moment.

Bossa nova, a subtle, rustling music with jazz harmony, chamber-music dynamics, samba rhythm and close-miked emphasis on voice and guitar, began when the Brazilian recording industry, and the Brazilian economy, was at a high. It may have gestated in 1957 in clubs around Rio’s borough of Copacabana, or even a year earlier in the state of Minas Geraes, in the confines Mr. Gilberto’s sister’s tiled bathroom, where Mr. Gilberto played in isolation for eight months, forming his intimate voice-and-guitar sound.

And then came Mr. Gilberto’s album, “Chega de Saudade,” recorded in 1958 and 1959. The songs on that record, and on his next two — “O Amor, o Sorriso e a Flor” and “João Gilberto” — were very nearly the first examples of a new musical style. More important, they permanently defined that style. Bossa nova is the rare example of a music whose lines of history and influence keep tracing, more or less, to one person — something you can’t say for blues or jazz or country or rock ’n’ roll. It’s rarer still that the person is still alive and performing.

[Click to read more of Music – João Gilberto’s Pioneering Bosso Nova Records Are Caught in a Legal Limbo –]

Glancing at my iTunes library, I only have one João Gilberto album, a extremely listenable collaboration with saxophonist Stan Getz, that you’ve probably heard snippets from in various films:

“Getz/Gilberto” (Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto)

Originally released in March 1964, this collaboration between saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist João Gilberto came at seemingly the end of the bossa nova craze Getz himself had sparked in 1962 with Jazz Samba, his release with American guitarist Charlie Byrd. Jazz Samba remains the only jazz album to reach number one in the pop charts. In fact, the story goes that Getz had to push for the release of Getz/Gilberto since the company did not want to compete with its own hit; it was a good thing he did.Getz/Gilberto, which featured composer Antonio Carlos Jobim on piano, not only yielded the hit “Girl from Ipanema” (sung by Astrud Gilberto, the guitarist’s wife, who had no professional experience) but also “Corcovado” (“Quiet Night”)–an instant standard, and the definitive version of “Desafinado.” Getz/Gilberto spent 96 weeks in the charts and won four Grammys. It remains one of those rare cases in popular music where commercial success matches artistic merit. Bossa nova’s “cool” aesthetic–with its understated rhythms, rich harmonies, and slightly detached delivery–had been influenced, in part, by cool jazz. Gilberto in particular was a Stan Getz fan. Getz, with his lyricism, the bittersweet longing in his sound, and his restrained but strong swing, was the perfect fit. His lines, at once decisive and evanescent, focus the rest of the group’s performance without overpowering. A classic.

“Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World” (Ruy Castro)

Oh, and I’ll have to look out for this book:

Ruy Castro’s authoritative history of bossa nova was published here in 2000 as “Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World.” Naturally, its Brazilian title was “Chega de Saudade,” and naturally, a portrait of Mr. Gilberto was its centerpiece

When I make my long-awaited sojourn to Brazil, I’ll have to look for this version, remastered or not:

The three original LPs were collected together on a remastered, three-album vinyl version, called “O Mito” (“The Myth”), released by EMI Brazil in 1988 (a CD version was released in Brazil in 1992). In 1990 the collection was released in the English-language market by EMI’s World Pacific imprint, as “The Legendary João Gilberto.”

Mr. Gilberto sued EMI in 1997, contending that the old music had been poorly remastered. A statement by his lawyer at the time declared that the reissues contained sound effects that “did not pertain to the original recordings, banalizing the work of a great artist.”

There were also other issues. Luiz Bannitz, the legal director at EMI Brazil from 1999 to 2004, said that the royalty rate in EMI’s old contract with Mr. Gilberto, drawn up in the 1950s, was very low by current standards — “less than 5 percent,” he said. The court ruled in 2002 that EMI should raise his royalty rate to 18 percent, but Mr. Gilberto began a series of appeals on other decisions related to the case; the lawsuit is still pending a superior tribunal court decision.

For good or ill, it is the remastered, early ’90s CD version of this music that I keep in my head. I have heard an old, pre-remastering Brazilian LP pressing of the album “Chega de Saudade,” and the remastered version has some perhaps unnecessary reverb and a more spacious sound-picture, a result of turning mono originals into stereo — the standard practice during the early years of CD reissues. As a consequence the balance of instruments sounds slightly reshuffled; the percussion, for instance, is louder.

Disney Borders on the Insane


Disney’s lackeys in the Congress are trying to build a different kind of wall: a wall that doesn’t allow copyrighted material to permeate. Good luck with that, or should I say more precisely, bad luck with that, hope you fail thoroughly and completely.

Living close to the Canada/US border used to be a lot less stressful. You could head across to either side for a simple lunch date and head back with little more ceremony than a few questions to ensure you didn’t fit some dubious profile. New international copyright regulation could make that border trip with your iPod, cell phone or laptop a hazardous exercise in your right to private property.

Secretive meetings are taking place now between the governments of the US, Canada and the EU that could clamp down on you if you cross the border with any data-storage device. Journalists in Canada have received leaked notes about the secret international negotiations for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

If passed, border guards who you’d think have enough to worry about, would become copyright police for the RIAA and Hollywood studios. They’d be granted sweeping powers to conduct searches of any storage device you try to take across the border. They’d have the authority to act against infringers, meaning you could be subject to fines, seizure or even destruction of your equipment.

The agreement will essentially assume that anyone in possession of copyrighted material is guilty of infringement unless they can prove otherwise. It will be necessary to prove that you own the CD or DVDs you have backed up on your laptop or MP3 player. Unless you still have receipts for all that ripped media you could be in for a long future border crossing.

The draconian policies proposed by ACTA require Americans to toss away their constitution and its guarantee of private property and mandate for the burden of proof upon an accuser. Existing copyright laws in Canada and the US require rights holders to present evidence of infringement. Much to the pleasure of groups like the RIAA and MPAA the policy on fair use would be another casualty as a result of ACTA. Mandated by the 1984 Supreme Court’s Sony vs. Universal, it was established that it’s fair use for an owner to duplicate copyrighted materials for personal use. This has protected VCR, PVR and MP3 player owners ever since.

[From Check That MP3 Player at the Border: ACTA Could Bring Tough New Copyright Laws]

Craziness. When will it end? WHen you have to pay a fee to listen to your neighbor’s stereo?

The Magic Kingdom of Disney
(click to embiggen Paul Krasner’s satiric take on the Disney World you might not know)

RIAA Hates the iPod


Of course, this means the RIAA also hates most of its own best music-purchasing customers.

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings. [snip]

The Howell case was not the first time the industry has argued that making a personal copy from a legally purchased CD is illegal. At the Thomas trial in Minnesota, Sony BMG’s chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that “when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Copying a song you bought is “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy,’ ” she said.

[From Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use –]

I think the music industry would be in much worse shape if the iPod revolution hadn’t happened.

update, poorly worded WaPo story (surprised?).

The only problem: No such claim was made. What RIAA lawyer Ira Schwartz wrote in a supplemental brief was: “Once Defendant converted Plaintiffs’ recording into the compressed .MP3 format and they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies distributed by Plaintiffs.”

The critical phrase there is “shared folder” because the rest of the brief makes clear that the RIAA is claiming that Howell not only ripped his CDs but also put them in his shared folder in Kazaa, thus making them available for worldwide distribution. The RIAA has successfully argued that mere presence of copyright files in a shared folder constitutes “distribution” under copyright law.

“This is a garden-variety case with a very typical dispute over what constitutes distribution,” Eric Goldman, director of Santa Clara University Law School’s High-Tech Law program, said in a telephone interview.

from CIO Today and elsewhere.

Gilberto Gil for head of the RIAA

As discussed previously in these parts, Mr. Gil has my vote to run (and change the corporate DNA) of the RIAA. Copyright law should not be used as a club to keep corporate control of content, for all time.

Expresso 2222
“Expresso 2222” (Gilberto Gil)

Music: Gilberto Gil Hears the Future, Some Rights Reserved :

Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira, part musician and part policymaker, has emerged as a central player in the global search for more flexible forms of distributing artistic works.

ON Wednesday the Brazilian minister of culture, Gilberto Gil, is scheduled to speak about intellectual property rights, digital media and related topics at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin, Texas. Two nights later the singer, songwriter and pop star Gilberto Gil begins a three-week North American concert tour.

Rarely do the worlds of politics and the arts converge as unconventionally as in the person of Mr. Gil, whose itinerary includes a solo performance at Carnegie Hall on March 20. More than 40 years after he first picked up a guitar and sang in public, Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira is an anomaly: He doesn’t just make music, he also makes policy.

And as the music, film and publishing industries struggle to adapt to the challenge of content proliferating on the Internet, Mr. Gil has emerged as a central player in the global search for more flexible forms of distributing artistic works. In the process his twin roles have sometimes generated competing priorities that he has sought to harmonize.

As a creator of music, he is interested in protecting copyrights. But as a government official in a developing country celebrated for the creative pulse of its people, Mr. Gil also wants Brazilians to have unfettered access to new technologies to make and disseminate art, without having to surrender their rights to the large companies that dominate the culture industry.

After returning to Brazil in the 1970s he made records that urged black Brazilians to reconnect with their African roots, and was an early champion here of Bob Marley and reggae. But Mr. Gil has also read widely in Asian philosophy and religions and follows a macrobiotic diet, leading the songwriter, producer and critic Nelson Motta to describe his style as “Afro-Zen.”

In person Mr. Gil is warm, calm and engaging, a slim, dreadlocked figure with an elfin, humorous quality that tends to disarm critics. As both individual and artist he has always tended to be open-minded and eclectic in his tastes; the poet Torquato Neto once said of him, “There are many ways of singing and making Brazilian music, and Gilberto Gil prefers all of them.”