March 16, 2005

Feel Good Story Of The Week: Lars Ulrich, Scourge of Music Pirates, Born Again As Fair Use Good Guy

For the last month, Boing Boing has been following the story of Beatallica, a Milwaukee parody band who had been posting their Metallica-esque covers of Beatles songs on the web. Back in late February, when Sony got wind of their activities, they cried copyright violation and promptly sent a cease and desist letter to the Beatallica site webmaster, who responded by regretfully taking the site down.

At this point, something very unexpected happened. Metallica’s drummer, Lars Ulrich, stepped in… The last time Lars was involved in a public scrap over copyright was back in 2000 when he was crying foul at the “theft” of Metallica’s music by Napster users. This time, however, he was offering his support to the “violators”, and sent the band’s attorney in to bat for them.

As a result, the news has come through that Sony has decided to drop their action. So, the Beatallica site should be back up this week. In the meantime, you can download Beatallica’s raucous oeuvre from Metafilter Music.

Posted by Warren at 09:12 PM

March 02, 2005

Help Stop Unauthorised Performances of "Happy Birthday To You"

Apparently, “Happy Birthday To You” is a copyrighted work (and will be until 2030) that currently belongs to Time Warner. This means that any unauthorised performance of it – including a sing-along in a public place like a restaurant – is a breach of copyright. And, considering how common that sort of activity is, this must surely make it one of the flagrantly abused works in the history of modern intellectual property. So, if the stormtroopers of take-as-many-prisoners-as-possible copyright enforcement are really serious about their mission, they should do something about it NOW…

Of course, they won’t; so Benjamin Mako has taken up the mantle and provided a way for outraged citizenry to inform Time Warner about these shameless transgressions. Hopefully, his initiative will make a difference; and, in time, maybe birthday parties can return to being innocent celebrations of a life's milestones... instead of being the venues for wanton acts of egregiousness that they currently are… (via Boing Boing)

Posted by Warren at 09:08 PM

February 17, 2005

Australian Creative Commons Licences Launched

Creative_Commons.jpgAnd a final note for the evening… Australia recently joined the rest of the civilized world with the launch of our very own iCommons licences. I spoke to one of the local Creative Commons project heads, Brian Fitzgerald, about this last week and the interview (which provides a very generalist summary of CC licences, along with tips for Australian songwriters and contact details for more information) is being broadcast tomorrow morning.

If you’re a local content producer and you’re unfamiliar with Creative Commons then I advise you to tune in.

(FOOTNOTE: My apologies for the fairly late posting of this. If you want a copy of the interview, drop me a line via the email address on the sidebar.)

Posted by Warren at 11:08 PM

October 26, 2004

Legal To Sample, Legal To Share: The Creative Commons Wired CD

The Wired CD is the first official compilation of musical works released under the new Creative Commons’ Sampling licences. These licences mean that the works can be legally copied and sampled for non-commercial purposes. (In some cases, they can even be sampled for commercial purposes – provided they aren’t used in commercials.) The artists who’ve contributed to it include the Beastie Boys, David Byrne, Matmos, Dan The Automator, Le Tigre, The Rapture, Danger Mouse, Chuck D, Thievery Corporation, Cornelius, Spoon, Zap Mama, DJ Dolores, Paul Westerberg, The Morning Jacket and Gilberto Gil. You can go out and pick it up for free with the November issue of Wired, or alternatively you can download this Bit Torrent. (via Boing Boing)

Posted by Warren at 11:59 PM

September 23, 2004

Three Notes and Runnin'

Earlier on this month, a Circuit Court of Appeals in the US ruled that NWA was in breach of copyright when it used an uncleared three note sample from a Funkadelic guitar riff in one of its songs - even though that sample had been manipulated to the point where "no reasonable juror, even one familiar with the works of George Clinton, would recognize [it] without having been told of its source". (quote taken from the ruling in the original case that was overturned by this appeal.)

When the anti-copyright-abuse firebrands at Downhill Battle got wind of this appalling decision, they naturally organised a protest - and what a brilliant-conceived protest it was!... On their site, they posted the 1.5 seconds of Funkadelic guitar at the centre of the case and invited allcomers to compose 30 second song using only this sample.

The response to that invitation (made back on Sept 15) has been impressive to say the least, with 58 tracks of digifuckery submitted so far. In the process, the sample has been turned into everything from dark electronica to video game and synthesized insect sounds. (There's even a version of the "Star Spangled Banner".) And the best thing about it all is that no one involved can get sued, as the use of copyrighted material for protests is protected under the US Constitution!

(More details in this Wired News article)

Posted by Warren at 05:37 PM

August 26, 2004

Shooting Yourself In The Foot... Big Time!

A month or so ago, I posted a story about the Flash-animated parody of the US-Pres candidates which used a re-worked version of Woody Guthrie's folk classic "This Land (Is Our Land)". At the time, the song's publisher, Ludlow Music, threatened to sue the animators for infringement of copyright... And in the month since them, that's exactly what they did and - guess what - they lost! But it doesn't end there...
In the course of presenting of evidence, it was discovered that the song had been published eleven years earlier than previously thought, so it was already in the public domain when Ludlow initially applied for a copyright renewal back in the mid 80's. As a result, they are no longer recognised as the copyright owners and have effectively robbed themselves of eleven more years of royalties on the back of this popular standard.

Posted by Warren at 09:30 PM

August 25, 2004

Music "Pirates" Make Better Customers

Nuclear Elephant have set out to prove something that the P2P community has known for a long time - "illegal" file-sharing actually encourages CD sales. They've invited people who've bought a CD/movie/software after downloading a pirated copy online to submit a testimonial and the amount they've spent. (So far its $138,974 and counting)...
In the case of music, the so-called "pirates" routinely purchase CDs of stuff they've downloaded because its better quality than the mp3s, or because they love it and understand that the outlay of money will help keep the artist/label viable... For small boutique labels (who would previously have had very limited opportunities for exposure) it represents a positive boon...
So, the only people it really harms are Big Labels who try to foist disposible chart-fodder on an increasingly discerning record buying public... And they can muck out the monkey stalls at the zoo for all I care...
If you've purchased anything as a result of your exposure to it via P2P, I encourage you to enter the details on the Nuclear Elephant site. (Don't worry, names and IP addresses aren't saved, so you will remain anonymous.)

Posted by Warren at 10:15 PM

July 29, 2004

Woody Guthrie's Copyright Notice

By now, the vast majority of you will probably have heard of (and seen) the rather over-hyped Flash animated parody of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" featuring George W and John Kerry... Well - surprise! surprise! - the publishers of the song have threatened to bring a copyright action against the parodists on the basis that it "damages" the unifying message of the song.
Its a fairly spurious claim that threatens one of the mainstays of political satire - the satirical song; but one good thing has come out of it... Its prompted its opponents at Electronic Frontier Foundation to dig up the standard copyright notice that Guthrie placed on most of his songs. And its one of the best copyright notices ever written. It goes something like this...

"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

Posted by Warren at 01:52 AM

June 17, 2004

PSA: Movies For Music

Attention film-makers and animators! Wanna get involved in the fight against Big Music’s draconian assaults on file-sharing? Well, here’s your chance…
Downhill Battle and p2pnet are offering the prize of a ZVue handheld video player (and a T-shirt) to the activist auteur who can come up with the best 30 second TVC-style video about music business bad behaviour. (Alternatively, you can do a 5-minute short in any style about some aspect of the recording industry.) Entries close July 21st. For all the details, go to Movies For Music. (Thanks to Anthony for this link.)

Posted by Warren at 05:02 PM

June 06, 2004

Great Moments in Music Industry Paranoia: Finger-Scan Copy Protection

If the record industry’s hyper-paranoia over piracy wasn’t so well-established, then it would be tempting to dismiss the following “innovation” as some discarded out-take from the Minority Report futurism think-tank… But it’s all very real…
Back in January, Swedish design firm Thinking Materials developed a media player with fingerprint-based file security. And now, the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America are seriously considering the player as a means of stopping mp3/movie piracy

Surely they aren’t serious?… Don’t they realise that P2P pirates are the sort of proto-terrorists who would cut off a person’s fingers to get at their legally-acquired music collection?... Far better to look beyond flimsy external biometrics and go for the chip implants already used as membership cards by Spanish clubbers... To guard against extraction, we could embed them in the brain and equip them with DNA-based DRM… The possibilities are endless… I await my APRA commission with much anticipation…

Posted by Warren at 08:16 PM