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Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

The Music Police

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


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Why is homeland security enforcing the nation against music downloads?

"In what appears to be the latest phase of a far-reaching federal crackdown on online piracy of music and movies, a number of sites that facilitate illegal file-sharing were shut down this week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security."

Sisario, Ben. 2010. "U.S. Shuts Down Web Sites in Piracy Crackdown." New York Times (27 November). http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/27/technology/27torrent.html?hp

Performing Rights Society Claims Its Unlawful To Sing

That is, until the obvious backlash comes.

Is there are clearer example of how anti-freedom copyright regulations have become? What bigger cornerstone of human freedom is there than to sing out loud to yourself?

The Performing Rights Society apologized to the woman, but what sort of twisted psychological conditioning was at work to make them even think that this was a problem in the first place?

Unbelievable.

Read it all here.

WTO Backs Zookz

From ReadWriteWeb:

As reported in the LA Times' technology blog, the launch of Antigua-based media download site Zookz has raised the ire of the US trade commission as well as the RIAA and MPAA. However, according to the company, Zookz is permitted by the World Trade Organization under a loophole copyright sanction. You read that correctly. The US trade commission and the RIAA / MPAA is challenging Zookz the pirate with the WTO in its corner. Imagine the cage match.

Zookz is offering unlimited movie or music downloads for $10 per month (or $18 for both). The company's low prices can be attributed to the fact that it is not paying licensing fees to copyright owners. The justification as to why Zookz can ignore US claims to intellectual copyrights is a long and complicated one.

It seems the WTO ruled with Antigua after a long series of battles over the fact that US restrictions on online gambling were found to violate free trade agreements. Despite the decision, no new forms of offshore online betting were allowed in the US. In retaliation, Antigua received permission from the WTO to suspend US copyright obligations up to a value of $21 million dollars annually.

The rest is here.

MOBY: Disband the RIAA

Popular music and DJ artist Moby has called for the disbanding of the RIAA in light of its legal victory over file sharer Jammie Thomas-Rasset - subjecting her to an outrageous (and possibly unconstitutional?) fine of $80,000 per song.

Read Moby's thoughts here.

If you are one of the few who are still unfamiliar with Moby's work, I'd encourage you to check it out. He does some sublime stuff - especially his tracks that showcase his ability to remix older (presumably public domain?) works into new dance beats.

Against Monopoly

Much has been said here about the disinformation pursued by the RIAA to convince each and everyone that illegal downloads are the sole reason behind poor sales. Turns out its British counterpart is up to the same standard along with its sidekick, the Ministry of Intellectual Property. Witness these two Guardian articles.

The first one discusses a claim that the revenue lost due to file sharing amounts to a tenth of GDP. It turns out numbers were off by a decimal. And then still overinflated by assuming each download had an opportunity cost of £25. And let us forget an argument about price elasticity and the difference between a price of £25 and £0.

The second one shows that the reason music sales went down is maybe due to the fact that there are better alternatives to music, like computer games and DVDs. Sales numbers would certainly be consistent with that.

Not Sued For Copyright Infringment - Arrested

A rather disturbing development -

A man accused of posting nine previously unreleased songs by the rock band Guns N' Roses on a website where they could be accessed by the public was arrested at his home early today on suspicion of violating federal copyright laws, authorities said.

Kevin Cogill, 27, is accused of posting the songs, which were being prepared for commercial release, on the Internet blog Antiquiet in June, according to an arrest affidavit. The site received so much traffic after the songs were posted that it crashed, the affidavit states.

More info here.

The ephemeral line between civil and criminal penalties in copyright is yet another bothersome abuse of the intersection between business interests and state power. Why are some accused of copyright violations merely sued by businesses while others are arrested by the state? What truly distinguishes one case from the other, and how do authorities make such a determination? On the surface, it seems that the only difference is how much political clout a particular business has with authorities.

I am of the belief that IP violations should never be considered as a criminal offense unless there are other criminal activities associated with the use of the IP itself (i.e., selling 'pirated' goods or fake knock-offs of trademarked products to help fund terrorist groups, organized crime, etc.).

Musical Creativity Through Borrowing

The musician Gregg Gillis A K A Girl Talk is making a creative career by borrowing music from established artists. His latest album is a creative compilation of 300 songs. So far he hasn't been sued for copyright "infringement," but that might be due to the fact that his best selling work has sold only 20,000 copies, not enough to rile up the copyright capos. (The usually voluble RIAA didn't comment for the story.)

Fair use is the name of his game. He defends his modus operandi by saying that he what he does is "to take something so familiar and twist it into a new entity." He slices and dices old music so that it becomes his new creation. Game over for copyright.

Here is the article from the Wall Street Journal, June 27, p. B7.

Happy Birthday to You

You may be aware of various lawsuits against such major pirates as the Boy Scouts of America over violating copyright by singing songs around the campfire; via Christian Zimmermann the situation is apparently no better in Britain.

Radiohead releases album on line

Radiohead has released their new album directly on their webpage, skipping all distributors and other intermediaries. The files are available for download at a price of "It's Up To You", which includes $0. The whole thing is, not surprisingly, becoming a major success, with the web site crashing repeatedly because of too high demands and informal reports that they have sold around $10million in 3 days. No contract, no record company's right, no claim, nothing!

http://www.inrainbows.com/

Another brick off the wall.

Jurors Wanted To Fine Music Downloader $3.6-Million For Downloading 24 Songs

Astonishing.

I'll admit that if I was on that jury, I would have voted to acquit simply as form of jury nullification over bad copyright laws (not because I would have doubted that she actually downloaded music).

With that said, I think its actually a pity that the defendant here WASN'T fined the $3.6-million instead of the $222,000 that she was given. If she HAD been hit with a $3.6-million fine for copying 24 songs, it would have set up the perfect opportunity to mount a direct constitutional challenge to the punishments contained in our draconian copyright laws.

Cruel and unusual punishment anyone? I suspect that many courts might be willing to entertain such an argument - even those who would otherwise be inclined to protect harsh copyright monopolies.

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