Filed under: Announcements & Events, Downloads, Entertainment Industry, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services
The one-year-old band Monster Cat has decided to put their new album Mannequins up for free downloading on The Pirate Bay.
“You downloaded our album off Pirate Bay? Did it work? We hope it did,” asked RJ (going by the pseudonym Psycho Cat) – the alternative folk-rock outfit’s guitarist and vocalist. Monster Cat had posted the link to The Pirate Bay on their official Monster Cat site.
LOUD’s download made the band happy. The five tracks album – a mix of folk-rock tracks – is free for download. The album includes original wallpaper artwork, a 15% discount to their merchandise and a well-packaged CD.
The following question comes to mind: why a self-funded album of original music (that costs each member of the band a four-figure sum) is available on what Los Angeles Times called “the world’s largest facilitator of illegal downloading”?
“As artistes, it’s worse not to get heard. This is a chance for us to get heard by an international audience,” said guitarist and lead vocalist Wang (aka Hentai Cat), who added that the band sold 450 CDs and 150 digital downloads before linking up with the site.
“The Pirate Bay has a promotional mechanism called The Promo Bay (you can read more about it here). They open it up to anyone and everyone who wants to promote their film or music,” he said.
“So the band wrote in”, said bassist Syai (aka Copy Cat), and the site asked its own Facebook group what they thought of Monster Cat.
After getting a positive response, the band’s album photo took the front page on PirateBay’s for three days. It is yet considered an unconventional solution, but many of us believe this is the future of entertaining; the band feels that this kind of advertising has worked out so far. In addition, Wang said that the traffic to their official site went up – 150.000 hits over the three days since their launch on TPB.
While the band members have no business background thus far, they agree that a business boost is essential since digital downloading is changing the patterns of music distribution, ownership and purchasing.
“As musicians, I think we should always take note of digital culture and how it’s always changing and shaping consumer habits. To us, file sharing is one of those things that is part of reality and we have to learn how to cope with it and see the opportunities…,” said RJ.
“…and co-exist with it,” said Wang, completing his sentence.
If you like the band, go to www.monstercat.net to obtain more information, and also you can check out www.loud.sg for their newly released music video – Underwater.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Entertainment Industry, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services, Legal P2P News & Issues
Levon Helm – a multi-awarded rock legend for The Band that passed away in 2012 – has been posthumously “involved” into a dispute over digital privacy between Reddit’s co-founder and a university professor who was once the band’s road manager.
A heated debate took place between Alexis Ohanian (Reddit’s co-founder) and Jonathan Taplin (head of the USC Anneberg Innovation Lab) on a subject that’s still sensitive – digital piracy.
Also a former road manager for The Band, Taplin discussed the copyright policy last Wednesday evening during Fast Company’s “Innovation Uncensored” event. A day before Levon Helm was about to die of cancer. Taplin opened the discussion by saying:
“Tonight, Levon Helm is dying, basically broke.”
He attributed the “basically broke” part to piracy. He continued saying that Helm was making $150.000 to $200.000 a year in royalties. But “eight years ago, that stopped”, when sales started to plummet due to file-sharing. “That, to me, is not fair,” he said.
A valid argument, but also to take into consideration is the fact that The Band broke up in ’76. If Helm was making $150.000 a year, it means that he managed to make a minimum of $4.2 million between the breakup of the band and the time his royalties started to disappear. Furthermore, it’s presumed that he was making a whole lot of money when the group was still creating records. Other sources of revenues were the tours around the world, and his single projects.
Point is piracy is not the only one to blame for his situation.
Taplin has made several other questionable statements, highlighted by Techdirt’s Mike Masnick.
It’s true that piracy took its toll on album sales around the world, a problem acknowledged by professor Ohanian who said it is “the curse of the benefit that is worldwide, instant distribution.”
As it happens with this kind of debates, the participants refused to accept each other’s points. Taplin pointed the blame on tech companies such as Google, but said nothing about the media industry’s inability to take the right steps to overcome this problem. And another issue at hand is that record labels mistreated artists for decades, before piracy became a problem. On the other side, Ohanian puts the blame on the media industry, but did not mention the ethical culpability of people who illegally download copyrighted material or outfits, like Pirate Bay, that profit from it.
Although the moderator of the debate tried to find something the two could agree on, they weren’t really open to that kind of solution.
The debate continues to build up. Ohanian followed up with a blog post addressed to Taplin where he reiterated his arguments that new models like crowdfunding can help with the problem. He offered to use Reddit and Kickstarter to help finance a project by the remaining two member of The Band to honor the man who was Helm. He also pointed out that the music industry took advantage on artists since long before file-sharing was born.
Despite his polite tone, Taplin responded on Monday with a bit of a grudge in his heart. Referring to Helm, who had died during the days of the interview, he said:
“I am sad not just for Levon’s wife and daughter, but sad that you could be so condescending to offer ‘to make right what the music industry did to the members of The Band.’ It wasn’t the music industry that created Levon’s plight; it was people like you celebrating Pirate Bay and Kim Dotcom–bloodsuckers who made millions off the hard work of musicians and filmmakers.”
“So what is your solution — charity. You want to give every great artist a virtual begging bowl with Kickstarter. But Levon never wanted the charity of the Reddit community or the Kickstarter community. He just wanted to earn an honest living off the great work of a lifetime. You are so clueless as to offer to get The Band back together for a charity concert, unaware that three of the five members are dead. Take your charity and shove it. Just let us get paid for our work and stop deciding that you can unilaterally make it free.”
We find the reaction only normal, especially under those circumstances. The clarity of thoughts can be easily clouded by someone’s death, especially someone close. Although Taplin has a point, like we’ve said before, piracy is not the only one to blame. Besides, the music industry didn’t make it easier, it actually made things worse than they were.
Regardless of who’s right and wrong, we do mourn the passing of a great artist, and we offer our condolences to the family and friends of Levon Helm.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Entertainment Industry, Legal P2P News & Issues
Jimmy Wales – the American entrepreneur and co-founder of the online non-profit encyclopedia Wikipedia – delivered his message to Hollywood’s studios: “You’re doomed, it won’t be piracy that kills you, and nobody will care,” he said.
Wikipedia’s founder, speaking at the Internet Society’s INET convention in Geneva, predicted that Hollywood will most likely share the fate of Encyclopedia Britannica which shut down its print operation this year after selling only 3,000 copies in 2010.
“Hollywood will be destroyed and no one will notice,” Wales said.
But it won’t be Wikipedia or Encarta that will put an end to the moviemaking industry:
”Collaborative storytelling and filmmaking will do to Hollywood what Wikipedia did to Encyclopedia Britannica,” he said.
Underlining the rapid development of technology, the video and mastering editing software era that entered our lives, gaining huge success – especially in our youngest sectors of society, he brought up the fact that his own 12-year-old daughter is already adept at iMovie and won a local award for a short movie she made.
And just as Wikipedia proved that collaboration on the web is possible, the coming generation will find ways of entertaining themselves by collaborating online to create movies; and their movies will include impressive special effects, CGI, and even remote actors, Whales believes.
Although Hollywood’s studios may not take these predictions seriously, and even if they may sound a bit “futuristic”, you can never know. If that’s the case, Hollywood won’t even see the punch coming. It would be beautiful.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Entertainment Industry, Legal P2P News & Issues
The provisions of UK’s anti-piracy law (under the island’s Digital Economy Act) have been postponed again until 2014. The “three strike” graduate response system was designed to cut off repeat copyright infringers and file-sharers.
The three-strikes system consists in the involvement of ISPs, in the sense that they are to send warning letters to alleged pirates (when caught) in order to control the overflow of illegal file-sharing. Unfortunately for the entertainment business, these plans have been put to a hold until 2014, UK’s government department responsible with the law confirmed.
Among the measures included within the three-strikes system, we find broadband limitations, but it is only applied as a final solution for extreme offenders. Ofcom, the Kingdom’s communication regulator, had said in a previous statement that it would start sending out notification letters to file-sharers starting with the middle of 2013.
However, due to legal challenges and bids raised (in order to clarify the law) by broadband providers, the anti-piracy act has been delayed. The act was passed at the end of last’s year Labour government. Due to the bill’s controversy, most members of the Parliament withdrew their support, and by the end of it less than 10% of all UK’s representatives voted the bill.
In the meantime, UK’s most prestigious broadband providers TalkTalk and BT intervened, arguing that the law was breaching European laws unsuccessfully. Furthermore, the UK government had faced criticism after questions were raised in a Parliamentary committee pertaining to the evidence for the bill.
2015 marks the election year, and the law will likely be at the center of heated debates. With the Labour government drafting and implementing the law, and the Conservative-led coalition government pushing through its measures, it will be a hot topic for the politicians on the soapboxes.
We’ll get back on the subject as soon as new developments arise.
In a Wednesday e-mail released by the Office of Management and Budget, the latter said that if CISPA reaches the president’s desk in its current form, “his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
“Legislation should address core critical infrastructure vulnerabilities without sacrificing the fundamental values of privacy and civil liberties for our citizens, especially at a time our Nation is facing challenges to our economic well-being and national security,” the e-mail states.
“The Administration looks forward to continuing to engage with the Congress in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to enact cybersecurity legislation to address these critical issues. However, for the reasons stated herein, if H.R. 3523 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
OMB’s message highlights various reasons on why the office opposes the bill, including that the bill “significantly departs from longstanding efforts to treat the Internet and cyberspace as civilian spheres” and that it “also lacks sufficient limitations on the sharing of personally identifiable information between private entities and does not contain adequate oversight or accountability measures necessary to ensure that the data is used only for appropriate purposes.”
In response, the authors of the bill said that Tuesday’s revisions take into account “nearly every single one of the criticisms leveled by the Administration, particularly those regarding privacy and civil liberties of Americans.”
The bill is set for a vote before the House of Representatives on Friday.
In addition we find out from an EFF’s report that Rep. Rogers is convinced that the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is an information “sharing” bill. Sounds so innocent, but the truth is that the act itself is also a surveillance bill. Its definitions allow private companies to monitor network traffic and stored data (including private e-mails) and transfer this kind of data to the government or others with no oversight or legal accountability, bypassing established privacy laws.
In a press call, Rep. Rogers said that the bill “does not provide any authority for the government to monitor private networks or read private e mail,” but the truth is that CISPA allows private companies to use “cybersecurity systems” – a very ambiguous term in the bill – to “identify and obtain” information on any relevant cyber threat, and then send the communications (without de-identifying the data) to the government. So giving this kind of power strictly based on good faith would be an act of insanity.
Furthermore, the bill creates expansive legal immunity, making companies and the government largely unaccountable to users. It provides “good faith” immunity for using those “cybersecurity systems” to obtain information, for not using for personal purposes the obtained information, and for making any decisions based on the information they receive. Let’s give an example to better understand under what circumstances CISPA works its magic: let us say that a company finds out about a security flaw, fails to fix it, and users’ information is misused or stolen (better said leaked). Well, if that happens, the companies are not to be held liable as long as they acted “in good faith”. In addition, companies “acting in good faith” are also liability-free for engaging in potential countermeasures, even if they harm innocent parties.
That means that CISPA grants surveillance power to private entities “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” bypassing existing rights to sue under laws like the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. In other words, if CISPA passes, companies will lose their legal right to protect their users’ privacy, such as federal or state privacy laws that keep companies from sharing sensitive personal information like health records and personal financial information.
Although there is a proposed amendment that allows people to file lawsuits against the federal government in case it violates some restrictions on the use of the obtained data, in practice this amendment is meaningless. First of all, the amendment only permits a lawsuit if it’s brought within two years of the date of the violation and not the date of the discovery of the violation. Yet CISPA exempts all data received by the government from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and blocks disclosure to any non-federal entity without the consent of the sending entity – meaning that it’s likely that users won’t be aware of any violation of their privacy for years (probably never), and when they do it will be too late, due to the two years limitation.
Second of all, if an individual sues the government, the government could invoke privileges like the state secrets privilege. This kind of lawsuit – involving classified information or state secrets – is difficult, expensive, and time consuming.
Here’s an example:
EFF (The Electronic Frontier Foundation) has been involved for years in a lawsuit claiming Fourth Amendment and statutory violations rooting from the warrantlesswiretapping program ran by the National Security Agency.
By combining immunity exemptions with weak federal liability CISPA will allow spying on users who ultimately are unable to hold companies and the government accountable for their actions.
Fight for your rights!