Category Archives: lightnet

copyright don’t ask don’t tell

The other day I emailed a netlabel to ask if I could rehost their album art. They didn’t have a version of it online for me to include using a direct link, and it wasn’t under a permissive license that would permit me to redistribute it.

Then yesterday I emailed a fellow who had put up a sound sample under a license I can’t use to ask if I could have permission to use the sample anyway.

Neither of these people have gotten back to me. That’s not a coincidence – rights holders have an incentive to be cagey. They benefit from saying nothing. I doubt that either of the people I emailed would object to my use. But compare what they get for saying nothing to what they get for saying something:

– If they say no, I don’t help market their works. I represent viral spread to them, and they want it.

– If they say yes, they give up the opportunity to charge me.

– If they say nothing and I do it anyway, they gain both viral marketing and the ability to sue me.

Not giving permission but not saying no is all upside for rights holders.

They don’t even want to be *asked*. Let’s say a rights holder had a web app for infringers to tell on themselves, so that a user of the app would be submitting a statement to tell the rights holder that they were infringing. Wouldn’t this create an obligation for the rights holder to complain? Oh noes! If they didn’t complain they might lose their ability to sue. If they did complain they might lose viral marketing.

So that’s copyright don’t ask don’t tell. Rights holders want you to infringe without either asking them or telling them.

netlabels and webcasting contrasted with on-demand

Here are David Porter’s calculations on the health of webcasting as a business:

Internet radio revenues, however, were estimated at a mere $92,000,000 — not so impressive. A quick bit of math is revealing: $92m/4.85bn = $0.0190 per hour. That is to say, revenue/hour was just shy of 2 cents. Unfortunately, the rate for digital sound recording performance royalties (the thing I wrote about a lot last year) is $0.0011 per performance (per track, per listener). Based on an average of 14 tracks/hour, this equates to an hourly cost of $0.0154. In other words, the sound recording royalty by itself consumes 78% of advertising revenues.

Assuming these figures are accurate, the internet radio sector is paying the labels a 78% share of their revenues. By contrast, traditional (aka terrestrial) radio pays 0% of their revenues — nothing — to the labels. And satellite radio pays 6-8% of its revenues to the labels.

For internet radio services, the remaining 22% of their revenues must be divvied up between the musical composition royalty (probably 4-5%), bandwidth, employees (which is typically the most expensive component of cost), overhead, and, well, profit. Or not. The math doesn’t work.

David’s data is flawed, but the overall picture is about right. The internet radio business is pretty sucky. It’s not miles underwater like the on-demand business, but it’s still not very sensible.

OTOH, consider David Porter’s comment on the Silicon Alley Insider piece:

The $10 eCPM argument is one I’ve made a lot over the last couple of years. The tough thing with ad-supported on-demand is that with ubiquitous broadband wireless (not quite there yet but getting closer), such access is increasingly substitutional for music acquisition (purchased or not). While I see your volume angle, it seems unlikely that the labels (the majors, at least) would consider an on-demand rate in an range supportable by advertising.

While it just got a lot more expensive, the radio rate under the US compulsory license is the only type of delivery that’s at least close to being sustainable for a free/ad-based model. And, arguably, this style of delivery (passive, programmed) lends itself to advertising more so than the hunt-and-peck required for on-demand access.

That is, as bad as the webcasting business is, it’s still better than the on-demand business.

Now consider that internet music businesses have to compete for investment capital with internet businesses that don’t pay royalties. Craigslist, Google search, and Twitter do nothing but move bits around!

Lastly, returning to the conversation about netlabels the other day, I want to point out that netlabel and other net-native music doesn’t have a lot of listeners, but as long as it stays clear of copyright infringement it can have economics just like Craiglist, Twitter etc. Maybe not at that scale, but definitely at that level of profitability.

And I know that people on the business side of internet music see net-native music as a joke. That’s right big shots, I’m talking to you specifically. Make free and legal music popular enough for your traffic to scale and you can have the grail — an internet music product that makes sense as a business. Which is exactly what Phlow-Magazine is working on by slicking up the presentation of those sources.

music is $$$ free

Windows Is Free (A TLUG Article):

If every user who had a cracked copy of Windows had a legitimate version of Linux instead, what would the percentage of computers running Linux be? More than there are now, that’s for sure.

That’s also true for music.

Unauthorized distribution is bad for open media.


gurdonark:

This whole technological revolution is useless if all it will amount to is the enhanced ability to misappropriate mainstream culture. It is as if everyone suddenly got the ability to play guitar like Hendrix, but only wanted to play covers of “Purple Haze” in shows at the Holiday Inn.

This drives me bananas.

We get to live though a major transition. Huge changes are happening at an artistic level, bigger than any in our lifetimes so far. Much bigger than the change from swing to rock, or from rockabilly to electronica.

Personally, I want to be right there in the middle of the new thing, not over on the lagging edge with Pirate Bay. Why would anybody want different?  I don’t get it.

From ten days that shook the world:

NEXT morning, Sunday the 11th, the Cossacks entered Tsarskoye Selo, Kerensky (See App. VIII, Sect. 1) himself riding a white horse and all the church-bells clamouring. From the top of a little hill outside the town could be seen the golden spires and many-coloured cupolas, the sprawling grey immensity of the capital spread along the dreary plain, and beyond, the steely Gulf of Finland.

There was no battle. But Kerensky made a fatal blunder. At seven in the morning he sent word to the Second Tsarskoye Selo Rifles to lay down their arms. The soldiers replied that they would remain neutral, but would not disarm. Kerensky gave them ten minutes in which to obey. This angered the soldiers; for eight months they had been governing themselves by committee, and this smacked of the old régime….

Is music a substitutable good?

Ad-Supported Music Central: The Times is a Great Textbook

In any industry the low-cost producer of substitutable goods will always win (whether recorded music is substitutable is open to debate but I would argue that it is, sicne listeners have virtually unlimited choice in what to spend their time listening to). It seems like the recorded music business is just beginning to learn this fundamental principle of business.

What is substitutable about music is choice *before the fact.*

Once you have come to know and love a piece of music, only that one will do. That is why there are classics. There is only one Kind of Blue, and people who know and love it will never have a substitute.

But before you meet Kind of Blue, you have a universe of choices. Your listening journey doesn’t spiral inwards to an inevitable meeting with Kind of Blue. Drop into a path starting at Opsound, for example, and you will end up loving other musics.

guitar lessons as the transmission of culture

guitar teacherPer NPR

Thousands of guitar students lost a valuable resource last week. The most popular guitar teacher on YouTube saw his more than 100 videos yanked from the site. The reason: a music company accused him of copyright  infringement for an instructional video on how to play a Rolling Stones song.

Culture relies on shared references. Sharing requires copying. When a new guitarist copies the way that a skilled guitarist plays a well-known song, culture is being transmitted from one generation to the next.

When a music publisher prevents musicians from learning a song, they are destroying the value of the song. There’s no reason to learn the Smoke on the Water riff except that everybody else knows it, and cultural ubiquity isn’t possible unless learning is absolutely free and unencumbered. Notice that the song in the original quote is by the Rolling Stones, a band that couldn’t matter less if it weren’t part of pop culture canon.

One result of copyright extremism will be the disappearance of cultural icons like the Rolling Stones. They haven’t contributed anything fresh to the culture for close to forty years, and without third parties reusing their old work in ways that make it fresh they hardly exist. In terms of 2007 pop culture, all those covers of “Paint it black” *are* “Paint it black.”

This is why I am resurrecting 150-year old songs and posting them, along with sheet music, on my blog — it’s possible for those songs to be used as source material for new work.

But I suppose that this is needless worry. Waves of takedowns for items like free but unauthorized guitar lessons are usually part of licensing business deals. Nobody bothers to ask for the takedowns unless they have a competing commercial product for which they have paid to license the source materials. If unlicensed guitar lessons featuring Rolling Stones songs are being knocked down, it probably means that licensed ones are coming up behind them.

Amy Waltz

Amy Waltz

This post is a short, jittery, very loose, and slightly overdriven acoustic guitar version of a tune called “Anna Waltz” which was composed by a guy named D.E. Jannon and published in 1854. I learned it from sheet music at the Library of Congress web site.

MP3: Lucas Gonze — Amy Waltz (1:36)

This recording is under a Creative Commons BY-SA license per my standard license statement.

See also Carrie Waltz.

Carrie Waltz

This post is one of my acoustic guitar recordings. It is a tune called “Carrie Waltz” which was composed by a guy named D.E. Jannon and published in 1854. I learned it from sheet music at the Library of Congress web site.

Lucas Gonze — Carrie Waltz

I’m only publishing an MP3, not an Ogg anything or a lossless version or the Audacity original. And I didn’t pay any attention to the tagging process, so it might or might not have reasonable metadata and proper Creative Commons licensing in the ID3 tags. It takes forever to get all these details right and I want to see how it feels to focus on the tunes and not worry about the computer maintenance.

This recording is under a Creative Commons BY-SA license per my standard license statement.

Here’s the sheet music original that I worked from:

Carrie Waltz sheet music

Crazy_Arms_Lucas_CC_SA

This is an experiment I’m doing with Jay Dedman. He made the video, I made the music.

Jay Dedman hooked up my 2 spirit of gods music with his crazy arms videoblog entry. In the posting that started the thread, he had a licensing problem with music:

After posting my video today for Videoblogging Week 2007, commenters pointed out that I used a commercial song that I had no rights to use. Most people would be like ‘who cares?’..but in this case, it’s important. We just had a big event this past Saturday where Jon and Colette spoke about Creative Commons. If we videobloggers want respect from commercial companies (ie dont steal our stuff!)…we must respect existing copyright law. This means don’t use commercial music without permission.

time to get off the commercial media nipple once and for all.

Soundtracks for videoblogs are an ideal application of blog music. In both cases the media has to be fast, cheap, conversational and copyleft. This is an instance of remixing outside of the mashup genre, and an instance of redistribution outside of filesharing.

It’s also a case where the new medium shows how it is different in substance from the old one.

Blogging a soundtrack for a blogged video is about the same kind of thing as blogging a text comment on somebody else’s textual blog entry by a third party, except that the form of the conversation crosses boundaries from one art to another.

Catpower was the music provider in Jay’s first video, but Catpower was never involved in the thread. Since conversation is about who makes a conversational gestures as much as what they say, the stars from the old medium of offline audio need to make a deliberate effort to participate if they want to be part of the new medium.


This video was originally shared on blip.tv by jaydedman with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. (Donate)

2 spirit of gods

This is two guitar instrumental versions of the Mormon hymn “Spirit of God.” Neither has much of a godly spirit to it. I like them for the phrasing.

For more information on this hymn see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spirit_of_God_Like_a_Fire_Is_Burning. I learned the tune from sheet music at Mutopia. I blogged a previous version of it on 12/3/2006. These are licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 per my standard license on my own music.

Version one here is abrupt and tricky:


feb 6 2007 spirit of god version 2 edit 2 (mp3)

feb 6 2007 spirit of god version 2 edit 2 (ogg)

Version two is woodsy and sweet:


spirit of god february 4 2007 (mp3)

spirit of god february 4 2007 (ogg)


Postscript: creating this blog entry was a lot of work, much more than it should have been, because of the relatively poor technical infrastructure for blog musicians and because of my blog host’s industry-lagging support for multimedia. Despite the lavish over-investment in web video in recent years, audio is still in a basically broken state.

Monday 856 AM

Monday 856 AM (ogg)

Monday 856 AM (mp3)

This post is a recording of my own music. The song is an instrumental on acoustic guitar. It is one track played live with no overdubs or edits.

The tune is entitled “Monday 856 AM.” I wrote and recorded it before work on 3/19.

The song, including both the composition and the sound recording, is licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA. The issue of how CC licensing applies to compositions is murky at best, which is why I am stating outright that I have the rights to the composition and I grant others the right to post their own performances of it without paying royalties, given that their own sound recording is under the same license.

I used the 1 Pixel Out player rather than an XSPF player because there is a WordPress plugin on my ISP for the 1 Pixel Out player.