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Thoughts & Articles

We are all indie bands now.

Jim Infantino
We are all indie bands now
Back in 1999 when the digital millennium copyright act was being drafted, I was a encouraged by the service "napster" and how it was growing our fan base by allowing people to freely exchange, and more importantly share opinions about our music on line. At the same time, I was helping to code the real player skin for RadioBoston - an internet radio station (a new idea at the time) that played my band and other locals online. The record industry in the form of the RIAA - the organization that hands out gold and platinum records shut napster down with the help of congress and the DMCA (above). They claimed that a download of an mp3 was a mechanical rather than broadcast deliverable, and as such, each copy downloaded was due the $1 (approx) royalty to the record company, rather than the fraction of a penny due by radio stations to artist performance orgs such as ASCAP and BMI. This effectively shut down napster as it was for good and internet radio for years to come. I tried calling napster, to tell them that I was an independent musician, and didn't want those royalties, we wanted to give permission to share our music. Their service was helping us, not hurting us. They were understandably otherwise occupied. The law protected the dinosaurs and hurt the rodents. The question applies to all of us now, not just movie and music and software creators. Who owns your stuff when you put it on line? Is it mechanical, or broadcast? Is it something new? Computers are copy machines. It's 90% of what they do. When you use something like a computer to communicate, you are making copies of it. When you copy it to another computer, like when you use email, or twitter or send a voicemail, you are doing something like broadcast, while making a copy. And what about when you make a phone call? You do literally broadcast it from a cell phone, and it travels over lines and networks owned by some telecom or other leased by the US govt. What rights to you have regarding your stuff when it leaves your abode, and heads out into the wide world? Listening to On the Media on PRI this weekend, I found myself cheering because someone finally said clearly and directly what I have been trying to express to our clients and my friends in the light of the NSA "wiretapping scandal" / political news cycle pavlovian outrage chime. Let me know your thoughts on line.