Having recently returned from Norway, where I was impressed at the optimism and the willingness to embrace new technologies and services, it's disappointing to read the following story (found via brokep) of a Norwegian band who recently released an album on their own label and decided to put it up on The Pirate Bay themselves, as more and more indie labels are doing. Except... the band members are a part of the Norwegian music collection society TONO, who is among those fighting to have The Pirate Bay blocked in Norway. Since the band has allowed TONO to enforce its copyrights in performance situations, TONO is claiming that it can forbid members from putting their music on sites like The Pirate Bay (translation from the original Norwegian):
The management contract in TONO means that we can not allow the TONO-members post things on your own at some commercial sites.
Once again, examples of these performance rights groups working against the wishes of artists, rather than helping them out.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Nordic Music Week event held in Stavanger, Norway. It was a smaller event, mainly involving those involved in the music industry in the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland), with a heavy emphasis on independent musicians, as there were no major label representatives there. As such, the event was quite different than most of the typical music industry events I go to. There was very little fretting and worrying about "piracy" and such, and most of the discussions were quite forward looking and forward thinking. In fact, I'd say much of the event was downright optimistic about where the music industry was heading. While there were many great discussions (and I liked the fact that much of the event was focused around open table discussions, rather than just presentations), one of the most interesting presentations was by Òlafur Arnalds, an Icelandic musician, who started his presentation off by saying he disagreed with me and my presentation (which had been an updated variation on my NARM presentation), and had adjusted his presentation to be a response of sorts to mine. Except it wasn't. His presentation was yet another great example of a musician who understood exactly what works in the industry, even as he thought he disagreed with me. We later chatted briefly about it, and realized we're actually very much in agreement about where we stand on the industry. The confusion came about because he is really focused on the music, and felt that my presentation focused too much on the money aspect.
And, indeed, my presentation did focus somewhat on how to make money, but that's because if I just focus on the music, people complain that no one will make money and then no one will make music. But, of course, that's ridiculous. None of these models work particularly well if you don't make great music. And Òlafur Arnalds makes great music -- and once we started talking, even he admitted that in order to do what he does, he needs (and wants) to make a living (which he does). And his actual presentation was about how to do just that. It was all about how he closely connected with his fans and gave them a reason to buy (even if he didn't like to think that way). Instead, he noted that he needed to come up with a good story to go with the music, that would help attract his fans, better connect them to him while also giving them a reason to support him monetarily.
So, with that idea (having a story behind the music) as his basis, he came up with a great project called 'Found Songs', where he would write, record and release a new song every single day for seven straight days. He did it all out of his bedroom. His fans then stepped up and created artwork for each song, and in some cases, amazing videos, such as this one below, which is truly beautiful, and within days had thousands upon thousands of views:
You can watch the videos, look at the artwork people created for the songs and even download all the songs for free as mp3s. But, there's also a store where you can buy the beautifully packaged vinyl or CD versions of the album, and some higher quality digital downloads. In other words, it was yet another perfect example of connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy (and, yes, it involved great music as well -- which is, in fact, key). The importance of having a good story to go along with things, as we've seen with other projects, is a particularly good point. And, again, it shows how an infinite good (a good story) can increase the value of a scarce good (the products you're selling). He also showed how his own fanbase increased massively after doing this project -- much more so than when he was out opening for Sigur RÃ³s. So, in the end, we absolutely agreed, and I found out about some more great music and yet another great story and example to go along with all the others.
Beyond that, I met a bunch of fascinating people doing very interesting and unique things in the music industry in the Nordic region. All of the Nordic countries are working hard to help enable their bands to adapt to a changing music environment, and there are definitely some very creative indie labels, artists and managers who are thinking through and implementing some great ideas that left me quite enthusiastic for what comes next. I also got a chance to meet Moto Boy, who took part in our CwF+RtB experiment, and see him perform live (which was fantastic). Overall, a very encouraging trip.
I'm heading over to Norway in the next few days to give a talk at the Nordic Music Week event, and it's nice to see that the courts in that country seem to recognize how silly the IFPI's demands that major ISP Telenor block access to The Pirate Bay are. Telenor was smart enough to fight back, and the courts have now said that Telenor is not liable for what its users do, and should not have to block access to a site like The Pirate Bay. From TorrentFreak on the ruling:
The court ruled that Telenor is not contributing to any infringements of copyright law when its subscribers use The Pirate Bay, and therefore there is no legal basis for forcing the ISP to block access to the site.... In making its decision, the court also had to examine the repercussions if it ruled that Telenor and other ISPs had to block access to certain websites. This, it said, is usually the responsibility of the authorities and handing this task to private companies would be "unnatural."
Good to see a court recognize that the entertainment industry doesn't own the internet, and shouldn't be the one to determine what is and what is not legal online.
"Instead of demanding that Internet providers censor the Internet and monitor the content that's transferred, Telenor believes that the best way to decrease illegal file sharing is to put more effort into making legally downloadable content available."
But, as we've seen over the years, there are still many in positions of power within the recording industry who believe that the best new business model is to try to stomp out anyone who challenges their old business model. Eventually, they'll realize what a failed plan that is.
It appears that Norway has decided that it's sick of passing laws designed to prop up obsolete industry business models at the expense of individual privacy. First, the country started telling ISPs to delete log files after just three weeks (making it pretty hard to identify individual filesharers), and now it's refused to renew the license given to the one law firm allowed to sniff IP addresses in trying to seek out unauthorized file sharing. Apparently there's been a bit of a debate about the license, with concerns about potential privacy violations. I have to admit that I'm not sure this makes much sense to me. I still have trouble understanding the European point of view that an IP address -- which your computer more or less needs to share publicly with other computers is somehow "private information." However, that's the way many European countries view it, and so such snooping is a potential privacy violation. Effectively, the country has decided that privacy rights are more important than the entertainment industry's old business model.
As some entertainment industry folks continue to insist that BitTorrent tracker search engines have no redeeming value, we keep hearing more and more stories of content providers willingly and eagerly putting up their own torrent trackers, knowing that it's an incredibly efficient means of distributing their content. In the past, we've seen TV networks in Australia and Canada do this with individual shows, and now TorrentFreak is reporting that the government-owned Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) has set up a BitTorrent tracker for distributing a bunch of its shows, noting that: "This type of distribution is reliable, cheap and popular with our audience." Indeed. Not only that, but by running its own tracker, NRK realizes: "we will get better statistics and gather important data about how this technology works." Even better, it plans to share some of that data for others to learn from as well.
The shows will be DRM-free, and it's looking to employ a Creative Commons license on the content "to allow full freedom for our audience." Definitely nice to see someone not going down the same well-trodden road of self-defeat:
"It is important for us to start experimenting with new distribution methods. We don't want to do like the music industry. Running around thinking that people will keep driving down to a record store when they can have the content delivered with the push of a button at home."
If only some others in the entertainment industry would recognize the same thing.
For the supporters of net neutrality, an Obama White House, Genachowski FCC and Democratic Congress seemed to be the magic combination to ensure an open, non-discriminatory Internet. However, one of the key proponents, Representative Boucher, has recently suggested that he is switching tactics, "scrapping the idea of pursuing legislation mandating an openly accessible Internet in favor of negotiations with stakeholders aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord." An agreement upon industry best practices could, in theory, be a good way to protect net neutrality, but there are causes for concern.
As Techdirt contributor Tim Lee pointed out in his paper on net neutrality, the unintended consequences of legislation may be costly and inefficient. So, voluntary agreements could create a flexible, realistic approach to protecting an important principle. Something similar happened with the Global Network Initiative that brought together Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, along with academics and human rights organizations, to agree to a set of principles and enforcement mechanisms to protect and promote free expression and privacy around the globe. But the motivating factor of this agreement was the threat of legislation following very humiliating Congressional hearings on American Internet companies' dealings in China. By creating a voluntary set of best practices, the Global Network Initiative sidestepped the unintended consequences of poorly drafted legislation. The ISPs could do similarly, but by publicly stating his change of tactics, Boucher may have removed the motivating factor.
The trial of The Pirate Bay continues in neighboring Sweden, but Norway is having a bit of a battle concerning file sharing as well. Apparently, the IFPI has demanded that one of the country's largest ISPs block all access to The Pirate Bay or face a lawsuit. However, the country's Minister of Education, Bard Vegar Solhjell, has said that non-commercial file sharing should be legal, and the recording industry needs to learn to adapt:
"All previous technology advances have led to fears that the older format would die. But TV did not kill radio, the Web did not kill the book, and the download is not going to kill music. "
He said he and his party intend to look for ways to legalize non-commercial file sharing, noting that he thinks both consumers and musicians would benefit from such a solution.
We never quite understood Norway's legal attack on Apple for its use of DRM in iTunes. Sure, using DRM was annoying and bad, but users had the choice to buy from iTunes or not, and it didn't make any sense for a government to get involved. That said, it's nice to see the government now drop the complaints after Apple announced it was dropping DRM on music files in iTunes. Still, if Norway is so upset about DRM, why isn't it still pissed off about Apple using DRM in many other areas?
Earlier this year, we wrote about how the Norwegian Consumer Council, an independent organization financed by the Norwegian government, was telling people not to sign letters the recording industry was demanding ISPs send to users, which would put liability for file sharing on those users without any sort of due process. Now the NCC is back suggesting a special independent committee to handle copyright infringement cases. From what's written, it sounds like it would act as a separate process for copyright holders to bring charges of copyright infringement, that avoids an expensive and overcrowded court systems, while still allowing individuals due process and a guarantee of other basic rights. The NCC proposes that this is a much better solution than, say, cutting off accused file sharers with no due process.
The idea definitely sounds a lot better than what's out there now -- but there could be unintended consequences as well. Here in the US, for example, we set up a special Federal Appeals court for patent lawsuits (CAFC), because of complaints about patent lawsuits clogging up courts where judges knew little about patent law, leading to bad outcomes. However, what happened was that CAFC became dominated by former patent attorneys (if not in numbers, in terms of influence) who significantly shifted the scope of patent law towards patent holders. In setting up a special court or arbitration system to deal with copyright infringement, there's a risk that it, too, could become dominated by interests focused solely on strengthening copyright law. While I definitely think it's a more interesting and productive proposal than most others out there, it's worth wondering if there would be unintended consequences. It still seems like the better long-term solution is for copyright holder to simply start embracing better business models.
silverscarcat: Ah. So, the 20 cents was basically the straw that broke the camel's back then? Ninja: yep. now both the people and the govt will have to figure out how to work things out. and we have the really poor, alienated ones they are being exposed to this and how this mass reacts is what's going to be decisive.. In any case I'm probably going to the protest in São Paulo today. Hopefully I won't be beaten or arrested heh Jeff: the "milk-it" guy is getting seriously annoying now... silverscarcat: If he would just offer some cookies once in awhile, he might not be so annoying. dennis deems: lol be safe Ninja, some of the photos look scary Josh in CharlotteNC: oh my. SCO is still alive. Ninja: http://noticias.uol.com.br/cotidiano/ultimas-noticias/2013/06/14/existe-terror-em-sp-o-dia-em-que-pms-atiraram-a-aplausos-e-a-pedidos-de-nao-violencia.htm http://www.amalgama.blog.br/06/2013/democracia-restrita/ I got my vinegar and I'm gonna buy some bottles of water in case the gas runs loose but I think things will be rather peaceful today.. there was a lot of outrage on july 13rd well I'm off! thanks for the support denis silverscarcat: http://gawdalmighty.com/xbox-one-drm-is-the-future-not-ps4/ - Wow, the fail of this article. Jay: heads up, Snowden let out a Q &A on Guardian and it answers a lot of questions Mike Masnick: yeah, watched it live. actually thought it was pretty weak. didn't really answer anything silverscarcat: In other news, the SCOTUS decided that Miranda Rights are no longer given to people. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/at-the-supreme-court-divisions-and-signs-of-trouble-to-come/276931/