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I really enjoyed being on The Music Row Show on 1510 WLAC last evening with Scott Southworth.  I love their motto, “two guys fumbling their way through the music business, so you don’t have to!” 

If you didn’t catch the show (you should be able to download the podcasts from their website in a few days), Scott and I had a very enjoyabl discussion about the future of the music industry and the idea of the “do it yourself” generation of musicians, artists and songwriters which has become my focus and mantra of late.  I believe that with today’s technological advances – the iPod/MP3 player, ProTools, Macbooks, the Internet etc. – entertainers ScottHeinohave the ability to do it themselves in ways never before possible.  The days when you absolutely needed to record deal to reach the fans is absolutely behind us.  As I said on the show, I do not believe that major labels are a thing of the past.  They have provided us with great music for years and will continue to play a vital, although probably modified, role in the development of new talent.  My point is simply that the alternate pathways are becoming more and more fruitful and plentiful.

During the show I brought up some ideas along these lines that I had read and heard about which involved some not-so-famous musicians/artists who have done just that – found a way to connect with their fans in unique ways and give them a reason to shell out some money for their product.  This idea is not unique to me, it grew out of an analysis of the Nine Inch Nails experimentsby Michael Masnick, who is the editor of the Techdirt blog and gave the keynote address from the 2009 Digital Summit, which you view here.

After Masnick gave a shorter version of this talk at Midem, people complained that Trent Reznick was a product of the record industry and, therefore, the experiment would not necessarily work with independent artists.  So, for thie keynote in Nashville, Masnick added in two examples of independent artists who were sucessfully selling product without the add of the marketing machines:

The first was Josh Freese.  Mr. Freese had a rather significant following of fans and found a very creative and unique way to generate sells of his new album “Since 1972”  from that fan base.  For some laughs, click on the link above and look at the variety of offerings.  A few of my favorite offering is the $50 level which, among other things, buys you a “thank you” phone call from Freese.  The $2,500 level buys you not only an autographed copy of the CD, but a drum lesson from Mr. Freese, a trip to the Hollywood Wax Museum with a member of the Vandals or DEVO, a signed DW snare drum and three items from his closet!  He sold two of these packages!  The $10,000 package includes the autographed CD and Snare Drum, but also includes a day with Freese at Club 33 and Disneyland, after which you get to drive away in his late-model Volvo (you have to drop him back home first)!  No takers on that one yet.

The second is the artist whose name I could not for the life of me remember last night during the radio program, but is Jill Sobule.  When she wanted to record an independent album entitled “California Years” back in 2008, she established the website www.jillsnextrecord.com in order to raise the money necessary to produce the record.  On the website, she offered varying levels of support, from the “Pewter” $50 level, which buys you a “thank you” on the CD liner, all the way up to the $10,000 “Weapons-Grade Plutonium Level” which buys you the right to sing on the album and play cowbell (Good guess Scott!).  Other interesting ideas are the $2,500 Emerald level, which gives your “executive producer” credit on the album or the $5,000 Diamond level which bought you a “house concert” from Jill and the right to charge admission!  She actually sold 2 and 3 of these levels respectively.  Ms. Souble had originally budgeted $75,000 for production and distribution and eventually raised all of that and them some.  For a full tally of the more than $88,000 she raised through this effort, here is her “tote board.”

Masnik’s point in the keynote address, and the model he derived from Trent Resnick’s NIN experiment, is that you must “Connect with the Fans” (or CwF) and give them a “Reason to Buy” (or RtB).  Thus, the equation is CwF+RtB = $$$$$.  This is the point I made on the radio program last evening – artists need to determine who their fan base is and find a way to connect.  Through that effort, the goal is to create an e-mail database of those fans so that you have a way to communicate with them (whether it be by e-mail blast, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook or whatever).  Once you’ve connected, the second step is to find a creative incentive that gives them a reason to buy.   As readers of my blog will remember, I’ve been preaching this stuff for years.  Stay tuned for more ideas!

Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster once penned one of my favorite lyrics in the song Me and Bobby McGee, i.e., “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”  The sentiment is perhaps appropriate for the ongoing war that is being waged against copyright laws as we know them.  The latest battle in this war was fired by the esteemed Lawrence Lessig, famous lawyer and copyright scholar, in his new book Remix: Making Art & Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy.

Remix Lawrence Lessig The main goal of the book is the demolishment of existing copyright laws, which Lessig has described as Byzantine.  He believes our current copyright laws are futile, costly and culturally stifling. The "hybrid economy" is described by Lessig as one in which a “sharing economy” coexists with a “commercial economy.”  See this very humorous interview by Stephen Colbert.  He gives examples such as YouTube, Flikr and Wikipedia, which rely on user-generated "remixes" of information, images and sound to illustrate his point.  This “hybrid economy,” in Lessig-speak, is identical to what he calls a "Read/Write (RW)" culture — as opposed to "Read/Only (RO)" — i.e., a culture in which consumers are allowed to "create art as readily as they consume it."  Thus, the “remix” to which he refers is the concept of taking another persons copyrighted work and “making something new” or “building on top of it.”  This is what us less-published copyright lawyers like to refer to as a derivative work!  And that is the crux of Lessig’s problem:  the copyright law DOES in fact make provision for this type of creative endeavor, provided that the creator of the derivative work gains the permission of the copyright owner.  This is that with which Lessig seeks to do away.

In the Colbert interview, Lessig drolly points out that 70% of our kids are sharing files illegally and that the “outdated” copyright laws are “turning them in to criminals.”  This reminds me just a bit of what my Daddy used to tell me: just because everybody’s doing it doesn’t make it right!   Or, as Colbert blithely responded, “isn’t that like saying arson laws are turning our kids into arsonists?”  The obvious conclusion is that perhaps the law is simply not the problem.

Colbert then comically crosses out Lessig’s name on the cover of his his advance copy of Lessig’s book, draws a picture of Snoopy inside, and then questions Lessig as to whether the book was now his (Colber’t’s) work of art, to which Lessig says “that’s great,” we “jointly” own the copyright.  That’s a point to which Lessig’s publisher, Penguin Press, would surely not acquiesce.  In the final retort to Lessig, Colbert makes the point that he likes the current system, and I quote, “the system works for me.”  I might add that the system seems to be working extremely well for Lawrence Lessig as well.  Lessig is making a fortune exploiting the very system he criticizes as antiquated – the very essence of free speech, I suppose, but in the final analysis, a bit disingenuous.

While I do admire Professor Lessig for working toward a solution to a perceived problem, it’s very difficult to believe that tearing down the entire system of copyright laws in order to accommodate a large percentage of prepubescent teenagers who are too cheap to pay for their music is the appropriately measured response we need in this instance.   Call me crazy.

Here are several good critiques of Lessig’s work and ideas here for further exploration of this issue:

The Future of Copyright, by Lawrence B. Solum (download PDF from this page)

Lessig’s call for a “simple blanket license” in Remix, by Adam Thierer

Copyright in the Digital Age, by Mark A. Fischer

On August 4, 2008, the Second Circuit court of appeals overturned a lower courts opinion that Cablevision’s Remote Storage” Digital Video Recorder (“RS-DVR”) system violated the Copyright Act by infringing plaintiffs’ exclusive rights of reproduction and public perfCartoon Network ormance.  The full 44-page opinion is available at Cartoon Network, LLP, et al. v. Cablevision.  In my humble yet fully animated opinion, the Second Circuit’s opinion was not at all well reasoned nor, for that matter, even common sense — I believe it misinterprets at three very important areas of the Copyright Act and interpretation thereof:

When is a work “Fixed” According to Section 101

Through a system of buffers, Cablevision’s RS-DVR will allow customers who do not own stand alone DVR’s to record programming, which resides on Cablevision’s servers, and “time-shift” it to view it at a later date.  Certainly a great concept, but one which, in my opinion, should require authorization from the owners of the copyrights. 

In arriving at its conclusion, the court determined that the buffer used to process the steam of data only “copies” the data for a duration of 1.2 seconds, before transferring it to another buffer used to reconstruct a copy of the program for any customer who has asked to view it at a later time.  The court concluded that this “embodiment,” i.e. the copy, was transitory in duration and therefore not “fixed” pursuant to Section 101 of the Copyright Act.  Therefore, the copyright owners’ right of reproduction was not violated.  This is clearly erroneous reasoning:

The definition of “fixed” in Section 101 of the Copyright Act states, in its entirety:

A work is “fixed” in a tangible medium of expression when its embodiment in a copy or phonorecord, by or under the authority of the author, is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration. A work consisting of sounds, images, or both, that are being transmitted, is “fixed” for purposes of this title if a fixation of the work is being made simultaneously with its transmission.

In arriving at its determination, the Second Circuit focused on its condensed version of the definition, i.e. a work is “fixed” when its embodiment “. . . sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be . . . reproduced . . . for a period of more than transitory duration.”  The court concluded, based on this shortened version of the definition, that the “language plainly imposes two distinct but related requirements, i.e. an “embodiment requirement” and a “duration requirement.”

The Second Circuit’s error is grammatical in nature:  it misinterprets the language of the definition of “fixed” by assuming that the phrase “for a period of more than transitory duration” modifies the words “permanent or stable” when in fact it actually modifies the antecedent phrase “permit it to be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated.”  This is certainly the case with regard to the RS-DVR – it fixes the copies for in sufficiently permanent state in one buffer (i.e. the 1.2 seconds) to permit them to be reproduced in another buffer for a period of more than transitory duration.  Thus, the court got it wrong.

Without getting into too much detail, the court also incorrectly analyzes a 9th Circuit cases, MAI Systems and its progeny which correctly apply the definition of fixed to a copy of a work created in RAM memory for a period of minutes.  The effect of this misinterpretation is to put legal practitioners in the precarious position of trying to determine at what point between 1.2 seconds and 2 minutes does a reproduction arrive at a “more than transitory” state.

Ironically, the Second Circuit ignores the U.S. Copyright Office’s analysis of this precise issue in its 2001 report on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which elaborated that a work was fixed “unless a reproduction manifests itself so fleetingly that it cannot be copied, perceived or communicated.”  This clarification is in line with my earlier interpretation that the phrase “more than transitory in duration” modifies the communication or perception, not the embodiment itself.  The Second Circuit stated that, in its mind, the U.S. Copyright Office’s interpretation “reads the ‘transitory duration’ language out of the statute.”  To the contrary, however, it is the correct interpretation in that it incorporates the transitory duration requirement into the appropriate section of the definition.

Finally, the Second Circuit completely ignores the last sentence of the definition, to wit:  A work . . . is “fixed” for purposes of this title if a fixation of the work is being made simultaneously with its transmission.”  In this instance, the court readily admitted that an unauthorized copy of the work was stored, i.e. “fixed” on Cablevision’s servers simultaneously with its transmission.

When is an infringer not an infringer?

In extending recent trends by some circuits to weaken the strict liability component of the Copyright Act, the Second Court refused to find that Cablevision was a direct infringer.  Instead, it rules that the customer is the direct infringer in this instance of digital recording, showing his or her intent to make a copy when he or she presses the record button on the remote.  The court reasons as follows:

In this case . . . the core of the dispute is over the authorship of the infringing conduct.  After an RS-DVR subscriber selects a program to record, and that program airs, a copy of the program–a copyrighted work–resides on
the hard disks of Cablevision’s Arroyo Server, its creation unauthorized by the copyright holder. The question is who made  this copy. If it is Cablevision, plaintiffs’ theory of direct infringement succeeds; if it is the customer, plaintiffs’ theory fails because Cablevision would then face, at most, secondary liability, a theory of liability expressly disavowed by plaintiffs.

Emphasis mine.  The first thing to note about the court’s conclusion is that it realizes, right off the bat, that the copy created on the servers of Cablevision is an infringement.  In its mind, however, the only question is who made the copy.  Now, that, of course, flies directly in the face of a host of copyright concepts which I will not address here, but suffice it to say that this is problematic.

But, for the moment, let’s just examine how the court ultimately determines who had the “volition” to infringe in this specific case:

There are only two instances of volitional conduct in this case: Cablevision’s conduct in designing, housing, and maintaining a system that exists only to produce a copy, and a customer’s conduct in ordering that system to produce a copy of a specific program. In the case of a VCR, it seems  clear–and we know of no case holding otherwise–that the operator of the VCR, the person who actually presses the button to make the recording, supplies the necessary element of volition, not the person who manufactures, maintains, or, if distinct from the operator, owns the machine. We do not believe that an RS-DVR customer is sufficiently distinguishable from a VCR user to impose liability as a direct infringer on a different party for copies that are made automatically upon that customer’s command.

The court then continues its analysis by example, offering the examples of a retailer who owns a photocopier and rents it out to the public as reinforcement of its conclusion, finding that because the retailer would not be liable for infringement, neither should Cablevision.   Despite the fact that there is case law holding that such a retailer WOULD, in fact, be liable for infringement, the Second Circuit errs in failing to see the difference between a VCR in the analog world, a single, stand-alone device used express by the customer, and a process devised by a company which makes infringement as simple as pressing my record button on my remote.  The court does not find this a “sufficient” distinction.  The court’s error in logic is apparent in this prose when it examines a 6th Circuit case on the issue:

In determining who actually “makes” a copy, a significant difference
exists between making a request to a human employee, who then volitionally operates the copying system to make the copy, and issuing a command directly to a system, which automatically obeys commands and engages in no volitional conduct.

Is this 2001 Space Odyssey?  Did H.A.L. take over when I wasn’t looking?  Who programmed the system?  

If this were not enough, the Second Circuit then performs a great deal of legal gymnastics to support its finding:  First, it examines the video on demand process to illustrate that Cablevision does not have control over the transmissions being recorded by theCablevision subscribers in the RS-VCR system.  Are they for real?  Ever heard of apples and oranges.  The VOD system is a fully licensed process which is, dare we say it, nothing like the RS-VCR system.  Secondly, the Second Circuit uses the distinction between “active” and “passive” infringement under the Patent Act to jump to the almost humorous, if it weren’t so wrong, conclusion that:

If Congress had meant to assign direct liability to both the person who actually commits a copyright-infringing act and any person who actively induces that infringement, the Patent Act tells us that it knew how to draft a statute that would have this effect.

Every intellectual property attorney worth his or her salt knows that the Copyright Act and the Patent Act are very limited in their usefulness for purposes of using one to interpret the other.  That’s why it’s said that the Copyright Act is a strict liability statute, whereas, the Patent Act is not so much.

When is work “publicly performed”?

The final error committed by the court is in its analysis of whether the buffered copy delivered to individual customers was “publicly performed.” In this regard, the Second Circuit concluded:

under the transmit clause, we must examine the potential audience of a given transmission by an alleged infringer to determine whether that transmission is “to the public.” And because the RS-DVR system, as designed, only makes transmissions to one subscriber using a copy made by that subscriber, we believe that the universe of people capable of receiving an RS-DVR transmission is the single subscriber whose self-made copy is used to create that transmission.

Again, the Second Circuit has to do a hatchet job on the definition of “public performance” in order to arrive at this convoluted conclusion.  The definition of “public performance” in the Copyright Act is actually found in the “publication” definition of Section 101.  It states, in its entirety:

To perform or display a work “publicly” means — 

(1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or

(2) to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.

Emphasis mine.  Whereas the Second Circuit zeroed in on the phrase “to the public” in making its determination, the definition clearly intends to define public performance as any process that allows the public, in general, the ability to receive the transmission, whether or not it is in the same place or the same time.  Its not very difficult to see the fallacy of the Second Circuit’s reasoning.   The Cablevision RS-DVR clearly does precisely what the definition anticipates, it creates multiple copies stored in the buffers for individual subscribers in multiple places, who then view the (buffered) transmissions at different times. 

While this seems simple, the Second Circuit jumps through numerous irrational hoops to arrive at the idea that:

the transmit clause directs us to identify the potential audience of a given transmission, i.e., the persons “capable of receiving” it, to determine whether that transmission is made “to the public.”

Nothing in the statute dictates this conclusion, to the contrary, the legislators probably thought that the word “public” was generic enough to not need interpretation. 

The effect of this ruling, at least for now, is that anyone can make digital copies of any copyrighted work on their servers for purposes of transmitting to an individual customer, so long as that individual customer makes a request for it, and there is no implication of the performance rights.

This is a fine example of a court “reasoning” the meaning completely out of a statute. 

Conclusion

If it is not obvious by now, I think this is one of the most poorly reasoned and drafted opinions by a Circuit Court that I have read in a long time.  If there is a bright side, it is that the effect of this decision is primarily that it overturns the grant of a summary judgement by the lower court.  From a broader perspective, however, and the more unfortunate result is that, because of the concept of stare decisis, this reasoning can now be cited in other cases in other jurisdictions across the country as good law.  So, unfortunately, we entertainment attorneys will be dealing with the negative impact of this decision for some time to come, until perhaps some higher court, in this case the Supremes, decides to rectify it.

Posted with the permission of the author Matthew Williams, EsquireMatthew is an intellectual property attorney practicing with the firm of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp.

Used by Permission.  All rights reserved

Apple’s release of the iPhone in June 2007 was an unqualified business success – 1.4 million iPhones were sold in just a few months. However, as has become the norm when a business is successful, several legal problems have arisen for Apple and its telecommunications partner, AT&T. Many of these problems began shortly after the iPhone’s release, when a New Jersey teenager announced that he had circumvented the technological ‘lock’ that renders the iPhone inoperable with wireless telephone carriers other than AT&T. The hacking of the iPhone received almost as much press attention as its release and Apple estimates that as many as 250,000 iPhones have been unlockedapple_iphone

In response, Apple issued a press release which warned consumers that modifying iPhones in order to switch wireless carriers could damage the product and void Apple’s warranty. Apple also announced that future Apple software updates would likely render modified iPhones permanently inoperable. Shortly afterwards, an Apple software update did just that. Predictably, two class action lawsuits alleging unfair competition and antitrust claims were filed against Apple in October 2007: one, which also names AT&T as a defendant, in the US District Court for the Northern District of California,(1) and one in the California Superior Court in the County of Santa Clara.(2)

Among other things, the complaints allege that consumers may unlock iPhones legally on the basis of a November 2006 regulation promulgated by the librarian of Congress regarding exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s prohibition against circumventing technological protection measures. Furthermore, the complaints allege that the software update issued by Apple, rendering thousands of iPhones inoperable, was an illegal effort to prevent consumers from exercising this exception.

Whether the unlocking of iPhones fits within the librarian of Congress’s exception to the act depends on the answers to a number of difficult questions. It is far from clear that unlocking an iPhone is legal. The librarian crafted narrow language which limits the exception to circumstances in which “circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network”. 

At least one court(3) has ruled that unlocking a mobile phone for the purpose of reselling it to third parties violates the act and does not fall within the exception; fearing that many of the iPhone hackers purchased multiple iPhones for resale, Apple recently limited the number of iPhones that an individual may purchase and stopped accepting cash for iPhones. Determining whether the librarian’s exception applies to unlocking iPhones and, if so, how many of the class members involved in the cases fall within the scope of the exception are likely to be central issues. Copyright owners should follow these cases carefully, especially because the anti-circumvention provisions of the act are infrequently interpreted and are often critical to many business models.

Endnotes

(1) Holman v Apple, Inc.

(2) Smith v Apple, Inc.

(3) In TracFone Wireless, Inc v Dixon, 475 F Supp 2d 1236 (MD Fla 2007).

U.S. District Judge for the District of Connecticut  Justice Janet Bond Arterton, handed down a very pointed and decisive opinion hammering the RIAAR.I.A.A. for its boilerplate style of pleading in the nationwide wide campaign against illegal file sharing.   Justice Arterton was appointed by President Clinton in 1995.  The full decision is here:  Decision.  At several key junctures in the opinion, Justice Arterton based her opinion on the fact that the Plaintiff’s complaint was based on “information and belief” rather than direct evidence.

The two areas of concern in the opinion, one is whether to grant a default judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2) and the second is whether the complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b).

Default Judgment Analysis under Rule 55(b)(2)

The granting of default judgment is generally almost a “rubber stamp” kind of process.  If the defendant is properly served and fails to respond to the complaint, a default judgment is almost always automatic.  If the complaint demands an exact amount as judgment, the default judgment can even be entered by the court’s clerk under Rule 55(b)(1).  If not, then the court holds a hearing to determine the amount of damages under Rule 55(b)(2).  In this instance, however, the court stepped in and took it upon herself to examine the validity of the claims.

Reasoning from a 2nd Circuit case, Au Bon Pain Corp.v. Artect, Inc., 653 F.2d 61 (2d Cir. 1981), the court found that the default judgment process is not, in fact, automatic, but that “a district court has discretion . . . to require proof of necessary facts and need not agree that the alleged facts constitute a valid cause of action.”  Artect, at 65, citing Wright & Miller, a well known legal treatise on procedure. 

Looking a another legal treatise, Moore’s Federal Practice, Justice Arterton reasoned that the analysis should combine elements from Rule 55(c), the rule allowing the setting aside of a default judgment, and Rule 60(b), a more generic rule allowing  a court to set aside judgments.  Finding support for this analysis in 2nd Circuit case law, the court held that three factors arose in determining whether to set aside a judgment under either of the two rules:  (1) “the willfulness of default”; (2) “the existence of a meritorious defense”; and (3) “the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiffs should the default judgment be vacated.”

In weighing these factors, the judge determined that the latter two factors shifted in favor of the defendant, i.e., there were abundant meritorious defenses raised in similar cases filed by the RIAA across the country, and the Plaintiff would not be prejudiced by being required to produce more specific evidence.  In both instances, the court again mentioned the language that the Plaintiff’s complaint was based on “information and belief.”

Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted under Rule 12(b)(6)

The more telling section of the opinion is the court’s ostensibly sua sponte (i.e., of its own accord) analysis of whether the Plaintiff’s complaint failed to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  This rule generally givesscales5 the defendant a right to raise this defense in a response to a complaint.   Ostensibly, the court raised this issue in the context of possible meritorious defenses.

Justice Arterton cites the recent Supreme Court opinion that a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, [but] a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions.”  Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964–65 (2007).  She then observed that Plaintiff’s complaint in this case was almost identical to the one filed in Interscope Records v. Rodriguez, where the court held:

Plaintiff here must present at least some facts to show the plausibility of their allegations of copyright infringement against the Defendant. However, other than the bare conclusory statement that on “information and belief” Defendant has downloaded, distributed and/or made available for distribution to the public copyrighted works, Plaintiffs have presented no facts that would indicate that this allegation is anything more than speculation. The complaint is simply a boilerplate listing of the elements of copyright infringement without any facts pertaining specifically to the instant Defendant. The Court therefore finds that the complaint fails to sufficiently state a claim upon which relief can be granted and entry of default judgment is not warranted.

Rodriguez, No. 06-2485, 2007 WL 2408484, at *1 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 17, 2007).  Citing the Second Circuit case Greyhound Exhibit Group, Inc. v. E.L.U.L. Realty
Corp., 973 F.2d 155, 158 (2d Cir. 1992), which held that the entry of default “constitute[s] a concession of all well pleaded allegations of liability,” Justice Arterton ruled that Plaintiff’s complaint was “speculative” and “inadequate.”

Eric Bangeman, of Ars Technica reports that the RIAA plans to file a brief, probably accompanying a motion for reconsideration, and possible an amended complaint, as they did in Interscope v. Rodriguez.  The amended complaint provided additional details about dates, times, and IP addresses.  Whether the additional details of that amendment will alter the application of Rule 12(b)(6) is still unknown, as the judge in that case has since retired.

On Monday, January 28th, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) began what will be four weeks of hearings.  The CRB will hear testimony from interested parties on both sides of issues which will ultimately determine the statutory mechanical rates for songwriters and music publishers. The CRB sets these rates periodically, but these particular hearings are more critical than usual because, in addition to setting rates for physical products, rates will be set for the first time ever for digital products such as digital downloads, subscription services and ringtones.

On one side of the issue is the Recording Industry Association of America (the “RIAA”), which represents the major record labels’ interest,  is proposing that the current rate of 9.1 cents per mechanical copy produced be reduced to 6 cents!  That reduction would roll back the rates to, well, let’s just say to well before the birth date of most of the college students the RIAA is prosecuting across the country for downloading.  For digital reproductions, the RIAA is proposing an even lower rate of 5 to 5.5 cents per track.

On the other side of the issue, representing the publishers and songwriters, is the National Music Publishers Association, the NMPA.  In contrast, the NMPA proposes increasing the statutory rate to 15 cents, and for digital reproductions, a rate of the greater of 12.5% of revenue, 27.5% of content costs, or a micro-penny calculation based on usage.

This are important issues, and I’ll try to keep you posted here on Law on the Row as developments happen.

The Recording Industry v. the People, an anti-RIAA blog operatRIAA ed by New York attorney, Ray Beckerman, is cooperating with the Boston-based non-profit, The Free Software Foundation, to establish “a fund to help provide computer expert witnesses to combat RIAA’s ongoing lawsuits, and to defend against the RIAA’s attempt to redefine copyright law.”

The Free Software Foundation was established to promote the development and use of free software.  It manages several campaigns to achieve that goal, including one called “BadVista.org,” fighting the adoption of Microsoft Vista, and “DefectivebyDesign.org” which was established for the purpose of eliminating digital rights management in music and movies from “Big Media.”

As of the end of November, the fund had raised over $4,000.  The fund will be administered by Mr. Beckerman and will be disbursed to technical witnesses hired by RIAA litigation defense teams on a variety of criteria, including the basis of the importance of the case to critical legal issues.

To donate to the fund, click here.

For almost a decade now, the major labels (at the beginning there wereRIO five of them, now only four, EMI, Sony BMG, Vivendi Universal and Warner) have declared that illegal downloading is ravaging their business by destroying the sales of physical product.  One may question this declaration, however, in few of the fact that ever since the RIAA filed its 1998 litigation again the manufacturer of the Diamond Rio MP3 player and extending to its most recent lawsuits against individuals across the country, the music industry has committed more public image faux pas than Dan Quayle and George W combined, making it one of the most hated industries among high school and college students.  It should be apparent to everyone now that it is not illegal downloads that is causing the downturn in music sales, as there are many other contributing factors.

This marred image is evident.  According to an article in Rolling Stone magaine entitled The Record Industry’s Decline:

About 2,700 record stores have closed across the country since 2003, according to the research group Almighty Institute of Music Retail. Last year the eighty-nine-store Tower Records chain, which represented 2.5 percent of overall retail sales, went out of business, and Musicland, which operated more than 800 stores under the Sam Goody brand, among others, filed for bankruptcy. Around sixty-five percent of all music sales now take place in big-box stores such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy, which carry fewer titles than specialty stores and put less effort behind promoting new artists.

Nonetheless, a new research study on the issue, commissioned by the Canadian government to explore issues related to copyright reform, was recently released.  The study is entitled The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music: A Study for Industry Canada, and was written by Birgitte Andersen and Marion Frenz, of the Department of Management at the University of London in England.  A PDF version of the study is published here.

The results of the new study affirm many of the conclusions found in an earlier study entitled, The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales: An Empirical Analysis.  This paper was published in the February 2007 issue of The Journal of Political Studies, and was written by Koleman Strumpf, professor of business economics at the University of Kansas Business School and Felix Oberholzer of the Harvard University Business School.  Both studies directly contradict the claims of the music industry that file sharing is related to revenue losses.

In fact, the new study supports an opposite assertion, i.e., that distribution of music files on P2P networks actually promotes the sale of physical product.  Andersen and Frenz found, among people who actually participate in P2P file sharing, downloading actually increases the sale of physical product by a ration of 2 to 1, in other words, on average when a P2P file sharer downloaded the equivalent of two CDs in files, he or she would purchase of one physical CD (Note:  I have extrapolated here, as the numbers set forth in the study actually say that for every 12 P2P songs downloaded, physical purchases increased by 0.44 CDs).  It is important to note that the study concluded that, when incorporating the Canadian population as a whole (i.e., including the group who participate in P2P file sharing along with those who do not), file sharing on P2P networks has neither a positive nor a negative impact on CD sales.

One fact in the report I found very intriguing is its conclusion that the owners of MP3 players are less likely to purchase physical product.  This is interesting, in my mind, because I believe it is connected to the popularity of the iPod and iTunes.  If a person purchases the iPod and uses iTunes, there is really no need to buy physical product, whereas when a person uses a different brand of MP3 player, he or she is, in my humble opinion, more likely to go out in search of alternative means of finding music, including purchasing CD’s.  I would like to see a study which compares iPod owners with owners of third party MP3 players.  It may turn out that the biggest culprit in the demise of the record industry is Apple!

One story I found really revealing is the Rolling Stones article on The Record Industry’s Decline.  In it, the author tells the story about how the major labels were unable to come to a settlement with Napster which would have given them immediate access to Napster’s 38 million users.  I don’t know the details of that meeting, but it seems to me that when the industry burst that bubble, those 38 million users disbursed into millions of subgroups on P2P networks so varied that it become virtually impossible to get the magic back.  Hindsight is, of course, always better than foresight, but this event certainly seems to me to one of the biggest turning points in our industry’s history.

Is the music industry going to survive.  Of course!  It will certainly not be in the form many traditionalists in the industry wish it to be.  CD’s eventually be ancient relics of the past, sought after by collectors much as jazz lovers currently seek out old vinyls and record players.  The radio industry will not have control over marketing and thus the role of radio consultants on the industry will be diminished.  Marketing efforst will shift to television outlets and Internet marketing.  Search engines and online communities will continue to surface new music and expose the long tail.  Major labels will no be the sole repository of the major talent, as independents will rise to fill the void, fueled by venture capital from investors.  Whatever happens, it going to be an interesting ride!

Some further reading:

The Freakonomics of Music

File Sharing:  Zero Effect on Downloads

The Record Industry’s Decline

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a high-profile hearing  today on the subject of imposing additional performance royalties on so-called “over-the-air” or “terrestrial” radio stations (I’ll just call them OTA’s in this article).  Investigative hearings such as these are usually precursors to legislation being introduced on the subject.  898993_antenna_4Grammy winner, Lyle Lovett and Chicago-based singer-songwriter Alice Peacock testified before the Committee this morning at 9:30 ET.  Their testimony was broadcast live at C-SPAN.

So, what is the issue.  OTA’s and the music industry are currently engaged in one of the biggest industry and lobbying battles to hit Washington in quite some time.  The OTA’s fired a recent shot when a concurrent resolution was passed by Congress.  Now, the music industry is firing back. 

One of my recent blog entitled New concurrent resolution, H.Con.Res 244, introduced to combat performance royalties for record labels gives some background on the issue, which is basically this:  Currently, OTA’s pay performance royalties to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC in the U.S. for airplay performances of the musical composition copyright.  They do not, however, pay a performance royalty to the owners of the sound recording copyright for over the air performances of the copyright.  The sound recording copyright is distinct from the musical composition copyright.

This is because when Congress introduced new legislation in the mid-90’s to grant sound recording copyright owners a right to performance royalties, it specifically excluded OTA’s from the legislation on the basis that the artists and record labels who owned the sound recording copyrights benefited from the publicity of over the air performances, which offset the need for payment of a performance royalty.    Keep in mind, again, that this does not apply to the performance royalties paid to songwriters and music publishers.

The effect of the Digital Performance Royalty in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 is that only digital performances of the sound recording copyrights are entitled to compensation.  This applies only to Internet webcasters, Cable Radio and Satellite radio stations.  These types of services — Pandora, Sirius, XM Radio, Last.fm, for example — pay performance royalties to both the owners of the musical composition copyright and the sound recording copyright.  Many industry groups are rallying to rectify what is viewed as an unfair advantage for OTA’s.

One such group is musicFIRST, which stands for “fairness in radio starting today.”  This organization is made up of a large and impressive group of recording industry groups and well-known artists.  Unfortunately, the RIAA’s involvement in this organization has diminished its reputation on many blogs, such as this article entitled Lovett goes to bat for radio royalties, the credibility of which is call into doubt by the fact that the writer is ostensibly unaware of Lyle Lovett’s reputation and notoriety.  But don’t make the mistake of slanting your opinion against musicFIRST based on that organization’s involvement.  Check out the website and seriously consider the issues and you’ll probably understand their perspective.

There is tremendous validity to the argument that radio broadcasts no longer hold the same sway over consumers that they did in 1995.  One research study conducted by Dr. Stan Leibowitz, an economics professor at the University of Texas, compared record sales and music radio listening habits in nearly 100 cities across the United States and found that exposure for a song on the radio was a substitute for purchasing the music and, therefore, actually had a negative impact on sales of music.  Critics point out that the study was funded, at least in part, by the musicFIRST coalition and say that there are studies which indicate the opposite, that is that radio airplay stimulates interests in new music and therefore encourages sales.  Think about your own habits – when was the last time you heard a song on the car radio and rushed to buy it?

Another argument propounded by the OTA’s in opposition to payment of royalties to the owners of sound recording copyrights is that it would put them out of business.  They simply can’t afford to pay more royalties for the music they use.  Of course, Internet webcasters and Satellite and Cable radio providers are saying “talk to the hand . . . call waiting!”   But the truth is that OTA’s get the bulk of their revenue from advertisers and their revenue increases if they attract larger audience by playing the latest music.  Furthermore, stock analysts are predicting that advertising revenues, in general, are on the increase for the foreseeable future.  One researcher, George Williams, reportedly found that the annual growth of radio advertising rates from 1996 to March 2007 was 10% a year, outpacing the Consumer Price Index by more than three times its 3% a year rate.  It is very doubtful that OTA’s revenues would be seriously altered by this legislation, in fact, the OTA’s would more than likely simply pass the additional costs on to advertisers.

The bottom line, in my view, is that the legislation, when it is finally proposed, will create a level playing field for the broadcasting industry, providing that both digital and OTA’s pay the same royalties.  This seems fair, doesn’t it?  Now, whether the powerful OTA lobby will prevent the passage of such legislation is a blog for another day. 

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Abraham Maslow’s famous “hierarchy of needs” places self-actualization as the pinnacle of human behavior. To illustrate what the phrase “self-actualization” meant , Maslow said:

“a musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves.”

Of course, the thing that is important to note about Maslow’s hierarchy is that physiological needs are at its base, i.e., a person’s basic needs must be met before Maslow's Self-Acutalization hierarchythat person can reach self-actualization. In other words, “a guy’s gotta eat”!

Maslow’s theories shed some light on the ongoing social debate on the Internet regarding whether musicians would continue to produce quality music if copyright as we know it were to be abolished. A different argument, though very related, is whether money motivates one to be creative.

One movement advocating such ideas is the “Free Culture Movement.” Another less extremist movement is Stanford professor, Lawrence Lessig’s “Creative Commons” group, which advocates modified forms of traditional license agreements as a social compromise to “reconcile creative freedom with marketplace competition.” Watch Lessig’s video, released today on TED, entitled “How creativity is being strangled by the law.” For another this interesting discussion, see the site Against Monopoly.

The underlying assumption of some of the parties involved in the debate, which is ostensibly grounded in the record and movie industry’s recent campaigns against infringers, is that all intellectual property should be free for the public to use without payment and that the antiquated copyright laws should be modified or abolished. In my opinion, this extremism ignores the foundation principle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that in order to achieve self-actualization, an artist’s or musician’s base needs must be satisfied.

Proponents of the free culture movement observe that creativity survived many years without the structural form which copyright superimposed upon it. Indeed, it is often observed that the great works of Mozart were created without the existence of copyright laws. Don’t forget, however, that Mozart wrote many of his works while being employed by benefactors such as the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg, Heironymus Colloredo and Emperor Joseph II of Vienna, names that are certainly not as prominent as Mozart’s. In fact, where would the world of the arts be without the billions of dollars that have been donated by benefactors such as J.P. Morgan, James Smithson, Bill & Melinda Gates, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefellar, just to name a select, if not elite, few. So, while it is true that “a musician must create music,” it is also true that a musician has to eat.

Long before the existence of copyright laws, there was a strong relationship between money and the creation of arts and music, and it will be that way until we abolish our system of currency as we now know it. Walk around any great city and witness the existence of hundreds of pieces of commissioned artwork. Listen to the commissioned works of Mozart, Beethoven and other great composers, who existed at the hand of benefactors. Walk through the Museum of Modern Art and look at the works of art generously donated by J. P. Morgan and other benefactors. Whether it be a king or a record label, money benefits art. Creativity, like it or not, is often inspired by the almighty dollar, whether that is represented by paper currency or some other bartered for compensation which meets our base needs as human beings.

That’s not to say that people would not continue to make music or art if they were not compensated for it – they would. That is an entirely different question in my mind. People’s hobbies and past time activities are in a slightly different class than, say, the copyrighted works of Don Henley. If great singer-songwriters such as Henley could not make a living at playing music and writing songs, I would venture to bet that most of us would never had heard of The Eagles. Again, even a great musician has to eat. If the musician cannot meet his base needs doing what he loves to do, a musician will meet those needs some other way and, therefore, there would be less time to do what he loves to do. So don’t confuse the musings of the masses with the creations of the geniuses.

The only legitimate question remaining, then, is how should a musician get paid for the music he or she creates? How should the songwriter get paid for the songs he or she writes? The answer, in the United States, is by virtue of the rights created in the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, which gives Congress the right:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Investors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

The portion of this Clause dealing with the arts is further codified in the various Copyright Acts and amendments thereto. In a nutshell, the Copyright Act creates a legal fiction, called intellectual property rights, which gives creators certain exclusive rights in their works, including the rights to produce copies, create derivative works, perform or display the work, and to sell and assign the works, among other things.

The laws in the U.S. are based loosely on English concepts and laws that date back to the 17th and 18th century, which were a direct result of the invention of the printing press. The first actual copyright law was the Statute of Anne, or the Copyright Act 1709. Thus, the concept of “copyright” is a three-hundred-year-old concept that has survived the evolution from printing press to piano rolls to digital media, and I have little doubt that it will continue to survive through the technological age, despite the rumblings of these groups.

As the law often does, it must evolve, albeit it ever so slowly, to encompass these new technologies. The good news is that the debate that is ongoing in the new virtual marketplace of idea will help us formulate new and improved amendments to the laws that will hopefully address the perceived dichotomy between the rights of free speech and free culture and those of the creators and owners of intellectual properties to receive just compensation for their efforts and investments.

In the end, this blog is my response to viewing Larry Lessig’s video, as I said, posted today on the TED website, entitled How creativity is being strangled by the law (See the link above). In it, Lessig harkens back to the days of Sousa when children sat on the porch and sang the songs of the day. Lessig told of how Sousa decried the advent of the phonorecord machine as the demise of creativity. He points out that in our current state ot technological advance, copyrights should be “democratized” because the new generation of children use copyrights to create something uniquely different, that is to say they use the copyrights of others as “tools of creativity” and “tools of speech.” Since every such usage requires a copy, the arguement continues, every such usage is presummed by the establishment to be an infringement of someone’s copyright. Lessig’s solution is that the creator should simply license the use of their creation for free in the instance of “non-commercial” usages, and retain the rights to exploit it commercially. He refers to this as the “Sousa Revival.”

My question to Professor Lessig is this: why does the fact that an entire generation of Internet downloaders who are using copyrighted material to create derivative works mean that the rights of copyright holders have to be abolished or even diminished? Why do the creative whims and urges of those who utilize other people’s copyrights to create different, derivative works supercede those of the people who created the original works? Why should they? Are the audiovisual images of a actor portraying Jesus Christ lipsyncing to an infringed copy of “I Will Survive” so creatively valuable as to supercede to the rights of Gloria Gaynor to distribute the original? (This creation is one of the examples in Lessig’s video presentation). Consider this carefully before you answer, as it is a slippery slope.

This brings me to another relevant observation: people would generally not want pay money to hear most children sitting on the porch singing their songs, unless that child happens to be a Don Henley protegee. That is the difference between most of the music ony MySpace, for example, and the music that is generally downloaded on iTunes. There is a tremendous difference in the value of the spontaneous, albeit creative, songs of a child and the intricate lyrics and melodies which are the product of a genius the likes of Don Henley. That is precisely why almost 100% of the product downloaded from Napster in the early days was product that had been recorded and marketed by major record labels. It had intrinsic value.

Let me illustrate these principles with an example from the world of physical property. Person A has a piece of property populated with a lot of trees. Person B, owns the lot next door, which is flat and has a nice stream of water running around its perimeter. Person C comes along, see this situation and, overwhelmed with creativity, cuts down Person A’s trees and builds himself a house on Person B’s lot and claims it as his own. When Persons A and B confront him, stating that the law says he cannot do what he did, Person C responds that his creativity is being strangled by the law and, therefore, the law should be abolished. Is Person C making a good argument? Is Person C likely to prevail in court? No. Yet, this is the argument of the Free Culture Movement and, in some ways, of the Creative Commons.

Just as the law creates real and enforceable property rights for a person who owns a plot of real estate, the law creates intellectual property rights so that person can own an intellectual creation and enforce his rights to the exclusion of those who usurp it. Abolishing the one makes no more sense than abolishing the other. Abolishing the intellectual property right a person has in a copyright, therefore, devalues the creation.

Now, imagine that Person A’s lot was, instead, full of reeds and twigs and Person B’s lot was full of ravines, rocks and arid soil. Person C would never stop to take a second look! The barron options now before Person C would NOT inspire creativity in most people.

As further illustration of this principle of intrinsic value, ask yourself whether the video would be nearly as popular, nearly as creative, if the actor’s own singing voice had been used in place of Gloria Gaynor. The answer is probably no, because the reason that the video of Jesus Christ singing Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” is so popular is because it incorporates a copyright that already has intrinsic value and, therefore, adds additonal value to the video. The arguments of the free culture movements omit or overlook this concept of intrinsic value. It is because c

What I do like about Lawrence Lessig’s movement, Creative Commons, is that it is, in the final analysis, based on the principles of the Copyright Act, i.e., that the copyright has value and that its owner has certain exclusive rights, which he can assign to others. Lessig’s solution is essentially using existing copyright laws to create a unique license that attempts to strike a balance between fair use and full copyright reservation. In the end, however, the license are based on the rights already granted in The Copyright Act, proving that the copyright laws as they currently exist allow for the very thing that these groups seek. I can agree with him more in that respect.

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