Friday, March 18, 2005

Idol Hands 

I'm not a fan of American Idol for a lot of reasons, but chief among them is that the entire show is nothing but a spectacle built around the industrial process of homogenizing pure talent and turning it into cash. Every week, millions watch as some lucky singer wins the right to be owned by Simon Cowell, and I don't mean that figuratively. If you want to be known by a lot of people, great...try out for Idol. If you want to have a music career, a life of your own, control over your music, or the right to produce your own songs, it's the last place you should go.

Simon's management company, 19 Entertainment hails itself as "The World's Premier Creator of Music Based Entertainment" (kind of reminds you of "Dairy Based Cheese-Food" don't it?) but is known among insiders to have some of the most restrictive contracts in the industry. In other words, sign on the dotted line, and consider yourself property. Clay Aiken was the first to break free of Idol's hands when he realized that he could still have a career (making crappy music and being generally annoying.../op-ed) even though he didn't actually "win" on Idol. One problem...he was still under contract to be managed by 19 Entertainment. And since he wasn't the winner on Idol, and since 19 is in the Idol making business, his career would have most likely been limited to "Second Placer" albums and he'd have his place in history cemented as an "Almost Idol". Because he successfully sued to break his contract with 19 Entertainment, he became one of the most popular entertainers of the year (I guess there's no accounting for taste). As a comparison, when was the last time you heard about the guy that actually won?

Which brings us to the present. America was shocked (SHOCKED!) when the current favorite quit citing "family reasons." When I heard about it, I knew exactly what was up with Mario Vasquez. He realized that he was weeks away from being Simon's meat-puppet, and didn't like it. Don't agree? Ok...tell me why he hired Clay's lawyer.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

DAH sorry... 

Internet's been off and on at home for like a week now (more off than on) and Comcast, being a cable company, doesn't have a "be home for two hours and wait" timeslot that coincides with when I can actually be home for two hours...waitin. Lunch breaks are all I have now and they're usually taken up by lunch (amazing, I know). So all I can really do is wait till I can get some time off (and yell at Comcast) while all the post-Super Bowl, pre-Grammy chit-chat I had planned slowly becomes irrelevant. Speaking of lunch...

Monday, January 17, 2005

Slow Week 

Not much news. I'm keeping an eye on the Super Bowl. Looks like they're bringing some class back to the pre-game and half time shows with Alicia Keys and Paul McCartney respectively. Oh, and those of you who are tired of corporate sponsorship screwing up things like the simple names of beloved ballparks will have no break from that particular insanity. It'll officially be called the (deep breath) America's Mortgage Super Bowl XXXIX Halftime Show. Next year will be Super Bowl XL. Wonder how they'll market that.

Oh, and in case you've been locked in a cave for the last week or so, Apple has released a new iPod. The iPod Shuffle starts at $99 for 512 MB. I haven't had a chance to see one yet, but they seem pretty interesting. Of course, there are always doubters and pundits, but anyone who's still waiting for Apple's bubble to burst is probably going to be waiting a while.

Oh, I've also allowed comments on the posts. If you actually read this stuff, feel free to say something. Otherwise I feel like I'm talking to a wall.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A Lesson 

Blockbuster no longer has late fees. Ok, so you're asking "So what? I thought this was about music or copyrights or free speech or something? What do late fees have to do with any of that?" Silence! Wait for it, pushy.

Ok, Blockbuster has made some changes recently. I was mostly just trying to figure out how they were going to get away with dropping late fees (I used to work at Blockbuster, and there was a lot of cashflow in late fees...though that's probably pretty obvious)and found some other interesting info. First off, the late fees are pretty simple: you get a one week period after the due date. Once that's up, they charge you for the movie, and you keep it. Easy. Here's the interesting part. Aside from the "No more late fees" thing, they've also opened Blockbuster Online which directly competes with NetFlix. Also important to note that Blockbuster has split from it's parent company Viacom, and is now its own entity. And the new company, sleeker for shedding its customer killing late fee policy and armed with the gain of a vast online market, is working on buying out sleepy Hollywood Video. In other words, a company that looked like it was about to get locked out of the business it dominated for decades, CHANGED AND ADAPTED along with the changing market, and now continues to dominate. Now...who do you think should be paying attention to these particular goings on...hmm?

on an unrelated note, you really want Mozilla FireFox. Ditch Explorer. Walk into the light.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

CD Sales...UP? 

Well, thanks to the young couple who decided to have a big fight outside my apartment unit at 2 AM (namely the girl yelling at the top of her lungs...btw, if you're ever in the position of witnessing a fight like that, you WILL NOT lighten the mood by chanting "JER-RY! JER-RY!" It made me feel better though...but I digress.) I'm now wide awake and bored enough to write a post.

The BBC is reporting that CD sales in the U.S. are up 2.3% for the first time in four years.

I admit I have mixed feelings about this. First off, it should be obvious by now that I'm a proponent of digital media. Yes, collecting albums is great and cover art and blah blah blah, but technology is surpassing the 24 year old Compact Disc, and I believe it's time to move on. If you really want to collect albums, buy vinyl. The sound's much better, and the cover art is about 12 times bigger. I know I know, you're not gonna find your favorite Kelly Osbourne album on vinyl...take it as a sign. Anyway, seeing a sales increase in what I feel to be obsolete media is a little disheartening, though not much. 2.3% isn't exactly a boom. Don't get me wrong, I still buy CDs too. A lot of stuff is still hard to find online. My point is, increased CD sales figures aren't going to help convince any studios that customers want purely digital content.

Second, the RIAA is going to take this as a sign that their lawsuits are working. And maybe they are...it's hard to say. More importantly in my mind is that there are now more options for legal downloads, and sales in that arena are also climbing. I think it's also important to note that there is no breakdown in sales figures over whose CDs are being bought. I get the general idea that indie sales were up this year, though I don't have any data to support that other than the hundreds of new labels that have sprouted in 2004. All sides will probably claim victory.

That said, I'm sure the Big 5 are still going to look through their projected earnings reports and conclude that they still didn't meet expectations in sales, and so...magically...lost money to P2P and filesharing. I'm going back to bed.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Small Victories 

According to Slashdot, the RIAA has lost it's case against Charter Communications regarding subpoenas for the ISP's users to be idtentified for copyright infringement. In other words, the provider won the right to keep their customers' personal information out of the RIAAs' hands.

This from a slashdotter who calls him/herself Torgski:
"...this *IS* a win for public rights. Look at it this way, I can effectively turn your IP address into a real name and address just by sending a legal threat to your ISP. All I have to do to be able to do this is hold a copyright I think you might have infringed. Would you want basically anyone in the world to be able to turn your IP address into your real name and address? That's what this case is about, not the morality of copyright infringement."

"The public domain, is the *PEOPLES'* main benefit to copyright law. It has been stolen from us by these copyright extensions. Anything copyrighted you read, watch, or see today, will *NEVER* become public domain, in your lifetime. Not here in the US, or any other country that has signed any of the many worldwide copyright treaties."

"We used to have something called fair use. This would allow you to use copyrighted works in non-commercial ways and not be punished. Ever record something from the radio, or the television? That's fair use. Ever make a backup copy of your $999.99 software install disc or rare first run only played twice Elvis album, to protect it from damage or loss? That's fair use.
Have you ever copied a cd to a tape, to listen to it somewhere where you didn't have a cd player? Or, converted a cd you own to mp3 to listen to it on the device of your choice? That's fair use. Have you ever photocopied sections of a book from the library to use for research? That's fair use. Thanks to the DMCA, there is now a way to close all those legal loopholes too. Just encrypt the data somehow, and breaking, or even talking about that encryption is a violation.

This has already been done with Audio/Software CD's, DVD's, radio(satellite) and Television (Broadcast Flag). The only example left above that you could legally do if the media companies don't want you to in 2066 is copy a book. Let's hope e-books never replace the real thing.

Now, is non-commercial copyright infringement morally worse then stealing the rights of the public domain, AND fair use from the entire American (and damn near the whole world's) people?

Interesting copyright factoid: The song "Happy Birthday" is copyrighted. This is why resturants don't sing it. They have to pay royalties to do so. You are a copyright infringer every time you sing it in a public place and money is directly, or indirectly involved, you dirty pirate."

Some points to make: The Betamax court-case has defined the recording of television shows to a storage medium as "time-shifting" which is different (though similar) to fair-use. /ends his blah blah. Syntax and specifics aside, this guy (or gal) has pretty much nailed and nutshelled the entire copyright arguement. And, yes, Happy Birthday is indeed copyrighted, and you are a dirty pirate.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


First off, sorry. I know I haven't been writing...and I suck. My bad.

Ok, enough of that. I'm watching the BCS Championship (GO SC! FIGHT ON!) and it's half-time. And I kick back expecting to see a band getting ready to march on. Instead, I see...a stage. "Hmm," I think, "well, maybe it'll be good."

Then I hear "Kelly Clarkson"...I reach for the remote... "And Ashlee Simpson"...CLICK.

Tell me...what the fuck is this all about. It's college football. There are two HUGE marching bands sitting there in the stands who DREAM about doing a show like this...and you PAY SHITTY PERFORMERS TO SING CRAP. I don't get it.

I clicked back to hear the last agonizing half of Ashlee Simpson. At least it was obvious that she was singing live this time. Also obvious was the background track she swore (before the SNL debauchle) she'd never use. I don't even know how to react to her singing. She was booed. A lot. And deserved it.

There was still time left...and they filled it with some hashed-together U2 video. I want to know how much that disgusting suck-fest cost, and who paid for it. They need to be lined up and kicked repeatedly in the nuts and/or punched right in the ovaries (thanks Will Ferrell).

Game's back on. I'll have more.

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