RIAA wants to rewrite the DMCA: No!

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/44/Image_removed_DMCA.pngWhen Congress passed the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, it was an unmitigated hand-out to the recording industry. Now the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) wants to revisit the debate to litigate the “tech industry” this time. Ironically, the tech industry was in its infancy at the passage of the DMCA: Google was founded in 1998, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Spotify, and SoundCloud were not even imagined at the time.

In a recent tweet, the RIAA announced:

Well it is absolutely time to “fix” the DMCA, if by fix they mean eliminate. When the DMCA passed into law, only copyright stakeholders were included at the copyright negotiating table. Stakeholders, by definition, had to be around in order to be at the table. None of the tech companies they currently attack were around when they negotiated the DMCA in the mid 90s.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f0/DRM_Is_Killing_Music.svg/190px-DRM_Is_Killing_Music.svg.pngThe DMCA gives record companies the ability to include Digital Rights Management (DRM) in digital music files. DRM are files that track where a file has been.While the DMCA does not mandate DRM, it does make it illegal to circumvent DRM. And DRM does all kinds of messed up things to users’ privacy: from knowing where a file circulates to acquiring information about the users.

Furthermore, the idea that the RIAA has the interest of “music creators” is entirely disingenuous. Record labels exploit musicians. When an artist signs a record contract, they receive an advance on future revenue. They have to pay back the advance from their portion of the royalties. Record labels begin to profit long before artists see any money, and most signed artists see no money.

The RIAA is a lobbying group that works for major record labels. By characterizing themselves as representatives of music creators, they do more than just rhetorical harm. The problem is that the public, and Congress, wants to believe that the RIAA has their favorite artists interests in mind. However, as I’ve argued, this gives them the leverage to strengthen their position in the music economy, and further exploit those same artists.

In the early 2000s, teenagers downloading music were the RIAA’s bad guys. Today they want you to believe that the “tech industry” companies are the bad guys. This is what I call the “Piracy Panic Narrative.” We can’t be fooled into allowing Congress to make wholesale changes to copyright law again to advance the interests of a corporate oligopoly.

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Much ado about Spotify’s 87 Million Subscribers

Spotify began November 2018 with an announcement that they reached 87 million subscribers. News outlets from the Wall Street Journal to The Verge, and Variety to The Hollywood Reporter covered this news as a competition with Apple Music, and the overall shifting of the music industry. However, little was said about the real impact on music consumption as social activity or the excess profits this generates for everyone in the recording industry.

In my essay “Digital Subscriptions: The Unending Consumption of Music in the Digital Era,” I explore the way the recording industry changed our consumption habits and increased profits exponentially. What we can’t lose is that the average consumer used to buy about $40 worth of recorded music per year, but with subscriptions, they are paying $120 per year. Think about $870,000,000/month in music consumption on Spotify alone (another $530,000,000 on Apple Music). In the essay, I analyze this further.

Here is the abstract:

When Apple purchased Beats Music in 2014, it signified a major moment in the transformation of the recorded music commodity. This is the second time in the digital era that Apple has catalyzed a transformation of the recorded commodity after first disrupting the recording industry by creating the iTunes store. Now, the recording industry is changing from a business model dependent on the sale of commodities to a model based on subscriptions and streaming. I call this model unending consumption because it traps music listeners in a cycle where they must continually subscribe to have access to music. By giving subscribers unlimited access to music in exchange for $10 per month, the recording industry aims to increase the amount that the average consumer spends per year on music by 200%.

Please contact me if you need access to the full article behind the paywall.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/26/Spotify_logo_with_text.svg/2000px-Spotify_logo_with_text.svg.png

Grammy Alliance: Another Round of Piracy Panic Narrative

video blockedAfter 3 hours of music and a much needed public service announcement on domestic violence, the Recording Academy decided to end the show with a selfish lobbying effort to create tougher copyright laws. By starting the Creators’ Alliance (dubbed #GrammyAlliance for Twitter), the Recording Academy placed itself strongly on the side of major record labels against the recording artists who constitute the bulk of the Recording Academy members. Continue reading

Copyright Rewrite: In the name of Musicians, in the pocket of Big Business

As the US Copyright Office pushes forward with plans for the largest overhaul of copyright in decades, it is important not to fall back to the same patterns that have eviscerated musicians and other creative producers. These copyright rewrites always end-up making powerful copyright interests more powerful. Continue reading

Major Record Labels Sell More Music as the Album Declines

Record-Album-02Album sales are down. But that really isn’t the point. Albums were the logical result of the available recording technology. At first, recorded music was limited by the “brevity dictated by the size of the shellac plate.” In other words, the length of a song was limited to the length of a side of a 78-rpm record, which for a while was about 3 minutes. The album only developed as a concept with the 33 1/3-rpm LP record, which could initially hold 22 minutes of music per side. Rather than lengthening a song, record companies began bundling 3 minute songs together in the form of an album. With digital music, it does not necessarily make sense for record labels to produce albums if they can release digital tracks. Continue reading

iTake-Over Press Release

Book decries methods of the recording industry in the digital age – News Center – UT Arlington.

A new book by a UT Arlington assistant professor reveals how large corporations exploited new technologies to maintain their stranglehold on the music industry.

David Arditi, an assistant professor in Interdisciplinary Studies, wrote “iTake-Over: The Recording Industry in the Digital Era,” published by R&L Publishers.  It will hit shelves Dec. 5.

End of the Recording Industry

There is a lot at stake with the development of digital music and the ability to download it over the internet. One of the biggest confusions occurs when the Recording Industry Association of America discusses file-sharing as something that will end recorded music as we know it. If you listen to the RIAA, you are liable to believe that there will no longer be recorded music if file-sharers keep “pirating” music, but this is not close to the truth. Yes, major record labels could lose their dominance in the market place, but does that mean that music is dead? The RIAA has been claiming that the disintermediation provided by the internet will lead to the decline and ultimately the failure of the recording industry. The decline of the recording industry, however, is not the end of music. While the recording industry cannot exist without music, music can exist without the recording industry (even the music industry can exist without the recording industry). Continue reading