Information Wave Technologies Bans the RIAA

From a press release from host Information Wave Technologies, via Metafilter:

Due to the nature of this matter and RIAA’s previous history, we feel the RIAA will abuse software vulerabilities in a client’s browser after the browser accesses its site, potentially allowing the RIAA to access and/or tamper with your data. Starting at midnight on August 19, 2002, Information Wave customers will no longer be able to reach the RIAA’s web site. Information Wave will also actively seek out attempts by the RIAA to thwart this policy and apply additional filters to protect our customers’ data.

They’re also engaging in null seeding, and tracking the data: “Clients which connect to our peer-to-peer clients, and then afterwards attempt to illegally access the network will be immediately blacklisted from Information Wave’s network.” That is, Information Wave Technologies is preventing would be RIAA or any other outside user from using its own network as a staging point for attacks on the Gnutella network.This is an different appoach; it will be interesting to see if others adopt similar strategies.

Janis Ian: Downloading Take II

Dave Winer‘s discovered that Janis Ian has posted “FALLOUT — a follow up to The Internet Debacle” a sequel to her excellent “Internet Debacle” article. She’s again making easily understood arguements, including real numbers from her own site, for allowing free and/or inexpensive downloading of music files. Ms. Ian writes:

Do I still believe downloading is not harming the music industry? Yes, absolutely. Do I think consumers, once the industry starts making product they want to buy, will still buy even though they can download? Yes. Water is free, but a lot of us drink bottled water because it tastes better. You can get coffee at the office, but you’re likely to go to Starbucks or the local espresso place, because it tastes better. When record companies start making CD’s that offer consumers a reason to buy them, as illustrated by Kevin’s email at the end of this article, we will buy them. The songs may be free on line, but the CD’s will taste better.

It’s a thoughtful, well written piece by someone who’s a performer and a consumer. Go read it.

Ms. Ian is absolutely right, as her own numbers demonstrate. People will download free files, or reasonably priced files, then go buy the CD. It’s very much part of human nature to be acquisitive. We want something we can clutch in our hot little hands. If users find that they like a particular artist’s work, they’ll download the files, sure, but then they’ll want the nice jewel case, the cover art, and the liner notes. Rather than their idiotic obsession over “Internet Piracy,” producers, the RIAA and those who stand to profit should start thinking about adding value to the physical artifact, and how they can capitalize on the nature of the ‘net, instead of trying to choke their own customers.

What about the Artists?

I’ve already ranted about copyright, but it’s time to rant some more. I’m perfectly willing to pay for a product I want, but there need to be some changes to the way recordings, especially digital recordings, are sold. We need to protect consumers’ rights to make personal copies of lawfully purchased recordings, and insure that artists can directly distribute their performances via digital files, and internet broadcast, without needing expensive licensing arbitrage, and five or six adminstrative drones raiding the till. Right now, very little profit trickles down to the artists; most of the money goes to the drones.

I’d like to buy digital music files over the net, and from a kiosk at the mall. I’d also like to see the artists’ rights respected, and I’d like to see them getting paid. I’d like to be able to explore the work of unfamiliar artists, by downloading digital music files, and by listening to Internet Radio. The RIAA doesn’t want me to do any of those things, and so I’m boycotting the RIAA.

As I explained earlier, we’re not buying CDs from RIAA distributors/producers. Right now in fact, we’re not buyiing CDs at all. We want to be able to use our CDs where we want, and how we want, including making personal copies. We also want the artists to be paid. Right now, they frequently aren’t.

First of all, in case you’ve forgotten about it, or never read it, here’s Courtney Love talking about the corrupt nature of the biz, and how the real pirates are involved in the recording industry. You really need to read the whole piece—it’s intelligent, facutual and thought provoking. Ms. Love points out that “The system’s set up so almost nobody gets paid,” and talks about how “work for hire” with regard means that record companies, thanks to RIAA buying Congress, can own copyright in perpetuity. As she points out (the links are mine):

Last November, a Congressional aide named Mitch Glazier, with the support of the RIAA, added a “technical amendment” to a bill that defined recorded music as “works for hire” under the 1978 Copyright Act.

. . .
That subtle change in copyright law will add billions of dollars to record company bank accounts over the next few years&7mdash;billions of dollars that rightfully should have been paid to artists. A “work for hire” is now owned in perpetuity by the record company.

Next, I particularly want to point you to Janis Ian, yeah, that’s right that Janis Ian. She makes some very good points about the “internet debacle,” responding to the typical naive assertions about digital distribution as “thievery.” Among other things:

Most consumers have no problem paying for entertainment. One has only to look at the success of Fictionwise.com and the few other websites offering books and music at reasonable prices to understand that. If the music industry had a shred of sense, they’d have addressed this problem seven years ago, when people like Michael Camp were trying to obtain legitimate licenses for music online. Instead, the industry-wide attitude was “It’ll go away.” That’s the same attitude CBS Records had about rock ‘n’ roll when Mitch Miller was head of A&R. (And you wondered why they passed on The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.)

On Ripping CDs

Yes, you can buy a CD and “rip” or copy the files quite easily. Apple’s iTunes, bundled with every Mac, and available for free downloading, is designed to make ripping and burning easy—and it does. There are similar applications for just about any personal computer operating system.Yes, people do that”rip” files all the time. Yes, some people put those files on the Internet and others download them.

The operative word there is “some.” I’ve never posted an illegal mp3 file on the ‘net. I do have an iPod though, and it contains MP3s of about 60 CDs that I purchased. Given that there are other real world models for this activity in that you can photocopy a book you own for personal use—it’s the distribution of that copy that’s a problem—it’s pretty daft to argue that users shouldn’t be able to make digital copies for personal use of cds they own—just as they can make casettes of vinyl albums (remember records?) or other personal use copies.

During Napster’s thriving period CD sales went up. It’s possible that Napster actually drove CD sales. Sales have dropped—for both concert tickets and CDs—post Napster. People downloaded a song they liked, often discovering new artists, then bought the CD. Humans are acquisitive by nature. We like bright shiny objects, and want to own them in a physical form. Moroever, by enhancing the data with an attractive cover and liner notes, not to mention the benefits of enhanced CDs, CD producers are giving the physical object added value—making us want them even more. If they had a clue, the RIAA could drive sales by making it easy to legally obtain MP3 files—and pay the artists involved.

Given how many hours I spend working in front of computers, I darn well want to be able to either listen to MP3’s on my iPod or play a cd in my CD-ROM drive—both things the RIAA doesn’t want me to do. And, at the same time Eisner and others are complaining to Senator Hollings about consumers “stealing” from them, the RIAA is not paying the artists. I think Tim O’Reilly was being too polite when he described them as being disingenuous. It’s worth reading the thoughts of Andy Grove, someone who understands profit and technology, as well as the need for innovation. If publishers want to sell more, maybe they should find out what consumers want.