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WHITE HOUSE FORCES SOPA RETHINK, THOUGH CAMPAIGN AGAINST WEB-BLOCK LAWS CONTINUES
As previously reported, the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act being considered by US Congress has become big news in the States in recent months, with opponents to the proposals, backed by many of America's big tech firms, gaining the upper hand in the public debate on the issue.
Unlike in the UK, where controversy outside parliament over the three-strikes-enabling Digital Economy Act never really resulted in widespread opposition in political circles, in the US some vocal congressmen have been taking note of discontent outside Capitol Hill. Though it was opposition to key SOPA proposals in the White House, confirmed late last week, that really scuppered efforts to make the anti-piracy legislation law in the short term.
Confirmation that the White House would block certain SOPA measures brought Rupert Murdoch into the debate via his new favourite medium Twitter. The News Corp chief accused President Obama of being in bed with his "Silicon Valley paymasters", by which he really means Google.
The web giant, Murdoch continued to tweet, is a "piracy leader", helping with the free unlicensed streaming of News Corp's movies and selling ads around them. Needless to say, that's a viewpoint Google disputes, telling C-Net: "This is just nonsense. Last year we took down five million infringing web pages from our search results and invested more than $60 million in the fight against bad ads... We fight pirates and counterfeiters every day".
For its part, the Obama administration insisted that, despite opposing elements of SOPA, it remains committed to helping the entertainment industry protect their intellectual property rights online, just not in the ways the Stop Online Piracy Act proposed. The White House said in a statement: "Let us be clear, online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation's most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs. [But we] will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet".
SOPA aimed to make it easier for content owners to force ISPs to block access to non-US based websites which they believe primarily exist to help others to infringe copyrights. Similar measures are being considered in other countries, sometimes alongside though often instead of three-strikes style anti-piracy programmes, which force ISPs to send warning letters to suspected file-sharers.
Spain is probably most advanced in introducing a fast-track web-blocking system - which removes some of the time and cost involved in seeking web blocking injunctions through traditional routes (not that any such traditional routes really existed under Spanish law) - ironically after ministers there responded to pressure to act on piracy from representatives of the American government.
Opponents of web blocking argue it gives too much power to traditional content companies to censor the internet, fearing any high speed system for blocking access to websites would be misused.
Although last week's White House announcement is certainly a big set back for those who support SOPA, requiring, as it does, a radical rethink, it hasn't necessarily killed off the legislation. Plus, concurrently to SOPA, another set of anti-piracy proposals called PIPA are also being considered by US politicians.
All of which means those who oppose web blocking hope to maintain the momentum of their campaign, with Wikipedia planning to take its English language service offline for 24 hours in protest. As previously reported, Wiki chief Jimmy Wales proposed such action last month, taking a similar campaign against new web legislation by the Wiki community in Italy as inspiration.
SUE THE FANS LAWYER SUSPENDED FOR TWO YEARS
Crossley's sue-the-fans adventure was one of the more comical episodes in the bigger file-sharing story, though, while his services were never engaged by any big music company, his activities did damage the credibility of the wider content industries as they lobby for tougher rules to help to tackle online piracy.
Having seen the UK record industry, and one of the sector's leading law firms Davenport Lyons, dabble with sue-the-fans litigation, suing individual file-sharers who access unlicensed content online for copyright infringement, Crossley decided to try to build a business on the back of it all, offering to send legal letters on behalf of content owners on a commission basis. Said business was called ACS:Law.
ACS's tactics were quickly criticised by consumer rights groups and some other lawyers specialising in intellectual property. Critics said that the ACS approach was designed to pressure individuals into making quick damages payments (to avoid the cost of taking legal advice and the embarrassment of public exposure when the content allegedly accessed was pornographic), with no actual intent on the lawyers' part to pursue copyright actions against the accused file-sharers in court. Such an approach risked turning infringement litigation into a business in itself, rather than a way to try and stop the infringing activity.
Crossley was initially vocal in shouting down his critics, insisting that his operations were legit, and that he'd take any suspected file-sharer who refused to settle to court. Having to make good on that pledge, Crossley did eventually sue a small group of alleged file-sharers, but his case against them quickly untangled as it became clear the legal man's grasp of intellectual property law was weak, and in many cases there was no evidence that the defendants had failed to respond to his legal letters, as the legal man claimed. In some cases there was firm proof that they had.
Concurrent to all this, and having made himself enemy number one of the file-sharing community, the ACS:Law servers were targeted with a Distributed Denial Of Service attack, taking the company's website offline. For reasons best known to no one, when the law firm's IT people tried to deal with the attack, they accidentally published confidential information about over 6000 people who had been targeted with ACS's dodgy legal letters. One of the UK's biggest ever data spills, it ensured Crossley's business was in free fall before even the farcical court hearing began.
Anyway, the whole matter was referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal which considered no less than seven charges against Crossley, including that he let his independence be compromised, damaged the reputation of the legal profession and used his position as a solicitor to gain unfair advantage over the people he sent letters to.
According to Torrentfreak, a now much more humble Crossley accepted all the charges without contest, except one relating to the data spill incident, which he blamed on his former company's web hosts, saying the publication of all those people's personal information was not the result of improper conduct on his part.
The tribunal banned Crossley from operating as a lawyer for two years and ordered him to pay costs of £77,000. According to Torrentfreak, the former lawyer remains bankrupt, and, presumably as a result of all the stress this shambles has caused, has now split from his partner of fifteen years. Which, you know, however big an arse he may have been, is sad nonetheless. There is a moral in all this somewhere. And when I write 'ACS:Law The Musical', I'll make sure that's the theme of the final number.
MARILYN MANSON RECRUITS PINK'S FORMER DRUMMER
Despite having recorded drum parts for the forthcoming Manson album 'Born Villain' (due this year via Cooking Vinyl), Vrenna was unwilling to take part in the goth-rock provocateurs' 'God Of Fuck' tour. Well, who can blame him? So Sutter will now take to the drum kit for those shows.
DAVID'S LYRE TO CALL IT A DAY
Dixon wrote: "David's Lyre began a little over two years ago. I signed a record deal with a major label six months after starting the project, and this relationship ended just before Christmas 2011. When we first signed we had hoped that the album would be out summer 2011, but for various reasons, as you know, this didn't happen".
The solo tour of smaller venues will take place in February, with a farewell show featuring his full band planned for 1 Mar at the 100 Club in London. The album, 'Picture Of You', will also see the light of day, released on a pay-what-you-want basis via Bandcamp - davidslyre.bandcamp.com - on 20 Feb.
Now let's mourn the loss of David's Lyre by watching the video for his cover Lana Del Rey's 'Video Games' (one of the better ones of the many that were released at the end of last year), which doubles up as a short film on Salford superhero, Knight Warrior: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbAFkEuU8xg
NEW HOT CHIP ALBUM COMPLETE
So you see, it's all true. There's been no indication as to a release date or title for the LP, but I'm sure those details will follow in their own sweet time.
CHUCK D TALKS PUBLIC ENEMY LPS, RAPPERS' SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
D also spoke to Billboard about the group's part in LA street festival Operation: Skid Row, proceeds from which will fund stable housing for low-income families.
He said: "[Outsiders] look at rap music, and artists in hip hop, as being as elitist as the power structures that keep them down. My place in hip hop is not to be a tycoon, making trillions with a yacht. That's not my place. My place is maybe bringing people together and me being able to identify and illuminate a cause, and we'll make it comfortable for them to be themselves, but say what they've really been wanting to say all along, you know, with my protection".
Well said indeed. Read the rest of the Billboard interview here: www.billboard.com/news/chuck-d-talks-new-public-enemy-albums-skid-1005874352.story#/news/chuck-d-talks-new-public-enemy-albums-skid-1005874352.story
STOOSHE ANNOUNCE NEW SINGLE
The song finds the band collaborating with Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes, but don't let that put you off. I mean, you've come this far, you might as well watch the video. At first glance it looks like some sort of Jessie J-esque cosmetics campaign, but since Time Out has dubbed Stooshe "the most subversive mainstream pop act of their generation", there's got to be more to it than just that.
WILEY STREAMS NEW LP AHEAD OF RELEASE
The Guardian have the exclusive first listen, so experience that here - http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2012/jan/16/wiley-evolve-extinct-album-stream - or find Wiley on fighting form on the LP's title track (the natural selection, surely?) via Soundcloud below.
SCUM TO TOUR
21 Feb: Brighton, Green Door Store
LOS CAMPESINOS! ANNOUNCE TOUR
20 Mar: Exeter, Phoenix
THE CURE TO PLAY EURO FESTIVAL DATES
They'll first visit Hultsfred Festival in Sweden (14-16 Jun), playing alongside headliners The Stone Roses, before journeying on to Germany's Hurricane and Southside festivals (both on (22-24 Jun). The latter two share a line-up that also features Blink 182, The Stone Roses, Florence And The Machine and Justice.
Staying tight-lipped about any UK-based appointments, the band say: "much more to come".
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
BEARDED THEORY, Kedleston Hall Park, Derbyshire, 18-29 May: Folk singer Cara Dillon is the latest addition to this year's Bearded Theory bill, as co-headlined by Levellers, The Damned, and Dreadzone and hosting the eclectic likes of Terrorvision, The Ashan Project, Astralasia, Hobo Jones & The Junkyard Dogs, The Popes and The Travelling Band. www.beardedtheory.co.uk
DOWNLOAD, Donington Park, 8-10 Jun: Soundgarden will play their first UK show since 1996 at rock and metal fest Download this year. Also added to the bill today are Biffy Clyro, Tenacious D, Lamb Of God, Trivium, Anthrax, You Me At Six and Machine Head, while leading the charge from a totally different musical direction will be Chase & Status, who will be guests of already announced headliners, The Prodigy. www.downloadfestival.co.uk
WARRIOR'S DANCE FESTIVAL, Kalemegdan Fortress, Belgrade, Serbia, 15 Sep: Also joining The Prodigy, but this time on the line up for this Serbian rave fest, are Skrillex, Eyesburn, Goblini & Ritam Nereda, Lollobrigida, and Petrol. A treat of a bill as it stands, with more acts to be announced soon. www.warriorsdancefestival.com
WINTER SESSIONS WEEKENDER, Chamonix, France, 30-31 Mar: Norman Jay, Trojan Sound System, Scratch Perverts' Mr Thing, Ninja Tune's DK and rap types Lazy Habits are amongst the first flurry of acts confirmed for this annual snow-sports bash, with more DJs and performers yet to be unveiled. www.wintersessions.net
FORMER WARNER EUROPE BOSS JOINS LIVE NATION
Confirming Reid's shift from records to live music, the CEO of Live Nation's European business, Simon Lewis, told reporters: "We are delighted to have John join us at a time of exciting growth for Live Nation. His pedigree speaks for itself and he is an immensely valuable talent to have with us as we continue to develop our business across Europe. John will be pivotal in broadening our touring artist portfolio and strengthening our show marketing capabilities as we head into what we expect to be another strong year".
Name-checking Live Nation's overall top two execs as well Lewis, Reid himself added: "I'm very pleased to join Irving Azoff, Michael Rapino and Simon Lewis at Live Nation. Having spent a number of years navigating and leading the transition of the recorded music business to digital, and to full rights management, this is a great opportunity to join the largest live music, management and ticketing businesses at a very exciting time for the company".
Reid spent over ten years at Warner, joining the major from rivals Universal in 2000. He left the Warner Music Group last November as part of an executive rejig orchestrated by the firm's newish owners Access Industries.
HMV TO INCREASE MUSIC STOCK
A spokesperson for HMV told NME yesterday: "A lot of customers have been asking us to increase the amount of racking we dedicate to music in store and we're pleased to say we'll be doing a lot more of that soon - in fact we're also planning to significantly increase our range of vinyl in quite a few locations as well. Unlike singles, around 75% of albums are still sold in CD format, and a sizeable chunk of these are bought by customers who like to purchase them in store. A lot of us talk about having a vibrant high street at the heart of the community, but that's not going to happen by itself - if that's what people want, then, along with buying online and downloading, they also need to support their local stores and specialist chains".
The last bit of that quote does read a little bit like "please come to our shops and buy things, please, please, please, please", even if what the retailer is trying to say is, technically, a valid point. Given the firm's current highly known woes, which will likely force the sale of its only profitable division, the MAMA Group, NME also asked HMV's spokesman if he thought management there had made any mistakes. Said spokesman pointed the finger of blame, albeit very politely, to the HMV top guard of ten years ago.
Says HMV: "Clearly, we wouldn't be where we are today without having made some mistakes and the seeds of many of the challenges we now face were actually sown a good ten or more years ago. There were an amazing generation of people who worked here then - incredibly passionate about music and highly driven, that helped to make HMV a powerhouse of music and entertainment retail - but, ironically, that very same culture arguably blinkered us to some of the changes that were beginning to bubble away around us, including the first stirrings of the internet. It meant that we didn't fully anticipate and act on the opportunities that could potentially be developed online, whereas others did. If we could go back a decade, that's the one thing we'd change".
It might seem unfair to blame long since departed execs for HMV's current hardships though, again, technically speaking the retailer is right to say most of its problems today have their origins in catastrophic decisions made by delusional execs between 1995 and 2005. Though to excuse those bad decisions by saying the bosses of the day totally missed the internet because their intense passion for music was such a big distraction is rather generous.
As with the big record companies, a general arrogance in senior circles at big music retail ten years ago, coupled with an over reliance on expensive and equally arrogant lawyers and IT consultants, caused most of today's problems, and resulted in HMV handing the then emerging entertainment mail-order business on one plate to Amazon, and the now huge download market to Apple on another.
HMV's close alliance with the majors - important customers of the retailer's pay-to-rack services back in the day - didn't help, and ensured HMV's first entry into the digital market was one of the most woeful digital products to ever sully the internet. Which is something those veteran execs still running major labels might like to think about if their product totally disappears from the high street later this year.
Still, that's all water under the bridge really. Whether the continued strength of its brand, a lucrative sale of MAMA, and some tinkering of relative stock levels will assure HMV's survival, short term and long term, remains the story of the moment.
VEVO LAUNCHES BRITS THEMED CHANNEL
Here's VEVO's Head Of Programming Tom Connaughton talking it all up: "The BRIT Awards are the most talked about night of the UK music calendar, so we're absolutely thrilled that VEVO is partnering with them for the very first time this year. We are all about championing great music, and this is the perfect opportunity for us to bring this amazing UK show to our VEVO audience. We're proud to have been chosen by The BRITs as their first dedicated online HD music video partner, and working alongside media partners like ITV we want to bring the magic of the awards to the fans, on demand".
You can join the VEVO BRITs party at www.vevo.com/britawards.
NME.COM EDITOR APOLOGISES TO ED SHEERAN
The tag quickly gained momentum, initially led by those who follow Lewis and/or the NME on Twitter, with the NME.com Editor retweeting his favourites, though it all soon started to take off on its own, providing a useful platform for the distribution of a bucket load of Sheeran-hate that has seemingly been building of late. People are probably sick to death of that poster his label have been pasting up everywhere. Still, it wasn't long until the singer-songwriter's people had noticed the #howshitisedsheeran phenomenon.
Writing on Facebook, Lewis repents as follows: "I'd intended this to encourage a funny and light-hearted bit of banter. In fact it soon snowballed into something that had the ugly air of an orchestrated hate campaign. After about twenty minutes I realised I'd made an appalling mistake and stopped RT-ing people's responses. But by then the hashtag had picked up its own independent momentum, and soon became a vehicle for all sorts of crude and unfunny personal jibes".
He continued: "It's certainly not my goal in life to add to the sum total of bile and viciousness online. God knows there's enough of it already. That's why I cringe at the memory, and really, really wish I hadn't done it. Either in my name, or NME's. For that reason I'd like to say sorry to Ed, who dealt with the whole thing with saintlike calm, as well as anyone who was upset by the insults that gushed forth". Given the length of Lewis's apology, one assumes Sheeran's PR people weren't so understanding.
Getting in one final bit of self-admonishment to placate the publicists, Lewis concluded: "I'd also like to apologise to followers of @nmemagazine's Twitter feed, who presumably signed up to be kept abreast of music news, not be subjected to the NME.com Editor's slightly baffling personal tirade. It was a clanking great social media fail, and I'm thoroughly ashamed of myself".
For those of you still wondering, how shit is Ed Sheeran? Well, this shit obviously. Yeah, work that out.
MIXMAG LAUNCHES NEW COVER STAR FEATURE WITH RICHIE HAWTIN
The first such cover star will be Richie Hawtin, with Simian Mobile Disco, Visionquest and Chuckie all lined up for future editions. Hawtin will play a special Mixmag Live event to launch his issue at London's Village Underground on 23 Feb. Fans who buy his issue of the magazine will also be able to download the Remiix Mixmag app for iPhone or iPad for free, which allows users to rework and remix songs for themselves, and which has been developed by tech company Liine, of which Hawtin is a co-founder.
Commenting on all this, Mixmag Editor Nick DeCosemo told CMU: "We are all incredibly excited about this new chapter in Mixmag's history. Mixmag has always been at the cutting edge of club culture and we believe this series of events, coupled with our new digital activity and the monthly, cornerstone, magazine cements our position as the world's leading authority on dance music and club culture. We are also looking forward to some rather amazing parties".
ONE DIRECTION BOYS GET RADIO SHOW
The 'Direct From 1D HQ' show, which I suspect won't actually come direct from 1D HQ, partly because I suspect there isn't really a 1D HQ, will also air nationally on the digital network via another Bauer owned station, The Hits.
Key 103 Programme Director Gary Stein told Radio Today: "This is the band that gets the fans screaming and we're delighted that they'll kick off 2012 with us. It's sure to be must-hear radio for fans of the band!"
JAY-Z WON'T SAY "BITCH" EVER AGAIN
Part of it reads: "Before I got in the game, made a change, and got rich/I didn't think hard about using the word bitch/I rapped, I flipped it, I sold it, I lived it/Now with my daughter in this world I curse those that give it".
He adds: "No man will degrade her, or call her names/I'm so focused on your future, the degradation has passed/I wish you wealth, health and insight/Forever young you may pass/Blue Ivy Carter, my angel".
Excellent, very progressive of Mr Carter. Perhaps an initial post-baby edit could now be made to Jay-Z's verse in 'Watch The Throne' collaboration 'That's My Bitch', which could re-titled 'That's My Wife', or if we're really being PC, 'That's My Feminine Equal'. Wouldn't that be nice?
Also in Baby-Beyonce happenings, the couple are set to donate presents intended for baby Blue Ivy to charity. It's reported that many of the gifts, which were sent in by the celebrity likes of Kanye West, Rihanna, and Mariah Carey and P Diddy, will be given to local causes benefitting young mothers.