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RIAA CHIEF HITS BACK AT WIKI AND GOOGLE OVER SOPA PROTESTS
Arguably SOPA and PIPA were already derailed before the Wiki protest, as concern over both became increasingly vocal late last year, and as even the Obama administration came out in opposition to elements of the anti-piracy bills. But the decision by Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales to take the English language edition of his online encyclopaedia offline for 24 hours in a very public protest against the two bits of legislation certainly ensured there was no way either bills could proceed in their current form.
Entertainment trade bodies like the RIAA had invested an awful lot of time into getting SOPA and PIPA to the point they were at when things began to untangle late last year, and so are understandably pissed off that political support for their anti-piracy proposals, which included a fast-track system for securing injunctions to force copyright infringing websites offline, were pushed off the Congressional agenda quite so quickly. And RIAA CEO Cary Sherman reckons the way Wikipedia, Google et al achieved that feat was, frankly, undemocratic.
Now, some would argue that the blocking of legislation drafted by a very small group of people, as a result of the protests of an awful lot of people, was actually highly democratic. But, Sherman argues, the 'awful lot of people' were only protesting because of misinformation delivered to them by Wikipedia, Google and their friends, despite said web firms presenting themselves as the trustworthy good guys, the defenders of neutrality on the internet. It wasn't democracy but "demagoguery" the RIAA boss says (big word there, I know. Fortunately Wikipedia is online today, so you can look it up).
The real problem, Sherman continues, was the C word: Censorship. Any efforts to stop people from publishing copyright infringing content on the internet would result in widespread censorship of the web, the anti-SOPA/PIPA brigade at least implied (some blatantly stated it), which makes it unsurprising that so many members of the public signed petitions and forwarded the protest emails the anti lobby had provided to their political representatives. But, Sherman argues, the censorship argument is bollocks. Well, he didn't use those words, but it's what he meant.
Sherman: "Since when is it censorship to shut down an operation that an American court, upon a thorough review of evidence, has determined to be illegal? When the police close down a store fencing stolen goods, it isn't censorship, but when those stolen goods are fenced online, it is? Wikipedia, Google and others manufactured controversy by unfairly equating SOPA with censorship".
There were other "hyperbolic mistruths" too, he adds, for starters: "They also argued misleadingly that the bills would have required websites to 'monitor' what their users upload, conveniently ignoring provisions like the 'No Duty To Monitor' section".
Sherman insists that prior to the protests most congressmen had been convinced by the economic and ethical cases for cracking down on online piracy, after months of researching the impact copyright infringement was having on the entertainment sector and those who work in it, and that while "no legislation is perfect", SOPA and PIPA were not the dangerous freedom of speech denying bills that many have claimed in recent weeks.
And, he says, "when Wikipedia and Google purport to be neutral sources of information, but then exploit their stature to present information that is not only not neutral but affirmatively incomplete and misleading, they are duping their users into accepting as truth what are merely self-serving political declarations".
The tone of Sherman's article isn't going to win over any new friends in the anti-SOPA/PIPA community, and the claim that the US news networks - which support the anti-piracy measures - decided not to fight Wiki et al head on because they "draw a line between news and editorial" and would never "present editorial opinion as fact" damages his credibility somewhat (has he never seen Fox News?).
But, nevertheless, a lot of Sherman's points in the piece will find favour across the music industry, even among some of those in the independent community who aren't especially good friends of the major label trade body. And while a fair few industry types and artists, both in the US and beyond, were themselves concerned about some aspects of SOPA and PIPA, many of them are also uneasy with some of the claims made by the wider anti brigade, in particular the implication that any kind of crack down on piracy whatsoever has to automatically result in censorship of the internet.
Though, even if you agree with Sherman wholeheartedly that Wiki, Google and their friends were guilty of distributing considerable misinformation in the run up to their big day of protest, it is worth wondering why the public at large is so willing to trust the word of the big tech companies (most of which - though obviously not Wikipedia itself - are as ruthlessly profit driven as any other commercial entity), while the word of the big music companies and film studios is frequently treated with suspicion and contempt, despite these companies being behind many of the artists, shows, movies and cultural phenomena that provide so much joy to the world.
Arguably the major labels and RIAA are at least partly to blame for this fact, firstly because of poor decision making by senior execs when the web first started to really take off a decade ago, and secondly because those companies and their trade bodies continue to operate a corporate PR strategy from 1994 - focusing all their efforts on schmoozing a few key political decision makers and influential financial and political journalists.
It's ironic that while, when it comes to consumer-facing marketing, the music industry has led the way in using social media, when it comes to engaging the world at large on other issues, to win trust and support in wider public debates, the music industry's activity is almost zero. Which is a big part of why the tech giants win the public, if not always the political debate on piracy issues.
So, food for thought. And here's Sherman's piece as an appetiser:
MEGA MAN BAILED
While Mega founder Kim Schmitz has now been denied bail twice amid fears he might flee back to Germany, where it would be much harder for the US to extradite him, two of his colleagues were granted bail almost straight away, though it turns out they weren't actually released from jail immediately because of various administrative matters.
Programmer Bram van der Kolk was freed yesterday, and will now stay in an Auckland residence with his wife, subject to certain restrictions. In particular no one in his household must be connected to the internet, with concerns the accused might endeavour to put some of Mega's services back online, possibly under a different name.
The programmer's lawyer called the no-net term "unreasonable", and said the suggestion that his client could single-handedly relaunch a Mega-style file-sharing website from his home while under the constant watch of the FBI was "frankly ridiculous". But Judge Pippa Sinclair complied with the prosecution's request in ordering Van der Kolk be kept offline.
The other Mega exec given bail shortly after his arrest last month, Finn Batato, is still in jail today, though should be freed any day now. He is planning on staying with Schmitz's pregnant wife while on bail, but she was unable to attend court to sign various papers because she had a doctor's appointment. Once the paperwork is done, though, he should be let out of prison.
The fourth arrested exec, Mathias Ortman, is still to have his bail hearing for some reason.
At the latest Mega court hearings prosecutors also revealed that only one other man had been arrested in Europe in relation to the Mega empire (earlier reports had said two), which means two of the seven people wanted in connection with Mega's alleged crimes are still at large. One of those two men, prosecutors said, had returned to his home country Germany where he would likely now avoid extradition, which is, of course, what US authorities claim Schmitz would do if let out of jail.
DEFTONES BASSIST MOVES LEG
Although no longer in comatose, Cheng has been in a semi-conscious state since 2009, but he has been showing some signs of improvement over the last two years, with some ability to make vocal sounds and slight movement returning to his hands.
It was announced this month that Cheng was now able to move one of his legs on command, and the founder of the Chi Ling Cheng Special Needs Trust, which raises money for the musician's medical fees, has posted a video of that development on YouTube.
Watch the video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kggmwyw3Zko
More information here: oneloveforchi.com
BLACK SABBATH RECRUIT NEW DRUMMER
As previously reported, Ward was dumped from the band's current plans last week after he issued a statement saying that he had be given an "unsignable" contract for the reunion project. Calling his bluff, the rest of the band responded by announcing that they were giving up the "original line-up" banner and forging ahead without him.
Presumably the band reckon that most people won't notice if Ward is there or not, though a page titled "1,000,000 Black Sabbath fans say yes to Bill Ward" has appeared on Facebook demanding that the reunion only goes ahead with Ward's involvement. Currently it's more like 30,000 Black Sabbath fans, but it's early days, and the total has risen by nearly 20,000 since yesterday afternoon.
Whether the band will pay any attention remains to be see. Currently they are continuing with recording sessions for their new album, and preparing for their Download headline set this summer.
JESUS AND MARY CHAIN REUNITE FOR US TOUR
Brothers Jim and William Reid will be joined by guitarist John Moore (who played on the band's first two albums, 'Psychocandy' and 'Darklands'), bassist Phil King, and an as-yet-unnamed drummer.
No word on any UK dates as yet, but while you wait here's a mix featuring some music that Jim Reid enjoyed in 2011: www.mixcloud.com/DemonMusicGroup/jim-reids-jukebox-2011/
JIMMY EDGAR SIGNS TO HOTFLUSH
His first release for his new label will be a single called 'This One's For The Children' on 17 Mar, followed by the as-yet-untitled album later in the year.
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UNIVERSAL PUBLISHING SIGNS TAYLOR SWIFT COLLABORATOR
Also noting recent executive appointments at the company's Nashville division, says Universal exec Evan Lamberg: "We are incredibly excited to have such a special songwriting talent as Nathan join our Universal Music Publishing family. With Kent Earls now leading UMPG Nashville and great creative executives such as Ron Stuve signing Nathan, we look forward to partnering with him in all of his creative and songwriter endeavours".
KOBALT SIGNS GOTYE
The deal, via Kobalt's Sydney office, is part of Gotye's plan to expand his profile outside Australia and New Zealand. His co-manager, Danny Rogers, recently told The Music Network: "We're now fixing our attention on America and UK and the rest of Europe. It's really connecting in so many markets. The feeling around the UK is really strong".
DEATH GRIPS PLOT DUAL ALBUMS
Listen to that very track, which by all accounts is entitled 'Blackjack', here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpxZdL2hQVc
TYLER SCHEDULES ODD FUTURE LP AS EARL SWEATSHIRT IS SET FREE
Tweets Tyler: "ALL NEW SHIT FROM ME, FRANK [Ocean], HODGY [Beats], LEFTBRAIN DOMO [Genesis], MIKE G, AND UH... HOPEFULLY... YA KNOW". Yeah... I just about think I do.
Tyler also posted this pic of the album's cover art. If you're wondering, it features the quizzical countenance of one Lucas Vercetti, a pro-skater type and fringe affiliate of the Odd Future collective. Lucky old Lucas.
Elsewhere in Odd Future-related developments, infamous OF protégée Earl Sweatshirt, rumoured to have been exiled by his concerned mother to a Samoan correctional facility, is apparently free at last.
PLAN B TALKS LP THREE
Says Plan B: "You could call 'iLL Manors' 'bassline, soul, hip hop'. The album has the lyrical depth of my first record but the musical composition is light years ahead as it's informed by everything I've learnt in the last five years - writing, producing and playing with a live band. I feel I'm better than I've ever been".
Lyrical depth, perhaps. But can anything plumb the depths of (first album fare) 'Mama (Loves A Crackhead)'? I think not.
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
THE APPLE CART, Victoria Park, London, 3 Jun: Field Day's sister event invites Adam Ant, Josh T Pearson, Gilles Peterson, Scritti Politti and Beth Jeans Houghton to join an array of already announced acts including Billy Bragg, Marcus Fosters, Noah And The Whale and Marques Toliver on its rather rosy overall bill. www.theapplecartfestival.com
BESTIVAL, Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight, 6-9 Sep: Team Bestival ram their roster with such new bookings as Sigur Rós, Justice, Gary Numan, The xx, Little Dragon, Soulwax, Azealia Banks, Rizzle Kicks and Gallows. This lot, plus additional acts including Lianne La Havas, Adam Ant, TEED, Friends, Frankie Rose and King Krule accompany subjects of prior announcements Orbital and First Aid Kit at this year's wildlife-themed Bestival bash. www.beardedtheory.co.uk
BOOMTOWN FAIR, Matterly Estate, Winchester, 9-12 Aug: Ska-punk sorts Reel Big Fish are joined by Alborosie, Asian Dub Foundationn and Jamaican reggae artiste Tanya Stephens on an eclectic batch of initial bookings for this Winchester weekender. www.boomtownfair.co.uk
NORFOLK SPECTACULAR, Norfolk Showground, Costessey, Norwich, 1-2 Sep: Omnipresent on many festival line-ups this summer, rapper Dizzee Rascal is set to grace the main stage at this modestly-titled county fete, as are Ms Dynamite, Dot Rotten, and circuit regulars Chase & Status and Jessie J. www.norfolkspectacular.co.uk
PARKLIFE WEEKENDER, Platt Fields Park, Manchester, 9-10 Jun: With The Flaming Lips and Dizzee Rascal just confirmed as dual headliners, this fast-expanding Manchester music happening will also welcome Nero, Justice, Crystal Castles, Ghostpoet and Azealia Banks. www.parklife.uk.com
SECRET GARDEN PARTY, secret location, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, 19-22 Jul: Taking place this year under the banner 'Standing On Ceremony', this most civilised of secret horticultural soirees celebrates its tenth birthday with news that it'll this year host Orbital, Little Roy, KT Tunstall, The Duke Spirit, Soko, Zulu Winter and Vintage Trouble, with many more performers to be named in due course. www.secretgardenparty.com
SONAR, Barcelona, Spain, 14-16 Jun: With similar events also taking place in Sao Paulo, Tokyo and Capetown this year, Sonar's Spanish edition provides the setting for a selection of sets from Hot Chip, Mount Kimbie, Friendly Fires, Nicolas Jaar, Azari & III, Deadmau5 and Fatboy Slim. www.sonar.es/en/2012/
NEXT AIM WOMEN IN MUSIC EVENT CONFIRMED
HMV DENIES AMAZON IS NOW A BIGGER ENTERTAINMENT RETAILER
Now, we're not saying the WPP-owned Kantar's market share assessments aren't open to dispute (I do know it has a fucking irritating website), but HMV's rebuttal of the researchers' stats yesterday wasn't great. The company basically said that it is still the market leader providing you only looked at the things it is good at. Take games out of the equation (HMV chief Simon Fox has already admitted his company's gaming sales have been particularly disappointing of late), and HMV is still a bigger entertainment retailer than Amazon. Presumably that means HMV doesn't find video games entertaining any more.
Asked about Kantar's research, HMV spokesman Gennaro Castaldo told NME: "We're not sure on what basis these calculations were made, but what we do know is that our market share for music and also visual products is actually up, and we believe the figures are a little misleading as they are heavily skewed by the inclusion of games. As we reported recently our sales and share on games were markedly down last year, so if you were to take this out of the equation HMV would still be ahead as the leading entertainment retailer for music and visual combined. We have exciting plans to develop a far more integrated multi-channel retail offer that we are confident will deliver significant benefits to our customer this year".
He also said that Amazon's growth was based on heavy discounting and selling some products at a loss, which is a fair point, it is. Though, of course, you could argue that's just a clever strategy on the part of the web firm, which isn't saddled with supporting 200 shops on a dying high street, and so can fight price wars in a bid to boost their market share. If you wanted to.
WILL THE MEGA SWOOP AND PIRATE BAY RULING LEAD TO MORE FILE-SHARING SITE SHUT DOWNS?
As previously reported, one BitTorrent search site, BTjunkie, did just that earlier this week, citing concerns over the arrests of the Mega management and the subsequent announcement that the Swedish Supreme Court would not hear the final appeal of the Pirate Bay founders, who now face the prospect of many months in jail. And while anger in the file-sharing community about recent closures may motivate some of those who provide file-sharing services to stay the distance, Torrentfreak reports that some others are seriously consider their positions.
The torrent news site quotes one unnamed admin of a file-sharing service as saying: "There had been talks of shutting our site down, even before BTjunkie did it. A couple guys on the staff decided not to be involved any more after the MegaUpload incident". Said admin specifically admitted that the arrest of Mega founder Kim Schmitz - a German citizen arrested in New Zealand at the request of the US - had raised concerns, many file-sharing site operators having previously assumed that jurisdiction issues could aid them legally if targeted by rights owners. "It's turning into a witch hunt and it is worrying", he concludes.
However, Torrentfreak points out that others are adamant that their services will continue to operate unhindered by Mega-style swoops, with Gary Fung - the man behind isoHunt.com - among them.
Unlike many file-sharing services, which have always been at risk of legal attack from the content industries but have often avoided any direct action, Canadian Fung has hands-on experience of dealing with copyright litigation. Torrentfreak quotes him thus: "After six years of two civil lawsuits with MPAA [Motion Picture Association Of America] and CRIA [Canadian Record Industry Association], we are still here. None of these events is really new to us. From Lokitorrent to Suprnova, we've seen sites we index come and go. And as long as the free internet exists, sharing will endure. As will isoHunt".
With the MegaUpload swoop and Pirate Bay ruling, it does feel like the content industry's long running fight against file-sharing has gained some real momentum in the last few weeks, ironically despite the collapse of anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA in US Congress. Though what impact those events will really have long term remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, read Torrentfreak's analysis here:
ILIKE TURNED OFF
Very buzzy for a while, with its Facebook integration and Google partnership, financial backing from Ticketmaster, and mobile ambitions, the future of the digital platform was thrown into doubt when it was bought by an already flagging MySpace in 2009.
The iLike service did live on though, but quickly started to lose its user base, with AppData claiming the iLike This Artist Facebook app went from having 1.7 million daily users at its peak, to just 5000, Facebook's high profile partnerships with other music services in the last year presumably not helping,
Anyway, it was all turned off yesterday by MySpace's newish owners, with iLike.com now pointing to a page on the MySpace website which reads: "The iLike website is no longer available, we welcome you to MySpace, home of the largest catalogue of free streaming music on the web". So, that's nice.
MIA RIDER REQUESTS CHEESE, CRACKERS, BURKAS
Seizing MIA's present notoriety (following, of course, her controversial appearance during Madonna's halftime Super Bowl set) as an opportune moment to release part of the rider from the Brit rapper's 2011 tour, the site highlights reasonable requests (water, mixed nuts, and a 'European' cheese and cracker tray) alongside a specific requirement that there be three females, aged 20-25 and of "same height and body shape", with "stage presence and groove to the music", present at each venue
All your average celeb stipulations, apart from one other thing; the trio of extras must also appear "wearing full covered burkas".
This shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone who has seen MIA's stage show (or, for that matter, her new 'Bad Girls' video) though the fact that the Burka-clad extras are casually listed above requests for things like a "selection of quality chocolates (Ferrero Rocher)", and "nice push soap and nice handsoap"... well, it's jarring.
Read the rest of MIA's rider here: www.thesmokinggun.com/file/mia-2011-rider