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AFL-CIO comes out for artist rights in Performance Rights Act

April 29, 2010 Comments off

It’s very encouraging that the AFLCIO (see “Workers Mobilizing to Get Fair Play for Music Artists“), the leading council of trade unions in America, has come out foursquare behind their members in the creative unions twice in the last 6 weeks or so. First, there was a resounding defense of the AFTRADGAIATSE-SAG anti-theft position paper in the net neutrality hearings (as well as several other major unions who filed comments such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers). These unions were also in line with the Songwriters Guild of America that had been the lone voice opposing the loopholes in the “net neutrality” stalking horse that would permit rampant stealing to continue.

But yesterday the AFLCIO backed the professional creators in the quest for a performance right for sound recordings in the United States, and idea whose time has definitely come (and is about 30 years overdue if you ask me). Bear in mind, practically every other country in the world has a performance right for recording artists, vocalists and musicians when their recording is played on the air (including producers in some countries). Currently–these artists get zero. The purpose of the Performance Rights Act is to create an easy to use and easy to pay license for the recordings–bearing in mind that broadcasters already pay for the songs. The sound recording is just the flip side of the same accounting and tracking that is already being done. In fact, for larger stations, the typical software packages that the big stations use to track their playlists already accounts for the sound recording in a different part of the data.

We definitely welcome the support of the AFLCIO and the Obama administration in taking an aggressive posture to support professional creators, not to mention the domestic political clout of trade unions. We need all the help we can get to fight the hundreds of millions that Google alone spends in trying to undermine our rights and our business (Michael Geist notwithstanding).

And PS for those from Mollywood: No reason why you would know this, but “unions” are like these like people who come together to do like “collective bargaining” and they don’t take their pay in free food. In Mollywood, “collective bargaining” is venture capitalists setting a valuation, but in the United States, it’s a process that’s protected by the First Amendment of like the Constitution and stuff! OMG! And also by the National Labor Relations Act! It’s like the law, dude! And it’s not code! They also like negotiate working conditions and stuff, so don’t mention it to the code monkey in the next cubicle who you found laying on the floor naked in a pile of Ring Ding wrappers and Snapple bottles chanting “Lessig is God” or Eric might take back his options.

See also: Artist rights are human rights

See also: Twitter.org? What Would Bob Do? (The Corporatization of Music)

Victory in Ireland

April 16, 2010 Comments off

“No pen, no ink, no table, no room, no time, no quiet, no inclination.”
Letter from James Joyce to his brother, December 1906

In case you were wondering about the lifestyles of the highly litigious, the “make me” side of the aisle amongst some ISPs that haven’t quite gotten the memo allows them to rationalize profiting from theft as long as humanly possible. Rules only apply if they are forced to comply, which at the moment, only involves litigation.

This is why I fully expect every graduated response “deal” made with ISPs as a group to result in some ISPs wanting to break off and distinguish themselves in the marketplace as hotbeds of piracy and “privacy” to protect their thieving users. You are seeing this now with Talk Talk in the UK defying the Digital Economy Act, and the Irish society IRMA experienced it with a “deal” they thought they made with the big Irish ISP, Eircom, whose executives believe that music piracy is good for rock stars: “[Dennis Curran, Eircom’s head of internet wrote in an internal memo] Piracy is a loaded term. Could we say ‘sharing‘- ‘piracy’ implies there’s something wrong with it….Think of it as helping the health and good living of rich cocaine sniffing rock stars by leaving them with less free money to spend on sex and drugs.”

Or as Fred von Lohman of the EFF told me once, “Artists will just have to learn to get along on less money.”

Contrast these condescending and extremist views with that of Serge Sasseville of Canadian communications giant Quebecor that public companies answer not only to CEOs, shareholders and creditors, but as “a good corporate citizen, [we] cannot remain insensitive to the piracy problems affecting the survival of content producers and rights holders.”

Readers of MTP will not be surprised to find that the Irish High Court, in the form of Mr. Justice Charleton, ruled that:

“The right to be identified with and to reasonably exploit one’s own original creative endeavour I regard as a human right. It is completely within the legitimate standing of Eircom to act, and to be seen to act, as a body, which upholds the law and Constitution. That is what the Court expects of both individuals and companies….The internet is only a means of communication.
It has not rewritten the legal rules of each nation through which it passes.

It is not an amorphous extraterrestrial body with an entitlement to norms that run counter to the fundamental principles of human rights. Since the early days of the internet, and increasingly as time has gone on, copyright material has been placed on world wide web by those with no entitlement to share it. There, it is downloaded by those who would normally have expected to pay for it.

Among younger people, so much has the habit grown up of downloading copyright material from the internet that a claim of entitlement seems to have arisen to have what is not theirs for free. [The internet] is not an amorphous extraterrestrial body with an entitlement to norms that run counter to the fundamental principles of human rights. There is nothing in the criminal or civil law which legalises that which is otherwise illegal simply because the transaction takes place over the internet.”

Any day is a good day when the law sounds more like Sasseville than von Lohman.

The thing to remember about the long, long line of cases where the von Lohmans and Lessigs of this world and their acolytes have done a brilliant job of making the losing argument is that however much self-gratification the plaintiffs lawyers get out of delaying the day of reckoning, artists who have to wait years for justice are forever harmed by it and the gigantic consumer electronics interests represented by these people continue to profit on the backs of artists during the pendency of the case (let’s call them “Mollywood” types, for short). (Not to forget the bullying that the heirs of James Joyce received at their hands.)

But one thing that rings crystal clear in the IRMA case is that the Court is going to protect the rights of artists.

The human rights of artists, as reflected in many, many human rights documents binding on most countries of the world.

It’s about time.

See also: Artist Rights are Human Rights

See also: Google Funds Lessig in Case Against Joyce Heir

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