Song, by Toad

Posts tagged dmca

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A Message From The Pop Cop

[This week the Sunday Supplement has been provided by Jason of the popular and well respected blog; The Pop Cop, which was recently deleted by Google following unsubstantiated DMCA allegations.]

“This is the dangerous time. The moment of transition where, in sporting terms, the boy must become a man. There is bound to be hype as well as expectation. It will not be long now before people note that Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski aren’t as young as they were, and somebody will need to succeed them. British tennis is on a high but, if it is to be sustained, something of substance will have to be manufactured from its raw material. Andrew Murray is in pole position. What comes next, as much as anything else, is a test of his drive. The growing suspicion is that Andrew is the future of Scottish tennis.”

So wrote Simon Buckland in the Sunday Times on June 9, 2002 – less than four weeks after Andrew Murray had turned 15. It would be a further three years before he’d become familiar enough to be called “Andy”.

Buckland must have a huge sense of satisfaction looking back as the first national newspaper journalist to not just spot the potential for greatness in a kid so young, but stake his professional reputation on it. The Sunday Times doesn’t make a habit of printing 1000-word features on complete unknowns in their third year of high school. The article exists in the British Library as an undeletable piece of history that documents the earliest known mainstream reference to one of the most talented sportsmen Scotland has ever produced.

While I can’t lay claim to having published any predictions in The Pop Cop which have come to fruition quite so spectacularly, I did take just as much pride in trying to do what Buckland did, albeit in the field of music rather than tennis. Days upon days were spent scouring the underbelly of the Scottish music scene, trawling through MySpace links, frequenting obscure, dingy venues in the off-chance that mythical ‘next big thing’ would be tuning up.

If you look through the many Scottish music blogs (and there seems to be a new one springing up every month), you’d probably come to the conclusion that, in comparison, The Pop Cop wasn’t exactly overflowing with such recommendations and tip-offs – and you’d be right. When you have spent three years building up a blog to the point where people are actually paying close attention to what you write (and, believe me, it took at least two years to feel that was the case), a certain responsibility comes with it. There’s nothing more tempting than publicly declaring “this band will blow you away/change your life”, but the moment you do so, you dangle a very dangerous carrot. If it proves to be false hope (yes, I know taste is subjective, but still…) and a reader loses faith in your judgement, you are screwed, because judgement is the single most important quality in your control as a music blogger.

However, last week’s crushing turn of events made me realise that the one thing that was not in my control was history. All it took were a few anonymous, unjustified complaint letters for 35 months of work to disappear into an internet black hole. Unlike Simon Buckland, if any of my predictions for stardom prove accurate, there will be no record of it. All I can hope for now is that The Pop Cop blog will be remembered. And if just one reader discovered a love for an artist they’d never heard because I wrote about them… well, I’d be pretty fucking gutted. Just one?!

Seriously, though, it was a blast.

* The full explanation of The Pop Cop’s demise and the campaign to recover its work from Google can be found here.

* A Facebook group called ‘Get The Pop Cop back online’ can be found here.

* The Pop Cop is on Twitter here.

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The Internet Needs Some Sensible Fucking Laws, Please

I don’t know how many times I have to go on about it, but the way digital law is shaping up in the Twenty-First Century is pretty scary.  It’s really not difficult to explain why it’s so stupid, either: we are basically looking at a world of outsourced law enforcement, with the enforcement put in the hands of one of the interested parties.  Does that need any more explanation as to why it is so hilariously, surreally idiotic?

The other aspect, of course, is that with this outsourcing the law is effectively being policed on the landscape of corporations’ terms and conditions, with no semblance of due process, and no obligation to their customer whatsoever.  This means that if Virgin Media decide to disconnect me from the internet because they have received complaints about illegal downloading of copyright material on my account they can do so and I have no recourse – they can of course choose to provide their service to whomever they choose.  However, given my whole business entirely depends on access to the internet, I’d like to be pretty fucking certain they made some effort to establish the veracity of any accusations they used as a basis for depriving me of it.

Similarly with blogs, of course.  Scottish music blog The Pop Cop was recently summarily deleted by Google on the basis of duplicated and factually inaccurate accusations of copyright violations.  The way the Digital Milennium Copyright Act works (and believe me, our own Digital Economy Bill is worse) the accusers are immune from punishment for making fallacious accusations.  Also, Google is immune from prosecution if it simply removes the material in question, irrespective of whether or not the accusations have any merit.  And the person whose work is subsequently vandalised has absolutely no legal comeback whatsoever precisely because the DMCA law is specifically designed to remove actual law enforcement bodies from the process of enforcing the law and putting it into the hands of massive companies with a major vested interest in the dispute itself.  Surely absolutely any lawyer in the land would laugh their arse off at anything so obviously corrupt.

So the Pop Cop was removed for attracting repeated, and inaccurate accusations of copyright infringement despite never having the opportunity to point out that these accusations had no merit. This is guilt by accusation, new internet laws are full of it, and it is a seriously important problem for our law-enforcement because suddenly all concepts of right to due process of law and the assumption of innocence have been swept away, all because a few major media companies are terrified of the internet and too lazy to innovate to engage with it.  This has very far-reaching social implications indeed and we should all be strongly aware of what it represents: major companies want the right to punish us outside of the law whenever they see fit, and without consequences for themselves.  That is fucking scary.

And let’s be honest, this is not about deleting some fourteen-year-old’s diary (although that might actually attract more sympathy and highlight the act of cultural vandalism being perpetrated here) this is three years of actual work supporting the music industry of Scotland – the very thing he is being attacked for undermining.  This is the bit that is just fucking ridiculous.  Labels like mine do not have access to the BBC, we don’t have access to Q or the NME and we can’t get our bands on Jools Holland or the bill at Reading, and we can’t afford to fly them to the States to do a tour, so independent, not-for-profit bloggers and podcasters are the lifeblood of our business model.  Without the opportunity to reach a wider audience which these sites represent we have no way of getting our artists’ music out there, and we are fucked*. You are not ‘protecting music’ by silencing its most passionate champions, you are doing just as much harm as the people who you think you’re fighting, if not more.

Imagine if someone accused a painter of copying a few of their pictures.  You might investigate their work to see if the accusation held water, and you might perhaps force them to acknowledge the debt to the other painter, and you might even compel them to hand over a percentage of the profits they made from that particular work.  What you would not do is turn your back and allow the accusing party to go to their house and destroy every single one of their other paintings on the assumption that they wouldn’t make such an accusation if it were without merit.  And yet, because this is the internet, that is considered acceptable, because let’s be honest this is exactly what has happened to Jason.

Now Google are partly to blame here, but only partly.  I have no idea why multiple complaints has to trigger the deletion of a blog rather than a review with the owner of precisely what the situation is, although I presume that simple man-hours would be the barrier.  But if you think that spending a couple of hours of your time establishing whether or not someone is a criminal is not something you can be arsed with, then you have serious problems.  It is not hard at all to establish the motives of a music blogger – it is usually obvious within the first post or two.

The wider issue here is one of the law, and the way it is being written at the moment.  Currently almost every single law being written in the internet space is copied and pasted from the wish lists of major corporations whose sole desire is to ring-fence their vested commercial interests.  Politicians are going to have to get pretty fucking savvy pretty fucking quickly because they are having rings run around them at the moment, and we are staring down the barrel of some of the most cock-eyed, store-bought legal travesties in recent history.

There is a Facebook group here which you can join to support Jason and help pressure Google into giving his site back, and it would be hugely appreciated if you could email support@blogger.com and tell them what you think.

*Of course, the major labels will be more than happy with that, as the fewer independent channels available the more they can own the ones which are left, and the fewer independent record labels starting up and building an audience, the less competition they have, and they are thus protected from the annoyance of having to improve their product to remain competitive.  I am not entirely convinced, however, that lazy companies should be able to use the law to reinforce what now essentially becomes a cartel, and immunise themselves against having to compete in a free market.

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Owning Information and Terminating Debate

Music companies still don’t like people discussing music, it seems, and Google are a very dangerous company to give control of your information because they cannot be trusted.

Google have recently been deleting, wholesale, entire music blogs, representing years of work for no profit by people who are in some cases explicity operating one hundred percent within the law, and in other cases with the tacit approval of the music companies whose nuisance complaints under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have actually caused what tweeters are calling #musicblogocide2k10.

About six months ago, if you remember, the music companies started abusing the DMCA, using it in a frivolous, scattershot manner to harrass music blogs as a nuisance technique for disrupting independent music conversations.  Effectively, they would make copyright complaints to blogs hosted on Google’s Blogger service under the DMCA, which pretty much obliges Blogger to delete the post in question, irrespective of the legality of the post in question.

After the resulting outcry amongst bloggers (whose writing is their intellectual property, remember) Google backed off slightly, insisting that they would simply revert accused posts to draft rather than delete them, and that they would start notifying bloggers when they removed their posts rather than simply deleting them and hoping writers would never notice.  It still remained on record as a Terms of Service violation however, and now the inevitable has happened: some blogs with multiple complaints to their name have been dubbed repeat offenders and simply deleted.

Put that way it all sounds pretty tame, doesn’t it.  It’s pretty clear that mp3 blogs operate in something of a legal grey area – some of the tracks we post are shared with the blessing, and even encouragement, of the copyright holders, some with their tacit if unwritten approval, and some directly against their wishes.  Some offer downloads of full albums for free, and are completely illegal as well as being, as most bloggers would agree, very damaging to artists, labels and even bloggers themselves.  Why is it an issue, then, after a legal complaint about an illegal act and with a record of repeatedly flaunting the law, if a writer is simply shut down?  It’s not an issue, actually, for me, when put like that, but that is an almost totally inaccurate portrayal of the reality of the situation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Paul Haig Day

Paul Haig

You know, it’s fucking ridiculous, but I am not sure what the overwhelming emotion of this post is for me.  It’s either warm appreciation of Paul Haig for his support and attitude towards a good friend of mine, or it’s sheer frustrated annoyance that this kind of thing is necessary in the first place.  Sadly, I think it might be the latter.

To explain, a while back my friend JC from the Vinyl Villain posted about Paul Haig, former Josef K frontman, and possibly the coolest individual from the last time Edinburgh had anything like this vibrant a music scene.  JC is a big fan, and was absolutely delighted that Paul and his management got in touch to thank him for his post.  Then, the next day, he was absolutely gutted to find that his post had been deleted by Google after three Digital Millennium Copyright Act complaints had been made against it within about five minutes.

Now, given that the only people with any right to make that complaint had already been in touch with JC to thank him for the post, who the fuck made these infringement complaints?  Over-zealous legal interns at some obscure distribution company in the States?  Someone with a personal grudge against JC filing nuisance complaints?  Of course, this is very reason why the DMCA is such comically bad law.  Which corrupt clowns drew it up and then signed it into fucking law I don’t know, but they should really be made to walk the streets of the world in nothing but a fucking frilly tutu for their craven idiocy.

Google, when they receive these complaints are obliged to remove the allegedly infringing material immediately.  They are then legally not liable for any damage caused to the victim of the complaint’s business by virtue of a potentially frivolous complaint.  Now, Google don’t merely revert the offending post to ‘draft’ mode or something sensible like that, or lock it, or anything, so that the actual merits of the complaint can be ascertained.  No, they just delete it forever, and getting a response from a counter-claim is like pulling fucking teeth, despite what their terms and conditions would seem to suggest.  They presumably have no desire to actually examine the veracity of these complaints because it could potentially cost them a fucking fortune.  As it is, this job has been outsourced to Chilling Effects, which is basically run by a team of volunteers – their backlog may be as bad as a year at the moment.

This is a fucking disgrace, and it is something we should all be very worried about, because it signifies a very powerful and very scary change in how the law works: guilt by accusation.  In this situation the actual factual accuracy of the accusation is irrelevant – a blogger’s work can be destroyed simply by someone making an accusation, irrespective of the truth.  Remind you of anything?  Yes, another fucking diabolical piece of legislation which the big media companies are trying to jam up our arses at the moment: three strikes and you’re out internet disconnections. The European Court has ruled against this nonsense on the basis that the internet is becoming a fundamental utility in the Twenty-First Century, but they didn’t mention the simple fact that accusation does not mean guilt, and that this is supposed to be the very cornerstone of a civillised legal system.  And the French government is pressing ahead with their plans to implement it nevertheless.

So what are we left with?  Feudalism, basically.  Guilty unless you are prepared to take on a massive corporation in the courts of law and risk total ruin and bankruptcy.  Justice by might, rather than right.  Brilliant.  Vic from Muruch is the only person I know of so far who has been brave enough to actually fight any of this, primarily because she knew for absolute certainty that she was in the right, because Muruch is a 100% legal music blog, but for most people they simply submit to the legal hatchet jobs and either soldier on or end up quitting.  I can’t stress how brave Vic’s actions were, however.  People with houses and families don’t want to be on the receiving end of the music industry’s famously ludicrous damages claims, recently upheld by Barack fucking Obama thank you very much.  And once law becomes about accusation rather than guilt the world could become a very scary place indeed.  It is already happening in other fields, and we should be very, very worried about this.

So a big thank you to Paul Haig and his management for their support during this bloody nonsense.  Please show your appreciation for their efforts in putting out a press release highlighting this silliness, as well as making Reason available for free download as a statement of intent.  Feel free to show it by buying something from here, for instance.  Once the artists and the fans turn on this fucking rotten law who are we left with who will speak up for it?  Ah yes, the grasping whores who made a merry living for years fleecing both of us.  Never let anyone tell you that this is about encouraging art or protecting artists.  It’s just another major industry trying to throw their weight around as their self-importance and onanistic sense of personal entitlement consistently fail to be matched by reality.

Paul Haig – Reason

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Paul Haig – Let’s Face the Music and Dance

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Why Aren’t They Moaning About the Fucking X-Factor?

Cunts

In amongst all the hoo-ha over Christmas about that karaoke bimbo’s brutal bum-rape of Leonard Cohen’s wonderful Hallelujah, and the brewing legal nightmare caused by indiscriminate wielding of DMCA legislation, I started to wonder a little about the music industry, who is fighting who and why, and so on.

Of course I entirely accept the music industry’s position that evil free music is killing babies and committing acts of terrorism and so on, and that it is largely people like you and I who are to blame for Britney Spears and Robbie Williams having to lead the deprived lives of poverty and servitude into which they have so cruelly been forced in the last few years by the unlimited evils of ‘right-click, save as’. I mean, it’s just obvious, really.

One thing I don’t quite get, though, is why it is only filesharing that they hate. Apart from the impact of the music-as-data model replacing the music-as-product model, which has clearly confused and annoyed the shit out of everyone with any sort of vested interest in the latter, there has been another pretty seismic shift in the music industry in the last few years: karaoke pop shows. Read the rest of this entry »

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Oh Right, That’s Why You’re Being Such Pricks

Tin Foil Hat

You’ve got to hand it to DC. He may be as mad as a box of frogs, but the boy has just the sort of insane, conspiracy-theorist, cynical paranoia that can make you a visionary these days. In fact, there are times when I get the impression that the world is actively trying to live up to his cynicism. Like this time.

Back on the Don’t Be Evil post, where I ranted somewhat furiously about indiscriminate and groundless wielding of DMCA notices to flush the blogosphere of certain artists’ mp3s, whether or not the mp3s were still there in the first place, DC commented saying this:

Seems to me a witch hunt has started – it must be a sign of something on the cards. Something big & expensive. Someone somewhere has a deal tied up with all concerned & they’re flexing their muscle to show they have zero tolerance in order to sate their benefactor. It simply can’t be a coincidence all these people are getting the toecap in the arse & I don’t think they woke up last Monday & decided “You know what, it’s nearly Christmas & I’m bored: let’s fuck with the bloggers”. Something’s about to launch, you mark my words.

Which, as I said at the time, seemed so paranoid that it was probably very close to the truth. Very close indeed, it turns out.

Because then the lovely Vic from Muruch noticed this press release in her inbox, peddling music website called Shockhound:

“millions of MP3s and merchandise featuring artists from the major record labels Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI Music, as well as independent labels. In addition, artists will be able to upload and sell their music directly to users… Content at launch will include reviews, music news, interviews, original programming and music videos.”

And whilst I cannot definitively link the two, they are very, very oddly coincident. Major label tie-ups… free DRM-free mp3s… you don’t think? Nah, couldn’t be.

So, without more than circumstantial evidence to base this speculation upon, it looks suspiciously like the majors saw the success of blogs, saw the launch of things like RCRDFCKNGLBL and decided they wanted a bit of the action. As Vic notes, all the artists mentioned in these vanishing post complaints are signed up to Shockhound. Mind you, lots and lots of artists are signed up to Shockhound, so that might not mean much.

Personally, I don’t give a shit what they’re trying to do. Any website that is little more than a massive shop, and which has Kaiser Chiefs, Snow Patrol, The Cure and Oasis on the front page is hardly any threat to my line of editorial, so fuck them.

Bob Dylan – Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues

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Email to Columbia (& Sony BMG)

Letter

This is an email to a gentleman introduced to myself as the ‘MD of Columbia’ by the person who suggested I write him an email about the whole 17 Seconds Glasvegas fiasco. Here is what I wrote. Comments, anyone?

Dear XXXX,

I was given your email by XXXX who, having read the following post on my site, thought it would be a good thing if I got in touch with you personally regarding Glasvegas and DMCA notices issued in their name.
http://songbytoad.com/2008/10/23/dont-be-evil/

I don’t know how much you know about this, but DMCA notices are being wielded against bloggers completely indiscriminately at the moment, and as you can tell from that post people are both angry and afraid. Now, to be absolutely clear, I do not intend this to be an antagonistic email, nor am I getting in touch simply in order to shake my fist and point fingers. I genuinely would rather find an amicable solution to this situation, and I genuinely believe that the vast majority of music blog writers feel the same way. At the time I was angry, and wrong on some basic facts, but there are nevertheless a lot of things which I think need addressing and I appreciate you taking the time to read this email.

Basically, many people are having pages of their music blogs indiscriminately removed by people wielding false DMCA notices in the direction of Google and WordPress, who host most of the blogs. In the case described in my post, a fellow Edinburgh blogger had his interview with Glasvegas from January this year erased because of old and expired links to recordings given to him freely by the band at the time. Writing a huge long interview with an unsigned band and posting their demo recordings with permission is absolutely not the behaviour of a copyright pirate, and the fact that Columbia has chosen to pursue Ed is frankly disgraceful, in my opinion. Read the rest of this entry »

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Don’t Be Evil

Kangaroo Court

It’s hardly surprising that I find myself saying that Google have turned their old motto, Don’t Be Evil, into something of a sad parody, rather than the idealistic mission it once used to be. It’s also a little sad that what prompts me to write is not their spineless compliance with internet censorship in China, but something a little closer to home.

Ed, writer of 17 Seconds, is the latest to fall foul of Google’s draconian, utterly corrupt and morally bankrupt policies towards copyright. A year or so ago Ed wrote an in-depth interview with Glasvegas, back when the band were shopping about a few rough demos, barely more than a whisper on the lips of a few of us up here in Scotland. Yesterday Google deleted that interview from his blog. The whole thing, without permission, without dialogue, without warning: they just deleted it and told him it was gone.

The reason they gave was that it had been the subject of a DMCA complaint from Columbia Records, presumably on the basis that the interview write up contained links to long-since removed mp3 files of Glasvegas early demo recordings of songs now on their debut album. Despite the contemptuous, disgusting nature what both Columbia and Google have done, I can’t even feel angry about this; just depressed. But this is wrong in so many ways it’s difficult to know where to start.

First and foremost, none of you should ever pay for a Columbia product ever again. Fuck them. If you feel you can’t live without their music then just download the bastard stuff illegally, better yet just live without it, but under no circumstances give these chiselling vipers a cent of your money ever again. Could someone who knows more about this correct me if I am wrong, but there is to my mind no way whatsoever that they could own the rights to those demos, which were recorded and circulated for free long before they were ever involved with the band. Read the rest of this entry »

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