Monthly Archives: October 2010

How to save the music industry

To go forward, we must first go back

Since 1977, we have had copyright extension after extension. We have laws that made the record companies judge, jury and executioner and force all manner of others — including libraries, ISPs and branches of the Government — to do their dirty-work for them. We have watched as the courts have handed down judgment after judgment for illegal file-sharing for exorbitant amounts that are, to the rest of us looking on in horror — the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment. They even tried to change a law in the dead of night when no-one was looking. More recently they have even tried to sneak a one-world-copyright agreement under the radar by calling it an “Anti-Counterfeiting Treaty”.

For over thirty years, the copyright mob have gotten pretty much everything they wanted.

And what do they have to show for it? An industry on the verge of collapse, falling profits, businesses on the verge of bankruptcy — and a generation of customers who hate them and want to see them fail.

And what is their solution? They continue to clamor for harsher and more consumer-hostile laws.

Somebody should slap some sense into these folks

I submit that their efforts at “control” of their “property” have stifled the market  and driven customers away. The world has changed, but they have not; their solution is to pretend that it is still 1975 and wish that the Internet would go away. That is not going to work.

Here is my solution for how to sell digital music online, protect the public domain and make sure that everyone — including the artists, whom they claim to represent — gets paid:

  1. One year of “Ownership“: For the first year after a piece of music becomes available in a digital format online, the publisher can assert “ownership”. They can control who sells it, and for how much. They can also dictate terms about who gets how much money — in other words, the way things are today.
  2. Four years of “Agency“: After the year is up, they still exert “ownership” of the work, but they lose the right to control the price or who can sell it. For the next four years, the music company gets 40%, the Artist/Songwriter split 40% and the seller pockets 20%. Statutory damages during this phase must be limited to seven times the PROVEN damages, and not based on outrageous and unprovable assumptions. The artists should be paid out of those damages, instead of the money being quietly pocketed, as is currently the case.
  3. Five-year Renewals: At the end of the first five years, the publisher can get another five years of “Agency” by paying a fee of $20,000 per song. The publisher can renew this for as long as they are willing to pay the fee. This fee will force the publishers to ask themselves if the copyright is worth keeping, and will be used to finance the system.
  4. Artistic License: If the publisher declines to renew, the Artist may acquire the rights for half-price. At this point the split changes to 60% to the artist/songwriters,  40% to the seller. The Artists can renew for as long as they want. If the artist has died, their direct heirs may exercise this right until the artist’s youngest children reach the age of 21. If an artist wants to provide for their heirs, they should do like the rest of us (life insurance, investments etc.). Copyright was never intended to be a legacy except to all of us, via the public domain.
  5. If the artist refuses to renew, the music falls into the public domain.


A similar model could be applied to movies, with slightly different times: Five years of “Ownership”. Ten-year “agency” agreements, renewable for $200,000 a pop. Since they are works for hire, there is no “artist”, and the movie will then sidestep the orphaned works problem and fall, as gracefully as Forrest Gump’s feather, into the public domain.

Farewell Athena

Today has been a very emotional day for me. Today I had to say goodbye to an Old Friend.

Her name was Athena, and for many years she was my prime (#1) computer. The one that lived upstairs while others languished in the basement.

She was born in the spring of 1989, in England. At birth, she was a 486-66 DX2 machine with 4MB of RAM and Vesa Local Bus Graphics, at a cost of £1700. Although she was my third computer, she was my first IBM-compatible PC (the first two were a BBC Model B and an Atari ST).

Over the next ten years she underwent many upgrades, coming to America with me in 1995. She was the first thing I unpacked when my stuff arrived from England.

  • In May 2001, she was transplanted into a 3DCool Tornado 3000 Hydraulic Case.
  • In June her Memory was upgraded from 64MB to 128MB.
  • In January 2002 her Slot-1 Celeron A300 CPU was upgraded to a Pentium III/850MHz.
  • In April a 3DFX Voodoo3 2000 video card was installed.
  • In August her motherboard was replaced with an Acorp 6A815EPD Dual-CPU Socket-370 and a her video was upgraded to a Radeon 8500.
  • In September her memory was doubled to 256MB, and the following month, Dual PIII-1GHz processors were fitted.
  • A year went by before the final finishing touches were added; in October 2003, the memory was maxed out at 512MB.
  • Finally, in the dying days of the year, her video card was replaced by a Radeon 9500.

Of course there were many other upgrades and changes. For most of her life she ran RAID-1 — initially Dual 80GB, then Dual Seagate 240s — using a “hacked” RAID BIOS that unlocked the full functionality of the “lite” RAID controlled on the motherboard. As a result of running RAID-1, she never lost a byte of data, in spite of two catastrophic drive failures. There were heat-sinks, fans, tape drives and something called a Baybus.

She was doing SMP under Windows 2000 — long before it was fashionable and years before Intel and AMD concluded that they could not make CPUs any faster and started telling us that Multicore architecture was a neat idea.

Even though I built a faster machine — Apollo — in 2003, Athena’s dual processors gave her the equivalent of four-wheel-drive — while not as flat-out-fast as her younger sibling, nothing ground her to a halt, so she remained “top dog” — the “prime” machine.

But all good things must come to an end; in August 2008, a new arrival — “Zeus” — become the Prime Computer, and Athena was moved to the basement to live out her remaining days in  peace and quiet.

Soon after that — some time in 2009, I believe — Athena froze up completely. A little experimenting showed that the CPU1 socket was dead; when I removed the CPU from that socket she powered up just fine, though Dual-CPU operation was no longer possible. I downgraded her drives from 2x240GB to 2×80 and kept her online only for experimental and research purposes.

As time went by, her health slowly deteriorated; she routinely required a five-minute “warm-up” before she would boot. She was obviously living on borrowed time; so it surprised me not at all when she refused to boot at all.

Today I took some farewell pictures, then I tore her to pieces and respectfully placed her motherboard in the bin; the rest of the bits — CPUs, Case, Drives, Power Supply etc — will be reused, recycled or given away.

But there will never be another Athena.

“My heart has joined the thousand, for my friend stopped running today” (Richard Adams, “Watership Down”)

The price of security

Milady and I were conversing with a friend last night, and an interesting topic came up. Some years ago, several banks (BofA and CapitalOne were mentioned) started putting customers’ photos on their credit cards. This widely hailed as an excellent idea.

And then, inexplicably, they stopped doing this.

The obvious question was “why?”. Why did they stop doing something that was universally hailed as a good idea?

So I put my thinking cap on, and came up with some ideas.

  • I remember reading somewhere that the price of putting a photo on a credit card was a couple of dollars per card. Multiply this up by the millions of cards in circulation, and you have a huge expense that the bank has to bear.
  • Credit-card fraud, on the other hand, is not a cost that the bank has to bear. They do a chargeback, which effectively passes the cost on to the merchant. So, the customer is covered, the bank is covered, the merchant gets the shaft and pays the price. That is perfectly legit – it is part of the merchant agreement.
  • There are also many transactions where the merchant cannot see the card; for instance, pay-at-the-pump transactions in gas stations, and internet transactions.
  • Finally, with card-swipe machines in operation at most stores, there is often no need for the cashier to see the card — and too many of them don’t bother looking, anyway.

Sometimes “security measures” don’t really do that much for security. And sometimes, the price of security is too high.

I think I understand now.

But I still wish that they would give customers the option to have their photos on their cards. I’d buy that for a dollar.

Quote of the week

From this Youtube vid, on the subject of downloading and piracy.

The way they did it was they were like, ‘You wouldn’t think of stealing a purse, would you? You wouldn’t think of stealing a car.’ And I was thinking about that as I was watching it, and you know what? I would steal a car — if it was as easy as touching the car, and then 30 seconds later I own the car. And I would steal a car if the person who owned the car got to keep the car… I would also steal the car if no one I had ever met had ever bought a car in their whole lives.

This is the argument that the “downloading-is-theft” mob do not want to hear.