This hasn't been a good year for music lovers since the RIAA has removed the kid gloves. In the past 3 months they have declared war on their own customers, silenced Internet Radio, and are targeting 3 other P2P networks for shutdown. At about this time last year, they wanted unprecedented access to your personal property, but fortunately saner heads prevailed here. It has been 4 years since Slashdot posted it's first story containing the phrase "RIAA", and in that time the RIAA has waged war on the Internet rather than try and use the technology for the benefit of their artists. Now there are people willing to play by the rules, but the RIAA is unresponsive, and their web site seems to provide more questions than clear answers. Who do you need to contact? What forms need to be filled? What agreements need to be signed? By whom? What do you have to pay? How is this value determined? If you are planning on offering the RIAA's music, what do you really have to do to play their music legally?
I've Read the Frelling Manual, and I still have Questions!
J.Charles asks: "Always looking for new ways to help out the independent music scene in my region, I recently started thinking about putting together a streaming radio station. Mind you, this is to be non-profit, with the sole purpose to help out independent artists. I had made a small stream years ago using Shoutcast, but this was before all of the RIAA stipulations were being crammed down everyones throats, and I really paid no mind to copyright law.
If I am to do this, I would like to keep it fully legit in the eyes of the RIAA, because we've already seen the MPAA come after file sharers, citing gigantic fines, at the university I work for, and I really don't have the money for legal counsel.
So I've found adequate hosting, and read up on the stipulations published on the RIAA website, but most of it is quite murky, and skims over the 'how-to' of things.
For example, do I really have to pay royalties for each stream running? If so, how do I keep track of that, or do I just have to pay the royalty times the number of my maximum consecutive streams available? Is there Shoutcast plugin software for generating the play list information that must be sent to Soundexchange? Are there any grants available to help offset the cost of paying royalties and license application fees ($500 a year!)?
Basically, I can't find any streams that appear to be running 'legit', so I have no one to answer all my questions. I've even thought about contacting the RIAA to see if someone there would assist me, and perhaps help fund this project, since it would make a good example of a legit site, and afterwards I could serve as educated help for other people in my situation. I mean, the RIAA recognizes streaming as an important business, you would think their interests would lie in helping educate people to use it the way they would like.
Is anyone out there running a legit stream, or know someone who does? better yet, has anyone seen a guide for people in my shoes?"
I'm, Trying to Play Nice, But They Won't Return My Calls!
Jarrett Wold asks: "I was working on a chat client earlier this year, and I wanted file sharing capabilities (a la Napster). However I did not want any of the legal liability so unlike Napster, I actually contacted RIAA and the MPAA before I started any development.
Considering RIAA and MPAA's itchy trigger finger regarding copyright issues I figured I would pitch a solution to them. It was simple, since they represent a large number of copyright holders, they should create a database listing all of those copyright holders. It's easy enough to determine that Metallica has copyrighted material, what happens with that unknown band that you're not sure about? At least this way we would have a definitive list for all the people represented by RIAA and MPAA. Who also bring the largest number of lawsuits against file sharing applications.
Now I'm not rich, I don't have a lawyer and considering I live in North Dakota, I make on average $8.25/HR for data driven web development. If you work at Burger King in another state, you make more than I do flipping burgers. I started a month long stretch of making phone calls and sending emails. I called RIAA around 15 times proposing that they construct a database of copyright holders so I could be compliant with copyright law. I even suggested that if they charged a penny per user they could pull in 250K a month for use of their database. It would also force file sharing apps to have a business model. I'm all for avoiding '.COM The Bubble, Part 2'.
The RIAA was flat-out uninterested. They would listen politely, and take down my number or refer me to a voicemail of either a legal person (who never returned phone calls) or some person in management who simply stated it wasn't their responsibility to compile such a database. So, after fifteen or so emails, a half dozen long distance phone calls I gave up on RIAA. They obviously want publicity about the injustice of file trading rather than fixing the problem.
I then proceeded to call the MPAA. They were amazingly helpful, everyone that I spoke seemed enthused about doing something along this line. I suppose when you represent studios rather than individual artists the motivation to fix a leaky faucet is top priority. However, after sending a variety of emails and speaking with half a dozen people on the first phone call, I was sent off to someone in their technical department and curtly told that they were working on their own solutions. Do not get me wrong, the MPAA was keenly interested in a fix, but it seems that they too feel that the burden of listing copyright holders is not on them. In fact one executive I spoke with noted that there would be thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of entries, in such a database. I suggested the revenue model again. It was received with interest and shot down in the next moment with the same argument.
So needless to say I gave up. I am now targeting my product specifically for the business market. I have noticed that CD-R manufacturers are not being sued for all the MP3's that are being burnt onto the media they freely distribute. The same goes for Samsung, I have yet to hear of them being sued for making VCR tapes that can record TV shows without commercials (if you're quick about it... ahem TiVo). Nor do I hear of ICQ being sued for it's file transfer abilities that also enable piracy if a user is so inclined.
At what point does the responsibility of the copyright owner come into play? Should it not be the representative groups (RIAA, MPAA) to come up with an 'exclusions list'? In fact technically speaking it's just not possible to determine what's copyrighted without something along those lines.
Who else has gone through this? I figure that the person who pirates is the one responsible, rather than the service itself. File sharing applications have valid purposes. However, if RIAA and the MPAA do not want to make a definitive list of copyrighted material it's nearly impossible to comply to excluding copyrighted material. Saying that file sharing applications facilitate piracy is the same thing as saying search engines facilitate piracy.
Napster had the wrong idea, if they could have worked out something with RIAA regarding this same concept they would be a leviathan. However it makes you wonder if these lawsuits weren't strategic in nature. I believe in the end, history will show that killing Napster was the worst mistake the music industry could have made. They lost control of a contained problem. It wasn't fixed. However when 26 million people scatter to the winds and start their own file sharing networks (Morpheus, Gnutella and many more) the problem is decentralized and unsolvable.
The biggest question of all is to the artist: why aren't you demanding some form of technical action out of the RIAA, instead of lawsuits? Why aren't you asking them to 'Sit down in a room with those file sharing companies and figure out a way to fix this'.
You can't sue them all!
I guess, my North Dakotan notion of business is that if there's a problem fix it before it gets out of hand, however it seems RIAA wants to do the opposite. I guess lawsuits could conceivably be a nice addition to the bottom line and excuse for bad accounting...;)"
And One Last Plea, for Internet Radio...
If you are still interested in saving internet radio, there is one last chance, until the next one arrives next year. There is a bill in play right now that must be passed before October 20th if some of the more popular Internet Radio sites are to return. You can find out more information on this latest push from the Radio and Internet Newsletter and also from Soma FM.