Saturday, December 31, 2005


The RIAA is quick to claim that when it enforces copyright law that it's got nothing to do with their desires to protect profits and comfy boardroom seats, and everything to do with "protecting artists." So, what are they doing sending threatening letters to, erm, recording artists? David Byrne - yes, that David Byrne - has had an RIAA warning because one of his online radio shows featured on Missy Elliot. Dave is not impressed:

In my case the law forbids streaming “radio” that features more than 4 tracks by any one artist in a three-hour period. My guess is that they may have confused streaming with downloading — in the same way that people often confuse downloading with file sharing. They are afraid that even if it’s not downloadable somehow if a fan knows there will be 3 Missy songs at a given time they can prepare their gear and tape them. The assumption being that sale is lost. [I’ve been informed that the fear is less sensible than that — it is that if you know you can hear a specific artist whenever you want, then the reasoning is you would never buy their records.]

Back in the day I used my boom box to tape things off the radio all the time — that’s how I found out about music I didn’t know about, and eventually I not only bought those records, but ended up promoting them, too. Which made a fair amount of money for some record labels — but not for me. Not complaining, though.

Byrne then goes on to point at one of the insanities of the current situation: at the moment, he's covered by a single paid-for license which allows him to stream music over the net. If he had wanted to obtain licenses which would have allowed him to feature more than four tracks by the same artist in a three hour period, he would have had to licence each song individually. He quotes Lawrence Lessig's estimate that, should a web radio station win 10,000 listeners for a 24 hour a day station, they'd have to pay a million dollars a year. With this sort of stupid position for people who want to be legitimate, you can see why non-cooperation prospers.

[Thanks to Mark Savage for the tip on this one]