Thursday, July 31, 2008

This Week In News

Photo by flickr user

FCC Says Comcast Illegally Interfered With Web File-Sharing Traffic
A majority of the Federal Communications Commission has concluded that cable operator Comcast unlawfully disrupted the transfer of certain digital video files, affirming the government's right to regulate how Internet companies manage Web traffic.
Cecilia Kang, The Washington Post

Yahoo Relents, Gives coupons, Refunds To Music DRM Captives
Yahoo is trying to make the best of a potentially ugly situation that would leave many of its customers stuck between a rock and a hard place come September 30. The company, which announced last week that it was shutting down the defunct Yahoo! Music Store's DRM authentication servers, now plans to offer coupons to users so that they can purchase their songs again through Yahoo's new music partner, Rhapsody. Yahoo follows in the steps of Microsoft, who only a few weeks ago announced similar plans to shut down their DRM authentication servers, but later reversed themselves and agreed to keep them on until 2011.
Jacqui Cheng, ArsTechnica

Senate, House Merge Separate, Controversial Anti-Piracy Bills into One
With the copyright reform PRO-IP and PIRATE Acts in the rearview, the United States Senate introduced a new bill designed to incorporate the best of both worlds for IP protection, dubbed the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008 (PDF).
Tom Corelis, DailyTech

Pandora Debates With SoundExchange Over Web Royalty Rates
Representatives from Pandora clashed on Tuesday with SoundExchange, the organization that collects royalties for copyright owners in the music business, over these very issues. Pandora reiterated that current royalty rates could potentially put it out of business, but SoundExchange suggested that Pandora was quite capable of paying its way given projected Internet radio advertising revenues, as well as the success of its iPhone app.
Chloe Albanesius, PC Magazine

Sirius, XM tie-up gets FCC approval
Federal regulators formally approved the merger of the nation's only two satellite radio operators last Friday, ending a 16-month-long drama closely watched by Washington and Wall Street. Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.'s $3.3 billion buyout of rival XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. will mean 18 million-plus subscribers will be able to receive programming from both services.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kronos Quartet's Sidney Chen on Net Neutrality

Kronos Quartet

We recently spoke with Sidney Chen, Artistic Administrator for avant-classical ensemble Kronos Quartet, about why net neutrality needs to be preserved. With an ecelctic repertoire ranging from film soundtracks to chamber interpretations of Bartók and Jimi Hendrix, Kronos aren't your typical mainstream band. The open internet allows them to reach potential audiences in a way that conventional media — with its gatekeepers and middlemen — cannot. That's why they're founding members of FMC's Rock the Net campaign, which raises awareness about the importance of net neutrality to the music community.

But how about we let Sidney explain it in his own words?

Rock the Net Podcast with Sidney Chen

If you haven't already picked up your copy of our brand-new compilation CD, Rock the Net: Musicians for Net Neutrality, you should get on it! the CD, which features tracks by Wilco, Aimee Mann, Bright Eyes, The Wrens and more, is available at your favorite CD store, or online from iTunes, Amazon (MP3 store) and eMusic.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rock the Net CD in stores tomorrow!

Our long-awaited, star-studded compilation CD, Rock the Net: Musicians for Net Neutrality, hits stores tomorrow (Tuesday, July 29). It feels like Christmas in July!

Wilco, Bright Eyes, They Might Be Giants, Aimee Mann, DJ Spooky, Portastatic, The Wrens, Palomar, Guster, The Classic Brown, Matthew Shipp, BC Camplight, David Miller, David Bazan (ex-Pedro the Lion) and Free Form Funky Freqs (Vernon Reid) all donated a track in support of our Rock the Net campaign, which raises awareness about the importance of net neutrality to the music community. The disc has already received mention in Rolling Stone, Ars Technica, Pitchfork and CMJ.

The current structure of the web lets the biggest companies and the smallest bedroom recording artist exist on an equal technological playing field. But big telecommunications and cable companies want to charge content providers (artists, labels — anyone who puts stuff on the web) a fee for the faster delivery of their sites. Those who couldn't afford — or didn't want to — pay a toll would be stuck in the slow lane.

The Internet works because it belongs to everyone. All artists — big or small — have been able to use the web as a powerful tool to engage audiences. This all takes place without interference from gatekeepers and middlemen. But if net neutrality goes away, musicians lose an important connection, and fans lose the freedom of choice. That's why we started the Rock the Net, which includes founding artists Death Cab For Cutie, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Kronos Quartet and Ted Leo. If you're a musician or label, you should sign up and show your support for this crucial principle. If you're a fan, you can sign the petition and tell Congress that the internet is for everyone.

And don't forget to pick up the CD (or download it from your favorite digital retailer). And let us know what you think!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

This Week In News

Photo by flickr user glsarah

Yahoo! to stop supporting Yahoo! Music after September 30

Starting Oct. 1, customers won't be able to revive frozen tracks or move working ones onto new hard drives or computers, because Yahoo! won't be providing any more keys to the songs' DRM wrappers. Without the keys, the music is stuck. If a user's computer goes on the fritz, say good-bye to Yahoo's music. This situation epitomizes the problem we laid out in our last post about the Library of Congress.
Chris Gaither, LA Times

Mobile Net Radio Opens New Ad Opportunities
With the iPhone's Internet radio applications comes added opportunities for advertisers, says Steve Rubel in an AdAge column. He envisions advertisers targeting users based on music tastes or through GPS-based location, in that way delivering "locally relevant" ads to consumers. "This maybe one of the most promising mobile ad formats and is a space to watch," he states. Additionally, iPhone Internet radio may "disrupt" traditional radio because it transforms the one-way delivery of radio into a two-way interaction—not only matching the in-car listening and music discovery aspects of radio, but adding a degree of personalization.
Paul Maloney, Advertising Age

Universal Says It Can Ignore Fair Use In DMCA Takedowns
The question is whether or not filing a takedown notice on content that is used in a way consistent with "fair use" is a misuse or not. Universal Music's claim is that it is not reasonable for the copyright holder to take fair use into consideration before sending a takedown notice. At a first pass, it sounds like the judge agrees. . . the judge and Universal Music may be correct under the existing law. There isn't anything in the law that says the copyright holder needs to take into account the user's defenses. It just says they need to be the legitimate copyright holder (which Universal Music is).
Mike Masnick, Techdirt

MySpace Music to launch in September
MySpace Music will launch in September, according to Chris DeWolfe, the social network's CEO. MySpace announced in April that it planned to launch a music service that would offer songs from three out of the top four recording companies (EMI has yet to join). MySpace said then that the music site, which will offer free streaming music, unprotected MP3 downloads, ringtones, and merchandise, would roll out over a span of three to four months.
Greg Sandoval, Cnet News

Favtape Creates Mixtapes from Your Pandora and Accounts
Favtape is another new mixtape creation site, but its standout feature is its automation process, which creates a mixtape based off songs you’ve listened to on Pandora, or those you’ve favorited on Provide Favtape with your Pandora URL or your username, and a mixtape will automatically be created for you with a unique URL that can be accessed anytime.
Kristen Nicole, Mashable

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Library of Congress: DRM is a problem

Inside the Library of Congress

Last week, the Library of Congress issued a report concerning the problems it is facing as it attempts to digitally preserve creative works. Despite the Library’s noble goals, some archaic provisions of copyright law, digital rights management and the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) are standing in the way of its mission to collect and preserve America’s cultural history.

For instance, the Library of Congress has the authority to copy a work three times, but only in the event that the original work is damaged or the original platform on which the work was created has become obsolete. As Nate Anderson of ArsTechnica points out, obsolescence can be difficult to define, as previous-generation devices like record players are still available for commercial purchase. This rule prevents the Library from taking the steps to preserve music now on vinyl discs onto multiple digital formats.

Even more chilling, there are some cases where the current legal structure would lead to a scenario where proper preservation would be impossible.

Say, for example, the Library of Congress was charged with preserving a musical work, but that work was delivered as a digitally "locked" file. The LOC would only be able to copy it to another format – MP3 for example – when the current technology to play back the DRM-ed file became obsolete (which will happen sooner or later). However, it would still be illegal for the LOC to save the file as an MP3 or other format because the DMCA prevents the circumvention of encryption and other protection schemes. In this example, since a) no means to play the song would exist and b) it would be illegal to transcode it into a different format, the music would be lost forever.

The report offered many recommendations to Congress as to how best change the law to "encourage[s] digital preservation of copyrighted works." Removing the muzzle placed upon digital archiving is essential to the mission of the Library of Congress.

An interesting aside: the LOC report was published under a Creative Commons license, so you shouldn't have any legal trouble reproducing that.

Monday, July 21, 2008

FMC in the Windy City

FMC's Ann Chaitovitz welcomes everyone to the Public Enemy discussion.

Thank you, Chicago!

FMC rocked the Windy City last week, at both a discussion of Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and the Pitchfork Music Festival.

On Thursday, July 17, FMC and Pitchfork co-hosted the "It Takes a Nation" panel at the Chicago Cultural Center's Claudia Cassidy Theater. The event was moderated by media professor and documentary filmmaker Kembrew McLeod, who is the driving force behind Creative License, FMC's upcoming book about sampling.

With such a chatty and charismatic panel, Kembrew was less like an interviewer and more a director of conversation. But it was cool — we got all the answers we wanted and more. Hank Shocklee and Keith Shocklee are members of Public Enemy's original Bomb Squad production team, and Chuck D is one of the most significant talents to ever rock a mike. PE Media Assassin Harry Allen is an incredibly articulate hip-hop journalist and activist. Together, they talked about the band's history, starting with the Shocklee's early DJ careers, and moving through the sonic and poetic rationale behind PE's greatest achievement.

"We didn’t call it hip-hop culture — that came later," Keith Shocklee said of their humble beginnings. "We were just kids in the youth center playing songs back to back."

Harry Allen recalled being impressed by this crew even at the earliest stages. "At that point, people thought rap was a fad – that it would just go away," he explained. "These are the first guys I ever met that took this culture really seriously, and whose attention to detail matched my own. They understood the science of how music worked."

The panelists engaged in freewheeling conversation for two-and-a-half hours before a rapt full house. It was easy to see why the band made such a lasting impression on the hip-hop world; their intelligence and wit is impossible to suppress. (We'll be posting video of the talk soon, courtesy PitchforkTV.)

The following night, PE played It Takes a Nation in its entirety at the Pitchfork Festival. Need we tell you it was awesome? FMC rode out the weekend at the fest, offering information about our programs and campaigns, including Rock the Net and the Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT). We also gave a heads up about an upcoming musicians' seminar that takes place in Chicago on September 22. (More on that event real soon!)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Check out our YouTube page

We've been working hard over the last few weeks to get a bunch of videos uploaded onto our YouTube page. Recently, we have added some of the most interesting portions of our "What's The Future For Musicians" free seminars that were held in upstate New York this past spring. Also available are some clips from our DC Policy Summits, as well as other events that we've held over the past few years.

These clips are a great way to learn about some of the most important issues facing musicians including net neutrality, health insurance, and the digital marketplace. We encourage you to watch, especially if you couldn't make our most recent events (you should really try to attend; our events are awesome).

As the weeks go on, we will be adding more and more videos to the page, so check back often.

Click here to visit our YouTube page.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It Takes a Nation of Millions (And a Good Moderator)

As if the Pitchfork Music Festival didn't already hold enough thrills, Future of Music Coalition is co-presenting a panel discussion on Public Enemy's seminal hip-hop album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, at the the Chicago Cultural Center's Claudia Cassidy Theater on Thursday, July 17. (The group will perform the album in its entirety at the Pitchfork Fest the following evening.)

Icon Chuck D will join Hank Shocklee and Keith Shocklee — one half of Public Enemy's production unit, the Bomb Squad — to discuss the cultural conditions and creative energy that informed this legendary album. Harry Allen (journalist, activist, and PE "Media Assassin") will also participate in the panel, which will be led by media professor and documentary filmmaker Kembrew McLeod.

Journalist and FMC pal Alexandra Richmond recently caught up with Kembrew for a quick Q&A:

Alexandra Richmond: Kembrew, you're an established agitator, academic, and documentary filmmaker. What can music fans expect from the panel you will moderate during the Pitchfork festival?

Kembrew McLeod: As moderator, my job will be to move the discussion forward so that we can cover a wide range of topics. The members of Public Enemy will be the stars of the show, and because I've done several interviews with the individual panelists over the years, I know what topics will be of interest to both them and the audience. In addition to having them tell us about the fascinatingly innovative ways they put together their music in the studio twenty years ago, we will also talk about the cultural and political contexts they were reacting to in the 1980s, which their music was a part of.

AR: Are there any acts in particular you're looking forward to seeing during the fest?

KM: I'm looking forward to seeing PE, of course, but aside from that I'm looking forward to seeing several artists, including: Dizzee Rascal, !!!, Fleet Foxes, Spiritualized, Ghostface & Raekwon, and Jarvis Cocker, to name a few.

AR: Have you ever shared a stage with PE before?

KM: I've shared a panel stage with Hank Shocklee before. But as for a concert, the closest I've ever come to sharing a stage with PE was when Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock (of "It Takes Two" fame) opened for PE in 1990, and they invited the audience onstage to dance. I bum rushed the
stage and busted a few moves, but it became clear that Mr. Base was only looking for the ladies to come up, so I meekly crawled off stage.

Admission to the panel discussion is free, but reservations are required. Email

FMC and Pitchfork Music Festival Present:
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theatre
Thursday, July 17, 2008, 3 pm

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This Week In News

Photo by flickr user Adam Tinworth

FCC Chairman plans to recommend censure against Comcast

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin plans to recommend that the FCC issue a warning against the ISP for imposing "arbitrarily limits" on its subscribers. The recommendation, now circulating internally, would require various disclosure and procedural shifts without applying penalties.
Margaret Kane,

The iPhone and it's impact on internet radio
The new Apple 3G iPhone has received a lot of attention, but the more important story isn't the new hardware, but Apple's application store and the many programs that run on the new phone. Thanks to a few of those programs there's an even larger story - the iPhone may fundamentally change the way people listen to the radio when they're in their cars or otherwise on the go. Two free applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and another program that costs only $4.99, make it possible to listen to live radio on the iPhone from anywhere, including a moving car.
Larry Magid, CBS News

Music 2.0, Part 1: The New Indie Model
The use of Web 2.0 technologies in the music industry has changed the market forever, with musicians promoting themselves online and interacting directly with their fan bases. This has spelled opportunity for a new breed of digital music and media technology providers such as IODA, the Independent Online Distribution Alliance.
Andrew K. Burger, TechNewsWorld

Guns N' Roses to release new song via Rock Back 2 in fall
Guns N' Roses is now delivering an exclusive track to the upcoming Rock Band 2, slated for release in the fall. The song, "Shackler's Revenge," is coming from the long-awaited Chinese Democracy, an album-in-the-making for more than a decade. Game creators Harmonix and MTV Games announced the song's inclusion in the game, as well as released the entire tracklist at the game-focused E3 Media & Business Summit, hosted in Los Angeles.
Digital Music News

Featured artists fear worst from European copyright proposals
The music industry has been dancing with glee since February, when the Internal Market Commissioner announced his proposal to extend the term of protection of copyright in sound recordings in the EU from 50 to 95 years. However, while record companies and session players are rejoicing, the dream for featured performers – artists who are billed on records – now seems to have soured.
Robert Ashton, MusicWeek

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Full (Power) Story

Regular readers of this blog are probably familiar with our Full Power Licensing Series, in which journalist and radio aficionado Mike Janssen talks to community organizations about their experience in applying for full power, non-commercial FM licenses.

Janssen had a hand in FMC's Full Power Initiative, which sought out arts and community groups who might want to take advantage of the FCC's October 2007 licensing window.

In addition to the blog series, Janssen also wrote an informative article about FMC's part in the process. Many of the would-be broadcasters assumed that applying for a license would be difficult, but thanks to assistance from FMC and Radio for People, it turned out to be pretty painless.

Check out the article here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Low-Power Rangers!

Today, a slew of organizations — including FMC and several other members of the Media and Democracy Coalition — sent a letter to US Congressional Representatives requesting that they co-sponsor H.R. 2802, the bipartisan Local Community Radio Act of 2007. (In this case, a "slew" equals 38.)

Low-Power stations, which operate at 100 watts or less and have a radius of approximately 3 to 5 miles, are more important than ever. The letter hits the nail squarely on the head, stating, "As more media outlets become concentrated into the hands of a few select corporations, LPFMs provide our towns and neighborhoods with a diversity of viewpoints, perspectives, voices, as well as music, arts, and culture often lacking from the commercial dial."

FMC has long supported the expansion of LPFM stations into more areas, which would give communities a chance to experience free, over-the-air broadcasting that truly serves their interests. Check out our Low-Power FM fact sheet for more info.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Big Chill

On Tuesday, July 1, FMC and the Center for Creative Voices in Media filed an amici brief (amici means “advisers to the court who are not parties to the case”) with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on the subject of the FCC’s current indecency policy. You can read the press release here and the brief here.

The filing takes the FCC to task for its vague and arbitrary indecency policy. The result has been a chilling effect on creativity on the public airwaves, due to broadcasters’ fears of getting fined for airing “offensive” content. For example, Ken Burns’ recent documentary, "The War," was aired in two different versions to satisfy PBS affiliates worried about possible FCC sanctions. Creators are left guessing what constitutes indecent material, which leads to self-censoring and ultimately deprives the public of access to a lot of great stuff.

The new FCC indecency policy forces broadcasters to favor blander, more homogenized content. No matter how you look at it, when these corporations only air so-called “safe” material, it sends ripple effects through American culture, which has historically benefited from a diversity of ideas and perspectives.

The FCC’s policy is now so arbitrary that even “middle-of-the-road” music that has received airplay for decades can possibly be considered indecent. Songs like John Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane,” The Who’s “Who are You,” Pink Floyd’s “Money,” Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and Sheryl Crow’s “A Change Would Do You Good” have been reedited or removed from playlists.

We’re not alone in raising concerns about these indecency policies. In this case, the broadcasters were appealing an FCC decision finding that a 5 year old episode of "NYPD Blue" was indecent. Broadcasters are concerned about heavy fines – at the same time the FCC changed its indecency policy, new legislation passed to increase broadcaster fines tenfold, applied per incident and per station.

Addressing media consolidation provides a way to resolve these concerns without censoring content. The deregulation of radio and TV throughout the 1990s that facilitated today’s consolidated media landscape means that national owners have no idea about local communities’ sensitivities or how to respond to them. Basically, consolidation has led to the to the situation we’re currently in, where non-local owners are unresponsive to community concerns. Local owners of broadcast stations are much more inclined to understand the attitudes of the local community.

The FCC’s process for determining indecent material is suspect. Certain public groups have been using automated e-mail based systems to get their constituents to submit complaints to the FCC en masse. The majority of these grievances are from individuals who may not have even seen or heard the supposedly offensive material in question, and the complaints are largely form letters. The arbitrary nature of the FCC’s determination of what’s indecent means that the Commission decides what to take action on, based on criteria that nobody but them knows or understands.

This Ars Technica article also does a good job of explaining things, and FMC Executive Director, Ann Chaitovitz, also sums up the situation pretty well: “The public experience of innovative art enriches American culture,” she says. “These works — musical, visual or otherwise — may be deemed ‘edgy’ or even controversial, but they are not indecent. If the FCC continues its arbitrary approach to regulating protected expression on the airwaves, we will all lose.”

FMC will continue to follow this case through the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Public Enemy Panel in Chicago — Now With Chuck D!

We just received exciting news that Chuck D — mouthpiece for legendary hip-hop act Public Enemy, will be appearing at FMC and Pitchfork's "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" talk at the Cultural Center on Thursday, July 17.

The event was already gonna be awesome, with Hank and Keith Shocklee — one half of Public Enemy's production unit, the Bomb Squad — talking about how they fashioned their powerful world of sound. Now, PE's culturally astute and outspoken frontman Chuck D will join journalist, activist and PE Media Assassin Harry Allen and the Bomb Squad in a lively conversation led by media professor and documentary filmmaker Kembrew McLeod (Copyright Criminals: This Is a Sampling Sport).

The talk takes place at the Chicago Cultural Center's Claudia Cassidy Theatre, beginning at 3 PM. Admission to the event is free, but those interested in attending must reserve spots by emailing

Monday, July 7, 2008

Rock the Net CD — It's Viral!

Last weekend, NPR did a segment on "All Things Considered" about FMC's Upcoming Rock the Net: Musicians for Net Neutrality CD, which lands in stores on July 29. You can listen to the piece here. Be warned — host Andrea Seabrook also talks about viral cat videos (that's viral videos about cats, not clips of ailing kitties).

Must-read technology blog Ars Technica also published an item about the album. AT scribe Nate Anderson says the following in his Independence Day-themed post:

What do terrorists and telco execs have in common? They hate us for our freedoms, naturally. And they especially hate our freedom to roam the verdant grasslands of the Internet as freely as the majestic bison once wandered the fruited plains of the West. A group of mostly-indie rockers from the Future of Music Coalition agree, and they're releasing a benefit CD later this month to help fund the Coalition's campaign for a neutral 'Net.

Amen, brother. The CD — which features Wilco, Bright Eyes, Aimee Mann, They Might Be Giants and more — is being released by our friends at Thirsty Ear Recordings, a 30 year-old independent record label that depends on open internet structures to get its music out there. Head to the Rock the Net site to stream the tunes before the CD comes out, and purchase a limited-time discounted MP3 version. While you're there, you might as well sign up for the campaign and join acts like Pearl Jam, Calexico, R.E.M., Ted Leo and Death Cab for Cutie in demonstrating your support for net neutrality.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Free & Legal Tabulature Network Launches

Photo by flickr user lucas

This week, Musicnotes Inc. relaunched — a free and legal tablature network for musicians to come together and share their user-generated tabs. The site is based upon a revenue sharing model where advertisements allow for access to the tabs for free, with half of the ad money being paid back to the publishers, songwriters, and copyright holders. licenses over 50,000 songs from thousands of publishers, allowing for users to create, upload, and share tabs of their favorite songs. With a strong focus on community, the site also allows for participating in forums, adding friends, blogging and more.

In 2006 the site had to shut down due to allegations of infringement, but has reopened with the necessary agreements so that both users and songwriters win. In a dynamic and fast changing online world, it is important to realize the significance of this type of arrangement, one where users can gain the knowledge of how to play their favorite songs while ensuring that musicians and songwriters maintain a living wage through appropriate royalty payments.

While FMC is not suggesting that the ad-support content model will naturally work for all online content delivery services, we believe that it is nonetheless encouraging that new models are being developed that may potentially solve some of the issues musicians face in the digital universe. Plus you can totally learn how to play that Slayer song.