Second Jammie Thomas trial still leaves questions unanswered

Jammie Thomas (now Thomas-Rasset) is not the first person charged by the RIAA with copyright infringement for downloading and sharing music files, but she is the first to have taken the RIAA before a jury, rather than reach a settlement outside.

She lost her first trial and was ordered to pay $222,000 damages for sharing 24 songs. However, a retrial was ordered when the judge revealed that he had falsely instructed the jury on the technicalities of copyright infringement. The retrial concluded yesterday, with a federal jury finding Thomas-Rasset liable again, and a judge now ordering her to pay damages of $1.92 million, or $80,000 for each of the following tracks:

* Guns N Roses “Welcome to the Jungle”; “November Rain”
* Vanessa Williams “Save the Best for Last”
* Janet Jackson “Let’s Wait Awhile”
* Gloria Estefan “Here We Are”; “Coming Out of the Heart”; “Rhythm is Gonna Get You”
* Goo Goo Dolls “Iris”
* Journey “Faithfully”; “Don’t Stop Believing”
* Sara McLachlan “Possession”; “Building a Mystery”
* Aerosmith “Cryin’”
* Linkin Park “One Step Closer”
* Def Leppard “Pour Some Sugar on Me”
* Reba McEntire “One Honest Heart”
* Bryan Adams “Somebody”
* No Doubt “Bathwater”; “Hella Good”; “Different People”
* Sheryl Crow “Run Baby Run”
* Richard Marx “Now and Forever”
* Destiny’s Child “Bills, Bills, Bills”
* Green Day “Basket Case”

Statutory damages for willful infringement of copyright can range from $750 to $150,000. The jury in this case were particularly punitive, it is thought, because they felt that Thomas-Rasset had been lying to them. And it must be said that the story of how the files got from her computer onto the Kazaa filesharing site has been sketchy. Nevertheless, the judge in this case appears not to have clarified the difference between the right to statutory damages and the right to compensatory damages. The former allows for whopping punitive fines like this without the burden of demonstrating exactly how much money has been lost for each infringement.

According to ars technica, there is talk, however, that the RIAA may not try to collect these damages for fear of stoking even more grassroots anger. There is also a good chance that this case will go further, possibly all the way to the Supreme Court, since there may be Constitutional concerns over the exorbitant fines that music corporations are empowered to wield against individual citizens.

Whatever happens, it is extremely unlikely that a cent will go to any of the artists above, some of whom have had previous brushes with copyright infringement. Bryan Adams has forced fansites into signing rights agreements for use of his name and picture. A blogger was arrested for streaming nine leaked songs from Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy (his sentence was reduced to one year imprisonment for assisting the FBI); the band weren’t impressed. And Aerosmith have successfully used the threat of copyright action to prevent one of their songs being used in a GOP campaign video.

There are pros and cons to all these stories, and to the Jammie Thomas-Rasset case. Artists have, and deserve, rights in their works that need to be protected. The big flipside, particularly evident in Thomas-Rasset, is that the legal mechanisms appear to be in place now for corporate copyright holders to exercise a power way beyond the spirit of the rights they are defending, and possibly even against the interests of their own artists if anger against their policies continues and spreads. The big question still unaddressed is for how long will artists be happy to remain complicit in the punitive strategies of their paymasters, or will there come a point when they realise that such wild-eyed greed is not why they got into music in the first place?

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Blogariddims 38: The mouth, the feet, the sound

Find out more about the Blogariddims project here and here.

You can get the mix directly here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/blogariddims/
Or sign up for the podcast here: http://www.weareie.com/audio/blogariddims/Blogariddims.xml (see Droid’s helpful guide to podcasts for how to this).

This mix is as much a collection of recent pre-occupations as anything else.

[00:00] La Bocca, I Piedi, Il Suono: I ­ – Salvatore Sciarrino (col legno)

I’ve become a little obsessed with this piece, for alto saxophone quartet and 100 ‘peripatetic’ saxes walking around the performance space. The music is composed not only of pitches and rhythms, but the touch of fingertips on keys, the smack of lips on mouthpieces, the sound of breath, the footsteps of all those walking performers. The whole 35-minute piece is an intense close-listening experience that doesn’t really climax until the very end (see track 16 of this mix). Anyone into lower case music, Wandelweiser, all of that, needs to know Sciarrino. Although I didn’t consciously think about it this way, almost everything else on this mix grows out of this piece: there are saxophones everywhere, from Berio, Burtner and Takemitsu; there’s also one buried in Manfred Werder’s conceptual piece.

[01:38] Dulcinée Du Toboso ­ – Jean Schwarz (Celia)
[03:40] Sequenza VIIb ­ – Luciano Berio (BIS)
[07:20] Journeys on the Winds of Time: I ­ – Alan Lamb (New Albion)
[09:47] Lux Animae (Rambler edit) ­ – Horatiu Radulescu (Sub Rosa)
[16:58] … sofferte onde serene … ­ – Luigi Nono (col legno)

With its intense focus on sound in both minute detail and enveloping ambience, La Bocca makes a real connection with … sofferte onde serene …, one of my favourite Nono works. Written for the pianist Maurizio Pollini, it combines live piano with recordings of Pollini himself rehearsing the work such that it’s impossible to tell where live ends and recording begins. Every note tolls inside an echo chamber of its own past.

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[19:06] The Intermediary with a Rendition of Stardust ­ – Blue Gene Tyranny (Lovely Music)
[19:38] Triple (Remix) ­ – Mark Applebaum (Innova)
[26:18] Shur ­ – Alireza Mashayekhi (Prospectives 21e siècle)
[27:05] Distance ­ – Toru Takemitsu (BIS)
[30:00] More Things in the Air than are Visible: Section 3 ­ – Christopher Fox (Metier)
[33:00] 2006/1 – Manfred Werder (skiti)
[36:06] Isle Remix ­ – Evelyn Ficarra (Critical Voices)

Fox takes the piano–tape relationship further in More Things in the Air than are Visible. The third section of the piece combines quiet piano chords that sound like a half-distracted improvisation with a tape of the outdoor ambient sounds of an English summer day – birdsong, a dog barking, traffic noise, etc. Werder’s conceptual work is a grandchild of Cage’s 4’33”: “a place, natural light, where the performer, the performers like to be. a time. (sounds)”. Ficarra turns to the radio waves of the British Isles for her sounds.

[36:33] Split Voices ­ – Matthew Burtner (Innova)
[39:19] Unheimlich Schön ­ – Luc Ferrari (Metamkine)
[43:00] Jour, Contre-jour ­ – Gérard Grisey (Accord)

Ferrari makes an extended piece from the noises – breath, lips, tongue, heartbeat – around the repeating phrase ‘uncanny beauty’. Grisey finds whole worlds in the spaces between two notes.

François Bayle - Erosphère

[43:43] La Bocca, I Piedi, Il Suono: VIII ­ – Salvatore Sciarrino (col legno)
[50:25] un fini I ­ – Mark André (live)
[50:51] Toupie dans le ciel: I ­ – François Bayle (INA-GRM)

Having returned to Sciarrino, the mix finishes off with two tracks that are complimentary opposites: André’s harp solo empties out the space around us as it takes us into the heart of a sound; Bayle dissolves that central core, spreading us thin across the universe.

Populism and plagiarism

Alex links to a peculiar story about a White House aide and erstwhile newspaper columnist, Timothy Goeglein who has just resigned over allegations of plagiarism. It’s a shame that readers of the Fort Wayne New Sentinel won’t be treated to more gems like this:

One of the true delights of summertime is area, regional, statewide and national music festivals. They call us to put our phones on forward and to take a step back, reflect and listen deeply. What kind of music do we love, and why?

As one might expect from such an opening, Goeglein has some thoughts on contemporary music:

In the world of contemporary classical music, no names rate higher than John Corigliano, John Adams and Richard Danielpour. They are names that classical music lovers know and respect. But how about creative individuals who strive for excellence in all the arts and whose achievements often go unreported and unfunded because they are seen as less avant garde?

The idea of Adams, Corigliano and Danielpour as vanguard is amusing enough, but the really funny thing is that Goeglein gets it so wrong that he’s almost right. Adams et al are extremely successful composers writing music of wide commercial appeal that wins major label recording contracts and big opera commissions. What’s more, they’ve carefully incorporated mass appeal into their aesthetic. Adams composes like he does because he wants big audiences, and he’ll tell you as much. Which is fine: but if you’re going to embrace the marketplace, then you’ve got to accept the commercial risk too. There really isn’t much argument for public funding here (and I don’t know if Adams gets any these days). But neither is there for Goeglein’s “unreported and unfunded” populists for exactly the same reasons. Public arts funding is not there to support those enter the commercial marketplace and fail, it is there for those artists for whom the marketplace is irrelevant or even a hindrance. There are other measures of quality than box office sales.

Open Access scholarly journals

Apophenia has a great post on boycotting locked-down academic journals. I might have mentioned it before, but as a humanities scholar, I’m completely in awe of how sorted the sciences have got themselves over open access publication – just look at arXiv.org. Amazing.

Until we get something like that, here’s a list of open access music journals, compiled by DOAJ. One that they don’t include, because issue 1 has only just come out, is Search, a journal for new music and culture. Contributors to this first issue include Frank Cox, Wieland Hoban and Martin Iddon, so you have an idea on its aesthetic focus, but it looks like an excellent new publication.

Update:  In the comments  below, Mike van Eerden draws attention to another open access journal resource, and one tailored specifically for the humanities: Search Pigeon. SP isn’t quite the same as arXiv, which parallel-publishes articles otherwise available only in commercial journals, but it looks like a well-organised and growing resource for seeking OA publications.

Today in undesirable copyright legislation

Plans are afoot – once again! – to extend performer’s rights in recordings from 50 to 95 years. The BBC quotes Roger Daltrey’s approval, voiced a while ago, of such a scheme. But unless such an extension is retroactively applied (which would be an even greater lunacy) it’s hard to see how he would benefit without, you know, releasing any new records.

Elsewhere, the UK government quite fancies the idea of forcing ISPs to police the internet, obliging them to cut access to anyone found to be illegally downloading. “A bit like asking the post office to check every letter it handles for evidence of illegal activity” protest the ISPs. I think it sounds like a perfectly reasonable demand to make of ISPs, which won’t in any way infringe civil liberties, be impossible to administer, or catapult the cost of internet access through the roof. The IPKat muses:

Once unlawful downloaders are cut off, there will be enough people left online to make the internet worthwhile? Or will an alternative internet develop, to cater for those who seek out the forbidden fruits of copyright infringement, pornography, unregulated gambling and so on?

All of which provides a dissonant counterpoint to this recently published study, variously reported this week.

The amount of online “chatter” about an upcoming album release directly correlates to higher physical album sales, according to two researchers with New York University’s Stern Business School. Professor Vasant Dhar and former student Elaine Chang observed the trends of 108 albums released during the first two months of 2007 to see how different outside elements affected (or predicted) sales once the albums became available, and found that all of them had some effect or another. But certain elements of online chatter—namely blogs and social networks—seemed to be fairly accurate predictors of future success.

Musician Deathwatch

del.icio.us/skills/obituary | About this list

This week we bid farewell to the following members of the musical community:

:: Freddie Bell Rock ‘n’ roll singer
:: Chris Anderson Jazz pianist
:: Talivaldis Kenins Composer
:: Keith Smith Jazz trumpeter
:: Sławomir Kulpowicz Jazz pianist
:: James J. Fuld Collector of rare music scores
:: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Guru to the Beatles
:: Tata Guines Percussionist

Rest in Peace.