The Continuing MP3 Saga!

After reading about how Warner Music recently sent out a track to various MP3 blogs, which seems to imply some grudging approval of the format, I sent an email to the BPI, asking if they knew that one of their members was supplying blogs with songs. I also asked if there was a way for me to continue operating, considering that nobody else seems to have received one of these notices.

I present the response from Matt Phillips:

Hi Ian I can't really offer you any legal advice on this matter as I don't know the detail.
Basically it's about using music with permission.
Generally speaking - if you're making copyrighted music (anything released by a label) available to share with other people without the permission of the copyright owner you're infringing copyright law and come on to the radar of our anti-piracy unit.

My advice would be, if in doubt, don't do it.
If you have any further queries, please contact our legal department.

Hurrah for substance-filled replies. I understand he was probably making the general case, but labels do release public domain songs, and any song is protected by copyright, not just those released by labels. Plus, the label would also have to be a member of the BPI to come onto their radar, I assume?


currently playing: New Order — The Perfect Kiss

Only Good

The latest ad from the Swift Boat Veterans.

What really gets me annoyed about this advert is the implication that John Kerry failed his fellow soldiers by giving his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It glosses over the fact that he was right. Or are supposed to believe that this, or this, or this, or this did not happen? It did, and Kerry was only telling the Committee what other veterans had told him. America committed war crimes in Vietnam. But some people refuse to accept this fact.

There's a worrying development in some parts of America, a belief that it has done no wrong, ever. Admittedly, at the moment it seems confined to crazed right-wing authors, but they're not bearded militiamen writing screeds in linseed oil inbetween preparing for the End Times; they're successful media figures. Aside from the Swift Veterans, last year saw the release of Ann Coulter's Treason, which attempted to rehabilitate Senator Joe McCarthy (yes, she's insane. But many people think she's wonderful. I despair), and Michelle Markin's In Defense of Internment has just been released, doing well in the Amazon rankings.

I just can't wrap my head around it. What next? Why Dred Scott Is Misunderstood and Reasons Why The Confederacy Should Have Prevailed? Markin's book is particularly offensive; I've been around the Smithsonian exhibit, I've read about the issue, and there is just…no excuse for rounding people up on the basis of their race and putting them in concentration camps. Malkin bases her argument on the theory that FDR had secret information that no-one else knew (the MAGIC decrypts of Japanese communications); the problem is that these messages have been known about for years, and the closest they come to calling into question the loyalty of the Japanese immigrants is a commnique to an embassy that says it might be a good idea to set up a spy ring (and specifically mentions that using non-Japanese agents would be preferable). The Japanese did not know that the Allies had broken MAGIC, so if such a ring did exist, you would expect information about it to flow across channels. None does. Plus, the people who pushed hardest for the camps did not have access to MAGIC. Even Supreme Court Justice Scalia thinks that the Supreme Court decision that upheld the detention ranks alongside Dred Scott as one of the Court's biggest mistakes. But don't just take my word for it — Eric Muller, a UNC Law School professor is currently discussing Malkin's book and shredding her arguments one by one. But he isn't in the Top 100 Amazon bestseller list, so his voice isn't going to be heard as much as a media figure who makes regular appearances on Fox News and MSNBC.

It worries me — a nation that believes it can do nothing wrong can be easily led by its leaders that its actions are right simply because they're doing it. No country is perfect; they're all done horrible things in the past (for an Empire nation, Britain probably comes off better than Spain or Portugal, say, but we still invented concentration camps, we firebombed Dresden into ashes, we carved up Africa with the rest of Europe, and we made a mess of Ireland). Patriotism should never be blind.

currently playing: The Knife — Heartbeats

You have been eaten by a link

The Pentagon’s new plan. Last used to great effect in Afghanistan during the 1980s. And that worked out fabulously, didn’t it?

Art thefts throughout history.

Watches from the 1970s

Shopping lists!


Because everybody needs a sealing gum recipe…

(email is working normally again now)

currently playing: The Beta Band — Dry The Rain


If anybody has tried to contact me in the past 24 hours, I probably didn’t get your message. It appears my host is having a few problems. In the meantime, messages can be sent to ianpointer at gmail dot com if you need to get in touch with me. (please do! ;-))

currently playing: The Concretes — Seems Fine

Diagnosis: Eh?

Dick van Dyke: CG Artist?

currently playing: Saint Etienne — Saturday

And Now A First

I can still remember the first time I heard Le Tigre’s Hot Topic. Lauren Laverne was filling in on the Evening Session, and playing live tracks from Hole’s glorious 1999 Glastonbury set; I was working on something, perhaps trying to rewrite a grammar so it could be parsed by a LALR(1) parser (it’s best not to care, really), when it started playing. I stopped, enthralled by a song listing feministic icons to a bubblegum beat. As I heard the first words “Hot Topic is the way that we rhyme”, I knew that I had to add it to my collection. A quick trip to Piccadilly Records later, and I was listening to their eponymous first album. It was everything you could have hoped for; arch-political garage pop that lurched from assaulting Rudy Giuliani’s career (My My Metrocard) to the joys of being in a band (Let’s Run). Fabulous.

The second album, Feminist Sweepstakes wasn't as good as the first, but still had rather enjoyable songs, in particular LT Tour Theme and Fake French. Three years later, they have signed to Universal Records and are about to release a new album, This Island. This is the new single:

Le TigreNew Kicks

If you put your ears to the speakers and listen closely, you can hear my heart breaking in the first thirty seconds. It's a protest record. About the Iraq war. Well, for a start, it's about two years late to catch that bandwagon. But I can forgive that, truly I can. What I can't forgive is three minutes and thirty seconds of unimaginative sloganeering, a backing track that appears to have died thirty years ago, being played through the use of zombie magic, and the complete lack of, well, any semblance of a song.

"This is what Democracy sounds like!"

That's Le Tigre, making a constitutional monarchy sound more attractive with every passing second…

(to be completely fair, I am hearing that some of the new songs they've been playing live are fantastic. Which makes bobbins like this all the more puzzling.)

currently playing: Le Tigre — Hot Topic

Laugh or Cry? Part II

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard this morning from one of its own about some of the problems with airline “no fly” watch lists. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., says he had a close encounter with the lists when trying to take the U.S. Airways shuttle out of Washington to Boston. The ticket agent wouldn’t let him on the plane. His name was on the list in error.

currently playing: Bis — Detour

Mosh Pits For Justice!

You know, when you get to make a press statement like this:

"I certainly trust the people of Illinois to choose who they want to represent them in the U.S. Senate," he said. "That is the very basis of our democracy."

(in response to this bit of inspired lunacy)

It's probably time to consider taking a holiday for a few months. At the rate Alan Keyes is going, Barack Obama could sit in a basement for two months picking lint out of his belly button, and he'd still beat him by thirty points on November 2nd…

currently playing: The Concretes — Say Something New

Edible Links!

The world’s largest hamburger! (warning: contains two whole tomatoes and what looks like a cup of mayonnaise)

Pizza the New York way (hmm, foood)

HARIBO Musuem!

How to make Gummy Bears.

The home of Tic-Tac fans!

Skittles chewing gum. They taste odd. They're like Skittles, only not.

Be a peaceful protester and save!

currently playing: Björk — Oceania

Feeding The Commons

I know I’ve talked about it before, but they brought it up again, so some more thoughts, this time concerning the BPI’s latest press release.

Firstly, this is curious:

The British record industry – which invests more in new British musical talent than any other

Now I suppose what they mean here is that they invest in music talent more than another country's industry does in their talent. At least, that's what I hope they mean, because otherwise you do have to wonder about what they're going on about (damn those French labels for not investing in Glaswegian bands!).

I've already mentioned about how the BPI has woken up to this fact rather late (they didn't care when Jimmy Young's songs went public domain, did they?), but the important point, one that is obvious but that I 've never really thought about before, is this: on January 1st 2005, all BMG copies of Elvis Presley's That's All Right will not spontaneously combust. BMG can sell the song for the rest of time, and all others recorded before 31st December 1954. The only thing that will change is that now other people will also be able to sell copies of the same songs. Some will be the usual large labels, but new, smaller labels might spring up, using this cheap product to build up capital so they can invest money back into the industry, helping to reinvigorate today's rather bleak independent label situation. There will be competition. But hey, isn't that what capitalism is all about? There's so many ways to add value to a public domain product, as shown by the continued strong sales for books like Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre, despite the fact that anybody can download them for free. This can be done in many ways, from the simple idea of reducing the price, to including special features with the public domain release (liner notes, extra tracks, videos, etc) thus making the item more attractive, even if it does have a higher price.

Raising the spectre of The Beatles's work going into the public domain is a cheap shot, but — well, all I can say is that I can't wait. The Beatles's back catalogue is a reflection of all that's wrong with the British music industry at the moment; high-priced, awfully-packaged, and woefully produced. Take Abbey Road — the last record made by the band! So much that could be said! And what do you get? A flimsy piece of paper with the titles and copyright information on it. Tremendous. Apart from Let It Bleed…Naked and the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, all of the original albums haven't changed since their original 1987 pressing, a pressing well-known to be inferior to the vinyl recordings. So, I can't wait for a Beatles fan to make his or her own version of Please Please Me, creating a superior pressing and writing obsessive liner notes that are infused with a blinding love of I Saw Her Standing There and Love Me Do.

I'm looking forward to posting That's All Right here on January 1st 2005. An important piece of music history will be released freely into our culture, and hopefully more will follow as the years go by.

currently playing: Saturday Looks Good To Me — When You Got To New York