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Friday, October 17, 2014

Umm... Hello McFly?? A Little Common Sense Please?

So, I'm just gonna say it.
I know that there have been quite a few procedural blunders at all levels so far in our response to the ebola incidents coming out of Dallas. And I don't know specifically what the health care workers were told by the CDC, the Dallas hospital management, etc. about what "self isolation/quarantine" might mean. AND I can only imagine how stressful that situation was, caring for that poor man, and being the first over here in the US. I can only think that a cruise or a trip to Cincinnati might be a good stress relief...??
But... WTF???!!! were they thinking leaving their homes and traveling? Is it really beyond basic common sense that "self isolation" means just that? Don't f-ing go anywhere! Stay home! Order in! Catch up on Game of Thrones or whatever! I don't care if they called the CDC and asked permission (which should of course been flatly denied with a calm "Hey after you're past the danger/incubation period and all clear then we want you to go do whatever to take care of yourself, you're a hero!") I'm not a health care worker, but I know to keep my daughter with sniffles and a mild fever home for the day when her friend/classmate with leukemia is in a compromised immunity state.
I just think that the health care workers deciding to travel made decisions devoid of the basics of common sense one would think would be basic and fundamental to the thinking of a medical professional. And those who bemoan our "nanny state" and are always touting "personal responsibility" should give thought to how it's not always the folks at the top with a monopoly on incompetence.
Also, an f-ing Surgeon General would help, as that's been blocked for an ungodly amount of time by those in power promoting the "govm'nt is bad" meme. We wouldn't need a "Czar." That would be their job already, (remember C Everett Coop and how he helped inform and calm during the AIDS crisis in the 80s?) and the CDC and NIH heads could go back to work and not have to be in front of cameras 24/7. We are so paralyzed by the dysfunction of our political and media system...
Hallelujah, Holy Sh$t, pass the tylenol...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hypocrisy Google: "Complying with Takedowns on the Backs of Fair Users to Make the Record Cos./Artists Look Petty?"

Is Google seeming to “comply” with DMCA takedown notices on fair users and making it seem like the “content owner,” i.e. the artists/publisher/record company is to blame for fair users who are just trying to use youtube the way it kinda got started - as a way to share home movies, and family/friend stuff with folks “back home,”  while letting (as usual) blatant infringers posting whole albums of copyrighted material keep their videos up for years? Apparently so...

(UPDATED 10/12/2014: Reinserted the graphics after they mysteriously disappeared.  They were viewable when the original was posted a week ago, but suddenly "broke."  I'm willing to concede PEBKAC on this one, and I did originally use .PNGs instead of .JPGs.  Whatever...)

Here’s our story.  So, my wife’s sister died last year after a long battle with ovarian cancer.  I created a keynote/powerpoint slideshow of many photos of her and her friends and family throughout her life and PURCHASED from iTunes (and can provide receipts) of any songs that I didn’t already own by either purchasing the CDs or previous iTunes purchases.  

I used those songs (her favorites of her lifetime) as a soundtrack to an approximately 30 minute slideshow in Keynote/Powerpoint.  We held a memorial, and I played the slideshow on a projector for the folks assembled.  But many, many friends and family from out of town could not attend, so I created a movie version and uploaded it to my wife’s youtube channel (which has mostly kid movies and happy birthday songs to friends and family, not albums of others posted, etc.)  I made the movie UNLISTED and emailed the link to close friends and family not able to make it but who wanted to celebrate this young woman’s life.  Seemed like fair use, not public, I owned a purchased copy of any music used: trying to do the right thing as I am a musician and want to protect other artists and play fair.

Well, the youtube movie of the slideshow played fine for a day or so if I remember, but then Google’s software to recognize copyrighted material started to kick in on a few of the songs.  I filed disputes and kindly explained basically what I mentioned above. Unlisted, for a dead person’s memorial, not ad monetized, I purchased the music, etc.  It seems fair use to me?????  It’s  most certainly fairer use than EVERY SINGLE SONG THAT WAS FLAGGED AS COPYRIGHTED  THAT IS READILY AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE RIGHT NOW, usually in full album form with the album cover graphic to make it a “movie.”

So, WTF, huh?  Well, this was back in January or so of 2014, life happened, I figured it was all good as it seemed that my video would play again.  The UNLISTED one…  Of a memorial... Of which I purchased all the songs…  But last night in early October, 2014 an old friend of hers was trying to view the memorial slideshow as the 1 year anniversary of her death is coming up.  She said she couldn’t view it. The unlisted link wouldn’t work. So I checked it out and sure enough, it wouldn’t play on mobile devices, she couldn’t view it on a laptop, and I couldn’t get it to play at all, even though it said that the audio channel only had been blocked. So I looked at the copyright notices in youtube and saw that a few of the disputed song claims were rejected and the audio was supposedly “muted.”  But in actuality the whole video was somehow not viewable.  

Now, I’ve seen for years now and  read all about it in artist rights’ blogs, have seen friends/family do it where a person posts an album or a song and throws up the graphic of the album or song and you can essentially now, have the whole album to play as you wish. For free, baby!  And of course google serves ads on these “videos.”

So I thought about appealing the dispute, but this is my wife’s youtube account, we mostly have (as I said before) movies of our kids, some silly videos of us singing happy birthday to friends etc, and I didn’t want to run the risk of having her account terminated over this, and all those videos of baby steps and the like taken down if we received a copyright strike, or 3 as there were 3 songs disputed who’s disputes were “rejected.”

So, I’m steaming a bit about this, spent way too many hours making the thing in the first place, and just wanted to share it semi privately with friends and family. The music was what gave the photos the emotion that moved everyone at the live memorial in the first place.  Having seen so many albums out there that seem blatant infringements that stay up there, it pissed me off and the idea occurred to me that Google is playing their “compliance” game to make it look like they have it so "dialed in" and that it’s the "big mean record companies, artists and publishers who won’t let you play that Donavan/Heart/Cure in your poor dead sisters memorial,” we’ve done all we can do.  We’re just complying.  But… WTF about all those albums?  Well, here’s some info with screenshots of the songs used in the (Unlisted) memorial that were flagged and disputes rejected...

There are at least 6 full albums or songs of Heart’s “Dog and Butterfly” available to play to your hearts content no charge...

At least 7 of Nick Drake’s “From the Morning” including slideshows!  None are blocked.  Listen away. You don’t need to buy that album or song folks! 

And of course, many, many places to listen to the Cure’s “Close to Me” for free!  

So, these don’t seem like the official artist/record co./publisher’s youtube accounts and they each have usually millions of views. I see they serve ads which I’m sure barely trickle revenue like the sad terminus of the Colorado River back to their respective artists. 

I used to be able to post slideshows I made myself for no profit only for personal/family use with soundtrack music of songs I purchased. For fun.  But no more.  But apparently many others can if they are blatant and I guess allow ads to be served?  And this whole vibe of Google “being on top of it” and flagging this  content just smacks of hypocrisy, and kind of like a way to fan the flames of “fans” who already are being led to believe by the Freehadist Techno Robber Barons that it’s the mean, rich artists and their evil record companies who are to blame.  Meanwhile they just bought their 5th Tesla and 2nd yacht that they had trucked to Gerlach and sailed across the playa at Burning Man.   

Should I just have put up an album instead?  YouTube is becoming useless for what I want to do with it for personal “content creation.”  I had to spend hours rendering and uploading to send the memorial via dropbox to the friend across the country last night.  So they could have a nice memory of their friend, who died too soon, and shed a few tears over the music that was the soundtrack of her life.  While they looked at pictures of her life.  Privately. With music I purchased. 

Now get the hell off my lawn...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ol' Kerosene Hat Goes to Washington: David Lowery Speaks to House Panel on "Fair Use" Copyright Issues

David Lowery, a well known rights' activist for musicians/artists/content creators,  an accomplished songwriter, singer, performer and leader of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker went before a special House of Representatives Subcommittee and testified yesterday in Washington DC.  To my ears, his main objective was to clarify and educate lawmakers and the public on how the "fair use" doctrine/law (I'm no lawyer) is being co-opted and misused to essentially allow rampant illegal copying and performances of music, video, etc. on sites like YouTube, etc.  You know, how you can find any album or song you want to try to find on YouTube with a static picture while the album plays and you entertain your guests and the Google advertising money rolls in to Google, but not to the artists.  I think he did a great job, as usual.  Here's the beginning of the transcript of his testimony and you can find the rest of it at the Trichordist blog.

Oral Testimony of David Lowery to House Subcommittee On Courts Intellectual Property and the Internet Jan 28 2014

House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet
“The Scope of Fair Use”
David Lowery Oral Testimony and Notes
January 28th 2014
Chairman Goodlatte, Chairman Coble, Ranking Member, and Members of the Subcommittee:
My name is David Lowery and I am a mathematician, writer, musician, producer and entrepreneur based in Richmond, VA and Athens, GA. I also teach music business finance at the University of Georgia.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today about the scope of fair use. The rise of the Internet corresponds with recent attention devoted to fair use as an excuse for trumping the rights of authors established both in the U.S. and other countries. This attention comes from technology companies, commentators, lobbyists and some parts of the academy.
I am not concerned with parody, commentary, criticism, documentary filmmakers or research. These are legitimate fair use categories. I am concerned with an illegal copy that masquerades as a “fair use”, but is really just a copy. This masquerade trivializes legitimate fair use categories and creates conflict where there need be none.
These interpretations of “fair use” have become important to my daily life as a singer songwriter. There are attempts by certain websites and commercial services to pass off as fair use versions of my work that are indistinguishable from licensed copies of my work. As I will demonstrate, these unlicensed copies compete directly with licensed instances of my work. Yet, as a professional singer songwriter, I believe the “fair use” doctrine as intended by Congress is working in the music industry and should not be expanded.
Sampling and remixing is one arena where there has been a push for expanded fair use because of some urgent need. This defies logic as there is no emergency. For example, Hip Hop relies on samples of other artists works. There exists robust market based mechanism for licensing these samples and Hip Hop has become the most popular form of music on the planet without expanded fair use. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. I go into this in great detail in my written testimony.
Another arena is song lyrics. Some commentators have suggested that sites that reprint song lyrics with annotations or “meanings” may be covered by the “fair use” doctrine. I have personally experienced the unauthorized use of my lyrics in one of the most famous lyrics “annotation sites, RapGenius. Exhibit 1 shows an example from this lyric annotations site.
I research lyric sites as part of my academic work at the University of Georgia and produce the “UGA top 50 Undesirable Lyric Website List.” After I published my most recent update to the list which placed RapGenius at number 1, I observed that the account of “editor in chief” of RapGenius transcribed the lyrics of my song “Low” and began annotation of the lyrics. The annotations are invisible in the exhibit; they appear only as hyperlinks to pop up windows. Note these links could refer to anything.
How is this use any different from the use of my lyrics on a non-annotated and licensed site (Exhibit 2)? The RapGenius instance of my lyrics is nearly identical. How is it “Fair Use?” It competes directly with the revenue I receive from the licensed site. Following this logic I could reprint an entire book and occasionally provide a hyperlink to the definition of a word and that would be “Fair Use”.
Indeed the owners of RapGenius seem to agree that their use is not “fair use” as evidenced by their recently completed licensing deals with Sony/ATV Music and Universal. [more...]

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mountain Biking & Italy: Heaven

Northern Italy is one of my favorite places in the world, next to my little valley in rural West Marin. 

This photo takes my breath away and makes me want to try to figure out a way to get there soon... 

Check out Singletracks for more photos and trail info. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Taking the Leap: The Cash Strapped Creative: Get Used to It?

So, here we find ourselves in 2014 living in a very, very brave new world! Although often I find myself feeling not quite so brave.

Those of us in the "creative class" on the one hand, find opportunities that we haven't seen before. On the other hand, getting paid for these opportunities is quite the challenge these days, when most folks think (or have become accustomed to thinking) that this content should be free or almost free. Add on a family existence of a cash-strapped, both parents working situation, two kids, one in school and one in (expensive no matter which way you look at it) preschool, and you have a recipe that makes it difficult to try to be entrepreneurial, stretch out, and take risks. After all, the kids have to be fed, the rent/mortgage has to be paid, and then once the kids are in bed, you're supposed to have time for yourself to either work or have some "personal time."  I don't know about you, but I pretty much find myself sapped of any personal or spiritual energy at that point. 

Back in "the day" my times at night, even after I had worked a full-time 40 to 50 hour week job were always the times that I could count on to create art, create music, create "creative content." Now, honestly, I don't know where to pull that energy from after the kids are in bed. Quite frankly, I'm starting to fall asleep! And the incentive itself, is starting to slip slide away, as the possibilities for renumeration of any quality is rapidly diminishing or has already dropped down to next to zero for those of us who create "content." So often I find myself living a quixotic adventure, tilting at windmills so that one day I might get paid that $0.006 per play/stream/view/download for doing what I love, and am reasonably good at.

So I ask all of you other aging, creative, still inspired parents,  "What do you do to keep things going?" How do you "take the leap?"

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The March of Time

Time sure flies when you're having fun and not having fun! And lately it hasn't just been flying, it's been at Mach 5. 

Lots of things in my family life, intense medical situations and deaths in the family, have kept me away from this blog for some time. And with the time that I have had, it's really difficult to know which social media platform to spend one's time on.

With so many different places too sew one's seed (so to speak), and with limited time, I find it hard to focus on one particular platform for my web presence, such as it is. So like Johnny Mnemonic Appleseed, I've strewn bits of myself across the inter-webs these last couple of years.

But, grateful for all of the great things that have occurred, 2014 finds me still with my work with TNS, some new voiceover work and opportunities, and some experimental music projects. 2012 and 2013 have truly been the "best of times and the worst of times." 

I will be posting some examples of work on the site soon, but do plan to move it over to a wordpress site sometime early this year.

So, for the two or three of you out there hanging on my every word here's to a great 2014!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

LSD Charter School Blues - A Local Protest Story

Recently our little rural school district in San Geronimo Valley, (called the Lagunitas School District) has been going through a big kerfluffle.  We have three alternative public options: Montessori, Waldorf Inspired and Open Classroom.  We have about 230 or so kids in the entire K-8 district!  Recently some of the Waldorf inspired program parents submitted a charter proposal to the district that would have severely impacted the entire rural district as it was written.  As of last night the charter petition was withdrawn, but not before it inspired my friend Wes to seed the idea of a local protest song and video for youtube.  I took the bait and mashed up styles and influences from Dylan, Eminem and Beastie Boys into this song and video.

It seems that the law firm involved in this has some ties to the Walton Family Foundation.  Charter schools can work in many situations, but this is a rural district with 3 "charter like" programs already.  It seems more like the money behind this and other similar movements is a union busting trend... like so many other union and general middle class attacks these days.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Meet the New Boss, Worse Than the Old Boss? Part 1 (REPOSTED)

(introductory notes by Ken Adams)

David Lowery, producer, songwriter, singer, activist, leader of both Camper van Beethoven and Cracker, (two of my favorite bands from then and now) has been compiling some really compelling information on how musicians/artists are being compensated in the new digital age, and how now that stores like iTunes, etc. are established as money making business models that now is the time to start paying the artists more as the "risk" involved setting the ideas up in the early 2000's has been "amortized" more or less.  This is my take on the article.  I'm a musician, songwriter, content creator, etc. and this topic really interests me, so I'm reposting a section from David's article here on the Boy on the Bike Blog.  Links are included to read the rest of this article and the other 4 parts of it. Hope you find it compelling as I did.

Meet The New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss? Part 1.

Part 1 of a 5 part post
(Copyright in the author, used by permission)
What follows is based on my notes and slides from my talk at SF Music Tech Summit.  I realize that I’m about to alienate some of my friends that work on the tech side of the music business.  These are good well intentioned people who genuinely want to help musicians succeed in the new digital paradigm. But if we are gonna come up with a system to compensate artists fairly in the new digital age we need an honest discussion of what is going on.  The tech side of the music business really needs to look at how their actions and policies negatively impact artists,  just as they have pointed out the negative effect record company actions have had on artists.
Too often the debate has been  pirates vs the RIAA.  This is ridiculous because the artists, the 99 percent of the music business are left out of the debate.  I’m not advocating going back to the old record label model,  to an industry dominated by the big three multi-national  labels.  This is a bit of hyperbole intended to make us all think about this question:  Is the new digital  model better for the artist?
Meet the New Boss, Worse than the old boss
I was like all of you.  I believed in the promise of the Internet to liberate, empower and even enrich artists.  I still do but I’m less sure of it than I once was.  I come here because I want to start a dialogue.  I feel that what we artists were promised has not really panned out.  Yes in many ways we have more freedom.  Artistically this is certainly true.  But the music business never transformed into the vibrant marketplace where small stakeholders could compete with multinational conglomerates on an even playing field.
In the last few years it’s become apparent the music business, which was once dominated by six large and powerful music conglomerates, MTV, Clear Channel and a handful of other companies, is now dominated by a smaller set of larger even more powerful tech conglomerates.  And their hold on the business seems to be getting stronger.
On one hand it doesn’t bother me because the “new boss” doesn’t really tell me what kind of songs to write or who should mix my record. But on the other hand I’m a little disturbed at how dependent I am on these tech behemoths to pursue my craft.  In fact it is nigh impossible for me to pursue my craft without enriching Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.   Further the new boss through it’s surrogates like Electronic Frontier Foundation  seems to be waging a cynical PR campaign that equates the unauthorized use of other people’s property (artist’s songs) with freedom.   A sort of Cyber –Bolshevik campaign of mass collectivization for the good of the state…er .. I mean Internet.   I say cynical because when it comes to theirintellectual property, software patents for instance, these same companies fight tooth and nail.
Meet the new boss, he wants to collectivize your songs!
The other problem? I’ve been expecting for years now to see aggregate revenue flowing to artist increase.  Disintermediation promised us this.  It hasn’t happened.   Everywhere I look artists seem to be working more for less money.  And every time I come across aggregate data that is positive it turns out to have a black cloud inside.  Example: Touring revenues up since 1999. Because more bands are touring, staying on the road longer and playing for fewer people.  Surely you all can see Malthusian trajectory?
SLIDE 1  [ MORE... ]

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jubilee Adams: Debut as Tiny Tim - A Christmas Carol (The Musical)

Jubilee at 7 years old took on the big challenge of playing Tiny Tim in the musical version of the time honored Dickens novella with songs written by Alan Menken (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics). The show was produced by the Stapleton Theatre Co. with Bruce Vieira directing, and many other wonderful people working hard to make it happen.  She went through months of rehearsals, tech week and having a wireless mike taped firmly to her face in order to give us this great performance from a girl who lives up to her name.  Her jubilation was evident in her portrayal of Tiny Tim.  And of course, I'm heavily biased, being her dad...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Walk in Someone Else's Shoes

This is an article from an excellent local photographer Stephanie Mohan, who took some incredible photos of my daughter Jubilee for her headshot and promo photos.  After these photos, Jubilee was signed to Stars Agency and is enjoying getting auditions and is getting some work.

Stephanie offers a very interesting and self analytic article on her profession as a portrait photographer.  I thought it would make a nice re-post in this blog.

Thanks for being Stephanie, Stephanie!

a walk in someone else’s shoes…

Earlier this month, I went to a Los Angeles workshop to beef up my headshots skills!  I learned SO much and had just an incredible time (  Not only did I learn a million new techniques, but I feel completely re inspired!.
One of the most valuable aspects of the workshop was that I had to stand in the shoes of a model.  Each participant had to have their headshot taken by instructor/photographer Peter Hurley .  I was so nervous….I completely freaked out in front of his camera.
I cant say enough about the experience of being a photographer who is camera shy and feeling what my clients go through on the other end of the lens.   I was not an exemplary client.  Sweating, twitching, giggling…. I was a total mess.
Round 1: my photo shoot! I proceed to stand in front of his camera and ignore all his instruction.  I cant stand still.  I look away constantly.  I’m completely embarr
assed.  If I were the photographer, there is a great likelihood I would be rolling my eyes (at least in my head).  In seconds, after viewing the images,  I determine my had is freakishly large and my eyes are small and beady.   I think that I must immediately  go on a diet.  After a firm lecture by Peter, I get to try again.  He tells me to follow his directions.  He tells me to stop freaking out.  Round 2….I still wiggle and twitch, but I think I am following direction better.  I try to trust him, through I still felt like a train wreck.  What am I freaking out about?????
I had no idea this could be so traumatic.
Now I really “get” how intense it can be to have your photo taken, particularly if you are not a professional model or actor.   I really do!   But why is it so hard? I know I am not a super-model, but after looking at these photos nearly three weeks later, I really REALLY like them.  Why couldn’t I love these photos back then?
Obviously I can mention a cliche like  we all need to love ourselves more, or point out that we never see ourselves how others see us.  But my summation as a portrait photographer who works with models, who may or may not have their photo taken regularly, is that self image can be very fragile.   I think we all can take ourselves too seriously, and  once trust is there, we can then work together to make a great image as a team.  Also, once the initial shock of seeing ourselves is over, than we can “take in” the beauty of our own image.  This was a completely eye-opening experience.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Jubilee Adams: "Tomato Makes It" Voice Over TV Spot

This is my daughter Jubilee's first voice over booking for a TV commercial through her agency, Stars.  Produced by BARC Integrated Marketing and Vreeland Productions in San Francisco for the Tomato Products Wellness Council. She had a blast recording it, and had way too many sweets at the craft services table...

Proud papa, me...