Add our blog to Google

Add to Google

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!