An Assembly of Pieces

James Anderson Merritt's piecemeal thoughts and observations, and the occasional attempt to put some of the pieces together.
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All material except cited quotations Copyright (C) 2004-2008 by James Anderson Merritt. All rights reserved.
Saturday, July 27, 2002

I don't know about you, but I am mad as hell about two recent developments, brought to us courtesy of the Recording Industry Association of America, alias RIAA.

In the first case, the RIAA, along with their partners in crime, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), influenced the US Copyright Office to burden the nascent internet radio industry with so onerous a "performance royalty" assessment, that many of the best and most popular internet broadcasters have simply closed up shop, unable to afford to clear the artificially high "entry barrier" to their business. Traditional radio broadcasters would not have to pay the new royalty in addition to the one they already pay to music publishers such as BMI and ASCAP; internet broadcasters are expected to pay both assessments.

In the second case, the RIAA and other parties have encouraged congress members to introduce legislation that allows a copyright holder to invade a consumer's home or business via their computers and other electronic gear, in order to pursue a "search and destroy mission" against pirated intellectual property such as recorded music and movies. Have these congress critters forgotten that the fourth amendment to the Constitution guarantees the federal government's assistance in upholding "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures..."?

The mechanics of music and video distrubution have changed, but organizations such as RIAA, NAB, and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) seem determined to use every means at their disposal to deny the change and hold back the tide. For whom? The artists and craftspeople who create the music, movies, and television shows? The consumers? The society? No. The RIAA, MPAA, and NAB are protecting marketing and distribution channels that become less relevant to the marketplace with each passing day, primarily the major record labels and motion picture studios. The future is the direct delivery of audio and video to consumers on demand, at prices low enough to minimize the economic damage to producers of a reasonable amount of fair use and even some "piracy," yet high enough to ensure that everyone who remains along the creation, production, and distribution chain derives a fair return for their investments of time, talent, and equipment. If the RIAA, MPAA, and NAB aren't actively and seriously working toward such a model -- as the recent heavy-handed tactics suggest that they are not -- then they are also not operating in the best interests of anyone but the power-elite of the status quo. If so, I have no sympathy. I have personally witnessed some of the worst excesses of the music, broadcast, and film industries, and have no interest in supporting that kind of thing with my discretionary income.

Someone needs to start a new record company, based upon electronic distribution and any other methods or mechanisms that reduce "middleman" costs. Let artists currently with the major labels as well as crowds of new artists sign with "Amateur Records," which will re-record their hits as versions that are clear for webcast and intended for widespread electronic distribution. I'll update this posting with more about "Amateur Records" in a while.


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