Thursday, June 13, 2002

ZILBER IS HALF-RIGHT: So says Michael Lopez over at the excellent High-ed Intelligence:

"The recording industry cannot survive in any recognizable form," but it is not caused by an unwillingness to develop talent. Rather, it is the pressure under which recording companies have come that has forced them into a feast-or-famine mindset, where they must get the maximum return on their investment. The failure to develop new talent isn't a cause, it's an effect.
I'll grant you, some of what I was prattling on about in this space last week may have been a tad speculative. I'm not a professional recording artist; I have no dog in this fight, except as a listener and fan, on the outside looking in.

So let's hear from one actual professional musician who has come to depend on all file-sharing and distribution technologies to support his livelihood and he's mightily pissed. Jim Infantino, the superego behind "Jim's Big Ego," one of the best little bands you've never heard of, addressed his newsgroup thusly on May 3:

Hey guys.

Yesterday I had lunch with Jonathan Watterson, whom some of you may know. I had an enlightening and endarkening discussion with him about the state of digital freedom and the current efforts of the RIAA to use our tax dollars to limit our freedom of expression in order to bolster their antiquated business practices. The RIAA stands for (evil and also for) the Recording Industry Association of America. They are collectively shutting down web radio (and have shut down much of it already) by pushing the FCC to levee taxes upon independent web broadcasters like RadioBoston (still webcasting somehow) and WERS (no longer webcasting.

Let me be clear to play one of my songs on these stations they might have to pay $20 a shot and NOT ONE PENNY GOES TO ME OR ANY OTHER INDEPENDENT SONGWRITER/PERFORMER. As you know, I am fine with people trading my mp3s, Gnutelling my songs, ripping cds of mine, etc, but this feels like the worst kind of criminal thievery. I am enraged.

I urge you to get active. Please visit Jonathan's site. There is a lot going on right now that needs attention and needs to be stopped. The death of Napster was nothing compared to what is going on now. Our rights to videotape TV shows, use Tivo, and customise our operating systems is being threatened. The implications are disasterous to composers, programmers, any one who would be creative in the audio, video or digital.

Below is a letter I wrote to Michael Capuano, my Rep please call or write your reps once you get informed. I will be working with Jonathan to organize some educational musical benefit this summer. In my small way I want to get the word out that we are all being ripped off by the RIAA. Read up. Thanks for reading my kvetchy email - here's more kvetching, if you want to read on:

> From: Jim Infantino
> Date: Thu May 02, 2002 04:42:24 PM
> To the Honorable Michael Capuano,

> I am very concerned about recent efforts on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America to limit the freedom of speech of Americans like myself. I am a performing songwriter unaffiliated with any record company and am very upset by the RIAA's attempt to discourage the creation, promotion and distribution of independent music world wide.

> I recently tried to tune into one of my favorite local radio stations on the web while I was out of town and found that WERS at Emerson College was no longer able to broadcast on the web because of new fees and requirements by an agency called the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel. I did some reading about the fees they would have to pay and found that they would have to pay .02 cents per song per listener for every song they webcast. If there are 50,000 listeners worldwide at any given moment, they would have to pay $10 to broadcast that song once.

> So WERS has quit webcasting but it raises a more serious question: where does that money go? Having read some literature from the Copyright Office, it seems to me to go to the RIAA. I hope I am wrong. This is a federal tax on radio stations that play music by independant artists like myself, and not a penny goes to ASCAP, BMI or SESAC to be distributed to the songwriters and copyright holders. Why is that?

> Additionally, I understand that on April 23rd, representatives from the RIAA asked the Appropriations Committee for funding to prosecute copyright-related crimes. I am shocked that somehow our government has decided that the RIAA represents all songwriters in this country. Unlike ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, a songwriter cannot elect to join the RIAA to benefit from their profits it is a collection of private companies. It seems that any suits on their part should stay private.

> Finally it is upsetting to read about HR2281 the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Hollings Bill or the Consumer Broadband and Digital TV Promotion Act. These acts would restrict innovation and invention and make the software that I use to record and encode my own songs at home illegal.

> As a songwriter and performer who relies upon the digital realm to distribute my music, I am firmly against legislation and regulation aimed at curtailing what I consider my freedom of speech. I am further infuriated by the RIAA's urging that fees paid by distributors and broadcasters of music be increased without any intention to pay the independent artists who supply a significant amount of that music.

> I don't know if you are involved in any of these proceedings. But you are my representative so I am writing you first. I don't do a lot of this. I hope I have expressed myself appropriately and clearly.

> Sincerely,

> Jim Infantino
> Brighton, MA

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