The FezGuys
Farm Animals And The Law
[ No. 7 - May 1997 ]

Things That Are New

Nothing. Absolutely nothing happened this month. The development of the World Wide Web has come to a complete standstill. OK. That's not true. LiquidAudio announced a technology partnership with Progressive Networks to support the RealMedia architecture; an open standard for delivering multimedia content over the Internet. It's a cool thing to have two companies that some perceive as competitors working together to standardize and improve the way multimedia content is streamed.

We FezGuys were happy to learn that Microsoft, in the process of developing NetShow (their new multimedia streaming system), has not spent the entire annual budgets of several Caribbean nation-states on proprietary audio and video codecs. They have been kind enough to ride the horse in the direction it's going and, miraculously, haven't ignored the open standards. Intel, VDOnet, MPEG, JPEG and many other codecs are represented and, in a seeming fit of tyrannical benevolence, they have actually solicited for recommendations from the hoi polloi as to which codecs they(MS) might have overlooked. Surprisingly enough, this is happening at the same time that Microsoft's browser (Internet Exporer) is going to be relesesed for UNIX. Does this signal a kinder and gentler turn for the lurching software behemoth? Or maybe an attack of common sense? For more useful information go to: <>

What else is new? Sophisticated marketing campaigns. Watch this space. Most streaming media technology companies are busy improving the backend (the server-end as opposed to the client interface) and thereby creating more stable versions of existing applications.

Now for a little straight talk on an extremely curvaceous subject. The Law. We're going to give you a glancing overview of some of the publishing and copyright issues as they relate to your music on the Web. You have the same rights as a participant (producer, enducer, etc...) in the World Wide Web that you have as a participant in the traditional world. How can you protect yourself from someone stealing your stuff and making money on it? First, we define our terminology.

Copyright: The legal right to exclusive publication, sale, or distribution of music.

Publishing royalties: Whoever gets paid (receives "royalties") for the legal right to use of the music in any medium is said to own the "publishing."

Writing royalties: Whoever is being credited with authorship of the music is said to be the "writer," and stands to receive royalties.

Mechanical royalties: Relates to the sale of (and profit from) actual physical product.

It is accepted wisdom that the last thing the artist does, if they do it at all, is legally protect their work. Who in their right mind wants to leap headfirst into the awful, stilted language of the Law? So let's get wrong for a second and go against our nature. What's the point, you ask? Why should you care? Well... you want to quit your day job, don't you? So. Get up and out of bed. Never mind about the soup. It's Spring. Make some coffee. It's time to copyright. It's past time.

The procedure for web content copyright is identical to the procedures used in the traditional world. These are well known. If the decoding of these procedures seems a daunting and labyrinthine task just remember these wise words first heard by the FezGuys while being bounced on the laps of our FezFathers: "The way to eat an elephant is in small bites."

Not to burst any bubbles, but being legally signed, sealed and delivered is no guarantee against theft. Contracts and legal documents are essentially magic spells that, merely by their existence, tend to head off the likehood of conflict. "An ounce of preparation, etc..." For more tangible protection LiquidAudio and Waking Dreams' SoundStream are designing software to do file identification. This is called: "watermarking." In the event that you are ripped off this technology allows for identifying the files' owner. This is particularly useful if you suddenly find that your amazing new song was purchased online by one person who gave it (for free!) to two friends, who gave it to two friends, and so on and so on. Watermarking also tends to include some protection which prevents the sound file from being played on a computer other than the one owned by the buyer. This is the new age of protecting your song in this strange emerging world.

At this point, you are likely considering that all-important question: How can YOU make money on it? For the answer to this question, we're going to defer you to a future FezGuys column in which we will discuss some of the current ways to sell your music online. Think of it as another month to prepare your songs for placement on the Web.

Sites That Integrate Audio In A Cool Way

A couple of sites to check out for cool integration of audio within a story:


It's common knowledge that the most succesful (in terms of buying and selling) contemporary pop music is at least partially (and, more often than not, completely) derivative. A precedence exists for the apparent necessity of some frame of reference for popular acceptance. Enthusiastic embracing of groundbreaking new music by hordes of people tends to come only with that slight tweaking of the accepted language. That little tweak that makes your stuff different; but not too different. The business of popular music has a very thin envelope which purports to welcome pushing but only by a small amount and only into recognizeable shapes.

So, because of this derivative aspect, there will be some plagiarism of existing material. The word plagiarism comes from the Latin "plagiarius" (to plunder). It's natural. Humans have been doing it since the beginning. But in the jurisprudence of artists rights either you wrote it, or you didn't. It's black and white. But can you prove it? Funny how if someone steals our stuff and uses it on a very small scale it's a compliment and even a little amusing. But if that same person steals our stuff and makes big money on it... well that's different. When it comes to music and musicians, there are many shades of gray. In some communities this plundering is a validation. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, etc... Tapers (those who record live shows and trade them throughout a complex and far-reaching network) at a show are seen by some artists as a thumbs-up for their work. Of course they are also seen by some music business employees as the Wicked Witch of the West - the personification of pure evil. Whichever path you take remember to make good music.

Fez Item!

Item! The FezMessage has been modified! Go to <> and click on the text to hear the new set of urgently important instructions! Go! Go now! Hurry!

You should realize that this is a new (and for the most part untested) frontier for music rights. There have yet to be those first landmark courtroom dramas which will set the standard for the specific ways the law looks upon online rights. Take a few moments every few months to update yourself on important developments, and you'll be in good shape to relax with your mug of soup or cup of coffee while others scramble around like chickens with their legal rights cut off. We've included some online sites you can (and should) check out below.

List of Resources for Musical Copyright Law:
<> The United States Copyright Office of The Library of Congress. The Government. They're here to help you.
<> A very practical Q&A series. Recommended.
Letters To The FezGuys

From: Dan Marshall <>
Subject: Leftbrain vs. Rightbrain

Dear Fezguys: I just read your latest article, IWTAATRAAUTIT, which you described as: "The first portion is sociological rant. The second is what may turn out to be useful information." So, if I thought that the first part was useful, does this make me a sick-and-twisted individual? I think this article was the best yet, in the way it was balanced. Thanks for all the great info. I plan on *actually using* it soon, too. Once I pull my fez out of my ass. - Dan

Dear Dan:

Uh...thanks! The FezGuys

May the Fez be with you!

Please check out the FezGuys website: <>

We welcome your comments.



About the authors:

Jon Luini is a working technophile, a musician (bass player/singer) with full-blown facility and extensive experience on the Web and no free time. He is a co-founder of IUMA and MediaCast, co-creator of Addicted To Noise, and runs an Internet and music consulting and technology company, Chime Interactive (formerly Evolve Internet Solutions). <>

Allen Whitman is a working musician (bass player/singer/producer) with a keen, real-world interest in the practical use of the Web. Music credits include: The Mermen, "Brine-The Antisurf Soundtrack, biL, Deep Field South, Doormouse, Delectric and Drizzoletto. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, Wired, EQ, Revolution, Yahoo Internet Life, Prosound News, Surround Professional, Replication News and others. <>

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