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
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: <www.microsoft.com/netshow/>
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
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
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
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.
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.
Item! The FezMessage has been modified! Go to
<http://www.fezguys.com/> 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.
From: Dan Marshall <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
Uh...thanks! The FezGuys
May the Fez be with you!
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We welcome your comments.