Joey Ramone? Yes, I’ll buy it.

It looks like there’s a second posthumous album coming out from Joey Ramone. It’s called, Ya Know? and it’ll be out in May 15th. Yes, I’ll buy it. 

 

Representative Karen Bass: No.

Well what do we have here? My representative in the United States House of Representatives finally got back to me after I called and emailed regarding her support of SOPA and the fact that I am extremely disappointed in the fact that she is representing the the interests of the MPAA and RIAA above those of her actual constituents. Given the amount of backpedaling the supporters of PIPA and SOPA are doing right now, I thought maybe she had decided to follow suit, or at least share her desire to amend the bill to help assuage the fears of those who actually understand how the internet works. 

Nope.

Dear Mikael Mossberg,

Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261). I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

As you may know, the bill was introduced in the House on November 16, 2011 and has since been referred to the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet where it awaits further action. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) aims to protect content producers by punishing web companies which host unauthorized copyrighted content such as movies, songs, or software and allows content producers to stop these sites from illegally distributing their content. Current law has only allowed legal action to be taken against sites that are hosted within the United States, and this bill would expand the law to prevent foreign-hosted websites from also infringing on the intellectual property rights of content producers.

Job creation is a high priority of mine and it is certainly vital to the stimulation of our economy. The Stop Online Piracy Act will work to ensure that industries are able to continue to create jobs and provide steady paying wages for content producers. It seeks to ensure that content producers and law enforcement have the necessary tools to protect intellectual property from counterfeiting and online piracy.

California’s 33rd Congressional District is home to numerous film and music industries and rest assured that while I am committed to maintaining civil liberties and access to information for all, I am sensitive to the copyright challenges facing the creative community. I will continue to keep your views in mind as the bill is furthered developed and discussed in Congress.

Thank you again for writing. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of any further assistance. If you would like to learn more about my position on other issues important to the 33rd district, please visit my website at karenbass.house.gov or sign up for my e-newsletter.

Sincerely,

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass
Member of Congress


You almost have to admire the audacity it requires to claim that these bills would boost job creation while potentially shutting down the biggest websites on earth.

Protecting intellectual property doesn’t have to come at the price of a free internet. Most of the world seems to be able to grasp that concept, why can’t Congress? 

What it means when the RIAA is caught pirating

I was clicking around on my internets this morning when I saw this interesting headline: 

The RIAA Pirated $9 Million Worth of TV Shows

This should make for a funny article, I thought. Surely some witty blogger has come up with a clever way of spinning words to imply that the RIAA has been pirating TV shows.

Nope. ಠ_ಠ

According to TorrentFreak.com:

After carefully checking all the IP-addresses of the RIAA we found 6 unique addresses from where copyrighted material was shared. Aside from recent music albums from Jay-Z and Kanye West – which may have been downloaded for research purposes – RIAA staff also pirated the first five seasons of Dexter, an episode of Law and Order SVU, and a pirated audio converter and MP3 tagger.

Further investigation showed that people within the Department of Homeland Security, Sony, Universal, Fox, and even people within the office of French President Sarkozy have been pirating content.

The story here goes beyond the excitement of sticking it to the RIAA and the federal government for doing exactly what it is so aggressively attempting to eliminate. It highlights something that normal users of the internet know, but anti-piracy lobbyists and members of the government seem to either miss or ignore: piracy is not just perpetrated by shadowy “rogue sites.” EVERYONE has done it or is doing it.

The thing is, if the RIAA can’t even create an anti-piracy culture within its own ranks, how can they justify pushing for extremely broad and aggressive measures that will change the way the entire internet works? If the RIAA can’t fight the battle at home, they certainly can’t fight it out here. 

Read the full torrentfreak.com article here

SOPA, and why it’s really scary, even for the US

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few months, you are at least vaguely aware of what is going on in the House Judiciary Committee today. SOPA, or Stop Online Piracy Act (catchy name, right?), is being marked up today after the first hearing was held in mid-November.

Here’s the Cliffs Notes if you aren’t caught up:

  • The Department of Justice and copyright holders can seek court orders against sites hosting or facilitating infringement of intellectual property.
  • Advertisers and payment sites (think Paypal) could be blocked from doing business with sites who host or facilitate infringement of intellectual property.
  • Search engines can be forced to remove infringing sites from their search results.
  • Unauthorized streaming of infringing content will become a felony.

If this was all about taking steps to fight piracy online, that would be one thing. There’s certainly a case that can be made supporting the defense of intellectual property. Musicians and filmmakers should certainly be paid for what they create. Unfortunately, SOPA aims to undermine one of the provisions of DMCA (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) that provides safe harbors for sites that act in good faith to remove infringing content. As it stands now, if Universal tells YouTube that someone has uploaded one of their TV shows, YouTube has the option to remove the content before Universal can directly sue YouTube. 

If you own a website considered to be infringing, the DOJ can bar any payment sites from working with you so you can’t take any payments from your users, and they can block advertisers from running ads on your site, so you lose your ad revenue. Essentially, they can completely shut down your business in two seconds flat if you are considered to be even facilitating the infringement of IP. 

Websites can be completely removed from search results. They can make it so people can’t find you. To do that, ISP’s would be forced to monitor and store all user online history in order to keep you from going to the infringing sites. If those sites are hosted in the United States, they can be brought down. If they’re hosted internationally, they can be blocked. 

Here’s the fun one: if you stream or download an episode from a TV show illegally, you are now a felon. To put that in context, here’s a fun list of other felonies in the United States: Murder, Rape, Aggravated Assault, Battery, Arson, Robbery, Burglary, Making or selling drugs, Grand Theft, Vandalism of federal property.

So we’re clear, driving a car drunk is a misdemeanor unless someone gets hurt because of you. If SOPA passes, Under United States law, clicking play on a video or song that has been illegally uploaded could be classified as more severe than driving a car drunk. Extreme example? Absolutely. Impossible, given the current language in the bill? Not at all. 

Publicly, proponents of the bill have said that it will specifically target sites dedicated to copyright infringements like The Pirate Bay, and that sites that host user content like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter will all be fine. The thing is, the bill itself doesn’t say anything about that. It’s actually impressively vague about that. That leaves the bill open to all kinds of loop holes for people enforcing it. If it passes as is, there’s nothing in the bill that could stop the DOJ from going after sites that host user generated content.

So much can be said about this bill and why it’s scary, but the main thing is this: it was written by people who don’t understand the internet and how it works. They don’t understand what causes growth and what allows ideas to spread. They aim to criminalize some of the same things that have made some of the biggest and most influential sites and ideas possible.

This will be a tool available to those who aim to end free speech. Sites like Wikileaks will be blotted out. Flickr and Vimeo could easily go too. Etsy, Zazzle, Cafepress could be brought down in two simple steps. Grooveshark, Soundcloud, even Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, are all potential targets.

Help fight back by adding your name to the petition at boldprogressives.org. There are resources available to put you in contact with your representatives, along with all of the information you need. 

Since you’re here, why not stay a while?

On my fancy About page I touched on something that’s at the core of how I approach every new campaign with art online: honesty and clarity. Since this is the first post of hopefully many posts on my new blog, why not start at the start.

Your fans want to spend money on you, that’s why they’re your fans. Treat them respectfully and honestly, be open, be clear, listen, and most importantly, be fun. 

I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. Your fans have opted in to hearing from you online, what they are hoping for every time is information, entertainment, and simplicity.

It sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised at how often one of, or all of these pieces are ignored by “digital marketers.” All too often, and this is the case with band campaigns, the vast majority of the information pushed out to the fans is about what to buy or click. I’ve heard this tactic defended so many different times, so many different ways, but let’s be clear. If this is how you talk to your fans, you’re doing it wrong.

Doing It Wrong:

1. One Way Conversation
Have a Facebook page? Can fans post to your wall? No? You’re busted, go to the penalty box. It always blows my minds when people use social networks to be the opposite of social. There is such a huge opportunity available with services like Facebook and Twitter for bands to talk to their fans. About ANYTHING. Ask your fans questions. Answer theirs. Let them use your wall as a community to talk to other fans. Conversation online should be just that, conversation. If all you ever do is post about how your fans should click this, watch that, read now, then you’re on a stage shouting at them with a bullhorn. Nobody likes that. Don’t be that guy. 

2. Lying/Keeping Quiet
Did you fuck something up? Is there something big happening with the project? If it’s been more than a few hours since it happened and you haven’t been open with your fans about it online, you’re making it worse. I’m talking about a band member leaving, a breakup, music leaking, problems with ticket sales, or anything that is going to get the fans all worked up. Fans who congregate online will always dig for more information. Not giving it to them directly and leaving them to speculate on their own about what’s going on will always lead to crazy drama, extreme anger, and a pretty painful period of hatred spewed in your direction.

Remember the last LCD Soundsystem show at Madison Square Garden and how 1,500 tickets magically appeared at the last minute? They told everyone it was because they got rid of some big cameras. What do you think their fans thought of that? Read the comments. Pretty bad way to go out. 

Then there was that time Bruce Springsteen fans were re-directed to a ticket reseller with marked up tickets when fans tried to buy tickets from Ticketmaster. Know how Ticketmaster dealt with that? After days (maybe a week?) the CEO of Ticketmaster blamed it on a glitch in their billing system.

3. Not Listening
Who could forget Netflix and the recent string of blindingly bad PR moves where they raised their prices, broke their company in half, then took it all back sheepishly. This is a perfect example of how to be bad at listening, and how to be dishonest all at once. Combo move! Instead of telling users why they were upping prices (my guess is getting all of that new content is getting expensive as hell for them), they said they were presenting a great value after requiring fans to hold two subscriptions rather than one and doubling the cost. Instead of talking to fans about what they loved about the service before deciding to create their DVD only side company with the BEST name ever, Qwikster, they just went with it. Result? Everyone freaked out, they looked ridiculous, and the CEO Reed Hastings had to do his best impression of the BP “We’re Sorry” video via blog. 

As if the internet had heard me, there’s a great AskReddit up right now about Netflix. This is just by a fan I think, but this is exactly what Netflix should be doing and thinking about when making big decisions about the service.

Now that we’ve gone over how to do it wrong, let’s talk about how to do it right. It’s simple, and actually it’s a lot easier than doing it wrong, which is what I always find so simultaneously confusing and amusing about people who do.

Doing It Right:

1. Talking To Your Fans:
Does everything have to be huge and monumental when it comes to talking to your fans? No way, it could be as simple as answering questions on Twitter or Facebook. The key is making sure your fans know you’re listening and present, and that you care. I apologize ahead of time to linking to Perez Hilton, but I did a search for this particular thing and the best I could find was this post. When Lady GaGa’s fans made her a birthday message, she immediately logged onto their chat room and wrote back to them saying thank you and telling them about the new album. She does stuff like this constantly, and it’s a huge part of the reason she is so successful. She has hordes of diehard fans that she treats well.

2. Honesty and Immediacy:
When My Chemical Romance’s replacement drummer, Mike Pedicone, left the band, fans immediately knew something bad went down. The band knew that if they kept quiet, fans would freak out and rumors would start spinning out of control, so they got on their blog and told people what happened. They went straight to their fans first. They told the whole truth. They didn’t lie and say they had parted ways after a lot of legal discussion in the background. Instead of the fan community exploding in a flurry of posts about how the band can never hold on to drummers, or speculating about impending doom, they had the facts, and they felt respected. Best possible outcome to a shitty situation.

3. Be fun:
This one seems to be a real challenge for a lot of bands. I can’t tell you how many band profiles are boring posts about reviews or things on sale, one after the other. It’s not that hard for you, and it’s awesome for fans. Easy and simple example: Mastodon’s cover contest. Seen these things a million times before, and fans really enjoy them because it gives them a chance to a) win something rad and b) interact with the band and the music that they like, and of course c) get a little famous in the fan community. 

I hope that’s the longest post I ever write, because it took way too much time.

TL;DR: If you want to have an impact online, be honest, clear, and fun. Listen to people. Don’t be a dick.

Thanks!