Archive | October, 2003

Fellow WEFTie and IP-geek Quoted in Village Voice

My pal, J.B. Nicholson-Owens, got quoted in a Village Voice article about how intellectual property activists are pushing Howard Dean to take a stance against such atrocities as the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and the Sony Bono Copyright extension.

J. posted a comment to Larry Lessig’s blog when Dean was guest-blogger back in July and had been posed questions about intellectual property:

“Dean had the opportunity to research something related to copyright issues before coming here. I see little (if any) evidence he did that. To me this comes off as profoundly disrespectful of the audience. During the (mostly one-way) discussion, he had time to compose a response that would give us some inkling of what he was thinking on any copyright-related issue (which is the main topic on this blog).”

J. has a show on WEFT Community Radio, where the mediageek radio show originates, called Digital Citizen. It’s a great two-hour biweekly round-up of issues in intellectual property and civil liberties. His next show is tonight at 8 PM — you should tune in if you’re in the Champaign, IL area. I keep hoping J. will get a website together and post archives of his show — in ogg vorbis format, of course.

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San Francisco Chronicle Reports on SF Liberation Radio Raid

The Chronicle’s report is surprisingly fair and gives plenty of space to SFLR volunteers and listeners. Perhaps that’s because the FCC declined to comment, giving up its opportunity to smear SFLR.

Still, there’s few details about the raid itself, nor the force and tactics used. John at reports that the federal marshalls used a battering ram, and at first raided the wrong apartment in the building housing the station. He also notes that Freak Radio Santa Cruz, about 70 miles south of SF, “is on heightened alert for an FCC incursion, as it shares similar circumstances.”

All of SFLR’s equipment has been seized.

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San Francisco Liberation Radio Raided by FCC

I was speaking with a volunteer from Radio Free Brattleboro, arranging an interview for Friday’s radioshow, when she asked if I had heard about San Francisco Liberation Radio getting shut down — and I hadn’t. She didn’t have any more details, so right after talking with her I went to San Francisco IMC, which has just a very sketchy report:

Around 11am, upwards of 25 FCC agents, federal marshalls and the SFPD brought a warrant to the studio of San Francisco Liberation Radio, the micropower radio station that has broadcast in SF since 1993. Reports have stated that no arrests have been made, though the station’s equipment and antenna have been seized.

According to a phone call received by Freak Radio Santa Cruz from someone saying she was at SFLR, the raid happened sometime around noon today, Pacific time.

The FCC last visited SFLR on July 2, when two agents approached the station, but were denied entry, since they didn’t have a warrant. According to the stations’s website, the two FCC agents

hand-delivered a “notice of unlicensed radio operation.” The warning noted, “You refused to allow an inspection of your radio equipment in violation of Sections of the Communications act of 1934. You don’t have a license at the time of inspection. Operation without a license is illegal … Radio stations must be licensed the only exceptions are stations below 1 MHz.”

The station was given until July 20 to present a “proof of a license or authority to operate this radio station.”

Then in August, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of a resolution in support of SFLR, urging the FCC to leave it alone, and further urging

“state and local law enforcement officials to refrain from involvement in activities that prevent San Francisco Liberation Radio 93.7 FM and other diverse local media from providing healthy democratic local media in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

According to the phonecall made to Freak Radio Santa Cruz, SFLR was raided by twenty-five federal marshalls. No mention was made about local San Francisco police, although SFPD were reported to be on scene by the short notice posted to SF IMC. So we really don’t yet know if they abided by the Board of Supervisor’s admonishment not to assist the FCC in shutting the station down.

When agents visited SFLR in July, their warning letter gave a deadline of July 20, which is almost three months ago. So, obviously, the FCC isn’t adhering strictly to these deadlines, but nonetheless is following up with force.

Radio Free Brattleboro got a similar warning from the FCC in early September, with a letter threatening to come back with federal marshalls to conduct a raid in ten days from the visit. About six weeks later, the FCC hasn’t been back. Given the delay with both RFB and SFLR, it makes one wonder if the FCC isn’t gearing up to make a wave of busts.

SFLR has been on the air in one form or another for about ten years, so this is truly sad news for the city of San Francisco, and for all of us who care about grassroots communications. It may also be another warning that the FCC is still taking its war on non-commercial community media seriously.

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Why So Quiet? Another Emusic Tidbit

Aside from the blogosphere, there’s an amazing silence in the tech press about the Emusic acquisition. I find that awfully curious given the amount of press the troubles of the music industry garners on a daily basis, including the recent roll-out of Napster 2.0 and the forthcoming iTunes for PC. I really must ask, why doesn’t anyone in the mainstream press want to look under the hood of Emusic’s new masters deciding to alienate its entire customer base?

And, the real question: Who benefits?

Most of the data about Emusic and what some of the company’s problems might be seems to be trickling in from former employees sharing info on comment boards. Here’s another tidbit I picked up from the comments to a post by someone called “GB” on Dan Gillmor’s eJournal:

“I used to work at EMusic, until Spring 02. The problem was that certain people would write scripts and bots to download everything in the catalog. Or, they methodically clicked on every ‘download’ link on the site and got everything they could. Due to royalty structures worked out with the labels, each song download incurred a small payment from EMusic to the label. The $9.95 a month was fine to cover an average amount per month, but the heavy downloaders snarfing down tens of thousands of songs a month broke the business model.

“Marketing had decided that ‘Unlimited’ was the name of the program and how it had to stay. There would not have been a problem had they called it EMusic Platinum or something. When I was there they were considering download throttles or other technical means to prevent excessive downloading, but I don’t think anything came of it.

“I still believe in the business model and they’re a good bunch of people.

“I am not currently an EMusic member or employed by EMusic.”

And let me note that for myself, if Emusic had approached me, as a subscriber, and said due to these sorts of hoarding problems we’re going to have limit you to, say, 500, or even 250 mp3s a month, I’d have probably said, OK.

There’s a lot of room between unlimited (in actuality, 2000) and 40, and the fact that Emusic’s new management chose such a low limit to force on its customers indicates to me that they aren’t really committed to the model, and more likely need a neat excuse to kill it off.

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A Little More Info on the Emusic Sale

Now that it’s several days after the Emusic sale announcement, their servers have been jammed, and getting any mp3s downloaded has been a challenge. Just like me, it appears that current Emusic subscribers are busy hoarding all the mp3s they can before the new limits kick in. Of course, that also clogs the Emusic bandwidth…

But I also wonder if Emusic hasn’t throttled things back, too. At this point, they have no incentive to provide good service to the bulk of downloading subscribers who are going to quit before the Nov. 8 deadline anyway.

There has been a dearth of real information about the Emusic sale, and even less about the holdings company, Dimensional Associates, that bought Emusic. Luckily, mediageek readers have left some enlightening comments.

jadeleary informs us that

“Dimensional Associates’ other holdings include The Orchard…”
Great. The Orchard is the company that sold music to without artist consent. It was all over web news a few months back. Bodes real well for the future…

Indeed, I found that Mac News Network reported on the BuyMusic situation back in July, quoting an artist who saw her music sold on BuyMusic without permission:

” I did a search for one of my old CD’s that will be going onto iTunes and It turns out my CD was there on … (which I will refer to as BM) got their “vast” music library of 300,000 plus songs from a company called the Orchard. The Orchard is a distribution company that has consistently shafted artists by not paying them for CD’s sold nor returning unsold CD’s or canceling contracts. So, without the express consent of what is likely all of the Orchards catalog, BM has put it up for sale at the bargain price of $.79 a song. … what they don’t tell you is that it comes from musicians/bands that were not asked for permission, and who will likely not see a penny of any sale made through BM. By their very own site policy they are committing copyright infringement.

If I were one of the independent labels currently distributed on Emusic, this bit of information would give me some cause for concern.

Another commenter named crofti says he worked for Vivendi Universal for three years before getting laid off. He notes that

“EMusic, GetMusic,, and are all owned by Vivendi Universal and located in San Diego, CA. [They’re] all going down and being sold off, they have been for over a year now. Has nothing to do with the merger of NBC and VU. VU has been trying to sell those things off for a long time now, nobody wants them.”

Well, at least Dimensional Associates wants Emusic, but the question still remains: Why? And what will they do with it?

Oh, and I have to note that my recent posts about the Emusic situation and Rush Limbaugh’s drug problem have brought in an usually high amount of traffic to the ‘geek, mostly from search engines. (gotta love how Google gives rank to link-rich sites, like blogs).

So, howdy to new mediageek readers, and I hope y’all come back now, ya hear?

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