Music

A Matter of Trust (and Technology and Legal Knots and Business Models and...)

Introduction by Justin Cober-Lake - PopMatters writers take a look at the new technology and techniques designed to prevent you from copying the music on your CDs. Is it fair? Is it right?

Recent developments in technology have made an amazing amount of legal, illegal, and questionable activities possible for music fans. As always, the new technology has been liberating to some, frightening to others, and confusing to nearly all. As the music industry, consumers, lawyers, and just about everyone else grapple with the new abilities to copy, send, and work with music, record labels are putting out an increasing number of CDs containing technology to limit access to the music. Amid the lawsuits, piracy, and debate, PopMatters thought it was time to chime in. Here we present views from an analytical specialist, a frustrated writer/consumer, and a pissed-off whore.

As music critics, we've come across nearly every method yet thought of, from discs that won't play on computers, to artists speaking over their own songs, to legal threats from record companies. I once received an unsolicited CD that came with several requests from the label. First, the label asked me (in legal terms, said that by opening the envelope, I had agreed to certain conditions) not to play the disc on a computer. Then, I was asked not to play it where anyone else could hear it. So, given that I can't play it in my study where I write, or in the living room where others would hear, I did the only suitable thing and didn't listen at all. But odd requests from labels are one thing; having technology that prevents full use of a CD you buy is another, and that's more to the point of what we're concerned with in this section.

Richard Meltzer thought pretty much all music critics were whores, and I won't deny enjoying the freebies. Terry Sawyer takes a look at the relationship between labels and writers, and the changing (developing?) conditions. New concerns about copyright are changing what record companies expect, demand, and enforce on writers. In, well, pretty clear language, he lets us know what he thinks about the situation. It's a strange situation, and one that sends its ripples throughout the music world.

Before you think this section is about music writers complaining about their freebies, Andrew Gilstrap writes as a consumer. After his computer had been hijacked, he'd had enough, and he wants record companies to know exactly what they're doing to consumers. By using annoying -- or even insidious -- programming on their products, labels harm the already strained relationship with their customer base. Gilstrap acknowledges that musicians should be paid for their art; he just wants a less troubling, more honest process.

To start us off, though, we wanted a more restrained look from the other side of the debate (or at least the middle ground), so we asked Sam Mamudi, an expert in copyright issues and digital rights management, to provide his input. Through his investigations into the matter and conversations with legal specialists, he gets at the heart of the paradigm gap between labels and consumers. While acknowledging the complications of the copyright technology, he also sees that it could be used to strike a balance between maintaining artistic ownership and allowing fair use.

Whatever our roles might be -- consumer, whore, lawyer, label, etc. -- in the end, most of us are just fans trying to listen to music, and that's why our concerns are so important. I know it's a bit naïve for me to feel this way, but it's frustrating when commercial and legal complications interfere with my true enjoyment of one of my great passions. I want the artists to make a living (see any of my recent credit card statements for proof), but I want to keep the experience as pure as possible. Everyone has a stake in copyright issues and digital rights management issues, and we need to find a way to get through these concerns. So here's PopMatters' offering toward that conversation.

   — Justin Cober-Lake, PopMatters Music Special Sections Editor

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image