Monday, June 27, 2005

looking on the brighter side

Skimming the decision, which I will go into more closely once I have more time, I think I agree with EFF's Fred Von Lohmann that it could have been worse.

The unanimity of the justices was acheived, I think, partly through softening the opinion - it focuses mostly on the idea of 'inducement' i.e. if you induce people to break teh law, you will be found liable.

the copyfighters have the summation up with some interetsing commentary

b ut it looks like the legal battles will not be over...

Supreme Ct: techies should read minds, be social engineers

MGM v. Grokster decided. unanimous. Against Grokster.

looks bad - if developers and inventors have to judge the possible later uses of their inventions before they are released.. reading minds? trying to predict how people will use it?

given the cool-ass history of artists (especially poor ones) re-purposing technology for their own creative aims .. plus the general history of most people doing that when it becomes easy for them to do so.. how could we really hold an inventor liable for what people do with their invention down the road?

I really want to get my hands on those mp3 mixers - would they have been invented if this decision had gone down a year ago? Would mp3 players? Would MP3 technology have been invented at all, in the unrestricted form we still (kind of) have it in?

check EFF for analysis soon.

shouldn't be suprised I guess..

My main frustration is that this decision transforms a possibly revolutionary (or at least balance-of-power-shifting) development into a tool only for subculture of elites and undergrounders.

I have no doubt that underground peeps will continue to develop and use new and interesting p2p technology, but the effect on the industry and on society of having it widely and cheaply (cheap also in terms of knowing how to find it and use it) available, available to fans, to your average person, will likely be muted. this means people's ability to usemusic can once again be dictated and defined by the owners of the industry.. unless it's too widespread to shift now (let's hope)!


Thursday, June 23, 2005

projects in the works

Just a quick one.. although a longer post is brewing..

I've got a few fun gigs coming up.
July 1 in Los Angeles, hopefully.. news is changing every week but SoCal people take note..
July 16th at the Elbo Room, in San Francisco

possibly another one in July at our local Kingman's Lucky Lounge - hear Ripley play a rocksteady, dub and glitch-hop/dancehall set!

and the other project will come out of the following thoughts.

My pal and colleague Wayne caught some ignorant flak recently for posting against homophobia, and also in support of Stacyanne Chin, poet, Jamaican, lesbian (other descriptigves abound), and on like issues... So much flak, and directed hostility, and violent terms... that it motivated several of us to move a bit faster on our similar thoughts.

In case there is doubt.. Ripley = not down with homophobia, gaybashing, in the reality or the lyrical content. Stupidness. And as a moment's thought should tell you - when violence against the targeted people is still so terribly common (and by no means am I only talking about Jamaica), then hostility and violent talk take on more power, and silence legitimates it.

Your ability to trust that silence about homophobia (or whichever hatred and threat of violence) means you'll be safe depends more on the privileges you have access to, like your distance from the target identity.

With respect to djing: if you like, you can go over the metaphor/literal issue, and the crosscultural questions only so many times before the "what atmosphere do I want to create, and for whom?" issue, and the "what do I personally not want to support?" issue comes up. I know I'm not the controller of events I play or of people's actions, but I am communicating an idea of the event and vibe I want to happen in the space. Anyone who knows ripley sounds knows I don't shy away from harsh or aggressive sounds, and I'm not one for dictating to people, especially about musical experience. But I'll speak against any attempt to align ripley sounds with this bullshit.

I've thought about it a lot in my choice of records, since I play a lotta dancehall and tunes that sample it. I try not to play songs that are exclusively "kill batty bwoy" songs, but it's hard to edit out the few lines or verses or exclamations in every song, so sometimes I don't (I know they go by too fast for most non-patois-speakers), or I try to cut away at crucial moments. But it's still an uneasy truce sometimes.

Atmospheres and environments can be hostile to people (obviously). Sometimes they may seem neutral, but that might just mean unrevealed - as many can tell you, just because you haven't heard someone make an ignorant, hostile or threatening statement doesn't mean they someone won't in the next moment. Silence doesn't communicate safety or support. This means folks who feel threatened may stay away, feel unsafe or that folks who are actively hostile feel they can behave as they like. None of this is a scene I want to support.

So I hope people continue to speak up. Don't support this gay-bashing, queer-fearing fuckery! there's real enemies out there, enemies with power, to work against.

Wayne and my and Kid K and many others' conversations on this overlapped with Dj C and in discussing a project Wayne and I are working on, DJ C motivated to set this up for y'all who want to buy it.. which fucking rules and is a nice counterpoint to the general chest-thumping atmosphere of shouty jungle.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Word from NY a few peeps who should know is that all charges were dropped in re: the Kim's raid.

Now the word is that the cops were after those who MANUFACTURE the mixtapes, who, I guess, are considered the real criminals. Or something.

Glad that folks aren't hurt or held, but still left wondering. As many folks are pointing out, mixtapes are indisputably usefulto music, and there's some discussion of the ways even the big label side of the industry makes use of them (leaking singles, even asking for better 'placement' of artists on the mixes, probably commissioning mixes to generate street cred), alongside many good points about their significance as low-risk alternate distribution, as sources of street credibility, as journalism/commentary on music in nonverbal forms, etc etc..

So going after manufacturers is still stupid. Still targeting mixtapes as if they harm anything except possibly people who want top-down control of all music and its presentation.. still a spit in the eye and a hammer to the hand of folks who make music alive.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

more on "artist rights" please

A nice and loaded phrase is raised in the comments. thanks for jumping in, and hello everybody.

"Artist's rights" - this is not a simple thing to understand.

To start with, most of the time, or much of the time, the artist is not the rights holder (see the Scientist lawsuit discussion below and elsewhere).

So violating copyright does not automatically mean artists rights are violated. Given how skewed-and-chopped most major label contracts are these days, I could suggest that copyright itself is a violation of artists rights - look at the effects of copyright for most artists in major label deals --since they are in no position to stick up for themselves in relation to their labels and get bullied or flim-flammed into terrible contracts where copyright law limits their ability to create and share, or even to use their own name.

So who are the artists, and what are the rights? Again, see the Scientist debate - is the dj who makes a mix an artist? Is the sound engineer or producer an artist? is the lyricist an artist? The performers? the authors of melodies? As I've said before, the definition of artist, and the ownership of rights in the legal sense, are the products of negotiation, and depend a lot on the kind of power you can bring to your side in negotiation.

And on the subject of rights.. this came up in a discussion elsewhere. A common statement by people (often those who have some experience with law or lawyers and how mind-bogglingly confusing and anti-intuuitive it is) is that they don't want to say much because they are not clear about the legal issues involved. In terms of giving legal advice in a practical quandary, this is spot on.

However, right now, that is not enough, not at all. The laws are changing, technology is changing, society has (as it always does) the potential to change and be changed... And so more generally it's dangerous to look to law to tell you what your rights are. (If you are in a particular legal dispute, yes indeed you need to know what the law says it gives you, but often even that is far from what you'll get, and in terms of broader debates, it's a recipe for handing over society to the ones doing best out of it now, which is generally not artists, to say the least). So. Law has a poor track record on defining and defending the rights of the less powerful - those rights have to be fought for in the law and maybe, eventually written into it.

It's important now for people to think seriously and playfully about what our rights are as creators, fans, listeners, members of ethnic, cultural and social groups, and as humans... the more so in this case because the law is not clear in itself. Any copyright lawyer will tell you that. It's all grey areas and arguments you can make depending on the judge, and the political climate, and the specifics. We need to be thinking bigger than this, especially if there are territories to be defended (or perhaps hidden) from law's slice-and-dice gaze.

So I'm for looking at who is involved, and thinking about who 'deserves' to get paid and for what, and thinking about how to make the law recognize or at least permit that in some way... a good first step would be expanding and clarifying the vocabulary around creativity, ownership, rights, blahblah.

Some specific points, though. First, the raid was over mixtapes, not DVDs.

I haven't said much about Kim's as a business, because that's not the point. The point is the law, or the pointlessness of the law. Or rather, the manipulation of the law and its ill-suitedness to dealing with culture.

And on the subject of mixtapes, I don't know about "cashing in," as was said about Kim's in the comments. As a business, they're going to be cashing in, that's what businesses do. But regardless of Kim's' motives, the presence of a trade in mixtapes provides a service to lots of artists and scenes. (and the motives of the people who stock them, buy them, and promote them, some of whom probably do work at Kim's are probably less capitalist, as many are incredibly creative and use their position to support all kinds of underground music making).

Anyway, it does helps djs and MCs when a place decides to sell mixtapes. Again, the MTV article has some good points (it hurts to say it) about mixtapes and hiphop. Again, I refer you to 50 Cent, love him or hate him or whatever else, but he's frickin huge and story is mixtapes helped put him there.. even the industry as it stands now benefits from the energy and experimentation possible in mixtapes. And I'm still not clear who or what they hurt.

All I can get from Buckles is "artist rights."

Friday, June 10, 2005

write the Times a letter re: the raid at Kim's

My fuller comments below.

I'd love to see some rabble rousing, public protest, and creative organized action about the way the RIAA seems to be able to raise more money and state support than any community action group, all to support their faltering market position and twisted concept of the role of the law in limiting people's musical engagement..

we need to start redefining the terms, the territory, and the relationships.

but to begin with, as Downhillbattle point out, a letter to the editor of the NY Times on the fact that the bust was over mixtapes, which are in fact the lifeblood/linchpin of hiphop, would be a good start. (if you don't want to sign up for membership, check for passwords at

RIAA vs. Kim's NYC - breaking news

According to word on the street, undercover cops bought a mixtape at Kim's Video (NYC, St. Mark's place) and then came back and raided the place. Rumors of arresting all on duty at the time.. managers included... I-Sound, should we be worried? - the NYTimes says yes. Apparently he was one of the ones taken away in cuffs. damn. Can the EFF get up in his defense? And anyway, wouldn't the employer be vicariiously liable for actions of employees? As far as I know that fits the definition of vicarious liability.. seems a bit harsh that the underlings (or even managers) should spend the night in jail (is that true?) if the store doesn't stop it and it makes the store money.. it's unofficial or official policy. Or is it supposed to be like those punk-ass pharmacists? Is the RIAA trying to instill a crisis of fear of conscience in record store employees (lotsa luck on that one): "no no, my conscience won't allow me to sell you that mixtape, even though it's on offer here in the store and you want to buy it."

MTV confirms

NY Times, later on the draw than MTV, points out that the police siezed: "nine computer towers, a CD burner, a laptop computer, 471 compact disks and 53 videos."

whose laptop was that, I wonder? and nine computer towers? that's a lot of information. What happens to the other, non-"piracy" related information on there? Is it still private or can they rummage through it all? Of course they can, and they will if they want to, but I wonder if after the fact legal action would have anything to say on that?

MTV quotes Brad Buckles, a man with a name like the protagonist of a TV show about a lovable dog, also "executive vice president of anti-piracy" for the RIAA :"The New York City Police Department's steadfast commitment to the fight against piracy has stamped out yet another significant illegal operation,"

Kim's may be significant in getting these mixtapes to a white population, which may in fact be significant in terms of marketing hiphop for big bucks, but I do doubt that this is really so significant or a center of the "urban" (as the article calls it) music industry.

Buckles continues "With actions such as these, New York City law enforcement continues to send a strong message to music pirates that this behavior simply will not be tolerated. Retailers who are making money on the backs of musicians and record companies by selling pirated CDs should know that this is absolutely no way to conduct a business."

What I want to know is, why doesn't lightning strike these people? This is why I can't watch the news, or our government officials talking. I'm a literal sort, when I'm not a literary sort or occasionally a symbolic sort, but either way I heat up when logic and consistency are spit on, even if it's no surprise.

A representative of the RIAA and the major labels saying that "making money on the backs of musicians" is no way to run a business."?

A capitalist saying making money on the backs of other people is no way to run a business? isn't that, actually, how you run a business, at the industry level?

Add to that, the tapes include 50 Cent tunes, a good example of an artist whom many credit with rising to popularity/notoreity through mixtapes, which, if places like Kim's didn't sell them, would not have propelled him to fame (assuming he wasn't just groomed by a crew of handlers, or at least not only groomed by a crew of handlers).

MTV makes a hint at honesty by linking to an article at the end, saying: "For a full-length feature on the role of mixtapes in the music industry, check out "Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry." Which is clearly the least you can say, that it is another industry, or another level of the existing industry. certainly more honest than whatever it is the RIAA is saying this week. Actually, the whole article is about the importance of mixtapes to finding new talent, to marketing, to "street cred," to whatever else you can think of. No mention in the article on these recent events that Kim's provides an important service to artists in getting that sound out.
I can't really speak for the hiphop, but Kim's is still crucial to supporting so many underground sounds, they provide an incredible (if surly) service to so many musicians who can't get heard or get their sound out elsewhere. I know so many artists who have walked in with their own records and sold a few to Kim's managers who have turned round and made'em available to wondering searchers.. that place gets karma points forever, and Buckles has the nerve to get all righteous about this shit? When will we all be able to collectively tell the RIAA to fuck right off and let us get along with living music?

the image of a crew of cops storming that dilapidated bunker and arresting its sullen genies...

man, in this day and age, threats of bio-warfare, terrorism from white supremacists and anti-abortionists from here as well as whoever else from abroad, and whatever the heck else NY has to worry about besides the impending petroleum shortage and falling into the rising oceans or drowning under a tide of garbage... anyway glad to see the police force is paid to carry out such key work that makes quality of life better for .. for who exactly?

Should I just be glad they're not killing unarmed black men, deporting arab folk, or busting up and abusing protestors?

no, no that's not enough. The backlash needs to start now. Artists, music lovers, this shit is got to stop.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Well the first two shows were pretty damn great. WAF salon felt like family - people I knew kept turning up. I started out warming up, just listening to my new dancehalll - then I looked up and there was an actual audience, so I think, oh, yeah; I better like DO something.

There are these tunes I`m really feeling right now, on is at about 125 bpm; one is at about 190 and one is at 100.. this is forcing me to contstruct my sets a bit different, to have a good flow and still fit in the sounds I want to fit in. It`s mostly quite a fun challenge..

There is a funny story in London of my quest to get new records. I think I told it twice in Berlin, but it already came back to me from a person I didn`t know; and then a funny post on a german weblog.. also a nice comment from the same person?

Thanks peeps for all your good words, it does mean a lot to me even if I don`t always know how to respond right away.

i feel like what I am trying to do is coming across more clearly these days, or more poetic and articulate people are commenting on it.

And Belgium.. Brussells.. wooooah... yes, about a hundred people still dancing at 2 on a wednesday; hell, around 50 still going at 5 when I tried to leave. The gig was part of a real art show, with some performances I`ll describe later.. I`m posting in the flat I came back to to pack up and turn around and go straight to the airport. I didn`t want to do this twice.. but later I`ll tell the silly story of how it happened.

Big up Droon and Sickboy and Mike Floyd (Transdub Massive) and Fotons and FoaM and Peace Off peeps and everyone else who rocked out! (I`ll make all that linked later)