Monday, February 15, 2010

#musicblogocide 1

After writing this piece in 2008 about a previous wave of takedowns of music blogs by Blogger(google), things seemed to die down. Many bloggers moved their sites to other hosts, others did not. Music blogs continued being an amazing resource and site of musical engagement for thousands of people, but perhaps some were slightly chastened by the possibility of their work (collecting, juxtaposing, commenting, analyzing, reporting and transmitting), or maybe we should call it their sites for public engagement with music, vanishing, often without warning.

And then it seemed to all start up again last week. I noticed it because one of my favorite sites, Masalacism, vanished as I was reading it.

Masalacism is a perfect example of music-making, in that the blog is part of the conditions for my favorite music, it creates the possibility of audience for/creation of music variously rooted in geographically and socially distant scenes.

I'm talking about music as a social practice, not music as a recording or a particular moment frozen in time or on paper. Masalacism makes music involving actors from all over the world, it draws them together and opens lines of communication between people, places, scenes, who might not get to know of each other in any other way.  This is some of the best music-making there is, in my opinion. I love the specific &local, juxtaposed with other specific & local, to make a kind of conversation between localities and experiences, when music does this well, it also does this for the bodies &minds of people involved, bringing them into conversation or dance with each other, physically or mentally or both. Which is part of saving the world, kind of, or at least getting us there.

So anyway, Masalacism went down, alongside many other blogs, many of whom explicitly said they were attempting to follow the mostly-idiotic legal rules. And this in the face of record labels at least contradicting themselves and at most lying outright about whether they were giving with one hand and suing with the other. And now it is back up! With an apology from google, no less.

but even so, this isn't a sign that the system works. The problem here isn't google so much as it is the law, specifically the DMCA, which puts google at risk of huge lawsuits if it doesn't mess with music bloggers, basically, and puts the burden on bloggers to file counternotices when the law might not back them up.

Two things come to mind today:

1) not the ridiculousness of intellectual property, but in fact the importance of physical property. Yes, the law should be changed to allow broader public, artistic and literary engagement with intellectual property (and limiting IP's scope explicitly), but it also would help to have our own servers and ISPs, no? spread out the lines of defense some.

2) what most music bloggers I read favor over threats & counternotices, is real human interaction with artists. Many folk put up "if you have a problem with this song being up here, let me know and I'll take it down." What I like about this is that it puts the burden on copyright owners to engage with the very people they are supposedly trying to reach - the people who engage with the copyrighted stuff. That engagement is necessary for all kinds of reasons, but especially because it reinforces the social nature of music. We're not talking about an object in any meaningful sense, we are talking about recordings which are elements of a total musical experience which involves playing, listening, singing along and dancing, thinking about, remembering, talking about, repeating, etc etc etc. So conversations about what happens with recordings contribute to the meaningfulness of the musical experience.

Of course the problem is that most copyright holders aren't human, they are corporations. The Future of Music Coalition attempts to address this in its discussion of principles for compensation, in which they assume that there is something beyond copyright law that should give artists some rights with respect to some works they contribute to. I'm not sure what that something is, but there is also something out there that should give the public (including artists) some right to engage in an active way with the music they encounter (to say nothing of the music that is shoved down our throats by advertising, commercial radio, etc). Many music bloggers recognize both sides of this. The law should as well. But in the meantime, the law of physical property, or just flat out physical control, of servers might be a good option to look into...

>>edited to add, some other good discussion of this at
http://the1709blog.blogspot.com/2010/02/net-fury-as-google-deletes-music-blogs.html
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100210/1454048115.shtml
http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/feb/11/google-deletes-music-blogs
(with great quotes from Masalacism blogger himself!)
http://songbytoad.com/2010/02/owning-information-and-terminating-debate/

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