transAtlantic iceFloe playing in March 2003

Took me 10 years to get around to editing this video, but here it is. This was one of my favorite shows that we did. Besides playing the awesome Crocodile again, we played with great bands (Charm Particles and Black Night Crash) and we did some of my favorite (to this day) songs. Hopefully, this stuff still stands up.

Server-based DRM solutions are hostile to consumers

I have a long history with DRM (Digital Rights Management): I worked on the Windows Media 7 Encoder team; I worked at two different internet video startups; and as the owner of record label, I experimented with some of the very first paid digital download solutions (all long lost to internet history at this point).

When I first learned about the DRM mechanism where the player would “phone home” periodically to make sure that you were still licensed to the content, I immediately realized that this was a really fragile way to license media. I’m not talking about subscription content (like Rhapsody), streaming media (like Hulu/YouTube/Flash Media Server) or rentals (like Amazon/iTunes rental), I’m talking about content that is purchased by the consumer. The issue is that there are 1000 ways that the user can lose access to their content without any ill intent on their part. This isn’t an issue if the licenser of their content is still in business and supporting the licensing mechanism. However, even large companies sunset their DRM technology support, screwing over their customers (see Google Video and Microsoft Plays For Sure for example). Depending on how onerous the original licensing scheme is and how it was implemented, buying a new computer, changing the hardware configuration, upgrading system software, the company dropping support for the DRM, the licensing company’s servers going down or just the user being without the internet can cause a user to lose access to the content that they paid for and legally own.

Maybe the user got some warning and could back up their content to some other format (if allowed by the licensing scheme, it often isn’t); but maybe they didn’t see or understand the warning. Then it is too late. Is it the consumer’s fault? No, it is never the consumer’s fault. They purchased digital content with the expectation of owning it forever, just like when they purchased their media as hard goods.

Onerous DRM has been put in place by media companies desperate to avoid piracy, but as it has been written about in so many other places, DRM makes more pirates than it avoids. It makes it more difficult for the people who want to get their content legally by adding roadblocks between them and their purchases and it doesn’t stop the pirates who avoid the whole thing. I wonder how many Plays For Sure customers went to an illegal site to re-download the content that they had already purchased when they lost access to it. I wonder if any of them felt like they were breaking the law at that point. I doubt it. They had paid for something and had been denied access to it. Maybe they were mad at Microsoft, but they were probably more mad at the record labels, because that was the product they purchased. Microsoft was just the store.

I was thinking about this again today when I went to purchase a song off of iTunes and found that Apple had lost my Apple ID. This was the Apple ID that I had spent years buying content from iTunes with. Sure, Apple has moved to make their music DRM free, but I haven’t completely updated my catalog yet, and there is a lot of video that I have paid money for as well that is still subject to Apple’s DRM. While their mechanism still allows me to play my content on my authorized computers (as far as I can tell so far), it will not permit me to authorize a new computer. If Apple isn’t able to fix this problem, what happens to the content I purchased over time? If I can’t access it anymore through no fault of my own, am I in the wrong legally to download it off a file-sharing site?

DRM models have continued to evolve over the years, but I think that the audio model has shown the way for purchased content. It is high time for media owners to allow the people that pay for a full copy of their content to own that content outright, with nothing that could prevent the consumer from having access to the content that they paid for, including transcoding as media formats change over time. Otherwise, they will alientate their consumers as they find they cannot have what they paid for.

note: I avoided mentioning the new licensing models that have sprung up, where when you “buy” a copy of a song or movie the license agreement says that you don’t really own it, which is becoming more common as a way to avoid legal issues when user’s circumvent DRM to make fair-use copies or so that they cannot sue if they cannot access their content. I avoided mentioning it because:
A) it muddies the discussion.
B) I think it is evil.

Inducing sleep into an infant without making you hate yourself

This is the first post in a new category, fatherhood. While, I’m just as sick of reading weird daddy-ness blog posts as the next guy, I’ve got a couple things to share without being obnoxious (I hope).

First of all is my sleep-inducing playlist for my daughter with songs in it that I actually like. I’m looking for suggestions of stuff to add to this list…

  1. Good Night Good Night – Spiritualized
  2. Lullaby – Tom Waits
  3. Cradle Song – Shriekback
  4. Johnsburg, Illinois – Tom Waits
  5. I’m Still Here – Tom Waits
  6. Waltz For A Drunken Angel – Gregory Page
  7. Comptine D’un Autre Été: L’après Midi – Yann Tiersen
  8. L’anniversaire d’Irvin – Angelo Badalamenti
  9. Passenger Seat – Death Cab For Cutie
  10. Sleep (Instrumental) – Kimya Dawson
  11. Fish And Bird – Tom Waits
  12. Jitterbug Boy – Tom Waits
  13. Such Great Heights – Iron and Wine
  14. Two Step – Low

I also have the Rockabye Baby! Cure record in there, but honestly it is starting to bug me. This list is also very heavily weighted in the Tom Waits direction, but that was just because of how well I know his songs, I guess. I’d love some suggestions for other tunes…

This playlist is pretty much a guaranteed sleep inducer for my daughter so far though…

[Update August 6, 2013]
It turns out that I don’t like to blog that much about fatherhood. Maybe since I don’t feel like I have much to say that hasn’t already been said. This was really a music post, so I moved it to that category and I’m putting the fatherhood category on ice for the moment.

Bob Costas interviews President Bush (updated)

A sports journalist asks all the hard questions, leaving a smirking Bush probably wondering what he got himself into. I love it! He sits down thinking he’s going to talk about basketball or some bs like that and Bob Costas gets into Darfur and the Russia/Georgia situation and GWB looks like an idiot yet again! Can we maybe move the change of administrations to November 5th to get this idiot out of power?

[Update 8/11/08 2:12pm]
Youtube removed the original video embedded here, but Huffpost has the video also. See comments below for a link to the transcript.

where does StumbleAudio get their music from?

I saw a post today on TechCrunch about StumbleAudio, a Pandora-like service for finding music. I gave it a try, I entered “Godspeed You Black Emperor” into the search field. The first track it decided to play was “Uniform Random Variables” from the Intonarumori “Material” album. MY ALBUM. This was especially funny because my major complaint with the TechCrunch article was the assertion that Pandora tended to play music that you already knew and StumbleAudio did not. Not only did I know the first song, I WROTE IT.

While I like that SumbleAudio is recommending my music, I’m a bit concerned. You see, I didn’t license it to StumbleAudio. As far as I can tell, neither did CDBaby (my digital distributor). So where are they getting their music from? In their “AboutUs” they claim to pay the artists whose music is played. If they aren’t pulling tracks from other services and they aren’t pulling them from CDBaby, that isn’t going to be true in my case.

Interestingly enough, if I put “Intonarumori” into their search box, I get no matches found.

Also, interesting is that their is very little info on their site and their WHOIS is private, so no way to contact them.

We’ll see what develops with this company, but they better get way more transparent very fast…