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Copyright is killing music

2019-04-18 New Music

Where do you find new music? For many years, I listened to Sounds! on the Swiss national radio. I faintly remember not being able to download the podcast when I wasn’t in Switzerland. That really made me angry.

Today I was listening to the Brahms symphonies. The recordings of the four symphonies I have are the only thing other than the German Requiem I have written by Brahms. I started wondering. Where to start?

@fitheach and @ted recommended Musopen (”We provide recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions. Put simply, our mission is to set music free.”) because they also have a music catalogue (”Royalty free music recordings”). Interesting. If you sign up for the free plan, you get five downloads per day. It doesn’t sound like much, but how much new music do you want to download every day? Perhaps that is enough. The next level is $55/year. It seems a bit expensive but perhaps only because I’m interested in the recordings and not the sheet music.

That reminded me of Magnatunes. I think I bought an album or two from them many years ago. I listened to Ivan Ilić playing Brahms and Schumann for a bit. [1] And perhaps $300 for their entire catalogue is a good deal? (That ad has interrupted my listening twice, now. Still better than the interruptions on YouTube, though.) I’d have ten years of listening for sure! Now I’m listening to La Reverie: Cantica. But $300! Wow. Then again, if I’d buy CDs, that’s just 10 CDs here in Switzerland. Surely I’ll find 10 good albums on Magnatunes.

@xosem recommended IMSLP (the International Music Score Library Project): “The ultimate goal of the IMSLP is to gather all public domain music scores, in addition to the music scores of all contemporary composers (or their estates) who wish to release them to the public free of charge.” The site also has recordings, however. The first symphony, for example, has a recording from the Swiss national radio, 1962, and from the University of Chicago Orchestra, 2006. Very cool!

Anyway, @fitheach recommended the violin concerto opus 77 and @cerisara recommended the hungarian dances. @cerisara also recommended Brahm’s clarinet quintet [2].

@wrenpile recommended the two serenades, Serenade No. 1 in D major for orchestra and Serenade No. 2 in A, Op. 16 and provided two YouTube links to recordings by Istvan Kertesz [3][4] and he recommended Sonata for Piano and Violin No.1 in G major, op. 78 by Kremer and Afanassiyev [5] “For sheer molten gorgeousness”. All right! I’m looking forward to this.

Thank you all.

Remember the beauty of youtube-dl --extract-audio --audio-format mp3 URL! See 2016-12-20 Extract YouTube Audio for more.


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2019-04-11 Takedown Notices

I just read Official EU Agencies Falsely Report More Than 550 URLs as Terrorist Content: “At least 550 URLs were falsely identified by the EU IRU in the past week as terrorist propaganda...” and then they proceed to list some examples of asinine negligence like the major overview pages where user uploaded content will surely be linked, but also scholarly articles, or US government-produced broadcasts and reports, and more.

This illustrates the many important, negative aspects of what this sort of legislation will do:

  1. Scope creep results in attempts at ever broader interpretation of what falls under the forbidden umbrella
  2. These attempts at expansion don’t cost much to the accuser and so there is always some idiot working for an organization somewhere who will attempt to include an item that does not belong.
  3. Automation allows people to scan for content automatically and submit items automatically, multiplying the false accusations.
  4. Lack of due process as every item challenged eventually ends in court and therefore all the efficiency gains of the digital world are suddenly lost.
  5. The cost of the process is born by the host. Stricter time limits increase these costs.

Now a small number of people can provide the entire Internet Archive for millions of users but once you add these Takedown laws (because of the fear of terrorists, or the fear of copyright violators, and so on), this is no longer possible, as the same small number of people cannot comply with these requirements, or are not reimbursed for the disproportionate cost of investigating accusations.

Essentially, what happens is that these kinds of services with user uploaded content (archives, blogs, wikis, forums, social media, video hosts, and so on) are burdened with too much processing cost and thus we return to the “good old days” where only the media giants thrived, each supporting s host of lawyers with nothing to do but fight these shadow wars.

Yes, I also don’t want the Internet to be a cesspit of crime. At the same time, I want the efficiency gains of digitalization that allow a small number of people to provide the Internet Archive to us all, and I want to host my sites like the Campaign Wiki without having to employ censors or lawyers.

If you are faced with voting for or against such laws, consider how it is implemented and demand better legislation. For the millions of false takedown claims to be free for all is lazy legislation. It’s bad design. Demand that our law makers think harder.


Comments on 2019-04-11 Takedown Notices

Requests to remove content due to copyright, government requests to remove content, and more, as published by Google – a window into the world of takedowns.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-04-11 05:44 UTC

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2019-04-04 Das Lügen

Das Lügen geht weiter... Auf Golem dreht sich das absurde Karussel immer weiter. Bald bin ich dafür, dass das Urheberrecht abgeschafft wird. Klar, die freie Software verliert dann ihren “Schutz” vor der Übernahme, aber netto würde die Gesellschaft profitieren. Schon nur, weil dieser gesamte Wirschaftszweig endlich verschwinden würde. DRM, Leistungsschutzrecht, Abmahnungen, Verbot von Tauschbörsen, und so weiter... ☠ ☠ ☠


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2019-03-17 Copyright 13

@Masek wrote a long post on the upcoming upload filter legislation for the European Union, Copyright 13.

In his announcement on Mastodon, he said:

We are approaching the endgame and this is not the MCU. Within a few weeks one of the worst pieces of legislation I’ve ever seen will be passed by the EU parliament.

So I will kick off a small series of short articles about what we’re fighting for and against, why we are fighting it and who are our opponents.


Comments on 2019-03-17 Copyright 13

As Recording Industry Announces Massive Growth, Why Do We Need Article 13 Again?

I like Techdirt.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-20 07:09 UTC

@Masek continues! In part 2 he talks about the history that led us to copyright. And he has a better explanation for the permanent extension to the terms than Mickey Mouse! It’s the Disney Vault. And so, in the words of Masek: “Copyrighted works have become a commodity to be traded like stocks.” His conclusion merits more thought. “The one and only purpose of Article 13 is to curb user generated content. It shall create transaction costs for platform providers and frustration to the users creating content.”

Although I do wonder whether the pen wielding generation would even smart enough to think of all this shit.

And then there’s part three where he has a proposal for a separation of concerns and liability:

  1. users upload content → responsibility of the user
  2. others “follow” them and watch it → responsibility of the other users
  3. users “search” for it → if the platform does not benefit (no ads, for example) then it’s the responsibility of users; if the platform benefits then it’s the responsibility of the platform
  4. platform recommends content → responsibility of the platform

More food for thought! Recommended.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-24 20:07 UTC

Tech dirt again: German Government's Bullying Of FOI Group Provides A Warning Of How EU's New Upload Filters Will Be Used For Censorship.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-04-06 22:00 UTC

@switchingsocial said:

Bad news about #Article13, the copyright directive (which includes Art 13) has passed the council of ministers.

Interesting footnote: if the UK gov had simply abstained (or voted against), the directive would not have passed. Britain represents enough population to form a blocking minority.

However, the British government voted in favour.

The law can still be stopped in the European courts (which is what happened to the data retention directive), but this is much messier and more difficult.

The Brits and Brexit shitting in our basket on the way out. Grrrrr!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-04-15 15:04 UTC

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2019-03-04 Radio equipment in the EU

This is the feedback I provided after reading Protect freedom on radio devices: raise your voice today! More information is available from the FSFE, EU Radio Lockdown Directive.

I’d like to give some feedback on Article 3(3)(i) of the Radio Equipment Directive 2014/53/EU. The passage “to ensure that software can only be loaded into the radio equipment where the compliance of the combination of the radio equipment and software has been demonstrated” is going too far.

Use cases I am interested in: installing an update on my wifi router, phone, and smart home wireless product. There are many reasons why this is desireable:

  1. official security updates from the original vendor are no longer available
  2. I no longer trust the original vendor
  3. I want to develop alternatives (adding compatibility with other devices, for example)

Alex Schroeder

(I did this even though I am not a citizen of the EU.)


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2019-02-27 Schweizer Leistungsschutzrecht, leider

Die digitale Gesellschaft schreibt: “Die zuständige Ständeratskommission hat ein Leistungsschutzrecht im Urheberrecht beschlossen, das weitaus gravierender ist, als alles, was bisher auf dem Tisch lag. Es geht zudem viel weiter als das, was die EU-Kommission derzeit vorsieht. Wir werden uns mit aller Kraft gegen das selbstzerstörerische Vorhaben wehren.” – Ständeratskommission beschliesst Leistungsschutzrecht im Urheberrecht


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2018-12-26 Breaking Even

I recently saw a post by @emsenn, talking about the music business. What caught my eye was the note that less piracy does not mean better pay for musicians.

I used to run a music label and here’s some numbers from 2012 to 2016:

Within my county, pay for 1h of live music dropped from ~$30/h to ~$6/h.

Average pay per streamed song dropped $0.03 cents to $0.007

Cost to belong to proper songwriting and such unions went up from $160/yr to $780/yr

Note that over this period, online piracy plummeted and subscriptions to streaming services rose dramatically.

Don’t assume not pirating has improved things for musicians.

So, gotta pay ~$780 a year to be able to (with good protection) submit your songs to spotify and such. That’s more than 111k Spotify plays to break even on membership fees ... assuming you get all the money yourself, but in practice usually 25% is eaten by other intersts, so we’re up to 138k plays.

Again, that’s assuming you didn’t pay anything for your instruments, training, recording, or production, and that you aren’t paying yourself: 138,000 listens to not lose money sharing your music.

So, it’s real cool that folk can stream music at such low cost to themselves. But I don’t want anyone to ignore the effect that’ll have on folks’ incomes. And also, think about the effect this might have on musicians and the art they produce, when they’ve got to hit such high goals in order to break-even. They’ll be more inclined to make music that ends up on playlists, since that’s an easy way to boost listens.

This isn’t just a fear: it’s already happening.

It’s a weird place to be in: thanks to technology, anyone can record, produce, and distribute music cheaper than at all point in history.

But... thanks to technology, you need to do all that to produce music, if you don’t wanna get slapped by a record label, and because of the tie-in with labels and the law, it’s not actually as cheap as it could be.

So in reality, it’s very cheap to make music, very cheap to receive music, but very expensive to distribute it, and that’s... weird.


Comments on 2018-12-26 Breaking Even

Zoe Keating’s tweet:

In 2018 my music was listened to on Spotify for 190k hours by 241,631 people. Those 2,252,293 streams netted me $12,231, which is 39.2% of my annual rent. If you love the music please consider going to a show or supporting my work directly at Thank you!

What Spotify Paid One Artist in 2018:

So, how can independent artists, including Keating, survive the streaming music giant’s terrible payouts?

Keating gives two solutions – attend artists’ shows and support their work directly.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-12 06:33 UTC

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2018-10-19 Permission Culture

I was looking at some old blog posts of mine regarding the Old School RPG Planet and found the following in a comment of mine. It’s still as relevant as ever:

I think that asking for permission just doesn’t scale. It’s OK to ask one person, but asking a hundred people is not how I want to spend my time. The long answer is in the pages of the Free Culture book. Just search for the word “permission” and learn about the differences of permission culture and free culture. Here’s a paragraph from page 192f:

The building of a permission culture, rather than a free culture, is the first important way in which the changes I have described will burden innovation. A permission culture means a lawyer’s culture—a culture in which the ability to create requires a call to your lawyer. Again, I am not antilawyer, at least when they’re kept in their proper place. I am certainly not antilaw. But our profession has lost the sense of its limits. And leaders in our profession have lost an appreciation of the high costs that our profession imposes upon others. The inefficiency of the law is an embarrassment to our tradition. And while I believe our profession should therefore do everything it can to make the law more efficient, it should at least do everything it can to limit the reach of the law where the law is not doing any good. The transaction costs buried within a permission culture are enough to bury a wide range of creativity. Someone needs to do a lot of justifying to justify that result.

I recommend the book. It’s a long read, but I liked it. It also made me unwilling to spend time asking people for permission to do anything. I’d rather spend my time elsewhere.


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2018-09-17 Free Software vs. Open Source

Recently, Rémi Rampin (@remram44) said we should probably merge the Free Software and FLOSS lists on Trunk. I remember we used to have only FLOSS and reintroduced a separate Free Software category because of user feedback and then @aminb wrote two separate introductions to the two lists. The description for the Free Software list said: “This list aims to cater to the free software philosophy and ethical concerns around proprietary software.” The description for the FLOSS list said: “This list is for people interested in development/discussion about Free/Libre and Open Source Software.”

Rémi Rampin was not convinced. He said he wrote free software for a living and that he didn’t understand what the difference was supposed to be.

I linked to Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software by Richard Stallman, but Rémi Rampin argued that the difference between the two terms was minimal and that both the people and the discussions happening would not differ significantly as one list would be strictly included in the other.

I suggested we test this by simply looking at the overlap between these two lists. Rémi Rampin found the following: 22 people are on both lists, 5 are only in the Free Software list, and 33 are only in the FLOSS list. I left it at that.

Today I stumbled on a post by @bjoern where links to an old copy of the Open Source Initiative FAQ from the Internet Archive:

The Open Source Initiative is a marketing program for free software. It’s a pitch for “free software” on solid pragmatic grounds rather than ideological tub-thumping. The winning substance has not changed, the losing attitude and symbolism have.

And he linked me to a message by Bruce Perens from 1999:

Most hackers know that Free Software and Open Source are just two words for the same thing. Unfortunately, though, Open Source has de-emphasized the importance of the freedoms involved in Free Software. It’s time for us to fix that.

I still feel that Free Software remains a separate and important topic to talk about. It’s why I keep using the term Free Software even when many people about me use Open Source. It helps spot the scam of source-available software. There, the problem is worse: you might not have the legal rights to use, share, modify or even to compile it, and if you look at the source code, you might not be able to write similar code in order to solve the same problem because you might get sued. The necessity of clean room design tells me everything I need to know about the state of copyright these days. 🤮


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2018-09-12 Copyright Fanatismus

Die Idioten haben wieder eine Schlacht gewonnen. Mehr hierzu auf Netzpolitik.

Wer war auf unserer Seite? Die Piratin Julia Reda und alle Sorte von engagierten Menschen, Parlamentarier aller Lager, Wissenschaftler. Redas Statement gibt’s auf ihrem Blog. Und trotzdem: Der bescheuerte Vorschlag von Axel Voss (CDU) wurde mit 438 zu 226 Stimmen angenommen. Ich fasse einfach nicht, wie so viele Leute dafür sein konnten.

Und was ist der nächste Schritt? Jean-Claude Juncker schlägt vor, bla bla bla Terrorbekämpfung bla bla Upload-Filterpflichten gegen „terroristische Inhalte“ bla bla bla. Kann man sich ja vorstellen.



Comments on 2018-09-12 Copyright Fanatismus

Naja, es gibt ja noch Rückzuggefechte: der genaue Text steht noch nicht fest. Die Mitglieder dürfen auch noch selber mitgestalten, und so weiter und so fort. Aber die Enttäuschung bleibt.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-09-12 12:59 UTC

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