Music Download Uproar

December 30, 2007

So, now record companies want to control what people do with the overpriced CD’s that they willingly pay for. Acquiring music legally is just not good enough for the music business vultures.

Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use

By Marc Fisher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 30, 2007;

Despite more than 20,000 lawsuits filed against music fans in the years since they started finding free tunes online rather than buying CDs from record companies, the recording industry has utterly failed to halt the decline of the record album or the rise of digital music sharing.

Still, hardly a month goes by without a news release from the industry’s lobby, the Recording Industry Association of America, touting a new wave of letters to college students and others demanding a settlement payment and threatening a legal battle.

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell,
a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings.

“I couldn’t believe it when I read that,” says Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who represents six clients who have been sued by the RIAA. “The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the
industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation.”

RIAA’s hard-line position seems clear. Its Web site says: “If you make unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings, you’re stealing. You’re breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages.”

They’re not kidding. In October, after a trial in Minnesota — the first time the industry has made its case before a federal jury — Jammie Thomas was ordered to pay $220,000 to the big record companies. That’s $9,250 for each of 24 songs she was accused of sharing online.

Whether customers may copy their CDs onto their computers — an act at the very heart of the digital revolution — has a murky legal foundation, the RIAA argues. The industry’s own Web site says that making a personal copy of a CD that you bought legitimately may not be
a legal right, but it “won’t usually raise concerns,” as long as you don’t give away the music or lend it to anyone.

Of course, that’s exactly what millions of people do every day. In a Los Angeles Times poll, 69 percent of teenagers surveyed said they thought it was legal to copy a CD they own and give it to a friend. The RIAA cites a study that found that more than half of current college students
download music and movies illegally.

The Howell case was not the first time the industry has argued that making a personal copy from a legally purchased CD is illegal. At the Thomas trial in Minnesota, Sony BMG’s chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that “when an individual makes a copy of a song for
himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Copying a song you bought is “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy,’ ” she said.

But lawyers for consumers point to a series of court rulings over the last few decades that found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained

As technologies evolve, old media companies tend not to be the source of the innovation that allows them to survive. Even so, new technologies don’t usually kill off old media: That’s the good news for the recording industry, as for the TV, movie, newspaper and magazine usinesses. But for those old media to survive, they must adapt, finding new business models and new, compelling content to offer.

The RIAA’s legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed. “Four years of a failed strategy has only created a whole market of people who specifically look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies,” Beckerman says. “Every problem they’re trying to solve is worse now than when they started.”

The industry “will continue to bring lawsuits” against those who “ignore years of warnings,” RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said in a statement. “It’s not our first choice, but it’s a necessary part of the equation. There are consequences for breaking the law.” And, perhaps, for firing
up your computer.

Voice of the Day

December 30, 2007

“When rich people fight wars with one another, poor people are the ones to die.”

– Jean Paul Sartre

Best Latin/World Music of 2007

December 30, 2007

Best Latin/world music of 2007: Salsa, samba tributes

David Cázares

Another musical year is behind us, and with it a lot of hits and misses. With a nod to the season, this week I’ll offer only praise for some of my favorite recordings of 2007.

Topping my list is the Spanish Harlem Orchestra’s United We Swing(Six Degrees Records), a CD that recalls the artistry of the New York salsa heyday of the 1970s.

This is the best recording of the year, an album of great songs, classic arrangements and sterling musicianship. Pianist, arranger and producer Oscar Hernandez leads a great ensemble on 13 songs featuring Afro-Cuban, Puerto Rican and other Latin American rhythms.

The tracks include En El Tiempo Del Palladium (In the Time of the Palladium), an ode to the famous New York club, and Plena Con Sabor (Plena With Flavor), which celebrates the earthy Puerto Rican genre.

This album celebrates the past while keeping the music fresh for contemporary audiences. The band really cooks.

Sassy samba

Brazilian singer Maria Rita delivered a modern take on a storied genre with her latest recording, Samba Meu(Warner Music Brazil).

Though a departure from two classy albums of jazzy pop that won her international acclaim, Rita does a fine job of exploring samba classics.

The daughter of renowned singer Ellis Regina and pianist-arranger César Camargo Mariano, Rita was a longtime New York resident. But she draws on her roots to bring emotion and style to the album’s songs, including Tá Perdonado (You’re Forgiven) and Num Corpo Só (In Only One Body).

Flamenco soul

One of the most pleasant surprises of the year came from Buika, an Afro-Spanish singer who works magic with flamenco and the traditional Spanish copla (torch song). Her first solo CD, Mi Niña Lola(Warner Jazz), is an album of impeccably performed original and traditional songs.

Born Concha Buika, she grew up singing and playing guitar, piano and bass on the Spanish island of Majorca after her parents came to Spain as political exiles from Equatorial Guinea. Buika immersed herself in the culture of gypsy families who settled in the capital city of Palma. Her songs are bluesy and inherently African.

Lavoe tribute

One of the most talked-about albums of the year was unquestionably El Cantante(Sony International), the soundtrack to the movie about salsa legend Hector Lavoe.

Leaving the much-debated merits of the film starring singers Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez aside, one thing is clear: The soundtrack is great.

Acclaimed producer Sergio George does a solid job of capturing the singer and the incredible work of the musicians who backed him.

Nine of the recording’s 10 tracks are excellent, with Anthony masterfully delivering Lavoe’s tone, phrasing and style. The album’s tracks include El Cantante (The Singer), Mi Gente (My People) and Escándalo (Scandal).

Lopez’s Toma de mi, a commercial and boring modern pop tune that rounds out the recording, is the album’s lone dud.

Rest of the best

My last few picks for 2007 include Cê(UMVD Import), a fine album by Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso that employs a rock band of younger musicians; Zamazu(Enja/Justin Time), by Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca; and Rokku Mi Rokka(Wea/Atlantic/Nonesuch), by Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour. All are worthy picks for world music aficionados.

Cartoon of the Day

December 30, 2007

2007: Reggaetón went mainstream, Salsa went urban

December 30, 2007

Newsday’s music critic and Sonidos Latinos columnist Ed Morales with his picks of the best Latin music in 2007. I’m really baffled that United We Swing by Spanish Harlem Orchestra did not make his list. In my humble opinion it is the best Latin recording of 2007. Oh well, everybody’s a critic.

Reggaetón went mainstream, salsa went urban

This year reggaeton, instead of fading away, merged with the mainstream, and salsa continued to embrace a more urban sound. Pop bachata broke through with younger groups and Latin alternative held on with key releases by old favorites. But Juan Luis Guerra swept the Latin Grammys and won everyone’s heart.

1. JUAN LUIS GUERRA, “LA LLAVE DE MI CORAZÓN.” Stellar production, arrangements and songwriting could make this one of his best albums ever. The five Grammy Awards signaled not only commercial success but strong aesthetic accomplishment. Rides the strength of the title track hit, but innovative and bracing all the way through.

2. MARC ANTHONY, “EL CANTANTE.” This is a case where the soundtrack is more rewarding than the film. Sure, Anthony is no Hector Lavoe and producer Sergio George is no Willie Colón, but that’s a small argument. This music is the emotional center of a generation, and though Anthony’s throaty performance isn’t exactly on point, it’s a brilliant homage.

3. CABLE 13, “RESIDENTE O VISITANTE.” Strongly Puerto Rican yet globalized. The duet with Orishas was a highlight of the Grammys. The songs, though not as stunning as on their debut, grow on you, and the duets with La Mala Rodríguez and Tego Calderón are classic.

4. ISAAC DELGADO, “EN PRIMERA PLANA.” Guest stars Cachao, Victor Manuelle and Gonzalo Rubalcaba make this salsa like no other. Delgado brings a Cuban looseness, breaking out of rigidly commercial salsa. Producer Sergio George is the key, and songs like “Paquito Va” have the soul of a salsa anthem.

5. DADDY YANKEE, “IMPACTO.” Daddy single-handedly wills reggaeton into becoming a universal pop music. He makes shrewd use of producers Scott Storch and Kanye West and guest stars Akon, Fergie and From the futuristic title track to the “underground” reggaeton nostalgia of “A lo Cláscio,” “Impacto” is a relentless joyride.

6. LA MALA RODRÍGUEZ, “MALARÍSIMO.” Impressive duets with diverse talents Tego and Julieta Venegas make this album special, as do the talents of several Spanish producers and DJ Rectangle of Las Vegas. She pushes limits while coming off as a generous spirit and playful mistress of ceremonies.

Suddenly a major voice in reggaeton, Voltio dabbles in multi-genre-ism, dabbling in cumbia, salsa, bolero, rock and post-disco. He’s the appealing middle ground between the archly suburban Calle 13 and the larger than life pop-gangster Daddy Yankee, and his embrace of the street is neither overbearing nor pretentious.

The Colombian pop-rock megastar turns his own personal tragedy into material for yet another hit album. While not breaking much new ground musically, there’s enough originality and passion in the songs to push his career forward.

9. CAFÉ TACUBA, “SINO.” In some ways a comeback album, “Sino” allows band members to go back to the music of their youth. What results is an interesting flux between classic-rock jamming and ’80s synth-pop terseness. Best appreciated if you’re into the droning guitars, but the songwriting still has plenty to say.

This “Latin jazz” collection of chaotic tunes embracing bomba, guaracha, plena, mambo and Aguinaldo erases genre boundaries. Propelled by Vásquez’s insistent trombone, and aided by people like Edsel Gómez, Sherman Irby, Milton Cardona, and Richie Flores, this is groundbreaking stuff.

Cartoon of the Day

December 29, 2007

Top Ten Myths About Iraq in 2007

December 29, 2007

10. Myth: The US public no longer sees Iraq as a central issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Fact: In a recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll, Iraq and the economy were virtually tied among voters nationally, with nearly a quarter of voters in each case saying it was their number one issue. The economy had become more important to them than in previous months (in November only 14% said it was their most pressing concern), but Iraq still rivals it as an issue!

9. Myth: There have been steps toward religious and political reconciliation in Iraq in 2007.

Fact: The government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has for the moment lost the support of the Sunni Arabs in parliament. The Sunnis in his cabinet have resigned. Even some Shiite parties have abandoned the government. There are new tensions between Shiites and Kurds over what to do.

8. Myth: The US troop surge stopped the civil war that had been raging between Sunni Arabs and Shiites in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Fact: The civil war in Baghdad escalated during the US troop escalation. Between January, 2007, and July, 2007, Baghdad went from 65% Shiite to 75% Shiite. UN polling among Iraqi refugees in Syria suggests that 78% are from Baghdad and that nearly a million refugees relocated to Syria from Iraq in 2007 alone. This data suggests that over 700,000 residents of Baghdad have fled this city of 6 million during the US ‘surge,’ or more than 10 percent of the capital’s population. Among the primary effects of the ‘surge’ has been to turn Baghdad into an overwhelmingly Shiite city and to displace hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from the capital.

7. Myth: Iran was supplying explosively formed projectiles (a deadly form of roadside bomb) to Salafi Jihadi (radical Sunni) guerrilla groups in Iraq.

Fact: Iran has not been proved to have sent weapons to any Iraqi guerrillas at all. It certainly would not send weapons to those who have a raging hostility toward Shiites. (Iran may have supplied war materiel to its client, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (ISCI), which was then sold off from warehouses because of graft, going on the arms market and being bought by guerrillas and militiamen.

6. Myth: The US overthrow of the Baath regime and military occupation of Iraq has helped liberate Iraqi women.

Fact: Iraqi women have suffered significant reversals of status, ability to circulate freely, and economic situation under the Bush administration.

5. Myth: Some progress has been made by the Iraqi government in meeting the “benchmarks” worked out with the Bush administration.

Fact: in the words of Democratic Senator Carl Levin, “Those legislative benchmarks include approving a hydrocarbon law, approving a debaathification law, completing the work of a constitutional review committee, and holding provincial elections. Those commitments, made 1 1/2 years ago, which were to have been completed by January of 2007, have not yet been kept by the Iraqi political leaders despite the breathing space the surge has provided.”

4. Myth: The Sunni Arab “Awakening Councils,” who are on the US payroll, are reconciling with the Shiite government of PM Nuri al-Maliki even as they take on al-Qaeda remnants.

Fact: In interviews with the Western press, Awakening Council tribesmen often speak of attacking the Shiites after they have polished off al-Qaeda.

3. Myth: The Iraqi north is relatively quiet and a site of economic growth.

Fact: The subterranean battle among Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs for control of the oil-rich Kirkuk province makes the Iraqi north a political mine field. Kurdistan now also hosts the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas that sneak over the border and kill Turkish troops. The north is so unstable that the Iraqi south is now undergoing regular bombing raids from Turkey.

2. Myth: Iraq has been “calm” in fall of 2007.

Fact: in the past 6 weeks, there have been an average of 600 attacks a month, or 20 a day, which has held steady since the beginning of November. About 600 civilians are being killed in direct political violence per month, but that number excludes deaths of soldiers and police.

1. Myth: The reduction in violence in Iraq is mostly because of the escalation in the number of US troops, or “surge.”

Fact: Although violence has been reduced in Iraq, much of the reduction did not take place because of US troop activity. Guerrilla attacks in al-Anbar Province were reduced from 400 a week to 100 a week between July, 2006 and July, 2007. But there was no significant US troop escalation in al-Anbar. Likewise, attacks on British troops in Basra have declined precipitously since they were moved out to the airport away from population centers. But this change had nothing to do with US troops.

Picture of the Day

December 29, 2007

WASHINGTON—Rosa Parks at a demonstration, 1963.

Victor Manuelle: Putting his trimmings on the holidays

December 29, 2007

SONIDOS LATINOS: Putting his trimmings on the holidays

Ed Morales

With 13 albums of straightforward commercial salsa under his belt, Victor Manuelle decided to do something different. His holiday-themed release “Una Navidad a Mi Estilo (Christmas My Style)” is a true roots album, aimed at the audience that craves the Fania “Asalto Navideño” albums. Featuring songs written by Conjunto Clásico’s Ramón Rodríguez, traditional trovador Casiano Betancourt and Manuelle himself, the album makes its own claim to classic status.

Although Manuelle, unlike New Yorkers Willie Colón and Hector Lavoe, calls Puerto Rico home, the thrust of their holiday music is the same. Traditional religious themes are always present in their Christmas celebrations, but Puerto Ricans (like many other Latino and ethnic cultures) use the holidays to celebrate their own cultural identity.

Full Article

Cartoon of the Day

December 29, 2007