A Break in The Cloud (A Valient Ramble Regarding SOPA)

"There’s a big difference between censorship & piracy," Valient Himself puts SOPA into his perspective.

I am taking a break from my multi-part series on “how The Cloud assists musicians” in order to discuss SOPA or the Stop Online Piracy Act that is currently being debated in the US.   As a gesture that the US Justice Department means serious business about online piracy, a large online file sharing site called Megaupload was shut down yesterday by a co-ordinated medley of 8 countries including New Zealand.  FBI agents who structured the case against Megaupload call it an international crime ring — a racketeering enterprise.  The US charges that the website made $175 million from pirated movies and music since 2005 and cost copyright holders nearly half a billion dollars more.  With that in mind, how does this affect the little guy,  the indy band struggling to “make it” on downloads, touring the US and t-shirt sales?

Valient Thorr‘s lead singer Valient Himself manages the band’s twitter page and he posted a multi-tweet “ramble” on what SOPA and the Megaupload shutdown means to his band.  Below I have pieced together Valient Himself’s 12 tweet monologue with expletives censored.

From Valient Thorr’s Twitter page (Jan 20, 2012):

  • I wanna ramble for a sec here- don’t wanna clog feeds too much, so hopefully you won’t unfollow, but I wanna address something:
  • there’s a big difference between censorship & piracy. I’ve been against SOPA & PIPA from the beginning, but not because they may take away
  • my ability to download free movies or music. That (hopefully) is NOT why MOST artists are against it. We are against it b/c the bills are
  • written SO poorly as to allow corpos & the gov’t to BLOCK or CENSOR our sites & therefore our thoughts & freedom much like in China, etc.
  • Downloading flicks & jams that are not free is illegal, & REALLY takes bread out of all artist’s (big & SMALL) pockets (read: mouths).
  • I’m still against SOPA & PIPA & I think the MPAA & RIAA are f****** up. But if Megaupload goes down, that’s not censorship. They were pirates
  • Everyone is guilty of illegal downloading. Me including. Since Napster was invented. But its out of hand. There are still tons of sites up.
  • I’ll not shed a tear for megaupload. The point of this ramble is this: SOPA & PIPA were written poorly. Most in gov’t couldn’t tell you why
  • If they were purely anti-piracy they may not have been that bad. But they were full of flaws that would have endangered our freedom.
  • But piracy endangers plenty as well. Many artists have spoken out about this. Gillionaires may not care, but hundredaires can’t afford rent!
  • Just wanted our Anonymous friends to know that while we’re mostly on their side, All stories aren’t black & white.
  • Thanx for reading… sorry for the ramble. Hope yall dig that. now back to your regular scheduled horse****. #peace

Valient Himself has never been more outspoken or elegant in his opinions and because we are witnessing a milestone in online privacy/piracy/speech, I would be remiss to neglect devoting some time and space to the issue here on Project Bandwidth.   I tend to agree mostly with Valient Himself’s opinion.  Poorly written legislation can have a chilling effect on free speech.  Perhaps a more contemplative piece of legislation will replace SOPA in the future, but even with SOPA not officially “on the books”  the long arm of US law has already managed to take down an internet monolith like Megaupload.  Imagine what the US could do with SOPA in full effect.

Next time we head back to The CLOUD.

Happy New Year from The Cloud (Pt. Two)

While the SOPA opera continues to play-out in Washington DC, I have become more aware of so-called “music piracy.”  It’s obvious to me that if  bands do not want their music downloaded illegally, they have an option: don’t release any music. No albums. No singles.  Just play live shows.  Unfortunately there is the off-chance that some one could illegally record the live show and upload the recording to the internet for all to “steal.”  Personally, I think bands should be flattered if someone goes to the trouble of recording their shows, but that is going down a long and winding path; I’m here to discuss The Cloud.

I recently discovered that Soundcloud uses a flash video format for embedding audio files onto web pages.  The benefit of the format is that it allows listeners to play the soundclip but it prevents them from downloading it.  Musicians also have the option to “unlock” the audio clip in order to allow people to download it.  As part of the embedded audio/video file, Soundcloud  shows the audio wave form (a graphical representation of sound) while the audio clip is playing.  Here’s a link to an example of Souncloud at work:  Geneva punk grrl duo The Chikitas have embedded the audio clips on the music page of their website.

Many radio stations simultaneously stream their broadcast signal on their dedicated web sites.  If a band is lucky enough to get the station to play their song, then they have successfully had one-play on the web.  Not very significant or user friendly for the fan.  An online alternative, Last.FM is a music recommendation service that uses a process called scrobbling to identify music that a registered user likes and makes playlists and recommendations for the user based on the scrobbling data.  Here’s how Last.FM describes scrobblin

  • Scrobbling is a little note The Scrobbler sends to Last.fm to let us know what song you’re playing.
  • Scrobbling helps us tell you what songs you play most often, which songs you like the most, how much you’ve played an artist over a certain amount of time, which of your friends have similar tastes… all kinds of stuff. By focusing on the music you already play we can help you discover more music.
  • The Scrobbler automatically fills your library and updates it with what you’ve been listening to on your computer or iPod.

Essentially you build your own radio “station” by adding recommendations to your playlist.  If a musician wants to upload his or her music they simply play it on their ipod or computer and it automatically uploads to Last.FM.  Sorry SOPA.

In the United States there is a similar service called Pandora where a registered user can play musical selections similar to song suggestions entered by a user.  The user provides positive or negative feedback for songs chosen by the service, which are taken into account for future selections. While listening, users have the option to buy the songs or albums at various online retailers. But Pandora does not allow users to upload their music like Last.FM and play of a single artist is limited.  Pandora provides similar music, not a play-on-demand service.

There is still a lot of more information about The Cloud.  In part three, I will be taking a look at a build-your own social networking site and more.