Thursday, June 19, 2008

6.19.08 BAD METALHEADS




I’ve never been too keen on Metallica. I’m not sure I can describe why, but they’ve always struck me more as wannabe rock stars than the real thing. And not particularly bright. The Joe Berliner and Bruce Sinofsky documentary film Some Kind of Monster only reinforced these feelings, which were grounded more in pity than dislike. These guys weren’t even close to intellectually capable of handling what had been handed to them, and their music was neither original or compelling.

The band made a big stink in 2000 over Napster, suing the company and a bunch of colleges after Metallica’s music was discovered available for free online. Heavens! The group’s blowhard drummer, Lars Ulrich, held a bunch of press conferences and testified before Congress about his “art” and the evils of free music. More than anything else, Ulrich’s appearances were narcissistic and embarrassing. Dude really likes the sound of his own voice, for reasons that aren’t apparent to the rest of us.

Eight years later, Metallica’s still taking hits for the Napster mess it made, and last week it stepped in something again. The band invited a bunch of music writers and bloggers to a pre-release listening party for the band’s new album. When the writers and bloggers did what one would expect them to do, write about what they’d heard, Metallica representatives demanded that all the reviews be removed from the Internet.

Huh? I guess the biggest surprise was that all the reviews were actually taken down, despite the fact that there was absolutely no legal basis for Metallica’s demand. One online magazine said that the review was removed to “protect the writer’s professional standing.” As what? A wuss?

Hit with a fury of bad press (TechDirt ran with the headline “Metallica Still Doesn’t Get It”), the band first said that the writers had heard rough mixes of tracks, so that what they were writing about wasn’t what was going to be released. Uh, right. That makes a whole lot of sense. When that excuse didn’t placate anybody, the band issued a statement on its Web site saying that this was a management-company screw-up, and that as soon as the band members found out about this brou-ha-ha they demanded that the reviews be allowed online and even put up links to the reviews on the Metallica Web site.

Whatever, guys. Whatever.

Elsewhere, the Associated Press has started chasing down bloggers who post links to AP stories. In every reported case, the bloggers have posted nothing more than the headline and a sentence or two from the news article. Every copyright law professor in the country is going to tell you that this sort of thing is fair use, but apparently the Associated Press has other ideas. In a couple of public statements, AP spokesmen have blathered about respecting both the importance of bloggers and of “creators”, have made absurd and flatly wrong statements about the law of fair use of copyrighted materials, and wrapped up with hints that bloggers could buy licenses in order to use AP materials.

The absurdity of all this is that the bloggers drive Internet traffic to places where the AP and its licensees have the full articles posted, along with advertisements which presumably help pay for the content. It’s hard to understand what the AP is trying to accomplish, other than the kind of shooting-itself-in-the-foot power play Big Media content owners like to indulge in all too often. Remember, this is the same company that jumped ugly in 2000 when some jokesters posted a mash-up of the AP’s Pulitzer Prize winning Elian Gonzales photo and a Budweiser “Wassup?” advertisement. After the AP successfully had the funny little movie taken down from the Web, enraged ’Netizens flooded the AP with so many e-mails that the company’s mail server shut down. Shortly thereafter, AP came clean, and sheepishly admitted that the Elian/Wassup movie was a fair use of its photograph.

You’d think that AP would learn, but apparently not. If AP thinks that the dust-up in 2000 was debilitating, wait until the entire weight of the 2008 blogosphere lands on it. If you’re gonna be a bully, you’d better be sure that you’re bigger than whoever you’re picking on. Otherwise you get squished. And—earth to Associated Press—no one, especially you, owns the news.

Finally, there’ve been some on-going closed-door negotiations among a bunch of industrialized countries, including the United States, trying to create something called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, that the countries want to implement by the end of the year. Some leaked documents out of the negotiations indicate that they are seriously considering outlawing all peer-to-peer services, as well as mandating border searches of laptops for any infringing stuff. The U.S. trade representative has always been an industry lapdog on matters like this, and is likely the staunchest advocate of the worst aspects of this treaty. EFF.org has got as much info on this as is available. I’m guessing this will be just another stupid thing Obama will have to undo when he moves in this coming January.

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