Wednesday, April 03, 2013

4.4.13 LIKE SWELL AND SO'S YOUR OLD MAN


This article originally appeared in the 4.4.13 issue of Metroland.


A couple of months ago I wrote about an epidemic of copyright infringement lawsuits brought by porn companies against many thousands of people.  These lawsuits were not any different from the mass infringement suits of few years ago by the recording and film industries, except (a) there were a lot more of them,  (b) they involved porn, and (c) judges are a lot more attuned to the world of the internet than they were 5 or so years ago.   Essentially, all these cases were postured in a way that the porn companies were demanding that John Doe defendants pay them thousands of dollars or the defendants would be publicly named in a porn lawsuit. 

            I had a defendant in a suit in federal court in Massachusetts, one of 80+ John Does in one case, all accused of downloading a moist towelette of cinematic brilliance entitled Dirty Babysitters #3.  A bunch of defendants paid the man, and a bunch of us fought it.  A couple of weeks ago the judge (following the lead of a lot of judges all over the country) threw the whole thing out, ruling that (a) it was unfair to lump all of these defendants into one lawsuit, that the porn companies were using the courts as a business model more than vindicating any rights, and (b) there was not sufficient proof that the defendants, holders of the internet accounts on which the infringing activity took place, were the individuals who actually did the alleged downloading.  Boom!!!  Buh-bye trolls!

            Moving on. When did the City of Albany become stupid?  Culturally moronic?  Last December, Albany code enforcement shut down a burlesque show at the Lark Tavern, apparently based on a “tip” from some clean-up-the-neighborhood types.  The reason?  Well, it’s “burlesque”, so that means like, nekkid wimmins, right?   Really?  In this century?

            Not content to look merely dumb, but apparently in an effort to turn Albany into a laughingstock and embarrassment, code enforcement has now at least twice tried to shut down EDM shows at the Armory.  Now, as we’ve discussed here before, EDM (electronic dance music) has exploded in recent years as the prevalent and preferred type of live entertainment for the vast majority of kids, who we’ll loosely define as persons under the age of 25.  It’s happened, beautifully, outside of the traditional music industry, it’s about the only thing that matters at events like Coachella and Bonneroo, even though you don’t hear much about that because the media sends middle-age white guys to cover these festivals, and most middle aged white guys don’t have a clue, and are in bed and asleep before packed tents fire up with this special brand of madness.

            EDM performers (often referred to, deceptively, as “DJ’s”) are performers and celebrities in their own right.   And yes, they perform; in fact they typically will play the audience in real time much more than your typical “live music act” like a singer or a band.  Their computers are their instruments, their lights are their show.

            The Armory has been running EDM shows ever since a local promoter booked a DJ named Bassnectar a couple years ago and the show sold out before it was officially announced. Apparently there was a single tweet from Bassnectar to his followers.  These shows typically sell out, and fast.  And we’re talking 3000-4000 folks a pop.  Yup, the Armory’s filling a need, and if you’re surprised about the scope of this, it’s because it’s a huge subculture that doesn’t include you.   You’re old.

            There have been incidents; too many people show up, or when the shows let out, thousands of kids hit the streets at once with fairly predictable and unfortunate results.  The Armory has, I understand, beefed up security and taken other steps to lessen the neighborhood impact.  I’ve heard talk about rampant drunkenness, which is a little suspect, as the vast majority of the kids at these shows are under 21 and don’t get served.

            But the City is still trying to shut them down.  Now, if the neighborhood impact is a real problem, I’m sure there are ordinances regarding noise, crowds, and the general well-being of neighborhoods the City could rely on.  If it is the problem, there could be hearings, fact-finding, something resembling due process to come up with a fair and reasoned resolution to the problem.

            But that would require effort.  What City code enforcement has done is to try to disingenuously shut down the EDM events claiming that the Armory doesn’t have the right permits.  The Armory has permits to have concerts, but not, apparently, to act like a nightclub.  It’s been the City’s position, pathetically, that because there’s a “DJ” performing, these EDM shows are indistinguishable from some guy playing records at a bar.  And that the shows can’t be concerts because there’s no “fixed seats” on the floor. 

            A judge last week refused to uphold the City’s attempt to stop these shows, stating the obvious, that “fixed seats” aren’t a rational measure of whether an event is a concert.

            Burlesque.  DJ’s.  City code enforcement is either hopelessly ignorant of the world around it, or it’s got an agenda that’s not based on the rule of law or common sense.  Neither is acceptable.

Paul Rapp is a civic-minded IP attorney who is salivating at the thought of seeing, along with his fellow old people, the best rock band in history at the Egg next Wednesday.

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