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Gnome Notes

What To Do About Music Piracy

By Published: January 11, 2011

What You Can Do

And that's where you come in good readers: yes, the 28,000 musicians who are part of All About Jazz, and the 6,000 record labels and all of the generally honest fans who like the idea of Coltrane's heirs enjoying the fruits of his labor after cancer cut him short. I'm aware of all the arguments about the evil corporations making millions, but that went south several years ago. In the food chain of corporate evil, major labels have a long way to go to even catch up to Walmart, let alone Wall Street.

Those of you with music income aspirations, content business models and reverence for the actual humans who made music, and are gone, all have pretty good reasons to make yourselves heard. Some already are.

Mike Lombardo deserves to lead off. He is a guy in a rock band who is trying to get over as a musician and isn't ready to let his aspirations be scotched by utopian morons from the IT industry, who conveniently forget how they wouldn't last for a second if they weren't backed by a battery of Intellectual Property enforcements for patents, trademarks and copyrights.

It is a socially autistic crowd larded throughout with some pretty wild conceits for people whose work can be outsourced in a heartbeat to others with a better work ethic and manners.

It mainly seems to be a Google thing. The older Silicon Valley giants have more common sense and are less avid to bite feeding hands. I figure the Goog will wise up. It is having a mid-life crisis and flailing. The web will be dragged kicking and screaming to some degree of coherence with the laws and standards of the actual world we walk around in, and not some libertarian wet dream of cyber-Somalia, where fat warlords rule fiefdoms with small armies, pirates run amok and the hapless goat herds—that would be most of us—get stomped, right and left.

And I have a feeling this is the year when this all will sort out. Many people think piracy is too vast to control but my initial experiments with Mr. Thief's blogs suggest otherwise. Labels are still a bit punch drunk from all this and some underwent fairly destructive mergers. But they are starting to ask the right questions and pick better targets. This significant change in the Fed's outlook marks a shift past the starry eyed belief in the wide open web.

Taking down stolen content has two elements that need to operate in parallel, suppression and disruption.

One current advantage pirates have is the way search engine page ranking is driven by search traffic. If many people relative to the key word subject are picking the stolen moments, then the thing rises higher. That is the function of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). All marketing activity wants to have an eye to supporting page ranking. The role of the Facebook "Like" widget will be indispensable. All legitimate content, whether an Amazon listing or a review, will want a "Like" potential. Making full use of all sorts of free support aspects, like Wikipedia entries, Rhapsody options, and so on, need to be fully employed, because they have great free page ranking. Putting all of this into play suppresses pirate site page ranking.

The other element, disruption, turns on take down notices. As it currently stands, these can only be issued by the copyright holder, and with Google it must be in writing in a manila envelope delivered to Mountain View, preferably by Chihuahua cart, (just kidding about the cart). Google has recently added another general form for reporting infringement but it is limited to sites hosting Adsense. But the real critical node, the "locker," is more amenable and legally vulnerable. They are the "fence," after all. You can always also personally email the blogger for the happy hell of it.

Musicians and others can contribute to disruption by reporting links to the labels. This is a fascinating mission. Of the majors, at present, Universal Music Group is the only major label with a clear site link for reporting music theft. Just building up a working contact list was a handful. Smaller labels are generally easier. Labels with fewer than 500 titles can probably set up a working office task for this, maybe outsource reporting research. Larger labels can set up their own search algorithm crawlers to spot stuff. It may be helpful to add a bit of URL code, an encryption that is like a copyright work's cyber DNA that only exists on legitimate downloads and is pain in the ass to encrypt.

Disruption, by and large, should focus on providers and conveyers. Chasing the downloaders was a political mistake, as they were sympathetic figures. Look at regular law enforcement. They put more priority into prosecuting vendors of stolen goods and illegal items than they do on the customers. And the industry has search engines. You can't, as a rule, find a stolen car chop shop advertised or listed as such in a phone book. But good old Google, with its helpful torrent search option, breezily does it for you. How cool is that?

Initiating a Takedown

Here are the basic steps for initiating a takedown.

1. You spot music theft, your own or someone you care about;
2. Copy and post URL and any relevant links like the example above;
3. Find the label using Google search, and send the information. Putting "Music Piracy Report" in the message header with specific title/artist is valuable.

Here is a basic toolkit.

Here are the three main industry support groups.

  • RIAA Piracy report form is always a fun place to start;
  • BPI is the UK counterpart to RIAA and seemingly more astute as many of the discoveries regarding the role of search engines has originated there;
  • IFPI is the international counterpart.

Here are the links for reporting to several File "Locker" providers.

Here's Google's current official advisory.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

And here is the ICE program site.

Congress is working on a new set of laws to make adjustments to the problem and the general sense I've gotten now is renewed urgency on many fronts. I don't have a sense that the problems are insurmountable, despite the hand-wringing by various web apologists. A colleague also mentioned the potential, in a number of Black Hat techniques, that could seriously disrupt torrent sites and make them even more of a menace to users than they are now. It could get ugly.

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