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Frequent postings from the FMC staff about the issues at the intersection of music, law, technology and policy.

One Year Later, Copyright Alert System Still Hasn't Broken The Internet

by Juan Carlos Melendez-Torres, Policy Intern

On 28 May, 2014, the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) released their report on the Copyright Alert System’s (CAS) first ten months of activity. In direct contrast to the apocalyptic visions conjured up by opponents of the system, privacy wasn’t compromised, the free web didn’t implode and the alert system essentially self-corrected. Echoing the words of our own Casey Rae in Billboard a year ago, the internet didn’t break:

“At this point, many of us are looking for a positive outcome after the contentious battle that was SOPA. For music companies, getting intermediaries like ISPs to take on some responsibilities in addressing user behavior is probably more cost effective and less brand-damaging than other enforcement tactics. For musicians, it comes down to whether the policy helps protect their rights without compromising what they find useful about the internet. With CAS, we’ll probably have to wait-and-see.”

In fact, the system seems to have had some impact on infringement without taking an overly punitive approach.  We’ve waited for over a year now to see results, and it looks as if CAS might actually be working, though success remains a matter of definition. For example, a decrease in piracy may also have a lot to do with an increase in legitimate services where convenience and attractive price points converge. On the other hand, the “educational” focus of CAS may play a role in driving users to licensed platforms.

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Music Recommendation & Digital Payola

By guest blogger Taylor Lambert and Kevin Erickson

In the age of on-demand streaming, it’s common to hear people talk about music as “limitless”— something that flows forth endlessly like water. Indeed, musicians around the world release a huge volume of new music every day. But in practice, most consumers’ exposure to the world of new music is extremely limited. It’s one of the thorniest problems—if there’s so much music out there, why do consumers end up being exposed to so little of it? Why should the music marketplace be a winner-take-all system?

Of course, whether or not you view this as a problem to be solved could depend on whether you’re fortunate enough to be one of the “winners.” Still, media critics have long pointed to the role of gatekeepers who exercise considerable control what music reaches audiences. From radio programmers to retail managers to talent buyers to music reviewers and beyond, the most powerful labels do their best to keep their offerings front and center—often at the expense of independents. Radio is the still the number one source of “music discovery,” but commercial AM/FM radio broadcasters in this era of ownership consolidation tend to be highly risk-averse in their programming choices. Playlists are narrow and repetitive, as our research has documented. It has been the strong hope of the independent sector that online music services would be more democratic, allowing more artists to find audiences than was possible in the old-school media world.

Submitted by kevin on June 10, 2014 - 8:48am

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