A federal appeals court decision this week could have serious consequences for people who listen to music online. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s rules on what’s known as network neutrality. Those rules banned Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon from slowing or blocking some websites and allowing speedier access to others. Potentially, the ruling means your Internet company could block access to SPIN. Or Spotify. Or any other website.
Various musicians and advocacy groups have long championed net neutrality, which is the principle that all Internet data should be treated equally.
As musicians, we know that the internet is awesome. And challenging. And hilarious. And sometimes even infuriating. We also know that, despite its complexities, the internet remains a profoundly powerful way to connect with fans and pursue our creative ambitions.
Imagine what it would be like if just a couple of companies where able to determine how, where and under what conditions you reached audiences. Imagine having to ask permission to sell merch, route a tour or even access the online tools you need to make an impact as an artist.
But not musicians like us. That’s why thousands of artists and independent labels have demonstrated support for a level online playing field where creative expression and entrepreneurism is available to everyone—not just the biggest companies.
Part one of a series by FMC Policy Fellow Rachel Allen
In the past few years, streaming music and video have changed the way artists connect with fans. Popular music services such as Spotify and Pandora, high-quality video sites like Vevo, and a number of other digital platforms and applications have been important tools for fans to discover music and for artists to get paid for their work (even if the business models aren’t uniformly agreed upon). Recent studies have found that applications for music comprise the fastest growing activity among mobile phone users. Moreover, artists like Jay Z and Lady Gaga, as well as smaller acts such as Dan Deacon, are using mobile applications to create new interactive music experiences (but as was the case with Jay Z, not all of these experiments are embraced).
Why do we bring this up now? Well, streaming music and video services would not be possible without access to high-speed broadband. However, as the music and video industries go mobile, the price and quality of connections has become more and more uncertain.
This series will explore how the evolution of the Internet impacts musicians and other creators—whether the connection is on a desktop, a laptop or a mobile device. We’ll explore the ins and outs of how artists connect, and why accessible technology platforms are essential to today’s creative entrepreneurs.
The internet is at risk today as the Senate debates a resolution that would strip the FCC of its rulemaking authority to preserve its openness. S.J. Res. 6, similar to a House measure passed in April, needs only a simple majority to pass. The vote, expected Thursday, November 11, is likely to be very close. read more
Since its inception, the internet has represented a powerful tool for the exchange of information and ideas. In recent years, it has also contributed greatly to the emergence of novel platforms for the dissemination of creative content. It is as members of the arts community who have come to depend on these structures that we write to you today.
Creators, in particular, depend on open internet structures to engage in a variety of ways, including direct interaction with audiences, fans and patrons, as well as collaboration with other artists. From musicians to filmmakers to writers to independent labels to arts and service organizations, today’s creative community depends on the internet to conduct business and contribute to the rich tapestry that is American culture.
Today’s creators are taking advantage of technologies fostered by the internet to deliver a diverse array of content to consumers, while creating efficient new ways to “do for ourselves” in terms of infrastructure. The access and innovation inspired by the web helps us meet the challenges of the 21st century as we contribute to local economies and help America compete globally.
It hasn’t always been so. Traditionally, the media landscape relied heavily on hierarchical chains of ownership and distribution, controlled by powerful gatekeepers such as large TV and movie studios, commercial radio conglomerates, major labels and so forth.
It would be tremendously disadvantageous to creative entrepreneurship if the internet were to become an environment in which innovation and creativity face tremendous barriers to entry due to business arrangements between a select few industry players.
This is why we support clear, enforceable and transparent rules to ensure that competition and free expression can continue to flourish online. Although many of us feel strongly that the recent FCC Order does not go far enough in its protections (particularly with regard to mobile broadband access), we recognize the importance of having a process in place by which concerns can be addressed and transparency pursued.
We believe that Congress has a role to play in establishing guidelines that preserve a competitive, accessible internet where free expression and entrepreneurship can continue to flourish. We also believe that stripping the FCC’s ability to enforce these core principles as proposed in S.J. Res. 6 runs counter the values shared by members on both sides of the aisle, as well as prior and current FCC leadership. Therefore, we strongly urge against a broad repudiation of the Commission’s Order.
Future of Music Coalition
National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture
While some groups representing content creators feel they need to hold their nose and stay lockstep with folks like the RIAA and MPAA in support of such obviously bad proposals as E-PARASITE/SOPA, at least some musicians groups are intellectually honest enough to admit that this is a bad, bad bill for creators. The Future of Music Coalition, whom no one can ever claim as being “anti-IP,” “pro-piracy” or (most ridiculous of all) “anti-artist,” has come out with a thoughtful rejection of E-PARASITE/SOPA. The group notes that while it quite frequently agrees with the RIAA/A2IM/AFM and other such groups, on this bill it simply cannot go along. The bill is that bad: read more
Here at FMC, we’re intrigued by the potential of “cloud music”— from mobile apps to remote storage lockers to sites and services that facilitate discovery and collaboration. When you look at recent developments, it seems that the future for digital music may be headed off of hard drives and into the cloud. When we say “intrigued,” we mean it: after all, we keep keepwritingaboutit. read more
Washington, D.C.— Future of Music Coalition (FMC), a national non-profit research, education and advocacy organization for musicians, has long championed thoughtful policies to protect intellectual property that take into consideration the needs of the independent creator community. The voluntary “graduated response” policy adopted by America’s largest Internet Service Providers includes provisions to inform and educate internet users of activities that may be deemed as infringing, while outlining “mitigation measures” to deter continued unlawful behavior.
The following statement can be attributed to FMC Deputy Director Casey Rae-Hunter: read more
Dozens of groups have voiced opposition to the merger between the second-largest mobile carrier in the U.S. and the fourth-largest. The merger would reduce competition in the mobile market and likely drive up prices, said critics including Public Knowledge, the Rural Telecommunications Group and the NoChokePoints Coalition, a coalition of telecom customers, consumer groups and small carriers concerned with mobile backhaul rates.
The merged company would be “contrary to the express policies of Congress and the Commission to rely on competition rather than regulation to protect consumers and spur deployment of new services,” Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition wrote in a May 31 filing to the FCC.
The Federal Communications Commission is meeting right now, and net neutrality isn’t on the agenda.
But don’t tell that to R.E.M, Bonny Raitt, Moby or the public interest group Free Press.
Musicians are asking fans on Twitter, Facebook and fan sites to tell FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to proceed with an order on how Internet service providers treat content on their networks. Those musicians, with Free Press, MoveOn.org Political Action and Future of Music Coalition, launched the campaign as the agency takes comments until early November on a net neutrality rule. read more