A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

14 October 2006

Bitchslapping the Music Industry, Part I: The Piss-Off Factor

I have commented before on the rude bundle of selfishness and misery that is the Recording Industry Artists' Association, or RIAA. Today I add to the piss-off list the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) and the Music Publishers' Association of America (MPAA).

These creatures comprise a bunch of music-industry shills who, having tried for years to hide in their caves from the digital revolution in music, are now telling us that they should be the ones to decide how that revolution should go.

The reason I have this particular issue on my mind is that I went to look up a Pete Seeger tune at Guitar Tab Universe, AKA Guitartabs C.C., and found this notice:
The company which owns this website has been indirectly threatened (via our ISP) with legal action by the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) as well as the Music Publishers' Association (MPA) on the basis that sharing tablature constitutes copyright infringement.

At what point does describing how one plays a song on guitar become an issue of copyright infringment?

This website, among other things, helps users teach each other how they play guitar parts for many different songs. This is the way music teachers have behaved since the first music was ever created. The difference here is that the information is shared by way of a new technology: the Internet.
So I popped off to OLGA--the On-Line Guitar Archive. I found a similar statement there.

Essentially, they've been forced to shut down because the MPAA and friends claim that all "unlicenced" guitar tablature (a system to help those of us who can't actually read music) is illegal.

Oh come off it!

That is, if I figure out by listening to the radio how to play a given song, it's just fine. But if I then post my interpretation--no matter how inaccurate, then I can be sued because that song "belongs" to the MPAA?

What's the difference between me figuring out how to play a song, writing down that interpretation, and then e-mailing it to people and me doing the same, but postiong it to a web board?

There's a good answer: I'm not a big enough target. That may have to change.

The MPAA isn't losing sales by this, assuming they have rights in the first place--a question of dubious merit. I agree that if someone directly transcribes the published text of a copyrighted song as published by the owner, it's an illegal act.

But if I create my interpretation of say, Buddy Holly's "Rave On", and post it below because I'm a generous soul (note to the music industry--look those words up)then it's mine--not theirs.

Just as fake perfume is sold from washroom vending machines in the hope that some unlucky son-of-a-bitch will be desperate enough to get laid that he'll purchase "Our Version" of Drakkar, or "Scent of" Ralph Lauren Polo, I can post "My Interpretation of Buddy Holly's 'Rave On'", surely.

Or perhaps I can post the same notes but call it my version of "Happy Birthday"? Would that change anything? Nope--because what's really at stake here is money--and squeezing every last drop you can from the outmoded music industry promote-launch-sell-sell-sell model of business.

Do you think these website might have been able to keep uploading all the guitar tabs you ever need if they'd offered to share some of the advertising cash they made? Don't put money on it--it's a sucker bet.

Let's face it, MPAA--lay off. The people sharing these files had either already bought, interpreted and posted your books of music, in which case you made your dime and have little reason to bitch, or they were never going to.

You ain't lost jack. But instead of being smart about it and say, creating the fora where people could discuss, create, and maybe even see the actual tablature for tunes, you're suing people.

Let's take a look at exactly how stupid the music industry has been and is being, shall we? Part II coming up.

Oh--and for those interested

Here's Metro's version of "Happy Birthday", translated into tabs. If you play it and it sounds like Buddy Holly, maybe you're out of tune?

(E)A-well the little things you say and do (E7) make me sing happy birthday to you-a-hoo

(A)Rave on: It's a crazy feeling and (E) I know it's got me reeling when (B) you say 'Happy birthday to you-hoo'(E) rave on (A/E/B7)

(E) The way you dance and hold me tight, the way you kiss and say good-(E7)ni-hi-hight
(A) Rave on: It's a crazy felling and (E)I know it's got me reeling when (B7) you say 'Happy Birthday to you,' (E) rave on (A/E/B7)

(E) Happy (A) Birthday, It's a crazy feeling and (E) I know it's got me reeling
I'm (B7) so glad that you're revealing your (E) love (B7) for (E) me (E7), and I said
(A)Hap-py, Birthday and tell me (E), tell me not to be lonely,
(B7)tell me you love me only (E)rave on, (A)rave on, (E)rave on!


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