Once Again The RIAA’s Claims Are Shown To Be False

This is a good article from the UK’s Guardian about a study of illegal music downloads versus music sales. (Of course I found it because of Boing Boing. Those guys have everything.)

Previously I wrote about another study, this one done by professors at Harvard and the University of Chicago that showed the same thing. It is interesting to note that two independent studies obtained the same results. And of course in both instances they were dismissed by the RIAA as inaccurate.

This latest study brings up the point that between 1999 and 2003, the price of DVD players has dropped from nearly $1000 to “next to nothing” and that DVD discs have dropped 25% in price. And during the same time the price of CDs has risen by 10%. One of their explanations for a decrease in sales is that they’ve moved elsewhere from CDs to DVDs.

There is also this significant quote from the article:

Some even question whether the fall in sales the RIAA quotes is real, or a product of a creative redefinition of the word “sale”. Even if it is real, there is one final fly in the ointment that can’t easily be explained away: during the past nine months, CD sales in America have increased by 7%, despite continued growth in file sharing.

As Strumpf says: “If file sharing is killing record sales, why are records starting to sell better?”

As I said before, it doesn’t seem that downloading MP3s from Kazaa and other illegal services can truly explain the claims made by the RIAA.


Jay Allen creator of the amazing Movable Type plug-in, Blacklist, that helps greatly reduce the amount of comment and trackback spam on your website, just won the Grand Prize in the MT Plug-In Developer’s Contest.

Congratulations, Jay! It couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.

Now maybe with the extra speed on that new G5 he’ll be getting, he can hurry up get the 2.0 version out to us plebians. 😉

BBEdit And Finding Differences Between Two Documents

Last night I decided to update the templates for my website. Movable Type basically uses webpages with custom variables to generate the pages on the website. MT3.01D was released a couple weeks ago. I upgraded the server software then but nothing else. There were several fixes to the way comments worked so I knew that I was going to have to update my templates if I wanted to use those. Plus they were supposedly truly XHTML 1.0 Transitional which the 3.0 versions were not.

I was a little nervous about it but it actually turned out to be quite easy. My templates are not much different from the ones that it ships with. Of course what tool made it so easy? BBEdit. What else? 🙂

I went through each template saving the original 3.01 version and my version as text files on my computer. Then I used BBEdit’s “Find Differences” command from the Search menu. After selecting the original and my version, the two documents where displayed side-by-side with a third window at the bottom listing the lines numbers with the differences. By clicking on the line numbers, the effected areas where highlighted in each document. With that it was quite easy to make the necessary changes.

Of course I being who I am, was not quite satisfied with that easy step. I needed to make sure that my documents were XHTML 1.0 Strict. Which took a lot of debugging and running through W3C’s page validator. That part took a bit longer. But now I am. Or at least I am with all of my recent posts. I still need to check some of the early ones. Plus it’s not necessarily that easy to check all the comment pages that can be generated—preview and error and whatnot—since they are generated on the fly. I’ll still have to look at those at some point.

BBEdit saves the day, yet again. You are using it yourself, aren’t you?

Unfortunately Frank’s Not Around To Save The Day

Since I’ve already started out the day with a political stance, I might as well continue. Paul Krugman wrote a fascinating editorial in the “New York Times” yesterday called “The Arabian Candidate” where he puts forth the idea that despite all the bumper stickers to the contrary, Al Qaeda would probably much prefer a second term Bush to Kerry.

Mr. Bush’s “war on terror” has, however, played with eerie perfection into Osama bin Laden’s hands – while Mr. Bush’s supporters, impressed by his tough talk, see him as America’s champion against the evildoers.

(The New York Times requires registration to read their online paper. With all the weblogs linking to articles from this paper and others, it’s probably a good idea to start setting up accounts for yourself. However, I completely understand if you’re miffed by this. Bug Me Not will help you out by giving you a username and password. Actually Cory Doctorow has an nice little blurb about the evils of registration.)

Thanks to Boing Boing (again) for leading me to Aaron Schwartz’s site which lead me to the editorial.

It’s Ok To Say The President Is An Idiot

I found this quote at the top of the Download for Democracy website:

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

—Theodore Roosevelt

What a fantastic quote! Of course this fits perfectly with my sensibilities. This whole “love it or leave it” attitude that has been so pervasive in the American public, particularly during the George W. Bush administration and his war on terror, has really rubbed me the wrong way. In my mind it always seemed that criticism is very American. That our country was founded on the ideals of open discussion of ideas.

Aren’t we the country who on July 4, 1776 said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Who decided that we would break our ties with the British monarchy because we were tired of the crown making unilateral decisions for us without regard for our own opinions.

Aren’t we the same country who said on December 15, 1791, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

It says it all right there in the final clause, the right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” That says to me that we can criticize the President. Before we abolished slavery, before we gave women the right to vote, we felt it was important that people could speak their mind about our government and our leaders.

So I decided to research the Roosevelt quote further. It sounds great but what was its context? We have unfortunately turned into a nation (and perhaps a world) of sound-bites. That quote seems to support an idea that I feel is important. But does it really?

America entered World War I on April 6, 1917. In September 1917, the Kansas City Star started running editorials by Theodore Roosevelt about the war. He probably seemed like a good choice. Not only was he a veteran of the Spanish-American War, but during his presidency he started to change America’s tendency towards isolationism with his semi-imperial policies towards Central and South America. In fact after the Germans destroyed a field hospital on September 7, 1917, Roosevelt wrote a biting column in the paper about Germany’s “calculated brutality” and their “deliberate policy of wickedness”.

But if the paper was hoping to only get hawkish war cries from the ex-President they were out of luck. On May 7, 1918, he wrote the editorial which the quote above is from. The war in Europe was still raging. The armistice was not declared until November 11. And yet even during this, during wartime, Roosevelt felt it was important that we not forget that it is ok to speak out against the President and his policies. This is a longer version of the quote I found at The Theodore Roosevelt Association:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

I definitely need to learn more about Theodore Roosevelt. He sounds like he was a good man.

Why Can’t I Touch The Sky?

Thirty-five years ago today Neil Armstrong stepped on to the surface of the moon. He was the first human to walk on the ground of something other than our own planet.

It’s pretty remarkable to think that on May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard was the first American to leave the Earth’s atmosphere. In 8 years, 2 months, and 15 days we went from our first manned flight in space to walking on the moon. What happened in the intervening years?

I’ll fully admit that I’m a sci-fi fan and a space enthusiast. Sure, I’m biased. Sure, I think that sending a team of scientists to Mars would be a far greater accomplishment for humanity than overthrowing the dictator of a Middle-Eastern country. But I still ask the question, what happened to those 35 years?

How come in that time we’ve gone from a computer that would fill an entire building to the one that is currently sitting on my lap and has who knows how many thousands of times more computational power than its predecessor, and yet we haven’t walked on Mars yet? How come we are only now just starting to explore the majestic rings of Saturn but it’s only with a robotic spacecraft? How come we haven’t gone to check out the oceans on Jovian moon, Europa, to see if there’s life beneath the ice?

This anniversary leaves me torn. I celebrate the accomplishments of those remarkable men and women who showed us that no dream is out of reach. And I mourn the time that was squandered after our remarkable achievement.

Copyright Law And Public Domain

Yesterday I read an interesting article from Reuters by way of Boing Boing.

Fifty years after it was first released in the United States, Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right” is a hit in Great Britain…

If there are no changes in European copyright law, the track will fall into public domain Jan. 1, 2005. Anyone will be able to release it without paying royalties to the owners of the master or the performer’s heirs.

Copyright is a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. This article put a lot of things in focus for me. People are really interested in what will happen in Europe because 1955 is considered the start of the rock ‘n’ roll era. Every year more and more recordings will go into public domain.

January 1, 2005 will also see “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & The Comets and “Only You” by The Platters enter public domain in much of Europe. In 1956, a whole slew of Elvis songs: “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Hound Dog”, “Love Me Tender” and others. Plus Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” and Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula” and it keeps going.

How about The Beatles? “Twist and Shout” is public domain in Europe in 2013. The Rolling Stones’ “Time Is On My Side” in 2014, and “My Generation” by The Who in 2015.

Here in America, our rules are a little more strict. The single that started this off “That’s All RIght” won’t be public domain until 2051. Recordings that were made prior to 1977 enter public domain 95 years after they were recorded. Recordings made in 1977 or later are covered under copyright until 70 years after the artist’s death.

Under that second provision of the law, the first recordings that will enter public domain in the U.S. will be in 2048 for artists that recorded songs in 1977 and died that same year. Interestingly enough, since Elvis died in 1977 his last recording, “Unchained Melody”, will be public domain 3 years prior to his first.

I have actually been looking into U.S. copyright laws because of this interest I’ve taken in recording audiobooks. The rules for literature are a little bit different. Since Project Gutenberg is all about bringing public domain literature to the masses, they have a nice overview of U.S. copyright law.

The easy one is that anything published prior to January 1, 1923 is public domain. It quickly goes downhill from there, and gets fairly complex. Anything published prior to 1978 is under copyright for 95 years, minus some exceptions. Literature created after January 1, 1978 enters public domain 70 years after the death of the author. Literature written prior to January 1, 1978 but not published until after then falls under that same 70 year guideline so it will not enter public domain until 2048. And there are couple even crazier rules about 1989 and 1964. You can read it over at the Gutenberg site.

I would be surprised if European copyright law doesn’t change this year or the next to fall more into line with the U.S. version. There are too many corporate entities that stand to lose too much money if they don’t.

The Best $5 I’ve Spent

You know those commercials where they say, “What can you get for a buck?” and then some ex-athlete proceeds to inform the public of benefits of dialing 7 extra digits for long distance phone calls? Well I often feel like, “What can you get for 5 bucks?”

And then I found Synergy. (Ok, so it’s actually 5 euros—something like $6.32 with the exchange rate.)

You listen to iTunes while you’re working / reading / hanging out / living, right? Of course you do. We all do. That little shrunk down iTunes window is pretty handy. It’s small. Gives you the song information. Let’s you play/pause and move forward and back. Everything you need, but it still takes up space. You need to position all your applications so that you can use it. And it can easily disappear behind a window if you’re not careful.

Synergy is the perfect iTunes remote. It gives you all the same functionality and it doesn’t take up the space. The control buttons wind up in the menu bar next to things like your clock and volume control.

Synergy controls in menu bar

And the track information? It shows up as an overlay over all your windows when the song starts.

Synergy track info overlay

It includes a Pref Pane where you can set everything from the position of the overlay to hot keys for switching tracks to the look of the buttons. And a ton of other things as well.

Clean. Simple. Easy. And just 5 bucks. (Or it would be $5 if our economy wasn’t in the toilet.)

Working For The Man

I picked up another week of work assembling and phasing dialogue tracks for a friend. She likes the fact that I’m willing to start on Saturday so I can turn over things to her Sunday night for the editors to work on Monday. It’s been taking up my time and focus but at some point I’ll take a break and offer up some more insights into things.

What Is Popular?

I find it interesting to see what others consider interesting articles on my site—or at least which ones are popular. A few a pretty obvious. In one post I listed all the links Avid Quicktime Codecs. Avid does not have a very well orgainzed site and they’re extremely difficult to find. After the second or third time of spending an hour and finally finding them, I put together the page so that if I ever forgot, I could go there. Of course I’m not the only one who’s had that trouble so it gets a lot of visitors.

I have written a couple of things about the controversy surround the release of Movable Type 3.0. I don’t think they were particularly interesting articles but in the case of one of them. I was literally the first person to respond to a post by Mena. So I hold that prime position of the very first trackback listed on that page. That draws a lot of traffic.

There are several others. Ones that happen to have that right combination of keywords that trigger it in Google. Ones that hold key positions on other pages—usually having nothing to do with the actual quality of the content of the article.

I’ve been running this weblog for nearly 6 months now. That’s pretty short compared to a lot of other weblogs out there. My posts have changed over time. I’ve found certain things that interest me and I tend to write about them more than I write about others. Ideas that seemed important at first are less important now. Or in some cases are no less important in my mind but I know that others can handle it much better than I.

Recently my posts have been mostly one of 4 types: educational—here’s something I figured out, let me show you how it’s done, audio—since sound is my job it makes sense that it’s on my mind a lot, life stories—these tend to be along the lines of “when I was a kid” though sometimes they relate current events too, things found on the net—I don’t send out those chain letter emails and I don’t post lots and lots of “oh I read this online”. I read lots of things online. It’s only a certain few things that tickle me a certain way that I decide to include in my weblog.

There are definitely a few posts that I’m particularly proud of—ones that I’ve thought I did a really good job on. Those aren’t necessarily ones that are all that popular. In fact because this weblog is the tiniest reflection of my life, sometimes there are posts that I hold in high regard—not because of the words themselves but because of the ideas behind them. I recently had that with the audiobook I recorded. It means a lot to me. And even though I solicited for feedback I only got it from two people. And I asked them for their opinion through a separate email.

So I guess what I’m saying is that it’s all a bit of a mystery to me. I try not to let it get me down when I’m really excited about something and no one else is. I also try not to dwell too much in the other direction either. I have had a couple of posts that have been hugely popular (at least for the amount of traffic that my site tends to get).

My post yesterday falls into that category. I had 183 visitors just to that post because someone felt it interesting enough that they posted it to MacSurfer. It really surprised me. They even listed it under “Editorial and Opinion”. And I guess that’s true. But pretty much my entire site falls in that category. If you’re going to speak in your own voice (or even one that you’ve created) on your own website, it’s actually fairly hard not to enfuse that voice with your opinions.

Is that my best post on this site? I don’t think so. I won’t call it filler but it was definitely just some things that were floating around in the back of my mind. Not something I would consider a major post. But then why did someone take notice of it enough that they put on MacSurfer? I have no idea.

And like I said, I try not to dwell too much on being popular. It would probably drive me crazy if I worked and worked at trying to duplicate the success of yesterday. Or especially the prior time I was posted to MacSurfer and I wound up with over 800 visitors in a day.

So I just keep on keeping on. Writing about the things I find interesting. Or passing on bits of information that I think others will find helpful. I hope a few people find it interesting and helpful.