Music Industry Panel Debate

Next Tuesday, March 3, from 7:00-9:00 PM in the School of Management auditorium I am moderating a panel discussion–titled “What Lies Ahead”–on the future of the music industry. Audience Q & A will follow the moderated discussion.   For more information see the event website or the poster below.  Register for the event by joining the Facebook group.


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Qtrax: Oops

Someone commented recently about Qtrax, a recently-announced music file-sharing company that promised a free download service with 25 million licensed songs. There’s only one problem: as reported in Music site Qtrax forced into humiliating U-turn, the company neglected to secure deals with the four major record labels before its splashy $500,000 launch party. These folks would have felt right at home during the late-90s dot-com bubble.

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The Sun Always Shines . . .

. . . when you are a summer associate. Last week I was comparing notes about our legal careers with an acquaintance. We met when we overlapped briefly at a large Boston firm–I was on my out the door to become general counsel with a real estate development company, he had just come in as a lateral from another Boston firm. He stayed for about five years, went into private practice, and is now very happy as general counsel for a travel-services company. Our reasons for leaving BigLaw were similarly family-driven. As he said “I got to see all of my kids’ school plays, coach their baseball and basketball teams, and be part of their lives.” I thought of this conversation and our mutual gimlet-eyed view of the BigLaw experience when I read this lead paragraph from Legal Blog Watch:

Summer associates gave their firms overall good reviews in The American Lawyer’s 2007 Summer Associates Survey, and why shouldn’t they? After all, what’s not to like? Some found exotic adventures abroad, with one traveling four-and-a-half hours by horseback across the Egyptian desert and another put up in a fancy apartment in Paris. Others were treated to skyboxes at baseball games, cooking classes, musicals, symphony concerts, whitewater rafting trips and scavenger hunts. In New York, there was Kobe beef and Picasso at the Museum of Modern Art, while in San Francisco there was helicoptering under the Golden Gate Bridge and debauchery at Half Moon Bay. All that and a paycheck of nearly $3,000 a week.

I’ll put it like this. None of our recollections of BigLaw life involved Paris apartments, camel rides, or helicopter rides below or above the Golden Gate Bridge. And the debauchery did not occur at Half Moon Bay.

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Apple Apostasy

A month ago the media was filled with stories about the New Jersey teenager who hacked the iPhone to work on cell carriers other than AT&T. Not one of the dozen or so articles I read then addressed the most obvious questions: Won’t this hack invalidate the iPhone’s warranty? Isn’t this hack vulnerable to an Apple counter-hack? Doesn’t it violate the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions? Last week, after Apple issued a software update that turned hacked iPhones into $400 paperweights, the media was filled with headlines such as this from the New York Times: Altered iPhones Freeze Up

Duh. Without reading the iPhone’s Terms of Use I know that Apple’s contract specifically prohibits the carrier-switch hack and disclaims liability for user installation of non-approved software on the iPhone. I know because such provisions are boilerplate in retail tech products licenses and contracts and Apple is as PC–programatically correct–as any tech company. Exhibit 1 is iTunes, which is easy and intuitive and countenances almost no user modification of how it chooses to organize your music on your hard drive. Which makes statements like this from an editor of Gizmodo just silly: “[Disabling a phone] instead of just relocking it . . . is going way too far; I’d call it uncharacteristically evil.” Irritating, annoying, consumer-unfriendly, reason not to buy another Apple product, maybe, but since when does naked pursuit of economic self-interest upset techies? Maybe this is a corollary of last week’s a liberal is a conservative who has been arrested: “a consumer advocate is a techie whose hacked iPhone has been bricked.”

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Time to Change tactics?

The RIAA has brought thousands of copyright-infringement lawsuits for illegal music downloads in recent years. Nevertheless, as The Guardian reported on Monday, “illegal music downloading is at an all-time high and set to rise further” because “a growing band of consumers are unconcerned about being prosecuted for illegal downloads.” In the face of such abject failure of its current business model and enforcement tactics, how long before the recording industry shifts business models?

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The Undead

Like Cool Hand Luke rising from the ground each time Dragline knocked him on his ass or like the living dead from the George Romero movies, refuses to submit, popping up after each execution with an amnesiac’s disregard for its back story. See None of, Lives Yet, and–Is That All You’ve Got? This story reports that Russia caused the site to be shut down “to end criticism from the United States that Russia was failing to clamp down on music and video piracy.” By the time the press ran the story Media Services, the company behind, had opened a new site named that it claims is legal under Russian law. Since the arguments for the new site’s legality echo those used to support we can expect this saga to continue. Frustrating, I’m sure, for parties on both sides of the issues but a boon to a professor of Internet law, this story captures the nailing-a-blob-of-mercury nature of cross-border Internet regulation.

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And Wayne Newton as Secretary of State

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has attempted to whip up enthusiasm for its campaign-song contest, in which you–yes, you!–could select the lucky song. Her website announced the winner with a brief, mildly amusing video inspired by the last episode of The Sopranos (which I liked, by the way) and bearing a Sopranos in-joke: Vince Curatola, who played Johnny Sack, gets up from a diner stool and gives Hillary and Bill a funny look on his way to the bathroom. There is an amusing and telling scene in which Bill whines “no onion rings?” when confronted with Hillary’s order of carrot sticks. Is Hillary running as Sensible Mommy, the one who hands out boxes of raisins on Halloween? The video cuts to black and a link to the contest winner: You and I by Celine Dion.

Celine Dion? Bad choice, musically and symbolically. Not to get all chauvinistic, but the campaign knows that Celine is Canadian, right? Her soul–if we can use that word in discussing Celine Dion–is Las Vegas, a slice of American cheese topped with Miracle Whip, but her birth certificate says Charlemagne, Quebec, Canada. Couldn’t Hillary find a tune by an American pop songstress? Ugly Americanism aside, Celine Dion’s music is insipid and You and I is a yawner of yearning and treacly aspirational lyrics and generic rock.

Enjoy the carrot sticks.  (Any happier now, young Shakespeare?)

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