The real pirates are in the music industry

                               It's our damned song now, matey!  We stole it fair and square.

One of the many amusing features of the otherwise serious disputes about so-called "online piracy" and of proposed legislation to stop it -- SOPA/PIPA -- for example, is the use of the term "piracy" by organizations that have been stealing artists and consumers blind for decades.  Thus, to cite just one category of abuse, it was long standard practice within record companies to trick songwriters into signing over the long term rights to their songs, the "publishing" rights.  That meant that the corporation, not the artist, received royalties for any further recordings of the song. Several generations of musicians were led to believe that "publishing" was something like printing the sheet music copy of the song and since they didn't want to be involved in the printing business, of course they wouldn't mind signing that "little" feature of a contract waved in their faces.

Today's puffing and spouting by large corporations about "piracy" of songs and movies has much the same character.  It turns out that those most concerned about the "theft" of music online are still busy stealing songs themselves.  This article from The Hollywood Reporter tells the story of the voracious Universal Music Group (UMG) and its war against some rap musicians.

The contract between UMG and YouTube over use of a "Content Management System" remains secret, but the ability to remove videos from YouTube could become controversial quickly. Just witness what happened to one rap group who found it impossible to put up one of its own songs on YouTube.
The rap group known as After the Smoke had created a song entitled, "One in a Million."
The song included a dancing keyboard rhythm and a scattered beat that was catchy enough that it became the underlying music to a track, "Far From A Bitch" by another rap group artist known as Yelawolf, signed to a UMG label.
When Yelawolf's song was leaked without authorization, UMG allegedly stepped in and had the song removed.
But in the aftermath, YouTube's filtering technology, perhaps on the lookout for any reposted copies, took down "One in a Million," angering  group member Whuzi. "We were like, 'Wait a minute? What's going on?'"Whuzi told Vice Magazine. "When I looked into it deeper and tried to contact YouTube and went through the all the correct procedures, they told me the entity that owns the copyright to our song was Universal."
After the Smoke is not signed to any Universal label.


Stalinist tactics in software anti-piracy campaign

                   Joseph Stalin -- patron saint of  software "anti-piracy" gulag

As a little boy growing up in 1950s California, I learned all about the evils of Communism, especially those perpetrated by the arch enemy of the "free world," the U.S.S.R.   Although there were many features of the Soviet system that my teachers and the media identified as horrifying, there was one that always stuck in my mind -- the "fact" that people in the Soviet Union were encouraged -- encouraged! -- to turn in any neighbors, colleagues at work or family members who were violating the principles of Communism in any way.  Even little children, I was told, were expected to rat on their parents if they suspected them of any transgression from Soviet principles.  "What a horrible system," I thought to myself, "asking family members to betray their relatives." 

Memories of those lessons returned to me today as I heard a radio advertisement advising listeners to be vigilant against the dread menace of "software piracy."  While I don't have the exact text of the ad, the gist of it was that employees should inform on any employer whom they believed to be using illegally copied software in the workplace.  As reward for ratting on their boss, the ad promised a handsome cash reward.  

Afterward I tracked down the sponsor of the campaign, the Business Software Alliance.   Its web page describes the purposes and methods of this ambitious program. 

"Software audit defense firm, Scott & Scott, LLP, reports that the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has been increasing the number of radio ads encouraging confidential reporting of software piracy for a potential cash reward. Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco areas in particular are hearing more anti-piracy ads.

"The Business Sofware Alliance (BSA) is a global software industry group owned and funded by big name companies, including Adobe, Microsoft, Autodesk and Symantec.

"The BSA has been aggressively marketing financial incentives to disgruntled employees to make anonymous software piracy tips against their employers with reward payments. Based on the number of radio ads in September, Los Angeles. #1, Chicago #2, New York #3, San Francisco #4, and Dallas #5 targeted markets, in their national “whistleblower” radio campaign according to statistics provided by AdScope."
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What an opportunity to earn some extra cash!  Not only can I enjoy spying on my colleagues in various firms and on university campuses, but I can also refresh some cherished childhood memories.  All that talk about the paranoia and cultural repression imposed by Joseph Stalin will no longer be just an abstraction, but a living part of everyday life.  

Oh, thank you, Business Software Alliance, for reviving this crucial part of modern political culture -- terror, surveillance, betrayal of friends and family, and the renewed affirmation of what truly matters -- the rights of private property over everything else!