© in #ds106Radio Revisited

By | June 11, 2011

Okay, so Alec Couros called me out for identifying the white elephant in the #ds106Radio room but still not actually discussing it.
digital Radio Living Room

I know Alec and I are on the same side of this issue but I agree that it is worth discussing and deconstructing. Clearly *someone* else does too, because he has pre-loaded the Auto-DJ in #DS106Radio with Negativland. When I started this post “Please don’t sue us” was playing.

Another motivator is that it’s conference season; I’ve heard a variety of the DS106Radio players present both in person (once) and over the radio (repeatedly). Every single time, the copyright issue is raised; it is answered to varying degrees, depending on who is giving the presentation.

At Northern Voice, when Mikhail asked Jim Groom to discuss copyright and #DS106Radio- he gave my favourite answer:

We need to think differently about our culture,
what our relationship is to it;
not simply augmenting our experience with technology.
This is changing the very relationships that we frame in this space.
This is McLuhan Shit coming to us live and we are doing it now.
We, right here, have changed a series of social relationships
that are going to be the framework and the blueprint
for what’s to come.

I really love this answer and from the recording you can tell that the audience does too.

{Full flavour Jim Groom: feel the love, listen to the full minute of audio.}

Often, at other presentations, however, when the topic of copyright comes up, the presenter jokes, ‘next question!’ and then a short statement is made. But really we have not fully discussed this. Well, perhaps it’s been discussed so much, over, and over again…

Regardless, I think Copyright debates are fascinating, so I’m going to talk about it too; I’m going to address Alec’s point: was copyright material essential specifically in relation to DS106Radio and the building of community?

First things first, I’m going to go back to Alec’s original question:

@jimgroom & #ds106‘ers – just watched ur @cogdog amazing story – ? arises. would #ds106radio have happened if restricted to legal content?less than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

Most @ds106’ers chimed in that the magic was in the /LIVE & original work. I repeatedly indicated that there was a lot of creative commons, public domain and remixed material, but eventually I had to concede that copyrighted material played a part, indeed probably a crucially important part. Especially in building community, sharing of stories as these songs frame our memories, our past. This is most true on particular on theme days- #musictogrowby, #firstconcert #roadtunes and on and on. It is difficult to tell a story of your youth using the music you grew up with, without playing that music.

Alec also asked this question:

@jimgroom wondering about role of deviance/rebellion as social connector. #ds106 #ds106radioless than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

I love how he’s asking Jim Groom & Alan Levine, but I feel obliged to answer. Probably because Alec was at my first impromptu Copyright Smackdown at a pub in New Brunswick last year. He was having a collegial conversation with Terry Anderson, Rory McGreal, Keith Hampson & Christian Blanchette.

Earlier in the day, Alec had given the keynote at Canadian Network for Innovation in Education and Rory got up and said, “well that presentation with all those tools is all very well and good, but did you get permission to use all those clips? Did you get copyright clearance? You know, soon using YouTube like that will be illegal in the classroom?!”

I was outraged. What? That’s ridiculous. Who was this guy??!!

So, when I saw Alec talking to him I told Grant Potter we were gonna have a Copyright Smackdown and deal with this right there. I marched over and somehow managed to get a seat for Grant and me to sit down and discuss.

I think I probably swore more than I should have in the company of a Vice President, but overall, it was a great conversation. I found out that we were all basically on the same side of the issue and Rory was just baiting the audience into outrage and hopefully into action.

I asked Rory what he thought we should do. He said, read Michael Geist’s blog. Yeah, I do that already. Write to your Member of Parliament. Done. (Twice!) What else can I do? Join the Facebook group. Sigh. Yeah, I did that. WHAT ELSE???

Fast forward to #ds106Radio. There is so much about Pirate Radio that I have to catch up on, but I am still really struck by Lawrence Lessig’s 2007 TED talk: Laws that choke creativity and Brett Gaylor’s RIP: REMIX Manifesto. Like Jim says, I believe this is OUR culture. We have a right to review, remix, and make meaning of the media we grew up with through the tools new media provides. I don’t think I can say it better than Lessig, Gaylor or Groom.

But does that answer Alec’s question? Does #DS106Radio bond through deviance? The secret naughtiness of it all?

I don’t think so.

Although there seems to be a strict rule about NO RULES.

NoiseProfessor had to work hard to convince the group that there was #Protocol and that wasn’t a law or rules but rather the genesis of culture. There is still some resistance to the idea of #Protocol but in practice, it exists and the boundaries allow the free form community to flourish. He suggests we refer to Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from (here’s the link to TED Talk, but more importantly, there’s also a book).

Noiseprofessor writes about #Protocol as our emerging system that keeps DS106Radio in the “fertile zone between too much order and too much anarchy”.

For many reasons, it seems our collective idealism does not seem to consider copyright adherence a priority. I think there might be many reasons out there and I’m still trying to figure out my own.

So, let’s throw it out to the chaotic, liquid network:

  • Is it like Jim Groom & Lawrence Lessig say- is this McLuhan shit? Do we ignore copyright because we want to think differently about our relationship to culture?
  • Or, is it actually not illegal (yet) to stream music? (I’d stand on trial for that, too, for the record)
  • Or does Alec have a point- did deviance play a role?

UPDATE: Two new audio responses have come in via #DS106Radio.

1. Anonymous #ds106radio Protest Song
2. GNA on Deviance, June 12, 2011

15 thoughts on “© in #ds106Radio Revisited

  1. Alan Levine

    Wow Giulia, I already thought you were cool, but this is a supreme response to Alec’s query, one that could not be done in the wavelength of twitter.

    I thought at first Alec’s query was whether the ethos of ds106 radio would have taken off as much if there was an agreed (or impose) rule of not broadcasting copyright material. And I am among the speakers whose eyes roll at the “CQ” (Copytight Question)– it feels like someone tosses fire retardant on some exciting flames.

    But yeah, I am getting the Reverend’s beat- if we kowtow to the Old Rules, we are not changing anything, and damnit it, all of this media is the culture I was soaked in, the TV shows and cartoons and music I absorbed growng up, and here wer are in the midst of this weird time where we have the TOOLS to reshape and create anew with this media., but we have these OLD RULES which wag the finger against it.

    So I would say the use and play with copyright material in ds106 was not a necessary ingredient to the radio success, but it sure made it more exciting and fun to remix. I uploaded whole songs and remixed bits into my audio and video recreations. Yes, I want to say I ignore the laws of copyright to assert a new relationship to culture. I would like to respect/honor the creativity of content that came before, but I do not agree with hampering my own creativity just because there is a big NO sign string along the fence.

    And now I recant my tweets somewhat, I think the deviance in ds106 radio does have a role, an ambiance, a spice. It is thankfully one place where we have been able to explore said culture, and because it has been small, niche, it has been a place we try it out– maybe this is the golden age before the vultures swim in, but yeah, lets rock it on McLuhan style!

    Now how about a re-rendition of Mr Therimin?

  2. Stephen Downes

    If the interpretation of ‘Copyright Laws’ (capitalized, without nuance or clarification) is that you can’t make a copy of a copyright work at all, for any reason, then yes, ds106 broke copyright laws. But I think that it actually stayed on the good side of copyright, or if not, could have done so very easily.

    Because, after all, ds106 is web radio. It falls into a well-known category. There are thousands of web radio stations playing all kinds of music. And they do it legally, by as appropriate paying appropriate royalties, which are set out in relevant legislation.

    Under the old expensive plan, webcasters would have paid “royalty fees that would quickly and rapidly rise to .19 cents per song, per listener.” Figuring an audience of five people, that would be a penny a song. Figure on maybe a dollar for the entire day. The new plan involves substantially lower royalties, though I’m not sure how to calculate them. No matter. We are still seriously in the realm of pocket money. But if it really mattered, the Centrova Auto-DJ system running under Icecast has a switch that can turn on monitoring for the purpose of paying royalties. You could send in a cheque, but I’m not sure they cash cheques that small.

    That plus the argument could be made that ds106 radio does not have to pay royalties at all, because the station really amounts to no more of a performance than playing a song in your living room with a bunch of friends over for a few beers. For educational purposes. Indeed, the whole ds106 radio station was a grand educational experiment. Also, the sort of thing I’ve been doing – live-streaming YouTube videos as I played them on my computer – does not seem to be any sort of copying at all.

    As for #protocol – yes, there was #protocol. Indeed, it’s the major reason why I ended up leaving #ds106 and starting my own radio stations (where the royalty calculations are even easier, as I typically have zero listeners (and yes, it’s still totally worth it to run the station, for reasons that are somewhat difficult to explain, but probably easily understood by ds106 radio people).

    As for #protocol, there was definitely a protocol, the thing with ds106 radio wasn’t so much the deviance as it was the community that formed around it. It was like pirate radio, but it wasn’t really, and was always perfectly safe. I didn’t exactly fit that protocol – it involved rather more use of Twitter than I’m comfortable with, and I always felt like a visitor on ds106, not a participant. No hard feelings, though – it was totally worth doing, and directly led to my playing with Ed Radio (where, with zero listeners, the royalties are even easier to calculate).

  3. Sami

    You guys are non-profit broadcasters… and you can get a license to broadcast radio online for $500.00, there is a requirement to submit your programming and user count to them though. And there is no surcharge per song/user at least for playing music up to a certain number of songs per user, not sure about broadcasting other stuff. I would suggest it, as the risk is rather large, though perhaps not the likelihood of it getting to you, not playing by the old rules.

  4. Sami

    One thing I forgot to mention, the $500.00 is for a US license to broadcast to US listeners. In Canada, as Downes pointed out, it’s different and there are royalties per song/user. I don’t want to link and links should be removed as thee referrer will point them to this post and that could cause a ruckus.

  5. Jason Green

    I am also among the ds106radio sideline sitters. The three tracks I uploaded to the autodj were ones I wrote myself. I guess I was adhering to the protocol before there was one.

    To be fair, my tastes in music don’t align terribly well with ds106radio’s format, as I prefer older tunes. Ironically, had anyone wanted to perform them they would have been per protocol. Unfortunately, trying to get a ninjam group together to do Tallis or Machaut would have been, I think, a lost cause.

    I wonder if the lesson of this is that we could apply the massive creativity found in the ds106 community to do it ourselves and build a culture that’s not locked up as so much of our present one is.

  6. Giulia Post author

    @cogdog- Mr. Theremin tribute is coming, you can guarantee it! I appreciate your perspective on the matter, you, being such an avid creative commons creator.

    @Downes- Thank you so much for posting. You say so much here that I’ve read it repeatedly and carefully.
    First off, I want to tell you that I really enjoyed your sets on Ds106Radio and I think you should cross-cast a couple of your EdRadio in the future. I realize that twitter is not your favourite medium and so watching the stream was a requirement that pushed you away. I was listening that day and watched it happen on Twitter. Around that time, I also tried to start a campaign where you could raise money for creative commons by getting people to bid on being your second, third, fourth…n th person you followed, since you don’t follow anyone but seem so well connected in many other ways.
    Regardless, I like all your takes on the legality of the streaming. In particular,
    of course I am going to agree with your last paragraph on the matter: “indeed, the whole ds106 radio station was a grand educational experiment”.

    @Sami thanks for not wanting to cause a ruckus.

  7. Scott Leslie

    “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws…an unjust law is no law at all.” – MLK, ‘Letters from a Birmingham Jail’

    “There is good reason to be illegal because the law is wrong.” – Me, at ETUG

    “Damn the Man” – Lucas in ‘Empire Records’

  8. Giulia Post author

    @Jason the issue of sideliners comes up a lot. I think it’s really interesting because there have been quite a few discussions about inclusiveness in an open community. I only do my broadcasts in the middle of the night for fear of embarrassment and truthfully I feel like I am an outsider. I have learned so much about music and been exposed to so many interesting new genres that I would hope you would reconsider sharing some of your music in the future.

    @sleslie I am so glad you chimed in. I remember when you said that at ETUG (it was broadcasted) and the MLK quotes are so perfect too. Thank you.

  9. Grant

    New needs need new techniques. And the modern artists have found new ways and new means of making their statements… the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture.

    ~ Jackson Pollock

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  14. Easegill

    Giulia – please forgive me for writing your name. I hope that it is in the public domain. There is an elephant in the room – a bloody great elephant that is so big that it’s not just in our room but is in the hall, the town square and the canyons of our minds. Why do we ignore it? Powerlessness is one factor. We are the small people who don’t want to be crushed by the giant. And what is the name of that giant? It’s certainly not creativity. Instead it is money. Money and its cousin Greed. The vast majority of creators grow not rich, while the companies that feed parasitically from them do. It is these companies which will hunt and torture the little people who are going about their lives. It is these companies which pressure governments to enact laws which subjugate their people to the feudality of copyterror. These same companies will also pressure governments to reduce the rights of their people if it means that said company can pay workers less and sack them more easily. Recent examples are the passing of the Copyright Infringement bill in NZ http://goo.gl/eFK01 which will allow someone to claim infringement of their copyright http://creativefreedom.org.nz/s92-comic.html and the simple act of that accusation can count as a ‘strike’ against a user. 3 strikes and they can apply to have your internet access removed and have you fined. This is guilt by accusation and guilt unless you can possibly prove yourself innocent. Keep logs of every Internet highway and byway you’ve transited? Afford the lawyers needed to go up against ‘the big boys’ in the playground? Thought not. A UK student is currently facing extradition to the USA for having a website which contained no copyrighted material but pointed people to where films and TV shows might be found. http://goo.gl/R126q This is the sledgehammer and nut. Some publishers are limiting use of their ebooks in libraries since paper books would ‘wear out’ and therefore we must maintain that model and force libraries to re-buy the ebook after 26 uses http://www.fluency21.com/blogpost.cfm?blogID=1990 Libraries will therefore spend money buying the same books instead of buying new books and encouraging creativity. Of course we know that the reverse situation is ‘OK’ inasmuch as Disney made his first movies on the back of others creativity (and he did well). Today the news reported http://goo.gl/7PeYX that a Kiwi designer reckons his design has been ‘appropriated’ by Disney for the new Cars2 movie. We know that Disney won’t be taken to court, won’t have to pull the film, and won’t spend years fighting extradition to NZ. Copyright isn’t the elephant, it’s greed.

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