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Interview with Jim Griffin 76

mpawlo writes "I just finished a Greplaw interview with Jim Griffin. Griffin, of Pholist fame, gives his thoughts on copyright and digital distribution of music. Learn also why copyright should be renamed copy risk. Griffin was once - at Geffen - behind the online release of a full-length song by Aerosmith. In 1994! He is, however, not a John Perry Barlow School of Thought devotee."
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Interview with Jim Griffin

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  • by Julian Morrison ( 5575 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:36PM (#7583234)
    ...which amounts to nationalizing all art. (He who pays the piper, etc.)

    Unless you like Soviet hymns to tractor production statistics, that probably isn't such a great idea.
    • by OneHouse ( 151904 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:45PM (#7583272) Homepage
      Wrong. I am clearly on the record as completely opposed to government compelling such a tax. If you read carefully, I advocate voluntary negotiations that produce blanket licenses. I do not think the government should set the rate, I do not think government should collect the money, I do not think government should be involved in its allocation. I believe private negotiations can accomplish these tasks just as they have with broadcast radio and television.
      • by mellon ( 7048 ) * on Friday November 28, 2003 @03:30PM (#7583494) Homepage
        It seems like what you're objecting to here is the idea that government would choose who would get payment, not to any givernment involvement at all, right? Correct me if I am wrong, but it looks like you want the government, wether through passage of laws or through its capacity as the enforcer of contracts, to make sure that people pay.

        One of the big objections that I see to BMI/ASCAP/RIAA is that regardless of what's played, most of the money goes to the record companies, then the big artists get their cut, and the little artists get nothing. But the little artists don't have the right to opt out. At first blush, it seems like a non-obnoxious micropayment system would be fairer. How do you make your statistics-based system fair to small artists? And what about opting out?
        • Again, I repeat: I do not think the government should have any role whatsoever in actuarial systems unless there is a complete failure to negotiate private, voluntary agreements, and even then I am not for government involvement but simply believe it will prove inevitable to resolve the stalemate.
      • I believe private negotiations can accomplish these tasks just as they have with broadcast radio and television.

        And you also said:

        Paying into actuarial network funds should be no more voluntary than ought be automobile insurance.

        So you appear to believe the government should have a place in mandating the payments, even if it isn't involved in setting the rates or collecting or disbursing the money. Actually, the government also has a place in ensuring the payments happen in broadcast radio and telev

      • The copyright licensing schemes only got negotiated on TV&radio because (1) the govt monopolizes broadcast licenses, so the number of broadcasters is low and easy to determine (2) it's very obvious who is transmitting what. Obviously, these don't apply to p2p.

        I can see what you mean: monitor and log downloads at the ISP, pay fees to artists, spread the cost across customer subscriptions. Perhaps negotiate a blanket license for the ISPs instead of pay-per-play. Whatever. I just can't see that model wor
    • by GospelHead821 ( 466923 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:46PM (#7583281)
      It isn't strictly a national industry. He compares the process to that of automobile insurance - and that is a private industry. As long as there is an accountable entity responsible for the collection and fair disbursement of the funds associated with the creation, distribution, and purchase of music, then it doesn't have to be a governmental entity at all.
    • by mabu ( 178417 ) * on Friday November 28, 2003 @03:05PM (#7583364)
      IMO, the problem with "art" is that it becomes less creative expression and more financial transaction when money is the motivating factor.

      We all want artists to be supported in their efforts, but I think part of what composes the integrity of many forms of creative expression is the lack of a clear subsidizing/transactional relationship.

      In other words, true artists could care less about DRM.
  • DRM systems (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gxv ( 577982 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:47PM (#7583287)
    From the interview, concerning DRM systems:
    So it seems quite obvious that conditioning access on locks and keys doesn't work today, and is purely a theoretical, hypothetical suggestion that has never proven value in the marketplace.
    Sounds like "information wants to be free". In this case free from strange limitations (Yes, you can play that CD on the computer, but it will only work, when it's Windows or Mac. Can you repeat? Linux? What is Linux? Ah, yes I heard something. No, sorry Sir, we don't support it. Oh, one more thing - to make it work during playback every 17 seconds you have to press Ctrl+V+F7). If the DRM-protected file is less useful and flexible than one you've just got from Kazaa, you will use the one from Kazaa. Period.
  • I dispute this quote (Score:3, Informative)

    by JoeBaldwin ( 727345 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:51PM (#7583308) Homepage Journal
    Europeans are accustomed to paying a mandatory annual television fee

    While I for one support the License Fee, many over here in the U of K hate it, and wish it was gone. Why they would want to go for a US-alike TV system, with commercials everywhere, I don't know.

    Also, by Europeans I think he means "Brits". To my knowledge, only we pay a TV License.
    • by s20451 ( 410424 )
      Also, by Europeans I think he means "Brits". To my knowledge, only we pay a TV License.

      I think there are also license fees in the Scandinavian countries. Certainly there are in Sweden and Finland. Remenber that Nokia television handset story a while back?
    • Also, by Europeans I think he means "Brits". To my knowledge, only we pay a TV License.
      Wrong. There is a TV fee in all scandinavian countries, Poland and the most of former comunistic countries. These i'm sure of, probably more has it. In Bulgaria you have to pay it even if you dont have the TV set...
      I have to pay this tax. They say these are money for so called "social mission" of state television. I woulnt mind if it would guarantee me something, for instance commercial ads free program. It does not. T
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @03:40PM (#7583539) Homepage Journal
      many hate here too(finland, yes we have such a thing).. but mainly because it's a crazy amount of money(165euros per year, now my rent is 170e per month so for me it is an outrageous sum) and doesn't directly go into funding the tv(you can buy canal+ for the same money basically). students&others quite regularly leave it unpaid. there's inspectors who go around sometimes asking people who haven't paid it if they have a tv but they lack all police powers(meaning that you can just tell to go fuck themselfs and there's nothing they can do about it), there's ad campaigns to get people to pay as well(but they're very fud like, mostly just meant to spread fear).

      the channels have occasionally very good programming though and no ads is a _major_ plus(and they don't always care just for viewer ratings so there's occasionally good niche programs as well). digital tv is a plus too, and a reality(if you had digicard for dvr, you could do a very good digi-rips of band of brothers for example among other shows) in both terrestial and cable versions.

      i haven't watched tv in the last 3 weeks at all though...
      • the channels have occasionally very good programming though and no ads is a _major_ plus(and they don't always care just for viewer ratings so there's occasionally good niche programs as well).

        We in Holland do not have a TV license scheme. We did away with it a few years ago, now money for public broadcasts comes from general taxation.

        Sound like your public stations are okay. Let me tell you what ours are like, just to prove that a blanket tax scheme does not guarantee good quality.

        Commercial TV

    • The TV license is something that could never happen again or be introduced to a new country, i personally dont mind it either - its just something you get used to and its cool having no adverts (even though fame acadamy sequels are really starting to piss me off). Im sure it will go one day but i dont know if that will be a good or a bad thing - all i know is that some people pay even more for channels that have adverts!
    • Every time we buy a product that was advertised on TV, the cost of the TV advertisements is being passed on to us. Fortunately for Americans, thanks to the free market that money goes to corporate boards that aren't accountable to us, rather than to some silly "public broadcasting concern".

  • DRM application (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:53PM (#7583317) Journal
    He argues both that DRM is a concept not a technology, and that the overall costs and balances of DRM ought to be taken into account (the Cable TV argument), and that the financial value of art is in its ability to draw a crowd.

    The cost of applying DRM to a given work should be factored (as a negative) into the popularity and therefore take-up of that work. I'm still not convinced that anyone "high up" in the content-protection (**IA) business has figured that out... This ought to be required reading for industry execs.

  • by Ironmaus ( 725832 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @02:57PM (#7583334) Homepage
    Jim Griffin sounds very knowledgeable about this subject but he also spins some serious hippie crap that makes me doubt his theories and opinions.

    I have no particular take on QTFairUse. I simply acknowledge, accept and find delight in digits -- especially those carrying art, knowledge and creativity -- bionomically finding the shortest, most efficient and effective path from source to destination.

    Yeah, that's the biggest cop out to a serious question ever.

    I wish he'd just come out and say it in plain English:

    Our path to progress is clear: Tolerate risk, but anticipate its consequences and address them through actuarial means, by pooling fees and allocating their rewards to risk takers such as artists and rights holders. Paying into actuarial network funds should be no more voluntary than ought be automobile insurance.

    In other words, everyone should pay a "music listening tax" regardless of how much music they listen to. Those who listen to a lot get great value from the taxation and those who listen to less just...shut up and pay the bill.

    As fabulous and socialist as this all sounds, the part about pooling the fees and paying the "risk takers such as artists and rights holders" scares the shit out of me. Are we willing, for the sake of putting rights management out of our minds, to trust a huge payment distribution system to reward our artists? I'm not. I'm terrified that the little guys are going to fall through the cracks. This plan sounds exactly like the payment of royalties for non-profit radio stations--like the one [kser.org] I work for--where we pay a lump sum and the distribution companies like ASCAP dole out the payments based on "play statistics." Massive Habit [massivehabit.com] and Jump Little Children [jumplittlechildren.com] aren't getting a single nickel from what we pay. It's my responsibility as a fan of their music to go outside the payment system that sees them as insignificant and give my money directly to them in the form of CD purchases and show attendance.
    • I think you misunderstand Mr. Griffin - I believe that he posits a Copyrisk pool as one method to reward artists.

      There is nothing about this Copyrisk Commons Plan to stop an individual artist from collecting a revenue stream from selling artifacts (shiny discs of plastic covered with bits), performing in public (whether it be Lincoln Center, or the Harvard Square T station), or any other lawful pursuit of revenue (except buying SCOX).

    • There would need to be a way to ensure that even the little guys get some share of them money. Perhaps have a small, flat rate that applies to the first 100 or 1000 or some arbitrarily small number of downloads. Any music producer whose song is downloaded a number of times below that threshhold gets the flat fee. Anybody whose music is downloaded more times gets a percentage, based on statistics, of the remaining pool, which has probably been barely touched by the amount alotted to the small performers.
    • Reading the interview leaves me feeling that maybe the Blank Media Levy [pacdat.net] here in Canada as well as the Proposed levy on ISPs [slashdot.org] are not all that bad an idea. Don't get me wrong - in their current, narrowly defined and administered fashion they tilt things as you point out, not paying the little guys at all.

      But if you added a better enumeration system for what actually got played, noting that the computer systems and network today make this almost trivial compared to the current sampling system and estimation

    • Can I get a Deafness Exemption?
    • Sorry you read my reaction to QTFairUse as a "cop out." In fact I have not used it. I thought it best to reserve comment until I have and simply note that I favor all shorter paths. When I have personally used it I will feel more comfortable in commenting, as I do not like to speculate where I have no personal knowledge or experience.
      • If someone said to you, "There's a new electromagnetic weapon powerful enough to disrupt the computer systems running most modern attack vehicles. It may save countless lives but it could also fall into the wrong hands. What is your take on this kind of weapon?" You wouldn't respond, "I can't render a verdict until I've fired one."

        It's not necessary to have used something to form an opinion about what it does. The question was not posed to you to determine if you felt QTFairUse had a nice GUI or neede
  • by leoaugust ( 665240 ) <leoaugust&gmail,com> on Friday November 28, 2003 @03:13PM (#7583393) Journal

    We can replace the entire music business worldwide for less than it costs to complain about the fee, and all media can be compensated for at a fee that integrates well with monthly wireless or wired fees. This is hardly revolutionary:

    I might sound simplistic, but isn't this the road to socialism - Compensating all media when most of them deserve to die an unsung death?

    1. On this road the first step in the journey of a thousand steps is day n when it will be "at a cost less than it costs to complain."
    2. The second step is on day n+1 when some wiseguy will come up and talk about not leaving money on the table and making it "cost just about equal to what it costs to complain."
    3. On day n+m another high flyer will come and say let us test the market and make it "cost just a little more than it costs to complain."
    4. On day n+m+1 a MBA will come and say let us just "let those who can pay pay more than it costs to complain."
    5. Then the RIAA will come ....
    6. And waiting like a Vulture for his day, Darl McBride will come and say ....
  • by Von Helmet ( 727753 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @03:22PM (#7583434)
    It simply cannot be done. There's always ways round it, and it's kinda futile. Copy protection programs generally only work under Windows/Mac, and can often be disabled, a la the shift key debacle of recent months. If the copy protection is a bit better than that, and can't be disabled, then youc an always use a different OS. I couldn't rip the Dido CD in Windows, but Grip in Linux did it just fine. Even if they were to tighten up on things like even including blocking for Linux (and I don't know how they'd pull that off) then there'd still be ways round it. If you can hear the sound then you can record it, and that's good enough. You can hook a CD player up to a PC and record the audio, or a PC to another PC... you name it. Granted, most people aren't going to go to such lengths - the general public doesn't really care for Linux :) - but there are already systems like Kazaa in place to distribute MP3s, so it only takes one keen person to create the MP3 in the first place, and everyone else is laughing. The music industry should stop worrying about DRM and all this rubbish. The horse has bolted, the cat is out of the bag, etc etc. The only way people are going to stop pirating CDs and start buying them again is if the record companies start selling good quality music at a fair price. Here endeth the lesson.
  • Does anyone have a copy of this historic file? Perhaps someone with a beefy server could host it? Or would we all get tossed in jail?
  • I favor imposing involuntary fees across network users such that the fees become so low they are hardly worth complaining about.

    The size of the fee is not the problem. It would be a huge mistake to codify the current flawed network structure of 'network users' and providers into tax law.

    We already have a many legally taxable networks. The telephone, cable, water, sewer, and road networks are all taxable for various reasons and with varying amounts of harm and good.

    But the Internet is ideally a distribut
  • Bundling (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Friday November 28, 2003 @06:23PM (#7584267)
    The arguements for bundling mostly have good counter arguements. Sure, it can make sense for a theme park to charge a single admission rather than a per ride fee. They can save a lot of administrative costs. Those who remember Disney's old A through E ticket system, where the consumer often ended up with a bunch of left over A & B tickets, and tired kids who didn't want to ride the Mad Hatter's teacup ride just to use them up, will know the feeling.
    But, the LP or CD format itself is bundling. Downloading just the songs you want is a move _away_ from bundling. Paying a flat fee per song looks like bundling on the level of pop music and single tracks, but is a move away from bundling at the album level.
    Example: At 99 cents a track, Mike Oldfield's Tubular bells will cost you about 2 dollars for the whole album (2 tracks). Tubular Bells 2 is about 20 dollars, and Tubular Bells 3 is about 16. So, if Mr. Oldfield releases Tubular Bells 4, it will doubtless consist of exactly as many tracks as his agency figures will maximize total return.
  • # Are digital rights management systems the answer? Then what was the question

    You know, Jim's asked about "DRM" and then he goes on and on about cable television and how "rare" it would be for "DRM" to make sense in "mass media," about "denying content" to "digital or analog radio" -- *without a word at all* about digital broadcast television. It's not like it's at all likely Jim doesn't know the FCC just decided to mandate the "broadcast flag."

    So what's your position on the broadcast flag, Jim? Would i

  • is available at imira.org as a mp3 [imira.org] .

    In a world where content managers from the MPAA and RIAA membership are screaming and whining that the sky is falling, Jim has seen the potential since beginning. His testimony at the Napster hearings, was the high point of the and actually gave me some hope. The same day, Lars Ulrich from Metallica was whining "Napster ripped me off," Jim Griffin was talking about increasing the size of the musical pie from $40 billion to $100 billion per year. Basically telling peopl

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