Tech News October 2010

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1.  Historic audio at risk, thanks to bad copyright laws

The Library of Congress has released a sobering new report on the state of digital audio preservation in the United States. The Library's National Recording Preservation Board concludes that most of the nation's audio libraries are ill-equipped to handle the complex array of streams and digital formats by which music and other recorded sounds are released today.  "It is relatively easy to recognize the importance of recorded sound from decades ago," the survey notes. "What is not so evident is that older recordings actually have better prospects to survive another 150 years than recordings made last week using digital technologies."  But even those older artifacts face the prospect of being lost to posterity because of our nation's copyright laws. So concludes The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age (PDF).  "Were copyright law followed to the letter, little audio preservation would be undertaken.  Were the law strictly enforced, it would brand virtually all audio preservation as illegal."   (Source: Ars Techica)

2.  Appeals court says UMG too shady on royalties

A three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Eminem's recordings for Universal Music Group's Aftermath label should be paid at significantly higher royalties for downloadable tracks and albums sold through Apple's iTunes Store.  Eminem’s attorneys contended that the 99-cent downloads weren't "records sold ... through normal retail channels," which would carry a royalty of 12% to 20%.  Instead, they argued that the sales stemmed from licensing deals that Aftermath struck on Eminem's behalf, on which the royalties should have been 50% of the net receipts. The ruling's impact on others isn't clear, since most other artists' contracts with the major labels specify that downloads receive the same royalties as physical sales.  (Source: Los Angeles Times)

3.  Federal appeals court tosses out method for calculating music streaming royalties

In a ruling that has the potential to affect many websites that stream music, a federal appeals court threw out a lower court's method for determining music royalties, saying the calculations were flawed.  The case involves a dispute over how much Yahoo Inc. and RealNetworks Inc. should have to pay the ASCAP in royalties for the ability to stream music on their websites. Though the case directly concerns Yahoo and RealNetworks, its outcome could affect how much numerous sites and online services -- including AOL, YouTube, Pandora, Slacker Radio and MOG -- pay for the right to stream music.  At issue is a district court’s decision in 2008 to set a 2.5% royalty rate for millions of songs owned by the 390,000 songwriters represented by ASCAP.  A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit sided with Yahoo and RealNetworks, concluding that the lower court’s method for setting royalties was “unreasonable” and “imprecise” because it overstated how much the sites benefited from having streaming music in various areas of the sites.  The ruling directed the lower court to come up with a new and fairer method for determining royalty payments.  (Source: Los Angeles Times)

4.  Party is over for US music downloads

Rapid growth in digital music downloads has ground to a halt in the US, suggesting that the MP3 market is reaching saturation point. According to figures from Nielsen, the research group, 630m tracks were downloaded in the first half of 2010 in the US, flat on the same period last year. Downloads rose by 28 per cent a year in 2008 and 13 per cent in 2009.  Record labels had been banking on revenue growth from digital platforms to counterbalance falling CD sales. But even as downloads plateau, other forms of digital distribution, such as streaming, are failing to gain mass appeal while unlawful file sharing is largely undiminished. (Source: The Financial Times)

5.  Nonprofits Have a Stake in the Latest Debates About Keeping the Internet Open

In an essay in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Vincent Stehle makes the case as to why maintaining Net Neutrality is important to non-profit organizations. He says, “A battle has been raging between consumer groups and telecommunications companies over the fate of the Internet—whether it will remain neutral in the way content is delivered or whether phone and cable companies will be able to offer special deals featuring their own content. And by comparison, will these same companies be able to degrade the experience of content that flows outside of the entertainment channels they control.  Why should nonprofits care about any of this?  Everyone should be concerned about the free flow of information and expression as the basis of an open society and healthy democracy. But nonprofits in particular have an even higher stake in the open Internet.  First is the obvious need to cultivate an informed electorate amid a crisis in journalism, in which newsrooms are being emptied of investigative reporters and the airwaves are filling up with harsh and partisan opinionators.  But beyond this reality, nonprofits have greatly benefited from the new information ecology, in which every organization is able to publish directly to an infinite audience of prospective supporters and contributors.”   (Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy)

6.  International Classical Artists and medici.tv announce a new partnership

International Classical Artists (ICA) and medici.tv, which arranges audio-visual broadcasts of live concerts via the Internet, announced a partnership between their two organisations, in which the artist management agency will provide expertise in artistic services and programming to the digital platform company.   (Source: www.icartists.co.uk)

7.  New CSO label's CD salutes Järvi

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is launching its own record label. The first disc on the new Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Media label will be "American Portraits," an album of American music celebrating Paavo Järvi's 10th season as music director.  The album, to cost $15, will be available at Music Hall and in select area stores. The orchestra is researching ways to distribute it, including through iTunes and Amazon.   (Source: Cincinnati Enquirer)
 
8.  Online aural alternatives: The best ways to get digital music

An article in the Lincoln Journal Star compares some of the paid and free (legal) options for listening to music on a digital device, including MOG, Napster, Rhapsody and Grooveshark.   (Source: Lincoln Journal Star)
 

9.  Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted

An article by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker contends that social media tools are ineffective methods for effecting social change.  Beth Kanter and others are not quite ready to give up on the potential value to non-profit organizations of using social media strategies to further their missions.  (Source: The New Yorker and Beth’s Blog)

10.  Opera Makes Free Simulcasts Pay Off

The San Francisco opera held its fifth simulcast at AT&T Park—normally home to the San Francisco Giants—featuring Giuseppe Verdi's "Aida." Opera officials expected the Sept. 24 event to play to a crowd of 30,000 people, up 20% from the average attendance of 25,000.  They say the location is the key to the simulcasts' success. Such events at other operas often take place in open-air plazas where the crowd can come and go. By using the ballpark, the San Francisco Opera is able to collect contact information from first-time opera-goers who register for the free event to get early admission.  Using that data, the opera says it has been able to figure out that new-patron tickets linked to the simulcasts have brought in about $880,000. That puts the opera—which says it has spent about $800,000 on its four previous simulcasts—slightly in the black with its simulcast endeavors. Also helping the bottom line: The opera cuts its costs by producing the simulcasts in-house.  (Source: Wall Street Journal)

11.    The Met's live HD performances widen opera's audience

"The Met: Live in HD" series, whose 2010-11 season began with Wagner's "Das Rheingold," will present 12 live performances on Saturday afternoons and encore presentations several weeks later on Wednesday nights.  The Met's fortunes have risen considerably as a result of the groundbreaking series.  General Manager Peter Gelb said 2.4 million people -- in 1,500 theaters in 46 countries -- bought tickets to the series last year for a gross of $47 million. About half of that amount went to the Met to cover costs and share fees with the various unions and artists. And the series has had an enormous impact on donations, adding almost 7,000 to the list of Met contributors in recent seasons. Those donors are needed now more than ever: The Met's budget last season was $300 million.  (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)