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Sunday, October 22, 2006

W.W.C.T.G.Y.T.B.N.C.O.S.Y.A.O. vs. Copyright

I went to an interesting workshop on copyright last week. I was reminded that it was only a 5-4 decision that allowed one to timeshift television watching. This is a good thing, because timeshifted TV is about the only TV I watch, Game 7 of the NLCS notwithstanding.

The issue of music is more complicated, and I'm not going to get into the law, except to say that I have (probably) violated it recently, and yet I'm all right with that. Mostly.

When music CDs first came out, I had lots of LPs, in excess of 1000, so I was rather disinclined to replicate digitally what I already had in vinyl. So most of my early CD purchases were new product, with an occasional acquisition of a Greatest Hits package. Eventually, though, as I found myself not listening as much to the records, I would buy certain albums I already owned on LP as CDs: Purple Rain by Prince; Who's Next by The Who, Graceland by Paul Simon; The Beatles' oeuvre - I own the British LP box set; the Police CD box set, which covers all of their albums; early 1970s Stevie Wonder, just to name a few. Well, no more.

I am hereby declaring war on the W.W.C.T.G.Y.T.B.N.C.O.S.Y.A.O., which, as described by Mark Evanier is the World Wide Conspiracy To Get You To Buy New Copies Of Stuff You Already Own. Tom the Dog and others have also touched on this topic.

I know people go the library and burn music all of the time; I just reflect endlessly on it. Someone asked, in reference to my (near-obsessive) desire to get the new Dylan album, if I might get it at the library. Well, yeah, I could, but it would be wrong. For me.

Whereas I feel no such compunction about going to the library and buying digitized versions of music I already own. Call it rationalization if you want. I call it fighting back against the W.W.C.T.G.Y.T.B.N.C.O.S.Y.A.O.

So what did I copy this week? I didn't really look for anything specific, just flipped through the racks until I found a half dozen discs, which is the maximum.
Nebraska - Bruce Springsteen (1982). My Bruce collection was neatly divided into the mid-'80s boxed set and before, which was vinyl, and the post-boxed set, which was all CD. Then I ended up getting Born in the USA on CD, even though I had it on LP. For Christmas one year, my (now late) brother-in-law John asked me what I wanted, and I put together a list of Bruce LPs I owned that I might want on CD (plus The River, which I had, strangely, never gotten). He gave me ALL of them: Asbury Park, Born in the USA, Darkness, and The River. I had forgotten to ask for Nebraska and The Wild, the Innocent... Well, now I have all but the latter.

Breakfast in America - Supertramp (1982). Scowl if you wish, but tell me: isn't The Logical song still relevant?
Now watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical,
Liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won't you sign up your name, wed like to feel you're
Acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable!

Those two were morally easy, compared to the other two.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen - Joe Cocker. I found the two-disc, 35th anniversary edition of the classic 1970 album. I had forgotten the story how an exhausted Cocker wanted some rest but was contracted to do this extra tour, lest he never play in America again, how Leon Russell helped put together a bunch of musicians, and how everything was sweetness and light in the beginning between Cocker and Russell, only to sour over the time of the tour.
This special edition has songs that were not the original LP, including the singles versions. Did I pass on those songs? I did not. Not a purist, I reckon.

Aladdin Sane - David Bowie. Another double album, this one the 30th anniversary of the 1973 follow-up to Ziggy Stardust. The second disc has alternate and live versions. It would have been easy not to copy it, logistically. Alas, I succumbed to the ease of the electronic download.
Now, one of the things I STILL won't have are the extensive liner notes, some 30 pages, including a Bowie timetable for 1972 and 1973. Bowie was an early hit on the coasts, but sold only 180 tickets out of 11,000 seats in St. Louis.
I'll miss out on David's musings on many things, including Detroit, where he is quoted as saying that he can't believe there's really such a raw city. He meant this in a GOOD way. Panic in Detroit is my favorite song on the album, BTW.
There was a record company ploy to make a star out of David by having him act the part, with expensive accoutrements; Bowie was ambivalent at best about the plan, which, arguably, worked.
The writer, noting that this tour was less elaborate than the later Diamond Dogs tour, reflected that middle America found that the "lead singer [Bowie] mock-felating his lead guitarist [Mick Ronson] was a little hard to swallow."
A Lad Insane was one of the possible album titles.

Anyway, there are my blows against the empire.


Lefty said...

I bought the anniveresary edition of Aladdin Sane twice on CD. I returned it twice as well. I loved reading the liner notes and the 2 disc collection is pretty cool, but I kept returning the product because the packaging kept scratching the discs, even when I opened it out of the cellophane. It made me swear off Bowie's other similar packaged material.

So regarding copyright it legal to make mix cd's? How about a listening copy of a disc you own? Do you own the music that you can transfer music onto multiple devices (say my wife's iPod and my own iPod)? Just wondering.

Roger Owen Green said...

Certainly, I understand that music for one's private use is OK. It's the other stuff that gets murky. I've (broadly) defined the mixed CDs under fair use; i.e., doing it for educational purposes, not making money off of it, it's trandsformative (the selection order is "creative") and probably not costing the people a whole lot of money. But copyright is not black and white.
Certainly, copying a whole disc (or a whole book) is more of a problem that a song (or a chapter).
Not making money is an important consideration, but depriving money is also. It's a balancing act.