The Music Of JC Harris

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

JCHRants

Piracy You Can Believe In

A very small amount of piracy is actually good (a very small amount.) And this subset of necessary evil is simply because the current copyright law is so bad.

WARNING: DO NOT CLICK THE LINK BELOW UNLESS YOU WANT TO BREAK THE LAW! AND DON’T SAY I DIDN’T TRY TO WARN YOU, EITHER.

Not to be a tease, but if you don’t find this absolutely side-splitting? I honestly suggest that you consult a physician; your funny bone is broken.

OK, being a natural scofflaw, I assume you clicked the link and didn’t have a stroke or boils or hemorrhoids or whatever. Moving on. This one minute and forty five seconds of brass genius was something I heard maybe twenty years ago on an absolutely fantastic radio program called Schickele Mix which ran on public radio for prox. fifteen years. As you may surmise, this program was created by the composer, raconteur and re-discoverer of PDQ Bach, Dr. Peter Schickele.

There is a real irony that in this age of information overload, we are creating a donut-hole whereby content from the 1990’s is actually harder to find than content from the 1890s!

Schickele Mix was a humorous educational program. I sometimes think it was a forerunner of now more famous shows like Radiolab and This American Life. Each show had a theme (such as ‘Quotations’ from which this clip was culled). Dr. Schickele would intersperse a variety of musical pieces from around the world with snappy patter to bring it all together. Sound familiar? The guy was (er… is) a font of broad-band musical wit and his insights and humour were the stuff of which all great educators are made. And to call his taste in music eclectic or ‘catholic’ would be an understatement. A typical show might include Elvis, Stan Getz, Webern, Mozart and some African Tribal Singers. Somehow, though, he made it all seem of a piece. In short, he was the guy who made you look forward to vegetables. In music. Musical vegetables. Now there’s a metaphor.

Now somewhere along the line, ‘classical music’ got the boot from most any public radio production company (in favour of material that is more ‘hip’, I suppose.) OK, fine, tastes change. But unlike other dead shows that one can refer back to in some archive, there is currently no way to (legally) listen back to these shows for historical or education or (gasp) just plain entertainment purposes. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this would not be the case. After all, we just assume that ‘educational’ material is freely available for reference somewhere and should be able to persist. Wrong-o.

The current U.S. Copyright Law has a provision called ‘Fair Use’. This is the loophole that lets a schoolteacher make photocopies of articles and share them with students so that they can learn. (Gee, sounds a lot like what Schickele Mix does, right?) But you can’t hear the wonderfulness Schickele Mix is because it is illegal to ‘re-broadcast’ any bit of a radio show in another medium (such as over the Internet). Why you ask? Because the current law would require the owners of the copyright (Garrison Keillor’s American Public Media, I suppose) to negotiate a license (ie. ‘pay money’) to every artist whose music was ever played on the show.

In other words: you can do a radio show and play songs without paying a license fee (or rather the radio station pays a blanket license fee for being in the broadcast business.) But to offer up an on-line archive like Schickele Mix, you have to ‘sub-license’ each selection individually. You have to not only find each guy on each episode and get a signed release, but then you have to pay them. Again. It’s about as onerous as locating all the members of a class-action suit. A real silly class-action suit. (I refer you to the Steve Martin movie ‘The Jerk’ where our hero loses a class action for his invention ‘The Opti-Grab’ and spends his days hand signing and addressing thousands of checks for $.057 to each of the claimants. It’s that ludicrous.)

The wonderful array of content that cannot now be accessed legally is stunning. Any media content that requires ‘sub-licensing’ is blocked. Think about that: any radio shows you listened to as a kid which contained copyrighted clips are probably unavailable. I know you assume they are being saved ‘somewhere’ but that’s not the case. There is a real irony that in this age of information overload, we are creating a donut-hole whereby content from the 1990’s is actually harder to find than content from the 1890s!

What to do? So I can tell you about the vast range of wonderful artists he featured (none of which you’ve likely heard) and then ask you to seek them out based solely on my recommendation and irresistible powers of persuasion. You can also do this yourself at the Schickele Mix web site. That’s what you should do, for sure.

Or, I can tell you just how illegal, immoral and probably carcinogenic it would be for you to learn about this devil’s spawn called BitTorrent, investigate the necessary keywords to search for such reprehensible content and then how injurious it might be to your very soul to download a Schickele Mix archive after some bastard has taken the time to record off the air and save for posterity. What an asshole.

Speaking of the devil, that reminds me of a Peter Schickele joke which will give you an idea of the humour you can expect:

A guy is condemned to hell and the devil offers him the requisite newbie tour. They first pass a group of people being whipped with flames. “Who are those people?”, cries the new contestant. “Jews who ate pork.”, replies the infernal tour guide. Next they pass a group of people being boiled in oil. “Who are those people?”, exclaims the condemned soul. “Those are Catholics who ate meat on Friday.”. Finally, they pass a third group of unfortunates being whipped with flames while being boiled in oil. “Wow. Who are those people?”, cries our terrified prisoner. “Oh those are Episcopalians who ate the main course with their salad fork.”

If you’re a regular reader, you immediately see why I think Schickele Mix is a scream.

I wanna stop for a second and say that if I -could- obtain Schickele Mix legally I would happily pay to do so. I would also pay the guy who did that ‘2001’ arrangement (Hell, I’d pay the guy to play at my wake. That’d be -amazing- music to go out on!) But I can’t. No one can. And that’s my point. There needs to be a simple mechanism for everyone to gain access -and- for people to get paid a reasonable sum for screwing around with Strauss of an afternoon and giving guys like me so much pleasure.

So piracy, like curaré, does have a non-toxic and beneficial use in very small doses. It’s easy to get carried away by the positive effects and then, whoops, yer lungs stop. They just stop. OK, yer lungs don’t stop if you pirate my CDs. I only wish that were the case. Sorry for exaggerating. But let’s not even tempt fate and change that copyright law!

All that is needed to fix this is to add a rule to the current Fair Use Provision, allowing for ‘collections’ such as Schickele Mix to fall under its auspices and not require sub-licensing. A small thing to ask. And the best part? This does not even require congress to intervene! It can be done simply with a stroke of the pen by the boss of the Office Of U.S. Copyright. Readers who are up on current events will note that there are a number of other provisions to the copyright statute which are being reviewed for change. For example, tractor owners. This gives you a small idea of just how screwed up things are with the current copyright statute.

In closing, it just occurred to me that there is another benefit to piracy: plausible deniability. People of my generation, always had to be subject to the ridicule of their friends who would rifle through yer collection. MAN, YOU ACTUALLY HAVE A CAPTAIN AND TENILLE RECORD? DUDE! By stealing one has never to suffer such ignominy. It was worth what you paid for it, right? Actually, I guess this also works for streaming services. “Hey, it’s not my fault. Iggy Azalea just showed up on my playlist! Pandora’s algorithm suuuucks.” But such is a rant for another day.

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