BOB GARFIELD: The Coalition for the Future of Music Policy is a non-profit group of artists, activists and music professionals who are trying to address some of the issues that the big players -- Internet and media conglomerates like AOL/Time Warner for example -- haven't yet put on the agenda in Washington, DC. The CFMP held a conference last week at Georgetown University and NPR cultural correspondent Rick Karr was there. He joins us now. Hey, Rick!
RICK KARR: Hello, Bob!
BOB GARFIELD: Okay, so here's the thing. I've just gotten accustomed to not putting those little plastic disks in the middle of my Donovan Leach 45, [LAUGHTER] and now come to discover everything's changing again. Simple question -- what is the future of music?
RICK KARR: We don't know for sure. One thing that I think just about everybody's agreed on is that round plastic disks of any sort, whether they very easy analog or digital are on their way out. Whether it's five years down the line or ten years down the line, music is something that's going to be delivered to us over the Internet, whether we're downloading it, whether it's being streamed to us -- and maybe the best way to put it -- something that Walter McDonough said to me - and Walter McDonough is an Internet and music attorney based in Needham, Massachusetts, and he was one of the organizers of-- The Coalition for the Future of Music Policy Conference.
WALTER McDONOUGH: People need to find out how to market music through the Internet! And no one's done it yet, and we have the best, the brightest minds from technology and music trying to figure out that, and they still haven't figured it out!
BOB GARFIELD: Haven't figured it out. What's the timetable?
RICK KARR: We don't know what the timetable is because there are things standing in the way. Now technology people have great ideas! They have things like Napster, mymp3.com, Scour -- the music people love the ideas -- the lawyers haven't figured it out yet. The issue is that there are two sort of legal points standing in the way of making some of these technologies widely available. One of them is this notion of licensing which sounds a little arcane but what it boils down to is the music industry owns all the music right now. They own the copyrights. And the law doesn't force them to let the Internet companies use the music the way they want. Now we in radio - we can play any song we want at any point because there's something known as "a compulsory license." So long as we pay the royalty fees to the relevant bodies, we can use any music we want. The Internet people, by law, don't have that right, and that's one of the things that kept coming up time and again. So that's one point. The other sort of stumbling block that people are citing is an aspect of the current copyright law that's out there; it's called Section 12 01 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and what it does is if you do something with the music that you've always been able to do like make a tape to listen to in your car, or make a tape for your friend, you can be criminally liable. Now a lot of the civil libertarians are saying that's a term in the law that has to go because it gives all the power to the content owners and none of the power to the consumers. I spoke with John Perry Barlow who's the co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and he's a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, and he said this:
JOHN PERRY BARLOW: People need to find out how to market music through the Internet! And no one's done it yet, and we have the best, the brightest minds from technology and music trying to figure out that, and they still haven't figured it out!
MAN: This does not in any way serve the public interest! It only serves the interests of some essentially moribund institutions as they try to perpetuate themselves beyond their useful life span. One of two things are going to happen. Either we're going to get rid of it in the courts, or we're simply going to ignore it--
RICK KARR: Which means we're going to go on with the world of sort of rampant copying on Napster and artists not getting paid.
BOB GARFIELD: Civil disobedience in other words.
RICK KARR: That's exactly what John Perry Barlow calls it, because he and other people say that the, the sort of the social contract behind copyright has been broken by this law. Now, interestingly, the man who helped draft that copyright law, Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee was the first keynote speaker at the conference, and he actually is starting to sound like he thinks that the system needs to change. See, right around the time that he was drafting the Digital and Millennium Copyright Act he started writing songs. So now he has sort of inside, firsthand experience of the way the music industry works, and it sounds like he's not terribly happy with the way it works, and he certainly sounds like he doesn't want the way it works now to be carried over into the on line world.
BOB GARFIELD:All right let's listen to the artist formerly known as Senator. SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: I do not think that it is any benefit for artists or fans to have all the new, wide distribution channels controlled by those who have controlled all of the old narrow ones!
RICK KARR: Senator Hatch actually also went on to say basically the same thing about the large Internet service provider companies - about Time Warner/AOL for instance saying that they shouldn't be able to use their dominance to force AOL users to listen only to Time Warner music.
BOB GARFIELD: So these issues of technology and intellectual property are not confined to the music industry at all.
RICK KARR:They're not confined to the music industry at all, and the reason a lot of the academics are interested in music is because music is the easiest medium to transmit over the Internet. It requires less band width than video does, and it carries on the Internet a little more clearly than the printed word does. And so it's kind of the canary in the coal mine as one of the participants said. It-- the rules for music are going to determine the rules for the way all of the other media are carried over the Internet.
BOB GARFIELD: All right. Rick Karr, thanks very much for being with us!