21-Feb-2002 (Thu)

I think there's something in the air that is making people mean. In the last week or two, we've been having a lot more people getting violent and getting themselves thrown out. It's like it's suddenly asshole season or something.

Everybody think healthy thoughts for Barry: he's worked himself into the ground and gotten pneumonia, so he's been sick in bed for about a week now. We're learning first hand how indispensable he is! Keeping this place running without him is quite a challenge. But I'm not going to let him back in until he's healthy again; pneumonia is your body's way of telling you "you need to go sit the hell down for a while," and if he's not going to listen, I guess we need to listen for him.

And what a crazy weekend this was... We did seven events in four days: first we had the Sister Valentine's Day Drag Night at CODE (embarrassing photos here); then the next morning, we opened for day one of CodeCon 2002, a hacker conference (photos here); then that evening, we had Wicked; followed the next morning by day two of CodeCon; then Qoöl; then day three of Codecon; then sunday night, the latest installment of the Slick Fetish Ball (photos here.)

CodeCon (or, as I like to call it, BiMonSciFiCon) was cool: it was really nice seeing our space being used for something so totally different. They brought in a couple hundred chairs, and had speakers and panels up on the stage. It looked a lot better than any convention hall I've been to, that's for sure! (And apparently CodeCon proved that chicks dig accordions. Who knew.)

We also webcast the CodeCon proceedings, of course, but I had to take the archives down just after the convention closed, because as soon as someone posted a link to the audio stream in a discussion on Slashdot, our bandwidth usage went through the roof. Hopefully soon the Codecon folks will put a copy of the MP3 files up on their site, where they can archive them permanently.

On the second day, someone brought in a wireless hub which we then plugged in to our kiosk ethernet, so everybody at the convention was able to use our net connection. Never before have their been so many laptops inside the DNA Lounge at once. That worked out pretty well, except that apparently someone was running Windows on their laptop (boo, hiss!) and it apparently runs DHCP service by default: even when it has gotten its own IP address from another DHCP server. So we had two competing DHCP servers on the network, which was preventing the hardwired kiosks from booting until we masked out the packets on the wireless hub.

It would be cool to have wireless access in the club all the time, but I haven't done that because it would take a bunch of packet-shaping work (which I don't know how to do on OpenBSD) to prevent people from using up too much of our T1 and affecting the quality of the webcasts. This is especially important since there are other businesses and residents within wireless range of the DNA, and they would no doubt start leeching our bandwidth too...

There's an entertaining CodeCon review over at NTK.

In "impending doom" news, the Copyright Office has released it's proposal for how webcasters should be charged by the music industry. As I understand it, this will become law in 90 days unless a miracle happens. Their proposal: webcaster should pay 1/7th of a cent ($0.0014) per song, per listener. If I do the math right, I think that means they're going to try and stick us for an additional $7,000 per year, retroactive to when we started webcasting: and we've got just about the smallest scale webcasting operation as anyone has. Even some schmoe running a free MP3 station out of his bedroom will be hit with a similar bill! And expect all college-radio-station-based webcasts to disappear: they don't have the budget for this kind of thing either.

This is, of course, in addition to the approximately $7,000 we're already paying to the serpents at ASCAP and BMI: the extortion we pay to ASCAP and BMI are for the performance rights. The new pile of money is because they have decided that webcasting a song is more like printing and selling a CD than like playing a song on a stereo (yes way!), and so they want a pound of flesh for the so-called publishing rights as well.

(And that's not counting the approximately $16,000/year I'm already paying just for bandwidth!)

That RIAA is getting away with this is all quite mind-blowing.

Oh, and there are also apparently some egregious reporting requirements that will be impossible for anyone to actually comply with: for example, not only do they want a "unique user identifier" for each listener, they also want the UPC code from the CD the song came from! As if we have a hope in hell of getting random DJs to give us that information!

Someone on IRC said, "how do they expect the little guys to survive?" I replied, "No Mister Bond, I expect you to die." They're trying to legislate webcasting out of existence, because it stands in the way of their progress toward a completely pay-per-view economy.

Remember: these are the kind of people who once tried to outlaw the VCR. (That was MPAA, not RIAA, but they're the same snake with different scales.)

When you buy a CD, what exactly did you buy? Very little. You certainly don't own that copy of the music, as you are far from free to do what you like with it. After you've bought it, it does not appear to be "yours" in any meaningful sense.

Some links:

In case you're unclear on how RIAA, ASCAP, BMI, etc. work, it's like this: everyone who comes anywhere near any kind of music is expected to pay them. They'll sue you into oblivion if you don't. Then, regardless of what music you were playing, they take your money, keep most of it for themselves, and then divide the rest statistically based on the Billboard charts. That means that no matter what kind of obscure, underground music you played, 3/4ths of the extortion money you paid goes to whichever company owns N'Sync; and the rest goes to Michael Jackson (since he owns The Beatles' catalog); and all other artists (including the ones whose music you actually played) get nothing.

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