Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Philadelphia Slaps Blogs with $300 Tax

Friday, August 27th, 2010

mastheads of blogs MS Philly Organic and Circle of Fits blogsVery interesting article: Valerie Rubinsky in the Philadelphia City Paper: Pay Up: Got a blog that makes no money? The city wants $300, thank you very much.

Philly is not taxing all blogs – just blogs that are set up to make money – any money, no matter how small. If a blog is designed to make a profit, even if it doesn’t, the City of Brotherly Love requires a business privilege license (a $300 one-time fee or $50 per year) plus taxes on the profits.

So that means Philadelphia is after Sean Barry’s Circle of Fits, a music blog hosted on Blogspot, which has made $11 over two years, according to the article.

Also getting billed is MS Philly Organic, a blog by Marilyn Bess that, combined with earnings from some posts for eHow, has brought in about $50 over three years.

Rubinsky reports that City Council members Bill Green and Maria Quinones-Sanchez have proposed reforming the law to help make the city a more accommodating place for small businesses. But while the reform would exempt the first $100K in profits, nano-sized online “businesses,” such as ad-hosting blogs, would still have to pay $50 per year or $300 upfront for a license. Some reform.

Apparently the tax-collector letters went out to bloggers who did the right thing and reported tiny-sized revenues on their income tax returns.

I’d like to hear a tax attorney weigh in on whether there is serious argument that these bloggers are not businesses engaged in an activity for profit since the amount of money they are earning is trivial and undoubtedly doesn’t cover their expenses. But I’m not a tax attorney, so I’ll have to leave that to someone else.

My advice for most bloggers is this: Dump the ads. Why bother putting ads on your blog unless it is going to make you substantial amounts of money? Ads clutter up blogs. They look terrible, and they are often for products that are either ridiculous (like herbal cures) or kindov depressing (like life insurance). That detracts from a user’s experience. And if ads cause you to have legal trouble – and even trying to figure out if you have legal trouble is a kind of legal trouble – then you should flush them down the drain.

In fact, if you are really in it for profit, then you are probably better off doing whatever it takes to build readership in the near-term – and in my opinion, that means turning off the ads. If and when your readership ever gets big enough that ads would bring in real money, you can start providing advertising space at that point. Take a cue from big start-up ventures. None of them try to make money in the early years. For a VC-funded start-up, making money at the beginning usually means that you aren’t trying hard enough to grow and gain market share.

More: Lyrissa Lidsky on PrawfsBlawg: (Business) License to Blog (with good discussion in the comments)

(Ha’p: Media Law Prof Blog)

Conviction Upheld for Blogger/Stalker

Monday, May 31st, 2010

A just released opinion from the Second District of the California Court of Appeals makes for some terrifying reading.

In People v. Costales, the intermediate California appeals court upheld a two-year sentence for Michigan resident George Christian Costales, who used his blog to document his obsession with Stacy B., a musician maintaining a MySpace page. Costales eventually used his blog to document his cross-country road trip to attempt to visit Stacy B. in person in California.

On appeal, Costales contended there was insufficient evidence to show that he had made a “credible threat,” required for a stalking conviction under California Penal Code § 646.9. The statute defines “credible threat” as “a verbal or written threat … or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of verbal, written, or electronically communicated statements and conduct, made with the intent to place the person that is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family, and made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat … ”

The court held that Costales’s blogging provided all the evidence that was necessary for the conviction.

The opinion is here. Some excerpts:

George Christian Costales appeals a judgment following his conviction of stalking. (Pen.Code, § 646.9, subd. (a).) We conclude, among other things, that: 1) substantial evidence supports the judgment, and 2) Costales has not shown that his two-year prison sentence was retaliation for his decision to proceed to trial instead of making a plea to the charges. We affirm. …

Stacy B. was a musician who used an Internet program called MySpace to “market” her music. She had “an open profile” to allow the public to go to her site. She began receiving disturbing e-mails from Costales, a stranger from Michigan.

Let me just pause for a moment to note that it is interesting that the Court of Appeals put the word “market” in quotes – as if MySpace is somehow a silly way to go about marketing music. Also, judging by her  MySpace page, it looks like she still is a musician. It says she’s currently in the studio. At any rate, the court continued:

Stacy B. was so disturbed by the content of his messages that she used a security feature on her MySpace page to block him from leaving his profile and his comments. Costales discovered that she had blocked his access to her site. He posted a message stating, among other things, “[S]he has blocked me and has never uttered even one word to me. I do believe she loves me…. [¶] … Oh, hell, am I a f***ing stalker ? I visit her page every day. In my mind she’s the perfect woman for me.” He created new profiles to avoid the blocking mechanism and continued to send messages.

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Reilly on Audioblogging and Copyright

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Steven M. Reilly has just published a law review note titled Losing My Edge: The Copyright Implications of Audioblogging and Why Blogs Matter to the Music Industry, in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law, Winter 2010 (12 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 439).

The abstract:

In the past decade, the information distribution channels for music have changed dramatically. Not only have they largely moved from radio and print to online sources, but many audioblogs have formed to cover various niches according to the individual tastes of bloggers. This democratization of music criticism has been popular with listeners, as the information is easily and immediately available as well as tailored to a particular interest.

A defining feature of the audioblog is the inclusion of a downloadable MP3 in each post. In some cases, especially for more popular audioblogs, the download is approved by the copyright holder. In most cases, however, songs are posted without approval. This creates obvious copyright infringement implications.

Because audioblogs serve a valuable function, this Note looks within copyright law for a potential exemption for these posts, focusing on the fair use defense. Through an analysis of the four factors of the traditional fair use test, the Note concludes that, based on current precedent, a court would not likely find that this use falls within fair use. Under the current law, however, it is possible that music labels will not bring infringement cases to court, relying instead on their DMCA rights.

As a result of the potential liabilities and the tactics and beliefs of copyright owners, this Note then considers a variety of solutions to resolve the tension between marketing, information sharing, and infringement, considering the current state of technology. Finally, it concludes with a look forward at a potentially ideal system that would capture the appeal and utility of audioblogs while satisfying the requirements of copyright.

Record Industry vs. Music Bloggers

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Sometimes it seems like music industry lawyers act as deliberately and thoughtfully as a rock star wrecking a hotel room. Apparently they are now sending out DMCA takedown notices targeting music bloggers – whose self-appointed thankless task has been providing free publicity to a floundering industry. In an excellent post, Fred von Lohmann of the EFF has provided “Practical Advice for Music Bloggers Worried About DMCA Takedown Censorship.”