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Thursday, September 27, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
House bill would cut fees for Pandora, other Internet radio services
Legislators aim to lower music royalty rates for Internet radio services such as Pandora Media. (Dan Hontz Media / September 21, 2012)
By Alex Pham
September 21, 20124:32 p.m.
House lawmakers on Friday introduced a bill aimed at lowering the fees paid by Pandora Media and other Internet radio streaming services.
The bill proposes to change the way the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board calculates how much money Internet radio services must pay music labels and artists.
Pandora has actively lobbied Congress to make the change, arguing that the current method is unfair because it charges Internet radio services disproportionately more than similar services provided by cable operators and satellite radio. Titled the Internet Radio Fairness Act, the bill would make it so that the royalty board must apply the same calculations to Internet radio as it does for satellite and cable radio.
The Oakland-based company lauded the bill, saying in a statement that the legislation would "establish a level playing field for Internet radio by putting it under the same rate standard of the Copyright Act as cable and satellite radio."
But artists and labels objected to changing the royalty structure, saying it will hurt musicians.
“There’s nothing fair about pampering Pandora, with its $1.8-billion market cap, at the expense of music creators,” said Ted Kalo, executive director of the MusicFIRST Coalition, a group that represents musicians.
The bill, sponsored by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), has the potential to become a replay of the epic -- and successful -- battle Pandora waged between 2007 and 2009 to lower the royalties it had to pay. It succeeded, and in 2009 all parties agreed to a rate formula that required Internet radio providers to pay either a per-song rate that averages about 2 cents per listener per hour of music streamed, or 25% of their gross revenue -- whichever is greater.
For Pandora, the 2 pennies is adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. In the second quarter alone, Pandora paid $60.5 million in royalties, or roughly 50% of the company's revenue. The rate for satellite radio is set at 8% of gross revenue, while cable music service providers pay 15% of gross revenue.
"If Pandora was not burdened with these punitive royalties, the company could introduce music services that could grow the industry and grow royalties," said John Villasenor, a senior fellow at theBrookings Institution and a professor of electrical engineering at UCLA. "This will mean more music choices for consumers, a thriving Internet radio industry and more royalties for musicians."
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is expected to introduce a similar bill in the Senate.
"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us."
The quest to understand the meaning of lifehas haunted humanity since the dawn of existence. Modern history alone has given us a plethora of attempted answers, including ones from Steve Jobs, Stanley Kubrick, David Foster Wallace, Anais Nin,Ray Bradbury, and Jackson Pollock's dad. In 1988, the editors of LIFE magazine posed this grand question head-on to 300 "wise men and women," from celebrated authors, actors, and artists to global spiritual leaders to everyday farmers, barbers, and welfare mothers. In 1991, they collected the results, along with a selection of striking black-and-white photographs from the magazine's archives that answered the question visually and abstractly, in The Meaning of Life: Reflections in Words and Pictures on Why We Are Here (public library). Here is a selection of the answers.
Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard:
We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.According to the second law of thermodynamics, things fall apart. Structures disintegrate. Buckminster Fuller hinted at a reason we are here: By creating things, by thinking up new combinations, we counteract this flow of entropy. We make new structures, new wholeness, so the universe comes out even. A shepherd on a hilltop who looks at a mess of stars and thinks, 'There's a hunter, a plow, a fish,' is making mental connections that have as much real force in the universe as the very fires in those stars themselves.
Ralph Morse: Albert Einstein's study shortly after his death, Princeton, New Jersey
Legendary science writer Stephen Jay Gould:
The human species has inhabited this planet for only 250,000 years or so-roughly.0015 percent of the history of life, the last inch of the cosmic mile. The world fared perfectly well without us for all but the last moment of earthly time–and this fact makes our appearance look more like an accidental afterthought than the culmination of a prefigured plan.Moreover, the pathways that have led to our evolution are quirky, improbable, unrepeatable and utterly unpredictable. Human evolution is not random; it makes sense and can be explained after the fact. But wind back life's tape to the dawn of time and let it play again–and you will never get humans a second time.We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a 'higher' answer – but none exists. This explanation, though superficially troubling, if not terrifying, is ultimately liberating and exhilarating. We cannot read the meaning of life passively in the facts of nature. We must construct these answers ourselves – from our own wisdom and ethical sense. There is no other way.
Bill Owens: >Graduation dance
Frank Donofrio, a barber:
I have been asking myself why I'm here most of my life. If there's a purpose I don't care anymore. I'm seventy-four. I'm on my way out. Let the young people learn the hard way, like I did. No one ever told me anything.
Leonard Freed: Harlem summer day
Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke:
A wise man once said that all human activity is a form of play. And the highest form of play is the search for Truth, Beauty and Love. What more is needed? Should there be a 'meaning' as well, that will be a bonus? If we waste time looking for life's meaning, we may have no time to live – or to play.
Franco Zecchin: Sicily
Literary icon John Updike:
Ancient religion and modern science agree: we are here to give praise. Or, to slightly tip the expression, to pay attention. Without us, the physicists who have espoused the anthropic principle tell us, the universe would be unwitnessed, and in a real sense not there at all. It exists, incredibly, for us. This formulation (knowing what we know of the universe's ghastly extent) is more incredible, to our sense of things, than the Old Testament hypothesis of a God willing to suffer, coddle, instruct, and even (in the Book of Job) to debate with men, in order to realize the meager benefit of worship, of praise for His Creation. What we beyond doubt do have is our instinctive intellectual curiosity about the universe from the quasars down to the quarks, our wonder at existence itself, and an occasional surge of sheer blind gratitude for being here.
Abbas: Fireman at scene of bomb explosion, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Poet Charles Bukowski:
For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can't readily accept the God formula, the big answers don't remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God.We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state and our educational system.We are here to drink beer.We are here to kill war.We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.We are here to read these words from all these wise men and women who will tell us that we are here for different reasons and the same reason.
Myron Davis: A boy and his dog, Iowa
Avant-garde composer and philosopher John Cage:
No why. Just here.
Duane Michals: The Human Condition
The Meaning of Life is a cultural treasure in its entirety, and the screen does the stunning photographs no justice – do grab yourself an analog copy.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
PERPIGNAN, France — Photographers attending the Visa Pour l’Imagefestival in this small medieval city stroll through the winding streets, stopping to view carefully crafted news and documentary images exhibited inside ancient buildings.
In most ways it is not much different from years past. There is still a nightly projection, in a cloistered graveyard, where the photographers view a selection of the best images of the year. The prizewinners are applauded by their colleagues in the crowd who seem oblivious to the tsunami of vernacular photographs about to wash away everything in its path.
There are well over a billion camera phones being used to photograph dinners, dogs, cute kids, sunsets and body parts — recording every action as if it were of equal importance.
It is estimated that 380 billion images were taken last year, most with a camera phone. Over 380 million photos are uploaded on Facebook every day. Instagram is growing exponentially and had four billion photos uploaded as of July 2012.
Almost everyone has a camera and is a photographer.
Just as access to pens and paper hasn’t produced thousands of Shakespeares or Nabokovs, this explosion of camera phones doesn’t seem to have led to more Dorothea Langes or Henri Cartier-Bressons. But it has certainly led to many more images of what people ate at lunch.
And while you may not think that my iPhone photo, above, is worth a second look (or even a first glance), I can proudly report that between Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, dozens of people have judged its quality positively by liking it.
And I’m listening to them.
Because of the iPhone and social media, the very meaning of what photographs are and how they function has changed radically in the last four years.
A photograph is no longer predominantly a way of keeping a treasured family memory or even of learning about places or people that we would otherwise not encounter. It is now mainly a chintzy currency in a social interaction and a way of gazing even further into one’s navel.
This is a fundamental change that must be having a powerful effect on how people view the kind of images exhibited this week in Perpignan.
As far as I can see — admittedly from ground level — there are two possible effects on “serious” photography.
1. The flowering of photographers leads to millions of people who are thinking more visually and whom we may be able to entice to become an audience for documentary and photojournalistic images.
2. We are bombarded with so much visual stimuli via the Web and social media that it becomes almost impossible to rise above the flood of images. And if everyone likes everything, no one photograph is better than another.
I have no idea which of these situations might happen. Or if there will be a combination of these effects.
The issue is not whether one chooses to use an iPhone instead of a Leica but the ideas and vision of the photographer.
The effect of the Web on the photography business is ancient news. Film versus digital — prehistoric, at least in the accelerated time chamber of social media and the Web.
Six years ago the core questions we faced were: How do we distribute our work and make a living in the digital age? Since then, some photographers have survived, perhaps with fewer assignments and more crowdsourcing, foundation grants and N.G.O. money.
The proliferation of a commonplace — or vernacular — photography is a much more profound change. The question is not so much whether this is a good thing for society (or a bad thing for photographers). It is happening, a billion times a day, and there is no going back.
The question is: How does the photographic community harness this explosion of visual energy to expand its audience? This is what needs to be focused on.
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