Ruen Talks Creative Rights w/ Marc Ribot and Tift Merritt (video)

Thanks to Rob Levine for asking me to moderate the "Conversation with Creators" panel last April at the OnCopyright 2014 conference in NYC. After working with Marc Ribot and Tift Merritt on the Content Creators Coalition Artists' Pay For Radio Play event in February, it was a pleasure to step back and give them the "Freeloading treatment" as it were. In a little over 30 mins, and despite some rambling on my part, we were able to cover an awful lot of ground. Even though the subject of the conversation is a relative bummer, Marc and Tift shared their experiences with humor, soul and intelligence. I remain a believer in the idea that if music fans--at least--can stop and listen to stories like theirs the debate over commercial piracy and artists' rights will continue to progress.

But I also understand now, as opposed to when I wrote Freeloading, that talk isn't enough. To achieve lasting change, there is a need to organize and channel the resources of artists to combat the more culturally self-destructive effects that have blown in with digitization. Again, much ground is covered here, but at the end we discuss the prospects of the Content Creators Coalition. Check it out.

Organizing and Emceeing the Artists' Pay For Radio Play Rally + Concert

Planning, organizing emcee'ing the Artists' Pay For Radio Play Rally and Concert with Marc Ribot was an insane, frenetic honor. The event was a huge success made possible by the contributions and efforts of many. Exciting to think about where the Content Creators Coalition can go from here.

Below is a smattering of the coverage received before and after the event.


New York Times


Rolling Stone




"Our biggest enemies are people who support creative industries?"



My post on censorship elicited a bit of discussion today, which reminded me of this video of Anil Dash speaking at the Berkman Center on the rhetoric and aftermath of the SOPA protests (thanks to Richard Bennett for the link). Very refreshing comments to hear from the tech/openness community. I take the idealism of many open web folks at face value. I just hope that, going forward, more idealists will recognize the fact that "openness" should not excuse the mass exploitation of working artists. If you want rights for yourself, you also need to acknowledge the legitimate rights of others. From the video above (start at 38:20):

That willingness to pat ourselves on the back uncritically. Say, "Look we won! We beat the evil movie industry!" It's like, "These are our allies!" These were early free speech advocates, right--the creative industries, in music and movies--that we should identify with them as artists. And that we're vilifying them, seems like, somebody's getting over a pretty good trick on us. Our biggest enemies are people who support creative industries? That can't be the case. And again that comes from this arrogance of, "Well they're dinosaurs. They're a legacy industry..." I know people in this room tend to be a little more evolved in their thinking, but the people that we count on to rally behind our efforts--they don't see us being publicly critical of one another or critical of ourselves. And I think that's one of the reasons it didn't work (the open web).

[archive] Real Censorship

During the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), critics of the legislation portrayed its process of identifying foreign black market domains and then blocking them from gaining easy profits from, and access to, the US online audience, as "censorship" -- full stop.

There are plenty of cases where public support is needed when their free speech rights are being undermined, but "free expression" as a means of protecting organized crime (freeloading services that make money off of popular unlicensed content) ain't one of them. The "free internet" or "remix culture" are, more often than not, dolled-up abstract concepts that serve to obscure the real-world mass violation of artists rights happening every day. Lots of consumers are used to getting their content for free and would like to keep it that way, even if it means they are ripping-off the artists themselves. Giant tech companies are happy to avoid the pains of regulation and reduced profits that would come with rules-of-the-road that treat creators with more decency. It's much easier and more effective to say they believe in "free expression" or are "against censorship" than to admit that artists, once again in history, have little negotiating power and can therefore be rolled over by the powers that be.

It vexes me when representatives from Google or the EFF, Reddit, etc are so quick to lump in the attempt to protect artists rights with the political censorship of China or Iran. It is entitlement of the privileged and demonstrates how desperate some are to excuse freeloading.

In Iran, newspapers are shut down for explicitly political reasons, not because of copyright infringement. I heard this story on NPR last weekend about a new law in China that forbids the "spreading of rumors" about the government, and bloggers are actually being arrested. Is this "censorship" the same as, say, making it more difficult for consumers to download unlicensed music and movies for free, or making sure third parties can't easily profit from being the facilitators?