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April 26, 2009

Illegal = global

I never downloaded music illegally at all - until internet radio Pandora became off limits because I didn't live in the US.

The market for illegal mp3 files is global, while the market for legal music is still supposed to be limited by international borders. Why?

Øyvind Solstad at NRK Beta writes (in Norwegian):

One world - not 200 countries.

The music- and film industry seems to think we still cross the Atlantic in steam boats, and that we don't hear about things that happen in the US just because we live in Norway. So they ignore the fact that young people don't think about international borders and where things come from. (...) People don't understand why they can't listen to some songs on Spotify in Norway, but if they drive over the Swedish border and go to an internet café they can. They don't understand why they can't see American music videos on YouTube or shows on Hulu.com. They don't accept that slow bosses in the music- and film industry still haven't come up with a system where an artist can release their music all over the world (Øyvind Solstad, my translation).

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about this problem for journalism class at the American University of Paris (click "continue reading" for the full article).

A week later, my American friend was trying to buy a song from iTunes. She couldn't, because her laptop was American. I could buy it for her, because my laptop was Norwegian.

We were both in Paris at the time.

That is absolutely ridiculous.

Does piracy kill music – or globalize it?

Julie Andersen – Journalism 2 – April 2008

If music is distributed through the internet, where you live need not matter for what music you can buy. In theory, anyone with an internet connection can have the same access to music. Yet the record industry is still enforcing national borders, in an effort to stop illegal file-sharing. Is a college student who downloads mp3s a greedy thief or an informed activist? Is file-sharing bringing the music industry down, or are record labels and music retailers to blame?

In summer 2006, a copyright bill was drafted in France, requiring music downloads to be compatible with all portable digital music players. Apple sent an e-mail statement to Bloomberg, saying this would result in “state-sponsored piracy”.

Music on CD can be transferred to a computer and then played and distributed in several formats. Mp3-files, one of the most popular formats among illegal downloads, are compatible with most media players. Legal downloads from Apple are only compatible with iPods and the iTunes computer media player.

France amended the draft, so that copyright holders could still set compatibility standards. Had France forced Apple to make its downloads compatible with other music players, iTunes Music Store France would have closed down, regardless of what the artists wanted, according to the BBC.

The music industry likens illegal file-sharing to shoplifting CDs. When you shoplift a CD, you get the same product without paying for it. When you download illegally instead of legally, you might get a better product without paying for it.

Following the shut-down of popular torrent-based file-sharing site Oink on October 23rd 2007, Rob1, a blogger who has worked within the music industry, wrote what his commentators labelled “the bible of file-sharing”. He encouraged music fans to stop buying music from major labels in order to force a change in the way music is distributed. Rob called Oink: “the most complete and most efficient music distribution model the world has ever known” and wrote: “If the music industry had found a way to capitalize on the power, devotion, and innovation of its own fans the way Oink did, it would be thriving right now instead of withering.”

People who download music illegally, claim that they can't afford to fill an iPod at the 99 cents per song rate that iTunes is offering legally, and that if they like a band after listening to their music for free, they will find a way to support them. According to promusic.org's guidelines to online music: “(...) there is no general right or exception that lets you copy before you buy without permission, for the obvious reason that once something is copied it probably won't be bought.” The question is, would it have been bought if it were not copied?

Sara2, a 20-year-old American student at the American University of Paris, says she would never pay 99 cents for the songs she downloads illegally today. She has been downloading music since 1999, but she still buys CDs. She will typically get recommendations from music blogs, download some songs, and then buy the album if she likes the music.

Moving to Paris has made this more difficult. “There is nowhere I can get music here in Paris,” she says “A lot of the stuff I want is obscure - albums you can barely find in the US and definitely not in Paris.”

Natalie3, another 20-year-old American student at AUP, says: “I used to buy albums in high school, but now that I'm in France, I'm not going to spend the equivalent of 20 dollars on a CD. But music keeps me going, so I either stop going, or a friend sends me songs over the internet.” While she does not believe in downloading music through torrents and file-sharing sites, she exchanges zip files of albums with her friends.

She likes to spend money on her favorite band Radiohead, who released their latest album In Rainbows as a download and allowed fans to set their own price. “I think artists can get their music out online legally – MySpace or allowing downloading from your site.” she says, “But the real CD came with stickers.”

Both girls say that allowing fans to download, is good publicity for a band. However, Radiohead could not have sold their album this way if they were controlled by a label, and their music is not available on iTunes.

Sara plans on working in the music industry, and she says: “It's all about politics. An artist can be totally trash, but if they're marketed toward the right demographic, the label will still support them.”

Despite having a friend in the States who was sued for 5000 dollars for file-sharing, Sara is not worried about getting caught. “Should I be?” she asks. In France, privacy laws are much stricter than in the States, and they have generally prevailed over copyright laws. Although AUP has a policy against file-sharing, Ali Rahimi, director of Information Technology Services at AUP, says that the university respects students' privacy. Firewalls on the AUP network make downloading to student's laptops while on the school network difficult, but Sara knows how.

Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails frontman and music producer, admitted to New York Magazine that he was an Oink member and that “If OiNK cost anything, I would certainly have paid, but there isn't the equivalent of that in the retail space right now.” While many file-sharers have agreed with him through blogs and forums, Natalie says: “I don't want the CD to disappear. I believe in album artwork, and I believe in the crisp smell of the CD when you open it for the first time, the sound of the case when you open it, and wondering whether or not there are lyrics. I want that to keep happening.”

1Known online only by his first name.

2Named has been changed.

3Name has been changed.

Posted by Julie at 12:29 PM | TrackBack

April 24, 2009

I'm on tv in Iceland!

The clip is from SALT Ministries, the orphanage/school where I spent a week as a volunteer last summer.

Posted by Julie at 8:35 AM | TrackBack

April 15, 2009

Back from Boston

Boston Globe_001

When I left Oslo last week, I had a big laptop and a tiny camera. I came back from Boston with a tiny laptop and a big camera. Expect more photos from now on.

I also somehow managed to catch up with a lot of friends, spend a day observing the Boston Globe, see a musical in Boston, return to the MFA, do enough shopping for a year, drink Sam Adams and eat swordfish, hamburgers and ice cream.

I really needed that week back in the States, and now I really need another one.

Photo: Julie Balise

Posted by Julie at 11:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 3, 2009

Newspapers die - long live journalists

It's not too late, Julie. My American friend, who shares my name and profession, is a co-op at a large American newspaper with economic difficulties. From her desk at the business section Julie can see the other sections closing down, newspapers in other cities folding and commentators predicting New York Time's bankruptcy by May 2009. Experienced colleagues pat the young journalism major's head: You're entering a dying business. You're young. It's not too late to choose another career.

Meanwhile, back in Norway, we're discussing newspaper death, increased press subsidies and an economic stimulus plan specifically for the media. The financial crisis is making a difficult situation worse, but newspaper economics would be going through a tough period even without that added obstacle. Readers stop subscribing and read online instead. And if we believe figures cited by John Olav Egeland in Dagbladet1, you need ten online readers to achieve the same ad revenue as one paper subscriber.

And still I've chosen to study journalism at Oslo University College. I happen to think journalism isn't dead. Paper producers and printing press companies face an unstable future, but the world will always need good journalists.

I repeat: good journalists. What it takes to be a good journalist, that's what's changing. And I'm starting to wonder if today's journalism students are learning what it takes to be tomorrow's good journalists.

Good journalists understand their own industry. For the newspaper industry, the Internet is a disruptive innovation. The term is from Harvard professor Clayton Christensen. A disruptive innovation makes an existing technology irrelevant. In the blogosphere, editors, economists and media experts from around the world are discussing how to build a sustainable business model for online media.

Young journalists need to be a part of this discussion. Blogosphere and disruptive should be in our vocabulary. We need to be able to discuss press subsidies, RSS subscriptions and micro-payments. There are plenty of other debates too. Online publications with their constant deadlines and updates make debating journalists' new working conditions necessary. The possibility of editing texts after publication blurs the line between journalist and editor. Web layout is an entirely different science compared to paper layout. These debates are not part of the journalism student's curriculum. So we need to teach ourselves about the media economics of tomorrow.

Good journalists think ahead. Christensen uses journalistic language, a sports-based metaphor, to make this point: Don't run to where the ball is, run to where it will be. In “Rett på sak!”2, a text book for first-year journalism students, Veslemøy Kjendsli writes that text on the web should not be long enough to require hitting the “page down” button. In layout class, the lecturer sighs and complains that the internet doesn't have room for good photography. Per H. Baugstø's book “En avis er ment å skulle leses”3 starts by stating that paper newspapers will always exist, because paper is the most comfortable reading and storage format. There seems to be a consensus that online journalism is shallow news with another newspaper as its only source, while paper is for features and opinions.

Today's curriculum writers and lecturers of journalism succeeded under the old system. There's nothing wrong with that. But students who study how to be critical of sources and how to spot weak arguments have no excuse for accepting too much at face value. Many of these authority figures base their views on faulty principles. They assume that screen quality and computer capacity and speed – not to mention people's media habits – will remain unchanged from now on. To use Christensen's words: They don't think the ball is moving any more, so they've stopped running.

Good journalists see challenges as opportunities. My classmates wonder why I want to be an online journalist. Internet publications are so stressful. I disagree. Nothing stresses me more than knowing that the paper edition is printed and that it's too late to make changes. As journalists we should adjust to the internet, not just because the disruptive technology makes it necessary, but because online journalism has more potential than paper journalism.

On the internet the way the text looks will vary by screen size, operating system and browser. The reader can also choose to access the publication via RSS, e-mail or traditional online newspaper, and this will also change the layout. We could say that we're losing control over layout. We could also say that each reader is being given more layout options. Does the reader want just the short summary, or every published story on the subject? Is the text the most important part of the travel feature, or will the reader also download the panorama photograph with links and zoom tools? When we no longer have to worry about the length of columns or the number of pages, that's a good thing.

Good journalists are always writing. If Julie, my fellow students and I give up writing because of changes in techology and economics, well, then the pessimists are right: It's not to late to choose another career. As long as we write well, and we write no matter what, it's not too late to be a journalist.

English translation of Aviser dør - Lenge leve journalister. The Norwegian version was originally published in Journalen, and was the reason for all of this.

1Dagbladet, literally The Daily Magazine, is one of the major daily tabloids in Norway.

2“Straight to the Point!”

3“A Newspaper is Meant to be Read”

Posted by Julie at 8:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Nytt nummer av Oslostudenten!

I går fordelte jeg nye utgaver av studentavisen Oslostudenten rundt omkring i Pilestredet.

Les PDF-utgaven her!

I årets tredje nummer kan du blant annet lese om studentdrap i Colombia og Islamforedrag på HiO (sitat: "Hvis ikke-muslimer er redde for at muslimer tar over i Vesten, bør de få flere babyer.")

Jeg er debattredaktør i Oslostudenten. Jeg har også ansvar for Utsikt-sidene, der studenter over hele verden skriver. I denne utgavens Utsikt kan du lese korrespondentbrev fra USA, Indonesia, Haiti og Kirgisistan.

(Det var forresten ekstra hyggelig at flere av høgskolens kantineansatte kom løpende og ville ha avisen før jeg rakk å gi den til dem. Morsomt at den delen av lokalmiljøet som ikke er studenter liker å lese om hva vi tenker på.)

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