The Future of Music Coalition has a small boatload of classy crossover music groups sending letters to the Federal Communications Commission in support of tougher net neutrality rules. They include R.E.M., the woodwind quintet Imani Winds, and the Kronos Quartet. Here’s an excerpt from Kronos Artistic Administrator Sidney Chen’s letter to the FCC:
“From the time the group was founded, Kronos has championed important, yet unsung, voicesthat have deserve broad attention. David Harrington formed the group after hearing Black Angels, a work by the now iconic American composer George Crumb inspired by the Vietnam War. The quartet’s most recent recording project, Floodplain, features collaborations with and composers and performers from parts of the world with which most Americans do not have direct engagement, including Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Ethiopia. Kronos strongly believes that, through direct artistic engagement with musicians working in different artistic traditions, the process of finding common ground and of resolving conflicts provides rewards that extend beyond the immediate interaction. This has, in fact, become a central focus of Kronos’ work. The open internet allows for and facilitates such interaction. We strongly encourage you to preserve its openness.”
The Commission is currently proposing an expansion of its Internet Policy Statement, which commits the agency to making sure that consumers can access the legal device of their choice on the ‘Net. The FCC wants to add an enforcement provision to the statement making it clear what kind of consequences content or application blocking ISPs face, and a transparency provision requiring them to disclose their network management practices up front.
Future of Music has a whole web page dedicated to helping musicians file comments with the agency on the issue. The guide comes complete with the do’s and don’ts of FCC feedback. “Comments like ‘Comcast sux!’ may be funny but are not helpful in the FCC crafting better policy, so try to make your critiques productive,” FOM warns.
Kronos’ commentary makes it clear, however, that not everything about the open Internet pleases the band. “One such challenge is the diminishing control we have over the dissemination of intellectual property, such as recorded performances that are under copyright protection,” Chen’s letter continues. “Too often, artistic material is used without authorization, on occasion to the distinct detriment and frustration of the artist.” The Kronos letter cites various political campaigns that produced YouTube commercials with Kronos soundtracks without getting the groups’ permission.
But this doesn’t mean Kronos wants to put ISPs in charge of copyright policing. “In theory, having ISPs monitor and control file-sharing is attractive, but in practice, it quickly becomes problematic,” Chen notes. “One significant problem is that no technology currently exists that can determine what is and what is not a legal data transfer; all the ISPs can do is monitor the size of data transfers.”
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