[news=http://www.slyck.com/newspics/MusicFlood.jpg]If you’ve never been to New York City, it’s not easy to describe the chaotic, fast paced and eccentric sensation that encompasses just about any random street corner. True enough, some intersections are quieter than others. But this wasn’t just any street corner. This was Union Square South, world renowned as being an epicenter for political activism.
This was the stage for the first American based anti-DRM (Digital Rights Management) and pro file-sharing demonstration. The demonstration was coordinated by the New York University organization named FreeCulture@NYU. FreeCulture@NYU is a local chapter of the nationally based FreeCulture organization. FreeCulture aims to deconstruct the established corporate entertainment monopoly and return power back to the individual.
On the local scene tonight, FreeCulture’s objective was to educate consumers about DRM. DRM is widely recognized as any method that deters the simplistic coping of a digital format. For example, as P2P networks continue to proliferate, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) on behalf of its member companies is forcing P2P developers such as MetaMachine (eDonkey) and LimeWire to block unlicensed files. In addition, CDs are increasingly accompanied by various DRM schemes designed to deter its owner from making unrestricted copies. This could impact one’s ability to play a CD on a computer, make fair use backup copies, and inhibit portability.
Tonight’s demonstration took place in front of the monstrous Virgin MegaStore. Although the demonstration began quietly enough, it slowly began to build momentum. Around 8 pm, approximately an hour after it began, a wide variety of individuals showed their support. Musicians, university students, even a programmer from LimeWire were handing out flyers and informing Virgin MegaStore customers what potential defects may accompany their recently purchased CD.
"The RIAA took my music away" - FreeCulture@NYU gathers outside Virgin Megastore.
Coordinating the demonstration was Fred Benenson. Founder of FreeCulture@NYU and president before graduating, Fred Benenson has worked actively in this field. Tonight, FreeCulture expanded to bring the fight to the record company’s front door.
“Tonight is about educating the consumer and level the playing field,” Fred stated. “There’s a lot of deception going on in the record companies. When a consumer purchases a CD, they expect it to function in a certain manner. When it doesn’t, there’s no explanation – we’re trying to fill that gap.”
Fred explained that Virgin MegaStore was targeted as the demonstration point, as opposed to TowerRecords (even larger than Virgin) because of the young, hip, and liberal image it tries to project. Plus its direct proximity to Union Square Park didn’t hurt. Associating FreeCulture with the political history of this park perhaps helped garner the interest of the hordes of individuals passing by. Indeed, many of those who were either about to purchase or did purchase a CD were surprised by this previously unknown term “DRM.”
“A lot of people were shocked and interested about it. Many people who came out of the store and were informed their CD may not work when they get home were concerned and surprised.”
FreeCulture@NYU activists educating consumers and handing out fliers.
During the course of the demonstration, FreeCulture activists were speaking with Virgin MegaStore customers about CDs with DRM. By-passers also were taking interest, as many were getting involved in discussions about the extent and scope of DRM.
Interestingly, there was little or no reaction from the Virgin MegaStore employees.
At one point during the demonstration, FreeCulture@NYU activists entered Virgin MegaStore and began plastering bright green anti-DRM flyers throughout the CD displays.
“There really wasn’t any reaction from the employees,” observed Fred.
The employees perhaps didn’t react, but when Slyck.com asked the manager of Virgin MegaStore to comment on the distribution, he appeared a bit overwhelmed when his entire store was covered with little green fliers.
While consumers are entitled to information, shouldn’t content owners have the right to dictate how their product is protected? Is FreeCulture@NYU just a group of people just looking for free music?
“As an organization, we’re more for Creative Commons. With this, it’s more of a license you are aware of. It doesn’t restrict what you can do with the content; so much as notify you what you can do. Then the decision is yours. I think our organization as a whole objects to the idea that we are just consumers, and that we have these little pens put around us. This idea is in contrast to DRM, and there’s no way to reconcile that.”
This lack of reconciliation between rights owners and the increasingly aware public appears to have already manifested. Whether through P2P networking or activism such as the demonstration held by FreeCulture@NYU, there is growing dissent with the method in which the music industry conducts business. There is some glimmer of change through “legitimate” services, however the overwhelming sentiment last night contend the bottom line continues to be about money and not the music.