Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trend Spotting: The Free Album

Radiohead made headlines back in 2007 when it offered its newest album for free on the internet. For established artists that have more bargaining power with their labels, free albums appear to be an increasingly popular way to get music to their fans.

The most recent artist to venture into the realm of free will be Angels & Airwaves, fronted by Blink-182's Tom DeLonge.
The group's third studio album, "Love," will arrive February 14 as a free digital download. DeLonge and Angels & Airwaves manager Rick DeVoe agree that self-releasing the 10-song set is a financial risk, especially with DeLonge spending up to $500,000 of his own money to fund the process. But the artist hopes to recoup through corporate sponsorships, touring, merchandise sales, premium exclusive tracks and videos on the band's Web site and by selling a deluxe version of "Love" with 30 minutes of exclusive bonus material.

As more artists go this route and are able to make money from the venture, expect to see more free albums.

This Week in Legal Reading: Article on Statutory Damages Reform

From Ray Beckerman over at Recording Industry vs The People...

The article by Pamela Samuelson and Tara Wheatland of the University of California law school, on statutory damages under the Copyright Act, has now been published at 51 William & Mary L. Rev. 439, and is available for download:

Samuelson & Wheatland, "Statutory Damages in Copyright Law: A Remedy in Need of Reform"

Thomas-Rasset's Judgment Reduced From Nearly $2m to $54k

Jammie Thomas-Rasset, one of only to defendants in the RIAA's legal battle against illegal music downloaders, has had her judgment reduced from from $1.92 million to only $54,000. The Judge, finding the size of the judgment "so grossly excessive as to shock the conscience of the court", granted a remitter. This is wholly different than the Constitutional argument that a large statutory damage judgment violates due process under the law. If the RIAA strategy was to get a few big judgments to scare people into complying with copyright laws, they will likely appeal. Having such a large remitter in the case law would hurt a future litigation strategy.

The court noted:

Although Plaintiffs highlight valid reasons that Thomas‐Rasset must pay a statutory damages award, these facts simply cannot justify a $2 million verdict in this case. Thomas‐Rasset was not a business acting for profit. Instead, she was an individual consumer illegally seeking free access to music for her own use. ...
The need for deterrence cannot justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs for the sole purpose of obtaining free music.

You can read and download the Court's order granting remitter below. (Copyrights & Campaigns blog has further analysis.)

Thomas Rasset Remitter