Friday, February 27, 2015

Peer-to-peer Pressure

When thinking of peer-to-peer music sharing, many think nostalgically to the days when we would lend our best friend our Spice Girls CD in exchange for their TLC album.  After hours and hours of “chasing waterfalls,” we would return the album much to the delight of our parents.  Today’s peer-to-peer file sharing vaguely resembles the CD swapping of the past, but technological advances have moved our music and our sharing online.  The move has improved the speed in which the world shares data, but it has also made “illegal transfers” of copyrighted material possible.  These illegal transfers create issues for artists of all genres, but the music industry is noticeably affected. 

The music industry has seen a fifty-three percent decrease in sales since the birth of the peer-to-peer filesharing site, Napster.  According to the Recording IndustryAssociation of America (“RIAA”), the music industry is small and easily impacted by piracy, and talented musicians are dissuaded from entering the industry.  Without the necessary revenue, investments may diminish, and music will no longer be a viable full-time career.

Music is a powerful tool for uniting millions of people from around the world.  Each fan of any one artist has something in common: regardless of their age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, they all enjoy the music.  Peer to peer sharing (“p2p”) is an illustration of the way the music unites people from all over the world.  With the ability to see who uploads and downloads files, one can see the flags of several nations on the computer screen.  Unfortunately, p2p often unites people as they “illegally transfer” copyrighted material.  The issue, however, does not rest solely on the file sharing sites.   While the Supreme Court decided that “one infringes vicariously by profiting from direct infringement while declining to exercise a right to stop or limit it,”[1] we cannot solely blame the sharing sites.  

Solving the problem will require the cooperation of individuals, p2p sites (which provides a link to the .torrent file), and BitTorrent clients (which facilitate the uploading and downloading of the actual material).  With Pirate Bay (one p2p site) now allegedly being run by the FBI, it seems the problem is not fixing itself, and the "big guns" may be stepping in.  Is free music worth the risk? 

The fact of the matter is, we look to music for relief from our problems, escape from our worries, comfort for our pains, and if we do not seek to protect artists, we may be causing the problems from which they hope to escape.  While some argue it is about the music and not the money, let's be honest, it is a little bit about the money.  No one actually wants to be a starving artist.

—Amanda Marston, Staff Editor

[1] Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd.Supreme Court of the United States June 27, 2005545 U.S. 913125 S.Ct. 2764162 L.Ed.2d 781, citing Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. v. H.L. Green Co., 316 F.2d 304, 307 (C.A.2 1963).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Fight Is On

As the Super Bowl came and went with no announcement, many people thought that the fight might never happen. Nevertheless, after many years of negotiations and anticipation, the fight between Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will finally take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 2, 2015. Because the negotiations have taken so long, both fighters are in the twilight of their careers. Still, this fight is already one of the most talked about and anticipated fights in the history of boxing. Both fighters are the boxing superstars of their generation and have helped to keep alive a seemingly dying sport.

Both Mayweaher and Pacquiao are set to make a boatload of money from the fight. Mayweather was announced as the world’s highest paid athlete in 2014 by Forbes Magazine. Now, Mayweather is about to have the biggest payday of his career. Mayweather is expected to receive at least $120 million, while Pacquiao will make at least $80 million. To put that in some perspective, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier split $5 million for their famous March 8, 1971, bout at New York's Madison Square Garden. Each man's $2.5 million purse, adjusted for inflation, would be $14.6 million in 2014 dollars, according to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistic's inflation calculator. Mayweather alone will make more than many Major League Baseball teams’ entire 2015 season payroll. The amount of money involved in this fight is absolutely remarkable, which might explain why it took so long for everything to come together.

Because the fight is five years too late and both fighters have arguably lost a step in their more advanced ages, the question becomes will the fight live up to all the hype and money? I sure hope so, but regardless this fight will continue to be one of the biggest sports stories all the way up until May 2.

Justin Davis, Staff Editor

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Will the Real Stan Lee Please Stand Up

A recent court case involving Stan Lee Media and Marvel’s parent company, Disney, may have created some unnecessary confusion over the rights of Stan Lee’s globally acclaimed comic book characters. The October case was an appeal of a 2012 court decision regarding a copyright infringement suit against Disney for $5.5 billion. Stan Lee Media claimed that Disney stole the rights to the Marvel characters. However, the headlines should cause no alarm for Marvel fans, including diehard fans of Lee’s work.

Last December, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the previous dismissal of the lawsuit, resulting in a resounding ‘no’ for the plaintiffs. This decision should only be a point of celebration for the Marvel community because it further severs the ties with a company no longer associated with Lee himself—Stan Lee Media. The comic book mogul’s namesake may still be attached to the entertainment company, but the creator ended the relationship years ago. Stan Lee Media has since been trying to get a piece of the pie anyway they can, even if it involves legal bottomfeeding tactics; in fact, this is Stan Lee Media’s seventh attempt at claiming the copyrights. The 10th Circuit would have none of this, however, and agreed with the Disney counsel that “there was no conceivable way the company could state a viable copyright claim.”

The headlines make the issue sound much worse than it really is, but any worries about the future of Marvel should be dismissed. There is no legal cause for concern over how the characters are being handled or portrayed, and, after this decision, certainly no question as to ownership. If anything, Disney has extended the Marvel brand to an unparalleled size of audience.  Marvel fans can rest assured that that their beloved characters are safe from legal obstruction and that Stan Lee’s legacy remains untarnished.

Riley Coltrin (Staff Editor, Denver SELJ)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sound Restrictions Imposed on Red Rocks Amphitheater Spark Controversy

February 19, 2015

Red Rocks Amphitheater is an iconic outdoor music venue located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, 10 miles west of Denver in Morrison, Colorado. The amphitheater is owned and operated by the City and County of Denver. Public, organizational and private performances have been held at Red Rocks for more than 100 years. In recent years, residents of Morrison have complained of increasing noise levels during concerts at the venue, with a particular distaste for reverberations caused by loud bass, or deep, low-pitched sounds. The residents argue that electronic dance music (EDM) concerts are the primary events producing loud bass, and that these shows, among others, prevent the residence from fully enjoying their property near the venue.  In response to these concerns the city of Denver, for the first time, implemented noise regulations for the 2014 concert season, and noise-monitoring systems were also installed at the venue.

At the onset of the 2014 concert season, the city of Denver installed at Red Rocks a noise monitoring system at the Front-of-House, or on stage, to measure the decibel level reached during performances. The 2014 regulations imposed a maximum noise level of 105 dB, measured at 1-minute intervals. Five consecutive or non-consecutive minutes that exceeded this level constituted a $10,000 violation.  However, these limits only applied after 12:00am on weeknights, and after 1:00am on weekends, with concerts ending no later than 30 minutes after these curfew times. The 2014 season had no violations of these regulations due to the fact that the majority of the shows ended well before the 30-minute curfew period where the noise limits applied.

Morrison residents were not satisfied with the 2014 regulations, arguing that noise levels remained obnoxiously high.  In December of 2014, the City of Morrison sent a letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and top Red Rocks officials seeking the implementation of recommendations contained in a report made by Geiler and Associates, LLC., consultants in acoustics and presentation technologies hired by the City.  The report (the “Geiler Report”) made a number of conclusions regarding the 2014 concert season, data collected by Red Rocks and other sources during that year, and proposed regulations for 2015.

The Geiler Report apparently persuaded the City of Denver, as the new regulations for 2015 mirror the recommendations found in the Report. Denver presented these new regulations to Morrison residents on January 7, 2015.[1] Two notable changes appear in the 2015 regulations: first, sound levels are now applicable to the entire performance (prior to 11:15pm, sound pressure level shall not exceed 108dB; after 11:15pm, sound level shall not exceed 105dB); second, mandatory ending times have been moved 45 minutes earlier for weeknight shows, and one hour earlier for weekend shows (11:45pm on weeknights; 12:30am on Friday nights, Saturday nights and some holidays). In addition, three violations of sound limits (instead of five as seen in 2014) warrant a $10,000 fine, a performer that incurs a violation will not be permitted to perform at Red Rocks the following year, and these regulations now appear in each performance contract executed between artists and the City of Denver.

The implementation of the 2015 noise regulations presents a number of issues to be considered. For concert-goers, likely one of the first questions asked is “how can Denver implement these regulations?” The answer to this question is simple: the City and County of Denver owns and operates Red Rocks, and, by way of private contracts with artists to rent the amphitheater, Denver has complete authority to control the manner in which artists conduct themselves while performing. Therefore, to the dismay of many Red Rocks fans, the City of Denver is acting well within its authority by implementing these regulations through private contracts with artists who perform at the venue. As long as the artists consent to the regulations by signing the contract, the regulations are in full force.

Another issue is the possibility that the city of Morrison may seek to impose regulations on Red Rocks beyond those already in place. Implementation of additional regulation would likely occur through city or county ordinances.  In its letter to Denver’s Mayor and Red Rocks officials, the City of Morrison claimed that it would “consider other enforcement options” if Denver failed to work with Morrison in reaching a long-term solution. Currently, Red Rocks is exempt from the Jefferson County (the county in which Morrison is located) noise abatement law, resolution CC07-202. This resolution prohibits excessive sound levels, with an exception that applies to the “use of property by this state… for the purpose of promoting, producing, or holding cultural, entertainment, athletic, or patriotic events, including, but not limited to, concerts, music festivals, and fireworks displays.” Based on this exception applicable to Red Rocks, it appears that Morrison may find it difficult to regulate noise levels by way of city or county ordinance.

At the heart of this controversy lie those Morrison residents who have complained about the excessive noise produced by concerts at Red Rocks. If these residents remain unsatisfied, one of their few options is to pursue a claim of public or private nuisance against Red Rocks and the City of Denver. Unfortunately for those residents, it is likely that both claims will fail.

Because of the century-long existence of Red Rocks, private nuisance claims (i.e. a single claim brought by an individual seeking relief for an alleged nuisance) against Red Rocks (or the City of Denver) will likely fail because the vast majority of residence who might bring this claim chose to buy property near the venue, thereby drastically reducing the likelihood that a court would rule in their favor. Ken Kubik, the creator of a petition advocating the removal of sound restrictions at Red Rocks, commented on this issue in a January 2015 interview, stating that “all [of the homes] have been built after the construction of the Amphitheater, and thus the homeowners should not be able to complain about the volume of the concerts as they willingly purchased property near a well known and active musical venue.”[2]

A public nuisance claim alleging that the residents of Morrison, as a whole, are unjustifiably subjected to the annoyance of Red Rocks will likely also fail when considering how many more members of the public benefit and enjoy Red Rocks, in comparison to the relatively few Morrison residents who do not. The utility of the amphitheater as a venue for performances far outweighs the gravity of harm felt by Morrison citizens as a result of those performances, thus resulting in an unsuccessful public nuisance claim.

Many avid live music fans and supporters of Red Rocks feel as if the concert-going experience will be diminished as a result of these noise regulations. EMD fans feel as if they’re musical genre, favorite artists, and Red Rocks experiences are under attack. “This is an important issue as the noise restrictions placed on Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater are detrimental to the music experience of any event patron at the venue,” Kubik suggests. He continued, arguing that the “noise restrictions also unfairly target Electronic Dance Music Events, as these events tend to have large amounts of low frequency bass sounds that travel further than higher frequency sounds, thus being more present in the homes near the venue.”

Luckily for EDM fans, Brian Kitts from Denver Arts & Venues is on their side. In a January 8, 2015 interview, Kitts said that Denver will continue to work with Morrison residents regarding noise issues, but that the City has no intention of restricting the genre of music performed at Red Rocks. "We want the artists to be cognizant that this is not an indoor venue," Kitts said. "But we are not considering banning EDM or other shows. They are an important part of American pop culture right now."[3]

There is another, more important perk that concertgoers should keep in mind. It is likely that the majority of fans attending shows at Red Rocks will not even notice the difference in sound as a result of the new regulations. “There is a misconception that… the sound levels are going to be 50% of what they were last year, and that’s just not the case,” Kitts said in a February 2015 interview.[4] “What you’re doing is shaving off certain high points of the show, to the point that you aren’t going to notice.” Kitts went on, “my gut tells me that 99% of the fans aren’t going to notice.”

Although the concerns of Morrison residents and Red Rocks fans are important, the overriding interest for Denver, Red Rocks, and performers is making money. Skeptics of the new regulations argued that they would inhibit the venue’s ability to attract artists, especially EDM performers. However, this has not been the case for the 2015 concert season. “This will be the heaviest season for EDM music that Red Rocks has ever had,” says Kitts. “So clearly, the regulations aren't restricting them, they believe they can put on an effective show.” 

The upcoming 2015 concert season will shed light on the extent to which these new regulations affect concert experiences at Red Rocks, and the level of satisfaction felt by Morrison residents. However, 2015 is only one step in the process of finding a long-term, satisfactory compromise. Considering the contentious nature of this issue, it’s fair to say that noise regulation at Red Rocks will be a debated issue for years to come.  

Max Montag, Staff Editor 

[1] the denver post,
[2] westward,
[3] colorado public radio,
[4] westward,