Making it Happen – Iowa City Public Library licenses local music for patrons

File this one under “why I still read press releases even though 95% of them are junk” Got a nice email from John Hiett of Iowa City Public Library letting me know about their local music project which is launching today. Hiett explains: “We’re offering local cardholders free, DRM-less downloads of records by local musicians. We’ve leased the rights for a two year period at $100 per record. We launch this beast June 8 at music.icpl.org. We have over 30 albums locked down, but the list is growing and we expect to top out at around 50. This includes most of the best known Iowa City bands over the last couple decades.”

I thought this was a pretty cool sounding project and one that I’m surprised more libraries haven’t already been doing for years. I emailed John back to ask him a few questions about it.

1. You say in your FAQ that you think this is a replicable model for other libraries. What would you suggest for other libraries who want to try something like this?

You’d need a budget, some web expertise and some authentication software to keep it local, none of which should be too much of a barrier. Feel free to adopt our contract, available at http://music.icpl.org/music_licensing_agreement.pdf

Just get bands signed up, collect W-9 forms for tax purposes, rip the disc, scan the cover, post, and let people know.

2. What was the most challenging part of this project?

Apparently, nobody starts a band to fill out paperwork. While musicians almost unanimously responded enthusiastically to our initial pitch, getting them to actually sign the contract often took quite a bit of follow-up. I tried not to beg, but in a few cases . . .

Having a good team makes a big difference. When I took this idea to our director, Susan Craig, I asked for enough money to lease 20 albums at $50 each. She said to get 50 and offer $100. Our webmaster James Clark’s work recalls that old Arthur C. Clarke quote, ” Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Mara Cole’s artwork moves me in ways that commercial art shouldn’t. Other people have coordinated publicity, kept track of the financial details, and done original cataloging.

The challenging part may be yet to come. If we don’t generate some threshold of downloads, it’s only been a fun experiment. Also, I’m already hearing from musicians who want to be included, tho the money’s gone for now. Letting them down gently might be hard.

3. What inspired you to decide to do the legwork on a project like this instead of going with one of the off-the-shelf music options?

I was watching Dave Zollo play late one night (definitely a Talent Deserving Wider Recognition) and wondered why we sent all our music money out of town, when he was as good as anyone we bought (and he uses our library). I may have had a few at that point, but emailed myself. The more I thought about it, the more I saw how it could work. Plus, it gave me a chance to meet some cool people.

another rock and roll library from someone you may have heard of

Former Clash guitarist Mick Jones “a prominent figure in the punk rock movement of the seventies and eighties, opened his Rock-n-Roll Public Library in London yesterday.” The library is, technically, an art exhibit, fyi. More about Jones in this Telegraph article. [ellareads]

What happens in a copyright dispute on YouTube?

One the the benefits of my free agent status is that I can occasionally push the envelope on certain rules in a spirit of “see what happens” realizing that some small town in Vermont won’t be bankrupted if I get sued. I’ve often said that I’d like to see more civil disobedience from libraries concerning copyright legislation (especially concerning public performance rights to movies and ability to make copies of our own content) but it’s not happening quickly. That said, as you may know, I make some videos and have put them on YouTube. One of them was popular for a little while. Sadly, that one had a soundtrack from a Beausoleil album that I liked and did not have permission to use. The other much less popular video was just some shots out the window driving in a rainstorm while listening to the radio. The song in question comes on the radio for about the last minute of my video.

Last week I got an email from YouTube saying… I don’t still have the email but in short their Video Identification tool had matched a song in two of my videos and my videos had immediately been removed from public viewing. My options were to 1. delete the audio and/or use their AudioSwap feature to replace it 2. dispute the copyright claim on a few grounds 3. delete the video. I opted to try AudioSwap for my popular video, sort of sad because it removes my voiceover and other sound effects, but decent because it’s a better option than removing the video entirely. I replaced the soundtrack with a free track from AudioSwap. If I felt like I had time and energy I’d write to Michael Doucet and see if he’d give me permission, but it’s probably not even him but his record company, etc. The AudioSwap interface is clunky and may or may not put an advertisement in your video (and hasn’t worked yet for me but I keep trying) but it’s a good option to have.

In the second case, I really feel like I have a decent Fair Use case, so I filled out this form. The form says that I think the clip is fair use under copyright law. It’s my responsibility to “understand the law” according to YouTube, and that is my understanding of it. I had to “sign” it and also type [well copy/paste] the line that says I’m not intentionally abusing the dispute process. After I did that, I was sent to this help article to see what will happen next. The article warns

If the content owner disagrees with your dispute for any reason, they will have the option to submit a copyright takedown notice which will result in the disabling of your video and/or penalties against your account. To avoid penalization, only submit legitimate dispute claims.

So, we’ll see. I think I’m right. I hope the copyright holder thinks so too. At the very least they will be bored with four minutes of windshield rainstorm before they even hear their song and even then they’ll probably be straining saying “Is that it?” At the worst, I’ll get some sort of “penalty against my account” of unspecified awfulness. So, for those of you too timid to try this at home, or possibly being cavalier about the audio you swipe, that’s my report of the consequences … so far.

rock and roll library tours

The High Strung [myspace] is on a National Rock & Roll Library Tour this Summer. How do I know? I read about it on Flickr. In other mashup-type news, Bloodhag [myspace] has come out with … a book. Who else is touring libraries this Summer? Jetpack UK [myspace] and Harry and the Potters [myspace].

Marylaine has a nice write-up about the power of these shows to do a little image improvement for the public library.

Two quotes that echo 100% of the surveyed results:

“Before it was just ole ladies and now it’s young people. It’s a lot of fun.”

“Yes it did, it made me think that if librarians could make a library not very much a library, basically anyone could do anything,” said one ten-year old.

The High Strung enjoyed the library tour as well. Not surprisingly, they say, librarians are better at organizing and promoting rock shows than most rock promoters. And have better pay etiquette. Of course, on a regular tour, they don’t have to stick around for a Q&A after every show.

using itunes as a cheap and easy music preview tool

While we’re talking about social software, let’s talk about libraries using the tools that their students and patrons are already using. Union College in Schenectaty NY takes advantage of iTunes’ feature allowing other people on the same network to listen to each other’s music. So, if I’m at the library using the wireless and someone else is at the library using the wireless and has decided to make their music available, I can listen to it as if it were my music. The library uses their own copy of iTunes to offer tracks of new music that is available for checkout at the library. Innovative, free and clever!

google video find: harry and the potters play live

Harry and the Potters perform the Troll Song at the Emily Fowler Public Library in Denton, Texas

sounds like a librarian to me

If you were ga-ga over Noah Wylie in The Librarian, you can download some of the soundtrack music for it.