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The Rambler :: blog

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

New License for Laptop DJs 

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Some clarifications, and some applause

The new license for digital DJs came onto the scene back in September (notwithstanding a growing backlash against laptop Djing), and is now causing a minor kerfuffle on Dissensus and at kode 9's place.

The present worry is over section 3.1 of the example license posted by the Digital DJ resource site, in particular the following:
3.1 The Licensee hereby warrants, represents and undertakes that it shall:

(1) Dub each Track in its entirety provided that the Fade-down Section of any Track may be subject to the use of premature fade and cross-faded or overlapped with the Track following immediately thereafter provided that the period of audible cross fade or overlap does not exceed 2 (two) seconds;

(2) not Dub Tracks in such a way as to accelerate the rate of the Fade-up Section at the commencement of any Track;

(3) Dub Tracks so that all reproductions of Sound Recordings on a DJ Database or Back-up Database will be of sufficient technical standard so that the quality of the original Sound Recording is reasonably preserved for any person listening to the Service;

(4) not mix, remix, Segue, edit, change or otherwise manipulate the sounds of any Sound Recording so that the sounds on the Dubbed copy of the Sound Recording are different from those on the original Sound Recording
The important word is 'Dub' - defined in the license preamble as
"Dub" means re-record, reproduce and/or copy or otherwise duplicate sound recordings
Therefore, the terms quoted above are all in respect of making a re-recording of the tracks that you are using to DJ with. The law allows you to make back-up recordings of these for your security, but in doing so you must respect the integrity of the original track.

The principle that's being applied here is that as a digital DJ you have to treat your digital files as though they were records in a box: do what you like while you're actually playing your set, but when you've finished, they all go back in the box exactly as they came out. This looks like quite a sensible bit of legislation, given the uninspiring form elsewhere in the realm of music and digital copyright. I have no expectation that most small-time bar DJs won't bother to stump up for their £200 license (the figure quoted by DJ Magazine, although this doesn't include VAT, and will be subject to inexation each year), but then they may not have bothered to pay for the standard license that the PPL already produce. What the PPL's new digital license does seem to do is cover up all the inevitable cracks and uncertainties that open up with the transfer to digital, and so far seems to do so in a sensible fashion. This is good (although it's not clear why the conventional license is scaled according to size of venue, and the digital one isn't.)

And now some worries

What is of rather more serious concern however is the PPL's plans to introduce in the near future a DRM requirement for all their licencees. So if you want a license to DigiDJ, you'll need to show that all the tracks in your Database (or all the ones that you're going to use) are DRM'd up. God knows what kind of ramification that might have, but the first that springs to mind is your mate, the bedroom producer who just needs a break. He emails you his latest tune to play next Saturday, but he can't DRM it. Well, he could, if he had access to the same sort of software as Sony or Apple, but then handing that kind of thing out to every bedroom producer in the land would rather kill the lock's potency, wouldn't it...

Ach, my hackles just rise at those three cursèd initials. I don't know what the PPL's plans might mean - like I say, possibly not much since I don't believe most DJs or small venues worry too much about their current music licences; but the further DRM reaches, the more I worry.


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