Fair Use and Music Blogs

Fair use is a complicated issue.  The distinction between copyright infringement and fair use is seemingly razor thin.  In 1998, the United States government passed the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, laying out the penalties for copyright infringement.  American users of the internet are expected to abide by this law, and in theory it makes sense.  Things that are copyrighted are protected from unauthorized use, and a violation of a copyright will result in a takedown notice from the federal government.  Copyright holders absolutely have the right to protect their works from unlawful or unauthorized use, but for the humble music blogger, how do you even know if you are infringing?

image used under creative commons license from flickr user gallery-art http://www.flickr.com/people/gallery-art/

It is a fair generalization to say that most independent music bloggers – independent meaning those who aren’t writing for AOL or Gawker Media or receive a paycheck for their work – are writing about a subject they are passionate about.  It doesn’t make much sense to run a pop music fansite if you’re neither getting paid nor passionate about the subject.  My blog, for example, is about the music I love and the artists that I listen to.  Ultimately the intention of my blog is to raise awareness for the smaller bands that I enjoy and to connect with other people who have the same interest.  But how do you write about a topic you enjoy and keep it interesting with media such as pictures, audio or video, without infringing on artist’s copyrights?

The problem is, it is extremely hard to determine what you can and can not use for your blog without being some overpaid tv lawyer.  Offering a free download of music that you do not own? I’m sure there are children today that know that this is not legal.  Using an banner image of a band you find on the “press” section of their website? This is probably fine, as they are likely encouraging sharing.  Using google image search for album art and posting that image to your blog? Now the rules get tricky.  This very well could fall under the fair use right, as the artist or record label might have put that image on the internet with the intention of sharing or promotion.  But unless you ask the content creator, you really don’t know if it’s ok. Of course, if you were to do that, it is the record label or artist’s prerogative to issue you a takedown notice or even make it a legal matter.

Hey look, there’s a picture I took myself.

So what’s the answer? Should you limit your music reviews to old traditional folk songs that are now public domain?  I doubt many readers would want to hear your thoughts on “Amazing Grace,” but crazier things have happened.  On my blog, I have been trying my best to avoid any sort of grey area, but especially with the type of music I have been writing about it’s hard to find the line.  If a band sends out a press release about their new album, they probably want that information shared with as many people as possible. But, you really don’t know unless you ask.

Naturally I do not link to illegal downloads nor offer them, but I do link to places where the reader can legitimately listen to the artists.  For example, I try to include a link that launches the legal Spotify application or a Youtube link.  Obviously record labels have to opt-in to Spotify, and Youtube is good at taking down any copyright infringement that is reported.  This way, it is up to those hosts to deal with the legal side of things.  If the label wants that Youtube video taken down, the link that says “here” on my website won’t connect to anything. That’s it. My blog is not professional, in any sense of the word, and I don’t think I’ll find my way on anyone’s press release list anytime soon, but it could happen.  Until that day, I, like many of my fellow bloggers, will continue to try to avoid stepping over that line.


such sad, shiny things they are


What I’m Thankful For – Part One!

Somehow it’s already the end of November, so lets talk Thanksgiving. Despite the mess going on in my life, I actually do have plenty to be thankful for: my dad is getting better by the day and I’ve got a great family and an amazing, supportive girlfriend.  Thanksgiving is an important day in America, and it’s good to give thanks. Now, this is a music blog, so forget about all that sensitive junk and lets talk records!

The Five Records I’m Most Thankful For – A Thanksgiving Record Extravaganza!

Note: I have a reasonably small record collection, and for the most part I have it pretty well trimmed down to my 150 or so favorite records.  Cutting down a list of my top five will absolutely vary on any given day, but a quick look-through and here are the ones I pulled out, in a very particular order:

5) Captain, We’re Sinking/It’s A Trap/Kind of Like Records/2008/Official Website

I began this list by looking at the records that meant the most to me, but when I needed to narrow down the last one, I thought of the record that has gotten the most play on my turntable over the last few years.  That honor, by a large margin goes to Captain We’re Sinking’s It’s a Trap.  No frills, just four songs that get stuck in your head that just rock much harder than they have any right to.  I’m going to need to buy a backup copy pretty soon because this thing HAS to be getting worn out by now.  I just saw this band again at Fest and it was awesome having a packed room of kids singing along with every song. Check out “Crushed by Milwaukee’s Best” if you don’t believe me.

4) Brandtson/Send Us a Signal/The Militia Group/2004/Reissued 2010/DREAMOVER Records

(The Now Defunct) Brandtson was one of the great early 2000’s emo bands, but they really hit it out of the park with 2004’s Send Us a Signal.  While their earlier emo influences are still there, Brandtson put together a much more rounded indie record with Send Us a Signal, their best to date.  This album came out at such a weird time, when I wasn’t sure what the hell I was doing with my life.  Songs like “Just Breathe” hit me just right, and really put to words the way I was feeling.  In 2010 DREAMOVER Records had a Kickstarter to press this album on vinyl, and here’s my backer-exclusive orange vinyl variant. This is an excellent version of an even more excellent record

3) NOFX/So Long and Thanks For All the Shoes/Epitaph Records/1997/Official Website

When I was about thirteen and realized that there was more music out there than Nirvana and Metallica (literally the only two bands I listened to), I got adventurous at my local record store and bought a few tapes from their “punk” section.  Not long after, NOFX released this album, So Long and Thanks For All The Shoes, and it became an instant favorite.  I remember at the time hearing that album was where NOFX lost their edge, but I think that’s ridiculous, mostly because THIS ALBUM IS SO GODDAMN FAST.  Seriously, when I first put the 2010 reissue on my record player I thought I had it on the wrong speed setting.  So Long.. puts any “fast” punk band to shame, plus it’s really, really good to boot.  Two of the songs on this record, “All His Suits Are Torn” and “Quart in Session.” have the BEST lyrics NOFX’s Fat Mike have ever written. Top five, no question. I’ve got the 2010 reissue on green, and I love it.

Stay tuned for the number two and number one records I’m most thankful for!


This hysteria lives inside of me

Pentimento – Self Titled (2012)

Buffalo, New York’s Pentimento was set to release their new self-titled full-length this month via Paper + Plastick/Black Numbers, but a legal dispute with their former label has put those plans on hold. Don’t panic, because while the lawyers sort out that whole mess, Pentimento have made the whole album free to download from their website.  I was able to catch the band down at Fest last month, and despite the shitty PA, they were super rad.  I’ve only had the chance to listen to it once, but this new full length is damn good, and you should absolutely check it out.

Download Pentimento’s Pentimento for free on their website here

If you dig it, be sure to donate to their paypal or buy something from their merch store here 


I can’t believe everything I let myself believe 

How I Spent My Wonderful Halloween

Fest 11 was just last weekend, and a friend and I traveled from New York down to Florida to attend. Just as our luck would have it, our flight back on Monday would have coincided almost exactly with Hurricane Sandy hitting NYC, so of course we were stranded.  I know what you’re thinking, we should have been happy to be out of the fray and given more time in sunny Florida.  Fear not, I still found things to complain about!

After way too many hours on hold with Delta, I originally thought we’d get a plane back to New York Tuesday, Wednesday the latest.  We made arrangements to stay for a few extra nights and went back to enjoying Fest.  Come Monday morning, we hear from Delta again that they’re anticipating a week-long closure of New York airports. Unhappy of the prospect of being stuck in a $160 per-night hotel room and worried about our family back home, we decided to make it a road trip.  I rented a car from the airport, drove up to my grandparent’s house for a day to let the roads clear up in the northeast, and then started the long journey back home.

Filling up right next to a fireworks store in South Carolina. Smart!

While some of my friends were using Halloween (and power outages) as a reason to get drunk on a weeknight, we were drinking red bull and eating the finest snack foods that rest stops have to offer.

No Halloween would be complete without a spin or two of AFI’s All Hallow’s EP, so thanks to Spotify’s mobile app we were able to listen to great tunes like “The Boy Who Destroyed the World” and the excellent cover of the Misfits’ “Halloween.” If AFI ever gets around to recording new music, I really hope they go back to this old style.  This EP and their album Answer That and Stay Fashionable were among my first forays into the punk section of my local record store, so they’ll always be old favorites of mine.

As an aside, after seeing about a thousand billboards on the way up, we stopped at the ON THE BORDER in South Carolina.  I’ve never been, despite knowing of its existence, and was actually getting excited as we got closer and closer.  Now, let me say that I mean this in the nicest, most inoffensive way: that place is the worst.  I couldn’t even drive through the whole (half?) mile stretch, I had to turn around, use the gas station and get the hell out as fast as possible.  It’s supposed to be a tourist trap, but I could barely spend 10 minutes there. Something about it simultaneously creeped AND bummed me out. Sorry, weirdos who own On the Border.

Such amazing sights on I-95!

The trip took about 17 hours, which could have easily been much longer.  I was a little worried about the condition of the Jersey Turnpike, but since we hit it at about 10:30PM, it really wasn’t a problem.  I rolled up to my house a little before 3AM for some much-needed sleep.  We came back to power-outages and long gas lines, but it was good to be back to help out my family after Sandy.


Favorite album for the ride? Frank Turner’s recent collection Last Minutes and Lost Evenings. Was Fest 11 worth all the trouble? I’ll see you there next year!


We’re almost on the guestlist, but we’re always stuck in traffic