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Fair Use's Don Quixote: One Artist Offers Alternative To The RIAA

TMO Reports - Fair Use's Don Quixote: One Artist Offers Alternative To The RIAA

by , 8:00 AM EDT, September 3rd, 2002

To dream the impossible dream; that is what Cervantes' Don Quixote would have us to do when facing the forces against Fair Use. If you listen to the rhetoric from the RIAA you'd think that anyone who owns an iPod or other MP3 player is stealing the very food from the mouths of artists. The RIAA tells us that we are thieves, that we cannot be trusted, that it is up to them to make us honest and we don't have a damned thing to say about it.

The RIAA is making strides; they are trying to force manufacturers of computers and other equipment to include devices that would prevent you from using the music you bought the way you want to use it, they are sponsoring bills before Congress that would give unprecedented power to record companies to act against those they suspect of having illegally copied music, and they are attempting to force computer makers to include hardware that would prevent you from making copies of music you bought for personal use.

There is one person, at least, who has decided that he has had enough and he is doing something about it. Jade Leary is an independent artist whose music was featured on Apple's QuickTime 6 MPEG-4 AAC audio gallery. Jade Leary believes that artists will suffer just as much as those who enjoy music if the RIAA has its way, and he has come up with an alternative to the current way music is delivered to the end user; he offers FairPlay.

Jade Leary explains: "FairPlay is basically shareware for music : if people like the music, they are asked to make a US$7.00 contribution through Kagi. They are also encouraged to share the music with friends. This is my way of fighting back. I don't know how it's going to turn out; It's a trial balloon of sorts. "

Visit the FairPlay Web site and you see a simple yet inviting page, many features are still being created, and there is but one artist whose music is available for download, Jade Leary's, but look closer. Read the FairPlay End User's Guide and the FairPlay Artist's Guide and you get a sense that Jade Leary may be onto something.

TMO had the pleasure of interviewing Jade Leary, here's what he had to say:

TMO: What do you hope to accomplish with your one-man campaign against Fair Use opponents, and with Fair Play?

Leary: The Big Dream: FairPlay breaks the current monopoly enjoyed by major labels and becomes an alternative distribution model linking artists and fans directly. No more middle-man, no more threats of copyright police, no more attacks on fair-use.

That's the Dream. Is it possible? I don't know yet. The success of this experience rests on two things: musicians taking charge of their career and people's willingness to contribute. I choose to believe that true music lovers are ready for this. I think musicians are too. This is about bringing artists and fans together in a mutually beneficial relationship: not producer/consumer, but creator/contributor; it sounds subtle but I think it's a very deep change in mentality on both sides.

TMO: Have other artists contacted you about signing on?

Leary: Not yet. This is all very new and a couple of things are still being finalized (the Artist's Agreement and FairPlay Toolkit). Hopefully, as word gets around this will change.

To help with the process, I'm thinking of taking this a step further. I've been a musician all my life and FairPlay is a personal project/crusade of mine. But I'm also partner in a small TV and multimedia production company called Nexzo. As such, I have access to resources most musicians don't (servers, Web tools...). I also have the skills necessary to create and design Web sites (it's part of what I do), but I realize a lot of artists don't necessarily have those skills and/or resources readily available. So I'm looking at the possibility of offering service packages (through Nexzo) to musicians in order to enable them to make their material available online through the FairPlay license.

Now I want to make myself really clear on this: using our services will NOT be a pre-requisite to FairPlay. If an artist wants to handle everything on his own, more power to him/her. We will still give away the FairPlay Toolkit and will put up a link to that artist's page on the FairPlay Web site. FairPlay is a free license. It is my brainchild and I feel very strongly about the values on which it is based. The idea here is simply to allow as many artists as possible to take advantage of the possibilities of this new model. Of course, doing this at a loss is not an option. That would be plain stupid, but we want to make sure our offer is as fair as possible. Again, all of this depends on interest from the community. Everyone at our company is a huge music fan. Two of us are musicians. We all see this as an incredibly worthwhile cause for the music community at large.

TMO: How will you know if FairPlay is successful?

Leary: Artists who wish to be part of FairPlay will need the FairPlay Toolkit which contains the customizable license, logos and guidelines. We will send out these upon e-mail request. This will allow us to have direct contact with the artists. This is all about creating a community. Once their album is available for download, they will automatically get a link on the FairPlay Web site. The more links there are... well, you get the picture. Of course, someone could get the toolkit from a friend and never tell us about it, but what would be the point? I think there are strengths in numbers and we (musicians) can only benefit from having a central rallying point.

TMO: what will you do if FairPlay is not successful?

Leary: I'll keep on making music, like I always have and I always will. I'll probably still use this idea for my own use because I believe in it, but the web site will come down and we'll call it a day.

This is an experiment. It has potential for great success and for total disaster. There isn't much room in the middle. It can change everything or go out in a puff of smoke. For now, I choose to imagine a new reality...


Jade Leary is a musician who's tired of dealing with the way things are in the music business; the status quo won't do for him, and he's doing something about it. Supporting FairPlay looks to be a great alternative to big label music. Will it work? There is benefit to supporting FairPlay for both the creators and listeners of music. Musicians looking for an audience should find FairPlay appealing because it puts them closer to their fans, and music lovers can feel good about supporting their favorite artists in a more direct manner, and they get fresh new music almost as soon as the artist publishes it.

Stop by FairPlay and get involved. It could be the beginning of something big.

Vern Seward is a frustrated writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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