Tom Schulte – the mind behind Outsight Radio Hours – gives us all a little insight on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
A few days back, we received a rather upset email informing us some of the ID3 tags we used for our CyberPR artists weren’t compliant with the DMCA regulations set forth for Internet broadcasters. We realized we weren’t up on the DMCA, nor were our musicians. Luckily, Outsight host Tom Shulte is extremely knowledgeable on the subject and was gracious enough to share his wisdom with us.
Trevor: First, Describe how Outsight got its start and what’s the purpose behind it?
Tom: I started off as a music journalist in 1988 and “Outsight” was the name of my column that appeared in various underground music publications, like Carbon-14, Glass Eye, Caustic Truths, and others. During that time I was a bit of a political activist. So, I ended up in an organized act of civil disobedience supported by local Libertarians, National Socialist Party and more. This was a pirate radio station called Radio Free Detroit, which at 10 watts was the largest of its kind at that time. We actually wanted the FCC to shut us down in order to draw attention to the microwatt revolution, but for a long time they wouldn’t. The result of this unexpectedly long time behind the mic was that I became addicted to broadcasting. Seeking to legitimize my experience I ended up with a Thursday morning drive-time show called “Outsight” on local AM radio. From there I went to Public Radio and, when it became technically possible, Internet radio with now defunct CollegMusic.com in late 1998. That’s how it started, and now my show is heard on WXOU 88.3 FM in Michigan, as well as Live365, LUVeR.com, NewArtistRadio.net, Radio-Freedom.com and other Internet Radio sites and just about everywhere you can get a podcast, including iTunes.
The purpose was to satisfy a need for immediacy and direct transference of sharing new music I am excited about with an audience, compared to the remoteness and delay innate to publishing, even Web publishing.
I had decided to phase out my journalism to focus on graduate school, and this was also a way to continue to work with a subset of my label, publicity, and artist contacts. I had to tell everyone anything they sent would be broadcast and not reviewed. I actually wanted many people to say “no” if only to free up time from handling mail to give to my studies. Actually, the opposite happened and I got more email and communications to handle for programming my shows than I had for writing my column!
TD: As a digital broadcaster, what are your thoughts on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, especially in terms of music content?
TS: I agreed with the spirit of the DMCA as soon as it came out. That is, Internet promotion of new music should not be used to enable or make more convenient unlicensed acquisition and copying of music. To do so, in my opinion, would be mistreating the music I am given for the show. So, from as soon as I read the guidelines I have followed the spirit of this directive. For instance, I bleed the ending of one song over the beginning of the next and don’t play whole album uninterrupted. All this prevents people from being able to easily rip individual songs or whole albums off my streams or my podcasts. So, my podcasts are not individual MP3s, but one two-hour MP3 of the whole show.
TD: Have you ever been forced to take content off your site due to the ‘DMCA Takedown Provision’?
TS: Oh yes, since I want to get broadcast as many places as possible in order to benefit those that supply me with music and share the songs I am excited about, I have to abide by stricter and stricter rules. See, I produce one show every week and then make slight edits, for instance to include underwriting, to make the show appropriate. So, in order for me to work this way, I have to abide by the strictest rules of any of my outlets. So, basically, that means following the DMCA to the letter. So, I have had to stop doing artists tributes (too many tracks in a row) and other things that are allowed on terrestrial radio – even if it is simulcast over the Web!
TD: Many criticize the DMCA for placing too much favor on behalf of the copywriter, as a broadcaster do you agree with this opinion?
TS: Well, the DMCA was the first time that I recall that the Internet broadcasting community lost the fight to have imposed on them radically different and more severely limited laws that those that apply to terrestrial and even satellite radio. So, this set up the “separate and unequal” premise that led to the current crisis of nearly punitive royalty rates for Internet radio. We have to change the minds of legislators so they take it for granted that all broadcasters, regardless of media, should be treated fairly and equitably.
TD: What should a musician know about the DMCA?
TS: Serious, career, professional and semi-professional musicians that take their careers seriously will take it upon themselves to learn the essential features of all laws that affect their art. This includes, but is not limited to, the gist of the DMCA. The DMCA is, for instance, as relative to the modern career musician, as the laws regarding mechanical and performance royalties.
TD: As digital broadcasting continues to take new norms all over the Inetner, what merits and downfalls do you see with this?
TS: Well, the merits are it is a great time to be a music fan! So much music and so much convenience in accessing it! For the working musician or any sort of broadcaster, the competition is just tremendous. You have to compute for ears against iPods, cell phones, satellite radio. Next, we’ll have to compete against MP3-enabled kitchen appliances!
However, I feel there is hope. As the breadth and utility of consumer electronics widens, Internet radio and podcasting will be embraced more and more. Eventually, a critical mass will be reached that will make Internet-based music streaming explode into the mainstream. Some tipping points in this development to look for are when the center of gravity for access to Internet music moves from the computer to the home’s main entertainment center where the TV and stereo are. Also key would be Internet-delivered music accessible in the car as conveniently as FM is. Look what that did for satellite radio!
TD: How do you feel about taking questions from fans via email or chat room to increase fan interactivity? Do you use this on the site?
TS: I think it is great! This really speaks to immediacy I mentioned before. I really appreciate the listener feedback and love requests. On good nights, the audience teaches me more than I have to share with them! I use the same id in MSN, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, etc. and that way I can allow listeners to contact me live during live shows or moderated re-casts.
TD: What’s next for Outsight?
TS: I want to take my listenership to the next level! Outsight only began broadcasting a few months ago. I am still learning how to make my shows most suitable to the podcast listener. Feedback from listeners is really helping. Each show features a phone interview with an artist archived at http://www.new-sounds.net/coolstreams. For instance, this week, we had on Martin Atkins (PiL, Killing Joke, Pigface, etc.) about the independent music scene in China. I find the best thing to do is more Outsight toward letting that interview set the theme and content of the show so that each episode out there in the “podosphere” can stand alone as self-contained and coherent entertainment and information. That is taking effort on my part, as the history of Outsight has been very freeform and eclectic up to this point.
For more from our favorite political activist turned broadcasting junkie, check out Outsight Radio Hours at www.new-sounds.com