On Government and the State

Posted April 28, 2014 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: General, Government, Political Philosophy, Random Musings

In political philosophy circles it is often said that it is very important to define your terms so that confusion can be minimized. One instance where I think that this is of the utmost importance–which also happens to be a certain pet peeve of mine– is in the case that presents itself when speaking about government and the state. It is often the case that these two terms are used as synonyms, but I believe this to be incorrect.

The terms themselves have very important conceptual implications, and conflating the terms ignores their grammatical nature and can lead to faulty conclusions. That the state has served the role of government in society for much of human history is no implication upon the term government with regard to the term’s meaning. Since many continue to use the terms state and government synonymously, I must address this error.

While almost everybody in political philosophy circles knows that the state is an entity that serves as the monopoly of governance in a particular region, most do not take notice of the fact that governance occurs in many other areas of human thought beyond that of the state, as well as the fact that in referring to the state we can also separately refer to the concept of governance.

Please, let me give just a few examples …

*  *  *

If you have any sort of normative order that is under discussion, say, that of property rights itself (or more specifically, that of libertarian property rights), then that is a governing order, it’s a system of government that prevails in a society. The only difference is that these norms (or ought statements) are generally apodictic rather than simply dictated statements in their justification (though this is not always the case, it is the goal in the theorizing about such things). Obviously, in the case of the state, this is entirely reversed, the laws that are dictated are merely statements–more specifically they are dictates (statutes) by the monopoly on governance; the state–but they are certainly not apodictically true, nor is that even the goal, thus they do not meet the criteria of laws at all; they are arbitrary dictates.

The same dynamic also finds itself present in the realm of positive statements, such as those of economic theory. Economics itself relies upon certain laws and understandings, that of which are always grounded in positive or is statements. Certainly the laws of economics govern (steer/guide) the actions of men in a world of scarce resources, this is necessarily the case because such laws are apodictically true. Economics is nothing other than the study of the government of humans acting in a world of scarcity, and indeed, one cannot violate the laws of economics: It’s literally impossible to do so. One could certainly say that the laws of economics comprise a government of human affairs (that these laws govern the reality of man vs nature, that they are apodictically true laws, one cannot contradict them in action). In contrast, it makes little sense to, say, propose the statement that the law of scarcity has no economic impact, or that something is scarce merely because it has been made so by policy functions (e.g. a shortage due to such a policy).

The difference between dictates and policies on the one hand, should never be confused with laws and governance on the other. This distinction between root concepts and foundational ideals cannot be overstated, because it is often the case that in one realm of human thought where these things are entirely understood, that in another realm of thought the understandings of the prior gets tossed to the wayside in favor of very bad ideas. 

*  *  *

One must ultimately understand the etymology of words, as well as the evolution of language, in order to find meaning in the same. In the case of the term govern, it is a verb that simply means to steer or guide people or things. At its root, it is formed from the idea that certain laws prevail or are true in reality. For instance, it would not be too bold to say that the law of supply and demand governs prices, or that the law of gravity governs the attractive relationship of bodies. This is obviously true. However, for some reason, the verb govern takes a twisted turn in many people’s mind once you modify it with the suffix –ment to become a noun.

It is this noun-character (as well as the reality of the state) that often leads people to conflate government with the state as synonyms. They are both nouns, after all, and certainly the state has undertaken the government of society throughout a great part of human history. But it takes one of more astute care and attention to realize what is going on here.

The state is an actual entity (at least it is linguistically referred to as an entity), so it is a concrete noun, whereas government is an abstract noun, which is a concept. So right here we can see can see a pretty large difference between the two grammatically, but the real interesting part is in the root word to suffix transition that occurs (from govern to government).

Probably the best words to use as analogues to the word govern are those of the words excite and entice. These are transitive verbs, just like that of the word govern, and they require a certain object (or objects) in order for reference to them. One simply cannot use a transitive verb without referring to some thing. So let’s modify them into abstract nouns!

In order to stay consistent, I will modify all of these transitive verbs into abstract nouns by the usage of the modifying suffix –ment (which is defined as, “forming nouns expressing the result or means of action”). Since English grammar is the governing structure that gives meaning to the words of English, the point should be quite clear.

The transitive verbs excite and entice are modified into the abstract nouns excitement and enticement. Clearly, we could not conflate these abstract nouns with concrete nouns, such that we could call the state “the excitement” or “the enticement”, rather we are left with resorting to using the preposition of to combine the two. So it is perfectly acceptable to say something like “the excitement/enticement of the state”, but it is not acceptable to refer to the state as “the excitement/enticement”. The same is true of the word government, it cannot be used as a synonym for an entity because of its grammatical nature (i.e. abstract nouns vs concrete nouns).

*  *  *

Anarcho-libertarians often run into problems when discussing their chosen political philosophy with statists, and this is often due to this very dynamic of conflating the terms state and government. This leads one to believe that what the anarchist is saying is that they do not believe in law or order, when it is exactly the opposite that is true. Certainly anarcho-libertarians do believe in laws, they just do not believe in arbitrary laws (such as legislated statutes, or mere dictates); and just as much, they also believe in governance, they just do not believe in monopoly governance, such as the state. The anarcho-libertarian’s system of laws is based upon libertarian property rights in conjunction with the non-aggression principle, which together form a rather robust system of government.

For the anarcho-libertarian to deny government, this only plays into the claims by statists that anarchy is chaotic and lawless (a Hobbesian state of nature of all against all, thus justifying the need for Leviathan; the state) when this is very clearly far from being the actual case. As I am often fond of saying: “I’m all for big government, but I have zero tolerance for the state”. Let a statist try that one on for size.

Bitcoin

Posted December 23, 2013 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Economics

I’ve been thinking about the arguments for and against Bitcoin for quite a while, and the thing that almost always had put a wrench into my thought was Mises’s *Regression Theorem*.

This brought about the ideas that a medium of exchange must arise as a commodity, as Mises stated to be so. (that bitcoins are already a medium of exchange should be an indication that there is something else going on. My task here is to reconcile the questions that arose in my mind between the theory and reality)

This term “commodity” typically specifies a particular tangible good. But I’ve recently realized that there are also many service-based commodities (those that are intangible). The services of Dr. X or Lawyer Y are certainly commodities, though they aren’t tangible, just as are the services provided by a particular cellphone provider are intangible but able to be commodified.

All of these things require capital, labor, investment, and everything else that is found in economic action. Their limitations are often time-preference, knowledge, relative capitalization, opportunity cost, disutility, and a myriad of other things that have nothing to do with objective scarcity; these considerations are all subjective to the actor offering such services (just as the consumer of such things has his own subjective considerations). Just the same, these considerations are found in all economic actions in a world of scarcity. And because of this realization, I now realize that Bitcoin is indeed commodity, even if an intangible one.

The direct-use value of Bitcoin is that of a service–one that is entirely commodified and homogeneous (by virtue of its creation and contracted exchange), and it is supplied and demanded upon the unhampered market (but probably due the hampered market that exists today); it is scarce–thus it meets all of the requirements of Mises’s RT.

I’ve often said that a great misunderstanding surrounding Bitcoin had to do entirely with the disregard of subjective value; I now realize how much more important that statement was.

*Strange as it may seem, but this post of mine (and my understanding expressed therein) was entirely inspired by Murray Rothbard’s monopoly theory. That’s actually somewhat ironic if you think about it …

That 70’s Song

Posted October 19, 2013 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Music, music, Music (original)

Just a little something from my days in San Diego with the band.

Fixes to last Article

Posted August 29, 2013 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Admin, Uncategorized

Sorry folks, it appears that I posted my last article a little too early. I wrote it this morning, slept for a few hours and then woke up and read it again. I noticed a few errors, so I fixed them. I can’t remember what they were, but they weren’t huge errors. In any case, I just wanted to let you know. It’s now in its final form.

Joe

Humanitarian Murder: It’s a Gas

Posted August 29, 2013 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Foreign Relations, Government, Iran, Israel, Politics, Propaganda

Here we are yet again at the precipice of war.

Some may not fully remember that we’d been here not too long before, that the narrative is almost exactly the same, and that we’ve been lied to by our “angels” holding the reins of state power ad infinitum for time immemorial.

Will Americans fall for it once more?

The war drums beating, the speeches and punditries spoken, and every fashion of ridiculous justifications and moral reasonings having been proffered, all being flashed in front of your eyes in the blue-light sparkle of your big-screen television; and all of this by the tiding media whose only life-support is the very government establishment that wishes to propagandize and impose its powerful influence upon the minds of each and every one of us, all in order to gain the political support to destroy those “evil” inhabitants of the other side … the enemy. How truly collectivist of them.

However this –like so many other wars and aggressions that have occurred before it– is being sold as a “humanitarian” effort; one to save the children, the mothers and fathers, and indeed the people of Syria.

“We’re only here to help, we mean you no harm”. Right?

There could be nothing further from the truth, and I am here to tell you why.

Of Bombs and Men

There simply does not exist any such thing as a “humanitarian war”, it’s a contradiction in terms. It’s much like saying “humanitarian murder” or “slavery freedom”. War is exactly what it says it is: nothing more than one state’s inhabitants (or military powers) killing the inhabitants that live within another state’s monopolistic region of power, or vice versa. You can tidy it up with soft language such as “conflict” or “engagement” as well as many other fanciful terms, but it all means the same thing: War!

Of what value is the reasoning of humanitarianism when innocent people are amongst the dead and killed by such “humanitarian” actions? I say none.

A bomb is an indiscriminate weapon of terror, a true “weapon of mass destruction”. There simply is no way to control who exactly it is that will be killed by such a weapon.

Sure, you may kill a “bad guy”, but you also may (and probably will) kill a lot of innocent people along with him. In fact, this is often the case, as the statistics of the US government’s drone war, and indeed all of its wars and aggressions over the past century, have proven all too poignantly.

To put things into perspective, those few that are supporting this military action in Syria are essentially saying this:

Person A: “They’re killing innocent people over there, we must do something”

Person B: “What do you suppose to do?”

Person A: “Kill innocent people over there”

Clearly, this is not a cogent argument in favor of humanitarianism (the supposed justification for US military intervention in this conflict).

The Gaseous State

The world is being told that Assad is using chemical weapons against his own people (sound familiar?), but to be sure, there has yet to have been any proof of this.

Yes, we do know that such weapons have been used (by whom?), but as Justin Raimondo has shown in his recent reporting, there is much ambiguity with regard to who has been using them. Further, the inspections by the UN had initially been curtailed, all in an effort to rush to another war without ample evidence of wrongdoing (or any evidence at all). Recently the inspectors were in the region, but were only there to establish that chemical weapons were released, not to assign blame, and the US is hinting that it will ignore the UN Security Council regardless.

The appeal by the President for Congressional support, I think, is far more of a political than a legal move. He’s essentially doing nothing more than spreading out the blame and putting on a show to convince the people that he’s consistent with US jurisprudence. He’s already indicated that it is his belief that he does not need to consult the Congress on these matters, so it only makes sense that his motives are entirely political in nature.

If they want war, then war is what they will have.

Indeed, many have been speculating that it is the US-supported “Rebels”, not Assad, who had a “gas”. In fact, some have even been suggesting that this is a “false flag” event; though I certainly cannot verify this any more than I can verify that it was Assad or the Rebels that used chemical weapons. But it is well-known that the US government has been supporting the Rebels (who are affiliated with the US government’s bogeyman “Al Qaeda”) both financially and militarily, that it is the US government that imposed the “red line” ultimatum on the use of chemical weapons about a year ago, and that due to this it is the US that has the most to gain by such a chemical attack by Assad’s government. Cui Bono?

While I do not discount any of the possibilities presented, I still cannot help but question whether any of these things are even relevant at all when considering the supposed particulars of the US government’s “war plans”. They are much more worrying.

Reign of Terror

So what is the US government’s strategic military play? Why, it’s to bomb the snot out of the Assad government’s supposed chemical weapons regiments (if we are to take their word on it). And of course, it will last “hours not days“, just as we’ve been told before in the case of Iraq.

This seems pretty straight forward in many people’s minds, until they think about the consequences of such a thing. If you bomb a chemical weapons facility or the Syrian military forces used in chemical weapons warfare, would that not release the same chemicals that were supposedly used by Assad’s government “against his own people”? Indeed it would!.

So we are left with a situation where the proposed military plan of the US government is to release into the air the same chemical toxins in which they are accusing the Assad government of perpetrating, but the US government is declaring it as a matter of foreign policy (they deny it, but it is unavoidable if what they say is true). Yet the justification of such an action is based upon a synonymous case. This justification is not much different than saying, “well, they’re killing each other, so why can’t we kill people, too?”. It seems that US “humanitarianism” has come full circle (which is to say it is no humanitarianism at all).

However, what if the US government’s military bombs these supposed chemical weapons regiments, and then no fallout happens at all? I would say that this is the smoking gun that this whole story was a claptrap fabrication to begin with.

“Hey, maybe the WMD’s are over there? Nope. How about over here? Nope.”

What If?

What if it is true what we are being told, that Assad really did use chemical weapons against his people? Does this give any justification for US involvement?

I say no. The only justification for violence is in the case of self-defense. In this case, Syria represents no danger to the United States, and especially not to the subjects that live within its (the US government’s) borders.

To interfere in Syria would certainly result in civilian deaths, there simply is no way of avoiding that. Since that is the case, then the US government would then have innocent blood on its hands, and there is simply no justification for that, because that is supposedly the very thing that it purports to avoid (or protect from).

Ah, but what of US interests? This is a question always bandied about by no other than those within the halls of power. I never hear any of those who are subject to the rule of US politicians and bureaucrats worrying much about interests abroad of which they have no real interest.

Instead, they’re far more worried about how to feed their family, have a good life, raise their children, and do what all of us wish to do in this life. You know, just like your regular, everyday Syrian is.

Whenever you hear the term “US interests”, that means only one thing: the interests of the ruling class, the elites. Trust me, you aren’t part of that club, nor will you be (unless you can become a sociopath in good speed).

The World Gone Insane, US Style

I don’t know if you have noticed, but the US and Israel have been pretty keen on getting into a war with Iran. Whether it be sanctions, or in the case of Israel, actual bombings and network viruses. So it comes as no surprise to me that Iran just so happens to have a mutual defense treaty with Syria.

I cannot say for sure, but if I were to guess, I’d say that this whole Syria fiasco is premeditated. That the entire purpose of striking Syria is to get Iran to make a move, that way the US government can say, “see, the Iranians are crazy, they attacked us in Damascus when all we were doing was trying to help the Syrian people”.

Syria is today essentially the breeding ground of WWIII, and it couldn’t have been better-calculated considering the state of the world’s central powers (“after all, WWII got us out of the depression”, they so ignorantly repeat, ad nauseam). The Western nations are essentially trying to live out a new world war based upon a false belief that the victor will be the US and it’s allies (just like in the old days), and can thus sustain its hegemony both politically and economically, and move toward a more centralized world state.

What they never counted on was the fact that their lies are like paper flies to the flame. Nobody is buying what they’re selling anymore. Much of the world has finally slipped the reins of the gatekeepers, information flows like hot butter, and all statements are now documented and shared for all to see. There is nowhere to hide in the digital world of information.

Of True Humanity

The true humanitarian position on any question of war is to reject it entirely: war is nothing more than the creation of the collective state, not the individual constituents thereof. US military involvement in Syria will do nothing more than complicate matters not just in Syria, but also the entire region. Indeed, the same politicians who speak so proudly of “democracy” have no problem imposing it upon others (through death and destruction), but when it comes to their own countrymen, it is but a whisper.

Today, only 9% of Americans support any intervention in Syria, and this number is low for good reason: Americans simply do not trust their government anymore. They’ve been through Iraq, they’ve seen Afghanistan, they saw what their political “leaders” did in Libya when Hillary Clinton declared, “we came, we saw, he died”, and every other boondoggle since 9/11. Americans know deep down in their hearts that their rulers are all “full of it”, that they’re only out for their own interests at the detriment to all, and all of this through the power of the state (their ruling nest).

America’s rulers don’t care about what they preach, they only care about themselves and their own.

The simple fact is that most regular folks know true humanity and most Americans are just regular folks. Even in this world of propaganda and false truths, people can see the inhumanity espoused by their statist overlords. Further, due to the lies and distortions spoken by their rulers over time, they’ve all seen time and time again how they’ve been played: the “seeing through the fog” is becoming all the more common in this world of free-flowing information.

Americans are finally finding their humanity, if only at the final hour. I can only hope that it is not too late.

* * *

Addendum:

While it is said that the only justification for violence is self-defense, this might lead one to question whether of not it is justified to come to another’s defense. Indeed it is justified, but one must understand the difference between doing so within a specific case and doing so within the realm of warfare. So in order to avoid confusions of what I meant when talking about the justifiable use of force, I must be more specific.

State warfare always kills uninvolved third-parties, those who have nothing directly to do with the decisions and actions of their respective state.

For instance, in the case of interpersonal conflict we might come across a case such as this: Person C witnesses a situation in which person A is aggressing toward person B (he’s holding a gun to his head, or something similar). It is entirely justified for person C to come to person B’s defense (but he is not obligated to do so). We can easily identify the aggressor (person A), the victim (person B), and the defender (person C).

However, in state warfare, these lines are blurred to the point of illogic. There is simply no way of identifying the particulars of each case, because warfare is indiscriminate. The actions of states are both collectivist and nationalist in nature, thus the individual is erased from the equation. There simply is no way to determine the merits of an individual case, instead we are left with rationalizations of why it is okay to kill innocents. It’s really horrible and twisted when you really give it some thought.

Obviously, one cannot claim a humanitarian position if their actions must ultimately result in the deaths of uninvolved third-parties (innocents). That’s an absurd position.

To take an opposing position is akin to saying that just because I live in the same apartment building as my neighbor, and my neighbor kills somebody’s sister, then the brother of that woman is entirely justified in leveling the entire apartment building (along with all of its contents and inhabitants).

But many actually up the ante, because their position ultimately says that ANYBODY that takes issue with my neighbor killing that women, they (anybody) also now have justification to bomb my apartment building (along with all of its contents and inhabitants).

My Journey in the World of Copyrights

Posted August 26, 2013 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Media, Music

The issue of Intellectual Property (IP) is a very contentious one in libertarian circles and indeed between differing political philosophies, not all parties seem to agree on whether such a system could exist in a free society or whether such a system is just in the first place. Admittedly, it wasn’t an issue that I had put much thought into until I began reading some of Stephan Kinsella’s work, which eventually converted me to being an anti-IP advocate. While it is great to study and to understand the theoretical positions for or against IP, it is quite another thing to actually experience such a system first hand in the practical sense. Fortunately or unfortunately, I recently had the privilege of that experience.

I am a multi-instrumentalist who also has a love and knack for production. My idea was simple: I’m going to produce something. So I decided that I would perform and record a full cover of a song and also produce an original video to accompany it, and then I would post the whole thing on the internet. Since I am not planning on monetizing this project I figured that I wouldn’t need to worry about copyright or licensing, but I soon realized that I was being quite naive.

Rather than spending time actually recording and producing my music video I instead found myself searching through the labyrinth of copyright laws to figure out just how I could go about completing my project without either being sued or thrown into a cage. As it turns out, there is a licensing scheme that exists and all people must comply with it in order to do anything creative with a work written by somebody else.

There are four basic licenses dealing with music copyrights, they are:

Performance License– This license deals with performing a work in a public place or venue. It could be a bar, a club, on television, a street corner, an aerobics class, on the internet, or any other situation in which multiple people will be hearing the music. This license applies both to cases where one is actually performing the piece, as well as when they are simply playing a previous recording of the piece (such as on a jukebox). The licensing agencies that deal with this area are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. The fees are varied, depending upon the venue and the song(s) being performed (i.e. the class of license being issued), as well the fees can be based upon a per song basis or a blanket license that covers a particular period of time.

Mechanical License– This license deals with all cases where a work will either be recorded (as in the case of a cover) or simply copied to a medium. Essentially, any time a work is put onto a medium other than the original medium, even if they are of the same type (CD, hard drive, website, etc), one must get this license. The licensing agencies that deal with this area are Harry Fox Agency and Limelight. The fees are 10¢ per physical copy or download, and 1¢ per online stream (for songs up to five minutes in length), as well as processing fees.

Synchronization License– This license deals with all cases where a song will be synchronized to a visual media output (such as a film, commercial, website,etc). There are no agencies that issue this license, it must be obtained directly from the publisher and/or songwriters. The fees vary from no charge at all up to $200,000 or more, per instance or into perpetuity.

Print License– This license is pretty straight forward. Any time you wish to reprint the lyrics or music of a song (words, notation, or tablature), you must obtain this license. The fees vary, as do the issuing agencies and the conditions of the license.

Now one might say to themselves, “that seems pretty straight-forward and simple”, but au contraire, this is where it starts to get interesting. To keep things simple, I’ll just run through some of the considerations and complications that I encountered with each license.

At first I was considering hosting my work on my own blog, but then I realized that in order to do this I would have to get a performance license. After inquiring about what this would cost, I soon decided that this probably would not be a good idea, and that I would be better off using Youtube instead. The reason is that Youtube already has a blanket performance license that covers everything, if they didn’t, then their business model of user-created content would crumble very quickly.

Almost all online media websites with user-created content have these licenses, which is very helpful to those who wish to do what I am doing, but it only shows how very insidious this license is. The owners of these websites are not the creators of the content, yet they are still required to purchase the license as if they were. The logical implication here is that one party is being held accountable for the actions of another party, and that they are also being held legally liable for any “damages” caused to the copyright holder. It is sort of like if you had a party at your house, and one guest punched another guest, yet you’re the one that is hauled off to jail for assault (this isn’t a perfect analogy because it deals with actual property, whereas in the case of copyrights, there is no real property under discussion).

The one license that I knew I must purchase is the mechanical license. This allows me to record my own version of the song and to release it to the public (or even sell CDs or digital downloads). However, things get a little tricky when it comes to the copyrights of the songwriter(s). If there is more than one songwriter, then they can either own all portions of the song equally or each person owns only their contribution to the song (i.e. the guitar part, the bass part, the vocal, etc), or some combination of the two. Unless the songwriter(s) have their own publishing firm, they will most likely be dealing with another party as the publisher, who in turn will own a portion of the rights to the work (usually 50%). The kicker here is that the only purpose of having a publisher at all is for it to be the sole issuer of licenses of a copyrighted work, but rather than accepting a fee for this service, the publisher instead acquires actual ownership of a portion of the copyright. Hmm?

In the case of my project, the song in question has three songwriters who each own their respective contributions, but since they contracted with a publisher, the publisher owns a portion of each songwriter’s copyright to the song. So even if I got the permission to record the song from all three songwriters, I’d still have to go through the publisher for final clearance. Even more, I would still have to pay the licensing fees regardless of whether the songwriters demand me to do so or not, because the publisher will always demand a fee.

As I’ve mentioned above, I also wish to make an original video to accompany my cover of the song, so one would think that I must get a synchronization license in addition to the mechanical license. This is not necessarily true and it is the portion of this story that gets a little vague and non-exact.

If I were to host my project on my own blog I would have to not only get a synchronization license, but also the mechanical and performance licenses, as well. Luckily, due to the shear number of people who post videos of themselves doing covers of songs and posting the original recordings of songs, Youtube has gone to great lengths to secure agreements with music publishers, such that so long as the person doing the posting of the song is not doing so for monetary gain, then they cannot be held liable for any “damages” inflicted upon the songwriters and publishers. However, the video can still be taken down without notice.

One problem that I encountered when becoming aware of the agreements that Youtube has with music publishers is that almost none of these agreements are made public, so most people have no way of knowing whether they are breaking the law or not when they post copyrighted material on Youtube. Some of the publishers do post small blurbs about posting such covers on Youtube, but they are very vague.

In my case, the song that I am recording is published by Warner Music Group (WMG), and they do post their policy on their site (you can read it here). Clearly WMG is not granting any real rights or licenses in this agreement, rather they are saying that they won’t sue so long as you are only posting WMG content in a “personal, non-profit” manner. Further, it states that they –as well as any other party that holds a copyright claim to the work– can decide to remove the content, or to simply monetize it.

If you have ever wondered why there are so many ads before seemingly personal videos on Youtube, this is why.

Essentially, the publishers realize that they cannot pursue every copyright infringement due to the shear number of people posting. Further, they realize that in many cases it is in their best interest to monetize the video for their own benefit rather than take it down. While this is a trend toward a loosening of the restraints on those who post covers on Youtube, it also hinders the spread of information by having an advertisement before the video (which may cause some to simply skip the video altogether).

With my project I did purchase the mechanical license, but I have decided to forego purchasing the synchronization license (due to the prohibitive cost). This is actually taking a very big risk on my part. While I will be free from liability for posting the video, there is no guarantee that it won’t be taken down, in which case all of my efforts would have been wasted. Further, I cannot monetize the video at all, but due to the particular mechanical license that I obtained, I will have to pay 1¢ for every view of the video. While I don’t expect to get a ton of views, this still means that if the video where to, say, get 100,000 views, then I will owe WMG $1000 for something that I can make zero money on. That’s a pretty scary proposition, one that makes me question whether I should complete this project at all.

While a print license has nothing directly to do with my project, it bears discussing because it is very much related to my musical journey of learning.

Back in the 1990s when I was first learning how to play the guitar and bass, there was a great online resource hosted by UNLV servers called the On-line Guitar Archive (OLGA). Essentially, it was a massive library of guitar and bass tablature for just about any song imaginable, and it worked very much like Wikipedia does, with all content being user generated. Even better, these tablatures (or tabs) were extremely accurate and of good quality, because users would consistently correct and update the tabs.

Note that tablature does not contain any time, rhythm, or pitch information (the most important aspects of music), so one cannot use tablature effectively unless they already know the timing and pitches of the notes in the song, or they have a recording of the song to use for reference. Absent this, tablature is nothing more than lines and numbers, with no practical use.

One of the most important ways that musicians learn their craft is by learning and playing songs written by others, so it is no surprise that OLGA was a very popular website and was a boon for budding musicians the world over. However, beginning in 1996 the copyright complaints began to come in. The first was by EMI Publishing, who did not sue, but was able to persuade UNLV to kick the archive off of their servers. Two years later, the site came back up on a different server only to receive complaints from Harry Fox Agency, and thus disappeared again for a short period. Finally, in 2006 OLGA met its death as the National Music Publishers Association and the Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA and MPA respectively) issued an official take-down letter.

The result –other than me having to get better at ear training– is that now musicians would have to purchase tablature from the music notation industry. The problem here is that many of these pieces of sheet music and tablature are very expensive, as well they are very limited in what songs are offered. Further, the tablature websites that exist today are horribly inaccurate and are far less encompassing (I don’t know for sure, but my speculation is that this inaccuracy is a means of getting around copyright laws). While OLGA had accurate tabs for just about every song under the sun, and was continually updated with new material, instead we now live in a world where there are less resources for the beginning musician to learn their craft.

This journey through the world of copyrights has been an eye-opening experience for me. I already had a theoretical basis to justify my position against copyright, but having gone through this process, it has only further cemented my opposition to it.

It is said by the supporters of copyrights that it fosters the arts and protects artists. This is false. Clearly, as I have shown, the system of copyright kills the arts and exploits artists. The entire system is nothing more than a mechanism to make the publishers, copyright organizations and associations, and record labels a lot of money, all at the expense of the artist’s efforts. Luckily, in today’s world of digital technology, the internet, cheap recording gear, social networking, online media venues, etc; it is becoming much easier for artists to not only collaborate and produce their own material, but also to get their art out to the world without having to contend with the dictates of a third-party rent-seeker.

The great irony here is that while the proponents of IP falsely claim to promote innovation, it is innovation that is going to eventually kill IP. I think that this aptly explains the motive behind their lies.

Depro

Posted June 17, 2013 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: music, Music (original)

In 2007 I moved back to Ohio. During this time I became re-acquainted with my father, and it is amazing how well we were getting along and how we seemed to realize that we were very much alike.  He even asked me to teach him how to play the guitar and he bought a cheap Fender acoustic for his studies (he always had a sort of resentment with regard to my love of music when I was growing up, he was logical/scientific rather than artistic, so this new turn of his left me with nothing but optimistism for the future of our realtionship). Unfortunately, my father died in October of 2008.

When he died, I of course got his cheap Fender acoustic. I was very depressed at this time, so I almost never touched or even looked at that guitar. Then I picked it up one day and was just fiddling around, and eventually wrote a song. It’s a very simple song because I was mostly playing from emotion: seriously, the entirety of it can be played in a single position. I never did put any effort into polishing it.  However, today I was digging around my past recordings and when I heard this song, I automatically fell into memories of my father.

One never knows how much they truly love a person until they are gone, and I can say without any doubt that my father was the most important man to ever be in my life. Everything that I am today came from him and his guidance, I am essentially his clone. I only wish that he and I had gotten to know each other better as equals, and I also wish that I had produced a better song in his memory.

This song is called Depro for obvious reasons: I was very depressed at the time. It was played on his guitar, my Les Paul, and my Fender bass.  The drums are simple drum-loops, which I often use to help myself keep time while recording. I did consider recording myself playing live drums to replace the drum-loops, but the day is almost done, and I don’t wish to ruin what is already there.  Further, this song has not gone through a final mix, instead it is the standard mix that I use when recording, so there isn’t as much separation as I would like. Obviously, there are also no lyrics, both because I would not know what to say, and the fact that I absolutely suck at writing lyrics.

In any case, here is what I’ve got.  Depro, recorded sometime in the autumn of 2008 …