Supreme Court to Decide
Indecency on the Net
By Jay Rosenthal, Esq.
The Communications Decency Act (CDA) was enacted as part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act (TCA). The CDA provides that anyone who by means of a telecommunications device creates and transmits material "which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent, with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass another person shall be fined -up to $250,000 and/or imprisoned for up to two years. If the producer of the "obscene" or "indecent!" communication knows that the recipient may be under 18 years of age, then the creator need not even have the intent to annoy or harass.
The CDA specifically identifies "the use of an interactive computer service" (i.e. the Internet) as coming under the definition of a "telecommunications device." The CDA further defines "indecency" as material that in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive descriptions, as measured by contemporary community standards, of sexual or excretory activities or organs. This definition is very similar to the standard for liability established in the famous "Seven Dirty Words" case (George Carlin spoke the words on his album and Pacifica radio broadcast the comedy sketch, and then was summarily sued by the Government), whereby the Supreme Court upheld the right of the government to regulate radio and television if, in fact, the material being broadcast was "indecent." This standard has never been applied to other forms of media, other than radio and television- The CDA would change that and, if upheld, this standard would apply to the Internet, including any music and promotion of sound recordings, communicated via the Internet.
Upon enactment, numerous media groups, including the Recording Industry Association of America, filed a legal action against the Justice Department claiming the CDA was unconstitutional because it violates the first amendment free speech rights of Internet users. On June 12, 1996, the US District Court in Philadelphia issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the CDA, claiming that the CDA was too vague and thereby unenforceable. The three-judge panel stated that "the Internet may fairly be regarded as a never ending worldwide conversation.
The Government may not, through the CDA, interrupt that conversation. As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from government intrusion."ACLU v. Reno, 929 F.Supp 824 (E.D. Pa., June, 1996). The Justice Department has appealed that ruling, and now the Supreme Court has accepted the case for review. A decision is expected next summer.
For all members who support the position that the CDA is unconstitutional, I strongly suggest that you write letters of protest to the White House and the Justice Department demanding that the Justice Department withdraw from the case and allow the injunction to stand. Letters of support to the Recording Industry Association would also help assure that a strong defense of the injunction is undertaken. The CDA is arguably the most insidious attack on the first amendment rights of individuals in the past thirty years. Musicians, especially those in the nation's capital, cannot stand by without expressing their opinion. The CDA is a politically motivated piece of legislation. It can only be defeated by means of concerted political activity, even if the battlefield is the Supreme Court. For more information contact the Recording Industry Association or the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Jay Rosenthal is an attorney with the law firm of Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the Washington Area Music Association.
12th WAMA Jam Scheduled
The WAMA Crosstown Jam, the organization's annual area-wide music showcase and charity fundraiser, will be held April 21 - April 27, 1997. Each year more than 150 artists from diverse genres of music perform at venues in the Washington area. The artists volunteer their services and the clubs donate the admissions. Fifty percent of the net is donated to Washington-based charities and the balance goes to WAMA. Charities are selected by the WAMA Board with recommendations from the Jam Committee.
Spirit of Sharing and Cooperation
The event has been a centerpiece for the association, not only because of its philanthropic character, but because of the spirit of sharing and cooperation demonstrated by Washington's music community. Each year 300 to 400 groups apply to be part of the Jam. Unfortunately, not all of them are selected. Artists are chosen by the Jam Committee based on three main concerns. First, we look for groups that have a following, because the shows need to have an audience to be successful. Second, we try to showcase artists worthy of exposure. Third, the shows must make sense.
If you are interested in performing or would like to volunteer to work on the Jam Committee, leave a message on WAMA voice mail at 202-338-1134, or send us E-mail
WAMA Pages '97
Now is the time to start thinking about your listing in the WAMA Pages, the only directory of the Washington music business. The 80-page booklets are mailed free to all current WAMA members.
Do you want to reach the local industry with your message? Is the information in the WAMA database correct? Would you like an advertisement. Do you want additional listings or bold type? Maybe you want a descriptive paragraph with your listing.
All current members get their basic listing free, but their are charges for any additional listings, bold type, and/or descriptive paragraphs. Call WAMA voice mail at 202-338-1134 or E-mail us.
Compiled by Maria Villafana
- Joining Bill Holland on stage at his CD release party, jazz vocalist Pam Bricker sang several numbers. Later, while trading news items with friends she revealed ideas for a new project -- but it's not jazz, after 15 years Bricker is going to do some rock. Guitarist Chuck Underwood and Bricker plan to experiment with the new material while performing as a duo in small area clubs throughout the winter months.
- Switching from audible to visual statements John Guernsey of the group Claude Jones has a new art exhibit at the Garrett Park Cafe and a band documentary is in the works. The exhibit "Dance for the Sun," a collection of Guernsey's drawings and prints, will be on view through January 5. A feature length band documentary is currently being shot on location in Sykesville, Md. by Chris Belcher and Guernsey.
- Composer/pianist David Bach was awarded two Gold Records. The first for contributing keyboards on Wrong a track from Everything But the Girl's 12" remix on Atlantic Records. The second Gold Record for co-writing, with dance diva Crystal Waters, the tune Is It For Me? which appears on Waters' recent Mercury release Storyteller.
- Eureka Music of California has agreed to distribute, regionally, Suzanne Michele's album Look for Something to Say. Eureka also distributes albums by Jonathan Fire*Eater, The Peststrips, The Emptys and Velocity Girl.
- According to the Recording Industry Association of America's December Gold and Platinum award program report, a cross section of D.C. area performers faired well. Urban contemporary vocalist Toni Braxton garnered the most acclaim, with a Gold and Platinum record award for the single Unbreak My Heart, off of her latest album Secrets which itself was certified Platinum with over 3 million domestic units sold. Also certified Gold are urban crooner Johnny Gill's latest album Lets Get the Mood Right and country singer Mary Chapin Carpenter's A Place in the World plus hip hop artists Dru Hill's single Tell Me.
- On Dec. 22, the CBS news magazine program "Sunday Morning" aired a live concert by Maggie's Music artists performing cuts from the label's latest release A Scottish Christmas. Scottish fiddler Bonnie Rideout plus dulcimer expert and label owner Maggie Sansone were later interviewed on the show.
- The Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Washington, D.C., has a new music director. Ray Killian will now lead the 12 year old, 65 voice choir.
Anti Handgun Musical Project
"Voices of Washington" Charlie Wine's anti handgun musical project hopes to reduce the public acceptability of firearms by promoting and stimulating positive grassroots initiatives such as the recording of "Join Hands Without Guns." Composed by Wine, the song will be taped at the new National Public Radio Studio 4A in mid January with a chorus of D.C. voices from all walks of life. If you wish to join the sing-a-long contact Charlie Wine at 540-636-4142 or E-mail VOW .
Bluegrass Musician John Duffey Dies
John Duffey 62, founding member of the national bluegrass group the Seldom Scene, died Tuesday, December 10 of complications resulting from a heart attack. An original member of the Country Gentlemen, Duffey left that group in 1969 and subsequently helped form the Seldom Scene in 1971, in which he performed during its 25 year history. This September, Duffey was inducted, along with the original Country Gentlemen, into the International Bluegrass Music Association's Hall of Fame. He received the 1996 Wammie Award for Bluegrass Vocalist. Along with the Seldom Scene, he was inducted into the WAMA Hall of Fame and received a Grammy Award in 1982 for the album "Bluegrass--The World's Greatest Show."
Wammies Nomination Process
Looking to improve the Wammie Award nominating and voting process, the WAMA Nominating Committee solicits comments and suggestions for open debate. Remarks should be written and submitted to the committee for dissemination. Open debates will be scheduled in late January. The group's findings will then be presented to the WAMA board. Any resulting changes to the awards process will effect the 1997 Wammie Awards. Contact WAMA at 1690 36th St. NW, Washington, DC 20007
Mid-Atlantic Song Contest
The 13th Annual Mid-Atlantic Song Contest, sponsored by the Songwriters' Association of Washington (SAW), awarded its $1000 Grand Prize to Leslie Nuchow of New York for the adult contemporary entry But Still; Washington residents Wynne Paris and Maura Moyniham won 1st Place Overall for the folk entry "Prayer for the Holy Land (Purify Me)"; and the Virginia hip hop quartet of Matt Kombat, John Phipps, Greg Luce and Matt Goodgion won 2nd Place Overall for "Tunisian Assassin."
First and second place prizes in ten genres were also presented during the awards show held at the Hard Rock Cafe in Washington, D.C.
WRNR "Live" on the Net
Progressive, free-form, stream of conciousness radio, playing rock, jazz, blues, reggae, folk and countless other musical variations eminates from WRNR-FM, which broadcasts from the Annapolis area. But it sometimes takes some fancy tuning to hear the station in the D.C. area and more often than not enjoyment is brief as the signal invarialby disappears. Now, WRNR broadcasts on the Internet using RealAudio. Check out it, get a taste of what radio used sound like in the late 60s, before programming studies shaped listners' habits into what they are today.
Cultivating the love of opera at a grassroots level, Petitto's Ristorante d'Italia continues to present its "Opera Nights" series. The brainchild of owner/producer Karen Shannon, Petitto's offers intimate opera with local talent. Soprano Diane Abel, who has been in the series since it started in late 1994, will perform on Fridays in November at 7:30 p.m. along with alternating tenors Chris Petrucelli and Paul McIlvane.
Music Choice Unsigned
The Local Music Store (LMS), one of the areas' independent album distributors and a recent entrant into the music broadcast field, has expanded its radio show. The two hour indie rock music broadcast on the Music Choice digital audio subscription service and titled "Music Choice Unsigned," will now transmit everyday at 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. The show is produced and hosted by LMS staffers Jay Hardin and David Ham, who describe their format as "anything rock not distributed by a major label," and are constantly on the lookout for new artists to introduce to the 2 million plus listners in North America who currently subscribe to the Music Choice digital network. Broadcasts of "Music Choice Unsigned" will be available in Europe starting in early '97.
DC Blues Artists In New Book
"Really the Blues: A Photographic Journey," a collection of interviews by Mindy Giles and performance photos by Stephen Green, celebrates the men and women who tour constantly across American playing juke joints, backstreet bars and nightclubs. The 156 duotone photographs capture 108 musicians including Washington area blues guitarist/singer Bobby Parker, Gaye Adegbalola lead singer for Saffire: The Uppity Blueswomen and guitarist/singer Jimmy Thackery.
Music Critics Unite
The National Music Critics' Association (NMCA), an organization of music critics and journalists across the country has been formed. The NMCA has been created to serve and unify music journalists whose collective voice will honor and celebrate the best in music.
The primary focus of the NMCA is an annual televised music awards show in which members will vote for their favorite records each year in several categories. In addition, a series of nationally syndicated radio shows will debut in 1997. Each month a separate show in country, urban, and rock formats will air which will feature a guest music critic from the association. For information contact NMCA at 310-657-0006 or E-mail.
Distribution on the Internet
Product distribution on the Internet has a new twist. Now besides selling your T-shirts and CDs you can make available as little as a single cut of your material to music consumers who want to make compilation CDs of their favorite bands. Supersonic Boom (SSB), a new high tech company in Arlington, is pioneering this service. SSB offers musicians an opportunity to have their music sold online one cut at a time and will pay royalties semi-annually on cuts sold.
Artists will have a sound bite for each song licensed through SSB. Detailed information regarding each song such as duration, record label, publisher, release date etc., will be made available on the SSB web site, as well as tour date information. These detailed facts will be entered by the participating artists by remote log-on in order to keep SSB's costs at a minimum. SSB will also set up a link to a group's existing web pages.
The music consumer will be able to "make" an audio CD, up to 55 minutes in length, for a charge of $16.99 plus shipping costs. As SSB anticipates profits to be generated from the sale of compilation CDs, SSB requires exclusivity only where similar online real time compilation services are concerned. So artists can continue to sell/distribute their product through traditional avenues such as sales at gigs, record stores, online sales and indie distribution ventures.
At this time, SSB includes at no charge, a basic web page presense on its site for each artist, composed of bio information and up to 3 images, no more than 20 kb each. A beta site goes live January 1, check it out by contacting http://www.supersonicboom.com. Or call SuperSonic Boom at 703-516-0119.