Friday, December 14, 2007

Gail's Side – December 15, 2007

Note: below is my inquiry to Gail Zappa and her reply. – KLH


Since I'm a newspaper editor, I know all too well that it's unwise to opine before hearing all sides.

If you were able to shed any light at all on the reasoning behind the lawyer letter to Barry at KUR, I'm sure it would be helpful to many.

Zappa's Grubby Chamber



I am going to take you at your word (without proof or a reason to do so) and answer your question. Thanks for asking. If you want to do the actual research it takes to understand the evolution of this particular circumstance, be my guest. I am not going to recount it for you.

Apart from any real, new, or naive fans seeing our properties on various sites and somehow having the idea that we are supporting these or authorizing them by virtue of their 'use', among other of the many problems that we continue to face as the rights owners of all things Zappa is how to protect our copyrights and what is the risk of failure to do so. This always means spending dollars to chase virtual pennies. Not a great or rewarding plan.

(Oh yes, and they always claim they are spending so much money to honor FZ. Cacadoody. It is the Music, not gossip and fiction and innuendo that bring fans to Zappa.)

My favorite idea of a good time in these instances would be to be able to authorize these "fan" sites and work with them as part of the education and cooperation process - even though that is time-consuming. In the main, these people NEVER write or contact us up front to ask permission. (Considerate fans do.)

Unfortunately it is not always fans - but rather people who have their own agenda and do not wish it to be interfered with. There are so many that cast themselves as 'god' and then cast FZ in their own image. This is not fun for us. Ignorance is ignorable to a degree. But when you see the abuse level increase with the posting of obviously copyrighted material where no permission was sought or even contemplated and when that expands to include the posting of bit torrents or links to them, including work that we just published, the lines get drawn pretty swiftly.

It should be noted that some of this is done on an autopilot basis - in the sense that some of the letters generated by our legal representatives and others happen without being able to advance the possibilities of a resolution. Lately however, as our ability to increase the output from the Vault expands, we are more dismayed than ever at how rude, crude and insensitive these purported "fans" can be. And the proof that they are actually not fans is in their utter disregard for FZ's works and their meanness toward my (FZ's/our) family that they express - along with the considerable abuse of copyrighted materials and trademarks. Real fans do not do that.

The idea that these types are doing us any favors is preposterous. The idea that anyone thinks these properties were created for them to use as they wish is preposterous. But the idea that they have the self-appointed right to to so is against the law as protected under the Constitution of the United States of America and enforced by whatever legal means available to us and to Frank Zappa during his lifetime.

We did not write these laws but they have made it possible for FZ to make a living and to provide for his family doing the very thing he loved - writing Music. And they have made it possible for us to continue to survive preserving those very works. Consider if we could not do so - there would be no Vault.

Since his death people can (and do) make any claim they wish as to what they think FZ would do - or say or think. But I do not wish to waste my time on this. I still work for FZ. And my promise, my duty and my obligation remains - to protect the integrity of the work and the intent of the Composer and in service to this purpose I will defend his identity and the right for his name (image & likeness) to be associated with his work - and the right for the work to remain unaltered, and unabused by others. I will continue to do this for my grandchildren and my children, for all the people who love the music, for all the potential in all those with the ears and insight to hear it - and first, last and always for Frank Zappa. Long may we all laugh.

Music is the Best!



Kevin L. Hoover said...

During tonight's show, regular listener Ron in Richmond sent in this comment:


First off, I want to compliment you on your professional and passionate handling of this unfortunate situation.

I want Gail to know that we are a bunch of Hungry Freaks, Daddy! Hungry for FZ material.

It is reasonable to expect compensation for consuming Frank's fabulous music and imagery. But the other side of that equation is that it has to be made available for sale. Otherwise, we will try to get it any way we can.

Bootlegs are more valuable material for us Zappa-heads, not a replacement for the officially sanctioned recordings.
Make them available for sale also.

And, of course, snippets of his music, some of the images, etc. should be freely available as come-ons, thank-yous and introductory material for those who don't know about FZ (there are way too many of them out there).

The comment about throwing the baby out with the bathwater is spot on. So is the FZT's need to protect their works.
To have such a rabid fan base, and truly inspired web sites as KUR is such a blessing that Gail should try to work with KUR - share obscure material, allow the occasional (perhaps short-term) freebie, and so forth.

It's a quandary, but one that can result a better world for KUR and ilk, and the FZT. Please, may both sides work together. I NEED all the Zappa I can get, and want to support the family too.

I sure can't get behind those who bashed Gail and the FZT with foul vitriol, but I can understand where they are coming from. Greed in the entertainment business has given us a LOT of Ugly Radio. And TV, movies, etc.

And Gail's point about those who subsume Frank's works to self-aggrandize is well taken. Working with good folks such as KUR will help knock the pegs out of such scoundrels. And, though it seems corporate of me to say so, we gotta stay away from promoting the Bit Torrent ( hey, I don't use it, can't spell it) if there is a reasonable commercial alternative.

By the way, Kevin, what you are playing tonight is very soothing for my now-jangled nerves!

Ron in Richmond

Peace to Gail and KUR

bálint said...

Hi Kevin,

thanks for posting this - Gail: thanks for answering Kevin.

"My favorite idea of a good time in these instances would be to be able to authorize these "fan" sites and work with them as part of the education and cooperation process - even though that is time-consuming."

That is something I thing that could work, and a great idea! We all - fans, readers, etc. - should take steps on this direction and work this out.

One more thing: I'd have liked to ask Gail about more details, about KUR - and I understand the things She says - unfortunately most of them are NOT about Kill Ugly Radio.

"There are so many that cast themselves as 'god' and then cast FZ in their own image."
- KUR did that? When? How? I dont think so.

"and when that expands to include the posting of bit torrents or links to them, including work that we just published"
- Kill Ugly Radio NEVER did that. They were always AGAINST it.

"we are more dismayed than ever at how rude, crude and insensitive these purported "fans" can be."
- I've been reading Kill Ugly Radio for 4 years now, maybe, I've NEVER experienced that "crudeness". I experienced love and togetherness, and colaboratin, and conversation.

"I will defend his identity and the right for his name (image & likeness) to be associated with his work - and the right for the work to remain unaltered, and unabused by others."
- This is somethingI fully agree - but I still dont see the point where this thing meets KUR. Did they do that in any way? How? Okay, sometimes tiny jpgs of CD-covers, and writing down the name FZ and Dweezil - is this "abuse" and "altering" the work of the man we all love?

So my question, while understanding the feelings behing Gail's words: Why KUR? Are all these really apply to KUR?

Thanks for the possibility, best wishes.

GregR said...

Good comments from Ron.

I too can see both sides. I'd love to hear more new Zappa, and I can understand people wanting to trade audience tapes. However, I also understand the ZFT wanting to protect their copyrights. I have been bootlegged myself! I was in a band that released a CD here in the US in the early 90s that I later found out had been released in Greece by some company I'd never heard of. I never did see a single penny for it. And that pissed me off! I wrote the songs personally, still own the copyright and someone who is NOT me is making the money.

However, in another respect, if someone had taped a live show of ours on some hand-held recorder to share with friends, so be it. As long as it's not sold, I don't think it'd affect the sales of my product that was professionally produced and actually sounded good. The "real" fans would buy the official stuff anyway and frankly (no pun intended) there's really no feasible way to stop tape sharing. You'll kill yourself trying because it's an un-winable battle. Sad but true. I do realize that this is a personal argument and not a legal one however. So, take it for what you will.

If someone is obviously and blatantly ripping off your copyrighted material for commercial purposes, then I do certainly agree with Gail and the ZFT to go after them. I would too! I imagine the biggest issue to them is sound recordings and videos being ripped off. I think the best thing they could do would be to 1.) just try and get out more material (though I have friends in the indie publishing/music industry and I truly understand how expensive these things can be), and 2.) try and find a means of beating these people at their own game. Release old live shows for download, or on CD with limited, inexpensive packaging. The Vault tapes would certainly sound better than the crap I've heard on most bootlegs (honestly, I find most bootlegs to be un-listenable). I think the Beat the Boots series was a great idea (I bought them all!), - however, I'd go one further and not release the same old poor sounding copies that are out there on the Boots, but release the same shows that the Boots contain but using good sounding source material from the "official" tapes in the vault. There, you've one-up'ed them. I think most Zappa fans would buy every single one...I sure would.

Yes, I know, all this is easier said than done, but I believe it'd work and would make everyone happy if some feasible way could be found to initiate this. There are quite a few bands releasing live board tapes on their websites now-a-days for a small fee. Some of these are small independent artist even. So it's been proven that it can be done, and it doesn't cost too much to get started.

I think it's great that Gail replied so kindly to all this. Though I generally liked the site in the short time I've known about it, some/many of the posts on KUR were really uncalled for and my sympathies are with the ZFT for having to put up with that childishness. They were even flaming each other for crying out loud! There were some thoughtful posts in there too, but you had to look really hard... :P

Anyway. I'm looking forward to the upcoming Zappa releases. I'll be buying them for sure...I always do -- as exemplified by the 80+ something (or more? no idea) Zappa CDs I own. I hope this all mellows out soon so we can get on with "The Music".

KillUglyRadio said...

Kevin, thanks for posting Gail's response. I have posted my thoughts and comments on KUR, if you're interested.

Very Very Angry & Then Some said...

I understand GZ's perspective but not her Cease&Desist against, a move guaranteed to produce nothing but rancour toward her & the ZFT - Barry did not put out bit-torrents, & the cover art was of minimal scale. GZ says "these types" don't communicate with her - after seeing this arrogant & litigious behaviour over & over on her part, why the fuck would they? Barry hardly puts himself out there as a "god" or ultimate authority on FZ or his oevre. A few of the posthumous releases have been questionable, to put it mildly - & were (in my opinion correctly) left in the vault by the man himself. Their release did little or nothing to improve his musical standing, was in direct opposition to his own wishes, & their prices were & are obscene.

In stark contrast to KUR, Zappateers does allow & even encourage bit-torrents of FZ material aplenty: where is THEIR C&D order? Or YouTube's? Or Google's? Who is really hurting her bottom line here - the sites I just cited, or Barry's?

This is how GZ thanks him for directing fans to her site & indirectly providing free advertising for the ZFT's new releases - by staying true to one of the few places where FZ was just dead wrong. Bootleggers made FZ unduly paranoid of ANY use or re-interpretation of his work, to his own detriment. Not letting people rip off your work is one thing: categorically refusing to let anybody share it or do their own version of it is another, especially when it a)brings them zero financial reward & b)actually increases interest in the original material. We'll never know how many popular rock bands might've gladly covered FZ's songs, because he forbade anyone from doing so.

My Zappa collection WAS going to include newer releases - WAZOO, TRANCE-FUSION, & QUADIOPHILIAC, but someone made me reconsider. No sale: not if it's going to make someone's lawyers richer & our culture ever more restricted.

This is WAY over the line.
Barry deserves an apology.
So do the rest of us.

One Less Customer

Anonymous said...

It's amazing what googling brings up.

I've heard Gail speak a few times and I don't have any confidence that these are her comments. She's far more eloquent and far better prepared.
If this is Gail's opinion I suspect her lawyers didn't brief her on KUR or for this interview.

I visited KUR about 5 years ago before I'd even heard that existed. I came to visit through KUR and few years later I purchased 2 CD's from Barfko-swill on their recommendation and saw ZPZ twice in consecutive years so I'm no major fan but I'm happy to have worked hard and spent every penny.

Earlier today I happened to visit and witnessed the outright ridiculousness of the comments on this subject. My recommendation based on what I read there? Avoid it. There was hardly a sane or informed voice in the crowd.

About this interview:
It's bad enough having to deal with spin and lies in every day life but having Gail inform us that we shouldn't be listening to people who are casting themselves as God and speaking for Frank AND to be told that she-who-is-not-God knows what real fans do and don't do sets my alarm bells ringing.

There's another incongruity here: quoting the United States Constitution as a protection against fair and unfair use of imagery while using obscure Californian public rights laws and preventing the use of registered trade marks and names to close down what amounts to a magazine site just isn't a credible statement.

C'mon, we aren't all Republicans out here, we do possess critical thought. Is it really Gail?

OK, so if I assume it is Gail talking for a moment, and you wouldn't fake an entire interview to attract comments to your blog here are my thoughts.

As far as I understand it, people who are in the public eye or public figures lose certain rights the rest of us take for granted, anonymity and privacy being near the top of the list.
You can be lampooned, loved or despised depending on your own actions but putting up with the slings and arrows is the price of American fame.
From what I understand from your comments an individual being mean about you or their family might be hurtful and distasteful, but taking legal action to shut them up is petty and can't win you any sympathy.

One personal anecdote before I submit my comment. The last show of ZPZ I attended Dweezil said he was glad there were so many young people in the audience tonight - he received rapturous applause but when I looked around I only saw middle aged men. Maybe that was just some show biz banter to make us feel young again, but this current KUR story is gaining traction. It's reaching the limited fan base left who care and I can only see harm to the Zappa legacy coming from it.

Thanks for reading

Very Very Angry said...

My previous comment was apparently unacceptable, but whether anyone else gets to see this or not, you need to hear what a long-time dedicated fan has to say - I'm one of "those types" that have been paying for the ZFT lawyers with my purchase of Zappa albums ... & I'm ashamed to have done so.

If GZ had been civil enouh to actually express her concerns to KUR first, & had been ignored, I'd be 100% on her side - & that she obviously did not do.

What a sad bit of irony: the ZFT going after a wonderful website that's been bringing them new customers for years, over ... what?

Can this action on their part do them or the music any good? Or does it simply encourage hostility & lead to even more piracy?

Whenever anybody refers to their need to guard a legacy, I get suspicious. All the more so when they've appointed themselves to that position, let alone having done so against the wishes of the creator of said legacy.

So sue me.

Something I learned long ago: don't focus on what someone SAYS, but on what they choose to DO, when you want to know what sort of person you're dealing with.

Words can be twisted around or taken out of context. Actions speak for themselves.

urbangraffito said...

Kill Ugly Radio is free community of fans whose aim is to serve the community of fans.

Why this is a threat to anyone is really beyond me.

It's as though a certain party wants to have complete control over what is said, conveyed, and communicated about a certain composer we are all familiar with.

Fear not, fellow Freaks. KUR is not dead. Perhaps a bit bruised...

moijeil said...

Cher Kevin,
J’ai pris au moins le temps de traduire malgré mon traducteur j’en reconnaît la sincérité et l’intégrité qu’il lui est dû. Je comprend la démarche et l’attitude , mais jamais les batailles et les guerres d’opinions d’idées et juridiques ne pourrons faire avancé les choses. Frank Zappa à donner le pouvoir à ses fans en faisant preuve d’une démarcation totale de son style. C’est sur que je ne suis pas favorable à que son œuvre soit pillé, étaler , et cette musique mis sur le site n’est que la marque d’une rébellion contre le système qu’à souvent dénoncer F. Zappa dans sa musique. Comment demander à certain de ses fans qui peu être dans certain cas prennent la leçon Zappaïenne au premier degré. Frank Zappa savait faire de l’argent avec sa musique pour l’unique fait qu’il en soit le moteur principal pour sublimer son art. le fric n’est qu’un outil mais il est indispensable , et je suis sur que Frank Zappa l’avait compris, malheureusement nous somme dans un monde qui à besoin de modèle anticonformiste, les gens ont besoin de rebelle et peu être que germe chez certain la flamme utopique . j’écoute depuis quelques années Frank Zappa, et il est souvent mon maître à penser. J’ai acheté une grande parti des ses albums, pas pour faire plaisir à sa famille, juste parce que pour moi c’est la façon de le remercier à titre posthume pour cette énergie et le partage de son talent. C’est pour moi un des plus grand novateur musical du siècle moderne, et chaque jour je rentre un peu plus profondément dans son univers musical.

I took at least time to translate in spite of my translator I recognizes sincerity and the integrity of it that it is owe him. I includes/understands the step and the attitude, but never the battles and the wars of opinions of ideas and legal will not be able to make advanced the things. Frank Zappa to give the capacity to its fans by showing a total demarcation of its style. It is on I do not favour its work is plundered, to spread out, and this music put on the site is only the mark of a rebellion against the system that with often denouncing F Zappa in his music. How to ask certain its fans which little to be in certain case takes the Zappaïenne lesson with the first degree. Frank Zappa could make money with his music for the single one makes that he is the principal engine to sublimate his Article the fric is only one tool but it is essential, and I am on Frank Zappa had included/understood it, unfortunately summons us in a world who with need for anticonformist model, people need rebel and to be little that germ at unquestionable the utopian flame. I have listened for a few years Frank Zappa, and he is often my intellectual guide. I bought large a party as of the his albums, not to give pleasure with his family, just because for me it is the way of thanking it on a purely posthumous basis for this energy and the division of its talent. It is for me one of the largest musical innovator of the modern century, and each day I return a little more deeply in his musical universe.

Kevin L. Hoover said...

"C'mon, we aren't all Republicans out here, we do possess critical thought. Is it really Gail?"

Yes, it's really Gail. I wrote her at her e-mail address as supplied by Tony Magee of Lagunitas Brewery, and dang if she didn't write back.

I'd add that it would be sheer foolishness to fabricate a communication from Mrs. Z, what with, you know, all those lawyers looking for work.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those long-time listeners who has purchased almost every FZ album at least once and I've been going to KUR for quite a few years as well. Shame Ms. Z & the lawyers see things through such a tiny window but they do, leaving us all the poorer.

Now when will we see some 1969-1971 era soundboard tapes from the vault? In my lifetime, perhaps?

M-Chu said...

I’ve tossed this around and around. I’ve added thoughts and words and then deleted all of them. It’s not my prerogative to offend some with my uninformed viewpoint of the ZFT. But I will say that when Frank was in charge we all knew and trusted that every decision was the right one. Now all we’re left with is The Luwyez, The Luwyez. My Frank collection consists of every factory disc that Frank authorized to have published, many, many LPs, and the occasional magazine or book containing Frank’s words. Interestingly enough also in my collection there’s a photo of Frank with his middle finger raised. But we all know what it means, though it’s not a gesture for the Luwyez. What I don’t have are some Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake MP3s stashed inside my computer, so if those Luwyez come knockin’, I should be good to go, right?

Anonymous said...

"among other of the many problems that we continue to face as the rights owners of all things Zappa is how to protect our copyrights and what is the risk of failure to do so"

Did anyone ever find out what "the risks" are? Just how "at risk" is the ZFT? Are the wolfs really at the door?

Did anyone bother to ask what some of the other "problems" of being a "rights owner" are? If it is really so fraught with "problems" and this relationship is so adversarial, then why don't they close up shop and stop complaining?

What would happen if ZFT failed to "protect their copyrights?"

Would they starve? Would there be no way for them to make a living, or would there just be no way to make a living from someone else's labor and intellectual capital?

Does Grateful Dead INC face extinction and starvation due to their taping policy?

Is there any economic or accounting evidence to suggest that Zappa INC took a money hit due to the goings on at KUR? How about 'bootlegs?' How about Project Object? I know it's "against the rules" and "artists rights" and all the rest of that sanctimonious crap, but can anyone prove the Project Object cut into the Zappa's total fiscal year profit? How about Zappanale? Did that cut into business? CAN ANYONE PROVE IT?

Do you think the average Zappanale attendee bought Wazoo, or passed on that because they had "enough" Zappa at the festival?

What if Zappanale and Project Object have actually been instrumental in generating profit for the ZFT. What then?

Love of money vs. love of rules? Who will win?