Welcome to where the seeds of dreams are planted--where one can sip from the charmed chalice of life & meet interesting folk through (hopefully) intelligent conversation.

One never knows nor can expect who will sail into the fray--what we do know is that no soul here is perfect no matter how we try. So let us celebrate & raise our mugs to the idiosyncratic nature of life--to the Kramer's & Norm's of the world, the Roseanne's & Allan Poe's. Some old, some lost, some tortured, some blessed, all souls sharing a drink at the same time in the same place. The ensuing tales are authentic with names trending towards monikers. The flag waving on our doorstep means we're open, so come perk your curiosity in Le Harbor Bungalow Cafe.

Bonjour! Mesherfin! Hasta la vista! Your barista.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


“Get ready, FOX News is stopping by at eleven-thirty.”

The barista turned to read the clock on the microwave: 11:01.  “Really?  What’s the occasion?” he asked Jennifer through the telephone.

“They’re looking to interview people about the new Internet bill.  What’s the shop look like?”

“Well…ummm…sparse.”  Inside le Harbor Bungalow Café’s warm confines was the barista, a first-time patron, a work-from-homer secluded around the corner in the back and Fister Mishy

Many patrons pass their time at le Harbor Bungalow Café because Jennifer offers free wireless Internet.  Maybe the blackout kept them away yesterday, a day one of Baltimore’s local evening news programs came searching for their presence.  Copyright activists have provoked free-speech advocates with a proposed bill before the Unites States Congress.  Yesterday a score of websites—most notable being Wikipedia—staged a blackout, intentionally shutting down operations for 24 hours to raise awareness of a potential law they believe is against the First Amendment of this country’s Constitution.  Popular web behemoth Google did not participate in the blackout but they did raise awareness with a black rectangle diagonally masking their logo.  Other websites adopted similar tactics.  The barista signed an online petition urging his congressmen to oppose SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) a week prior, but the details of the acronymed bill escaped the barista as he served coffee that morning.  So he warmed up to the two reporters soon after their arrival.

“I think I got the free speech aspects of this thing, but how does it hit home.”

“It’s a copyright issue brought on, in part, by Hollywood…and the music industry,” the reporter explained with a smile as her cameraman staked out a position by the pastry case for a potential interview. 

“That reminds me of those ASCAP laws, where small bars were threatened with fines if their hired musicians performed songs which were copyrighted—unless of course, they paid an upfront usage fee.” The barista adjusted the microphone clipped to his shirt, which he wore for a sound check.

“Right.  That still occurs.  Now they are targeting sites like YouTube and holding them responsible—not the people who post there.”

The implications of SOPA for a website like Wikipedia could spell its demise.  The encyclopedic website houses sourced content, but those sources now may want compensated for the content Wikipedia—to the barista’s knowledge—publishes free of charge.  If Wikipedia has no means to pay and loses its content, its credibility would be questioned even more than it is now.  But do we need Wikipedia anyway?

“Do you use the Internet?”

A customer chuckled as if the reporter asked if he breathed oxygen, “Yeah, I’m using it right now.”  The barista noticed the ear buds the guy was wearing before he prepared his Americano (no space for cream).

“Have you heard of SOPA?”

“Ah huh,” the patron agreed to an interview and conducted a spiel concluding with Netflix’s influence on the home movie business.

The barista has worked on both sides of the copyright issue.  During his first serious job out of university he worked for a newspaper syndicate in San Diego.  It was his job to license content—i.e. advice columns, political cartoons, comic strips, and editorials—to out-of-town print publications and websites.  It was a common method to gain exposure and extra wages for a professional writer.  But it was near impossible to police the entire Internet from reprinting the licensed content without permission.  Is SOPA their lawyers’ solution?  He wondered.

Most professional writers and journalists at the time—and even now—were not especially well compensated.  These are not typical upper class jobs.  Writers and artists the barista knows personally would love their work to be promoted, played to new audiences, forwarded via email or linked from a blog.  Imagine an author complaining that her book was available to read for free at a public library.  But at some point they need to collect, to make a living.  But at the cost of free speech? 

Not long after the syndicate gig, the barista played in a bluegrass trio in Weed, California.  They booked many gigs in the Mount Shasta vicinity at bars under pressure from SOPA-like ASCAP laws.  These non-corporate, non-franchise establishments—in towns of less than 5000 population—could not afford the ASCAP music licensing fees.  They felt bullied by henchmen of major recording publishers.  One bar owner complained he could not legally play his I-Pod during business hours under the new copyright law.   The affected owners instructed bands like the Fat Sack of Bluegrass only to play traditional songs in the public domain and originals for these gigs.  Scratch the banjo-Zeppelin tunes.  Playing copyrighted material came with a risk—the bar could be fined, shut down, with the musicians left searching for another gig.  The barista sympathized with the owners.  To the barista, the law seemed like an awful large net to cast as it targets independent businesses just getting by, who are not making money by the music they play.  Do radio stations pay licensing fees?--online or otherwise?

Another pumpkin frosted cupcake for thought:
“Have you ever wondered why the song “Happy Birthday” is not sung in any movies?” a patron once asked the barista.  “Because it costs a small fortune to buy the copyright.”

The barista better warn Jennifer, lest she some day post a birthday party clip at le café on her Facebook page.

(Editor's note: Click here to view the television news clip)

1 comment:

  1. you're all over this issue like froth on a mochaccino!

    eventually the user based good guys will win. (a bone) too important to keeping certain chunks of the populace at bay and distracted from less virtual battles.