Why I'm fed up with the recording industry...

May, 2002

In case you haven't heard yet, I thought I'd let you know that the recording industry is trying to make new copy protected CDs to help "protect" them from the evils of Napster and other similar services. This despite the fact that Napster's height was also the highest grossing year for the music industry. (Okay, so the booming economy may have had something to do with that..)

There are various competing methods of copy protecting CDs. Universal will beusing one for all CDs by the end of 2002 that allows you to play CDs in Windows but blocks ripping/encoding or even listening to the CD in other OSs. Other schemes block playing completely from PCs, DVDs and even high-end CD players. Yes, that's right. You won't even be able to listen to the CD you just purchased on your DVD player. This is very sad.

Sarah and I own approximately 400 CDs between the two of us. We have ripped them all, and we only ever listen to our MP3 collection. Subscribing to the excellent EMusic service has also greatly expanded our collection.

I listen occasionally listen to real audio CDs on the following devices:

This means that pretty soon I won't be able to listen to audio CDs on my own players even if I want to.

I have never used Napster (or similar services) as I think it's morally wrong and illegal. However, if I can't go out, buy an audio CD, rip it and listen to it then I consider myself forced into using one of these means to acquire the music I want.

I have absolutely no qualms with paying $20 for a CD. I always get my money out of it, provided the disc doesn't suck. Frankly, at the rate we buy CDs I don't even mind occasionally paying for a dud. I will, however, refuse to buy something I can't use.

End of story.

As has been reported ad nausea, this does absolutely nothing to curb illegal copying of these songs. All it does is anger good customers. If I, a paying, legal customer, am going to be treated like a criminal, I may as well act the part.

So, here's my ultimatum to the recording industry: Stop this ridiculous behaviour or I will cease to be a customer. As soon as I buy a CD that I actually want (sorry Celine) and can no longer rip and listen to in MP3 form I will cease buying CDs at all and will start making use of one of these napster/kazaa/limewire type services. I don't want to do this. I still think it's illegal, I still think it's wrong, but I think that punishing all customers for the sake of a few, who will pirate anyway, is worse, not to mention a dangerous precedent. I won't stand for it.

If the record industry won't play fair neither will I. I know I'm only one person, I realize that the recording industry probably doesn't care about me, but I buy about 30 CDs a year. That's $600 they lose from me. Pretty insignificant in the big scheme, but it's all I can do. I will continue to listen to the music I want in the form I want.

But wait!! There's more...

It seems that the movie industry is even more afraid than the recording industry of the thought of faster computers and Internet access. In fact, working with Senator Ernest Hollings, Disney and many other content providers are pushing for a bill that would require watermarking of all digital media. This media could only be legally played/viewed on devices with a chip that would decode the content.

This chip would then be built into just about every device, severely limiting the idea of a general-purpose computer. What's more, under the DMCA passed in 1998it would be illegal to even attempt to circumvent this copy protection. The DMCA has already made it illegal to play DVDs under alternative operating systems and has already significantly infringed on users right to fair use. The Hollings bill goes much further. According to the "Reason" article linked below this would have the effect of limiting future innovation and technology development. I their words:

"Programmers trying to come up with, say, the next great version of the Linux operating system may find their development efforts put them at risk of civil and criminal penalties. Indeed, their sons and daughters in grade school computer classes may face similar risks if the broadest of the changes now being proposed -- a ban on software, hardware, and any other digital-transmission technology that does not incorporate copyright protection -- becomes law."

However, it seems that not everyone is taking this lying down. Thankfully, Intel has spoken out against these proposed measures, as has the Business Software Alliance. Presently, the software industry "loses" far more revenue to piracy than the music or movie industries. Despite this, even they believe that this new bill is too broad.

When I first read this article by Richard Stallman I thought it was just melodramatic science-fiction. After reading what the content providers have in mind I'm no longer so sure.

The only thing about all of this is that it is American laws, and I am not an American. However, I'd be fooling myself if I thought that Canada would differ significantly. I really hope that this bill isn't introduced, and that commonsense will prevail.

I've linked below to an interview/panel with Andy Grove, Lawrence Lessig and Brian Arthur. Grove speaks out against these proposed laws. All three offer examples and opportunities that the Internet presents to the content industry.Hopefully their ideas and vision of the future will have more pull than some Disney lobbyists. Time will tell.

CD copy protection circumvention/info links:

Information on the new Hollings Bill that Disney and others are proposing: