Thursday, December 12, 2002

Rosen's cranky guild are stern and dead

We only got round to reading Hilary Rosen's USA Today piece this morning, and we approach it rather like Buffy at the start of the musical episode - heavily world weary and feeling like we've been here so many times before. Still, maybe this time she'll tell us something that we not only didn't know, but didn't not know because it's made up. Let's see:

The editorial above urges the recording industry to aggressively focus its energies on a legitimate online music market. That is exactly what the industry is doing, with nearly a dozen online services now up and running.

Well, no - it's not what the industry is doing. Sure, it's gotten some services going, in a limited, toe-in-the-water sort of way, and just now something a bit more solid is being hammered together. But the industry isn't focusing its energies here at all - the actions of the RIAA are still staring gimlet eyed at trashing peer to peer networks, pursuing 'theives' and threatening universities and businesses.

How much money is being spent on making adverts with stars going "it's like stealing a CD from the store" compared to the spend on actively promoting the new systems? And can't you see that a dozen separate services is compounding the problem rather than solving it - what Napster and Kazaza and the others had in their favour was universality - you looked for stuff, it was there, you downloaded, you played. You didn't have to try and remember which offshoot of the military-industrial complex the artist you wanted had been enlisted to, try and find a partner service to that label, search in the hope the download was available, sign up to a payment system, have a card validated, wait for an email, sign back in to the partner site, do the download, find out the software required to play the tune wasn't on your system, go to the software download site, download the software, install it, find it doesn't work with your system, go to Limewire, download an MP3 and play it.
Record labels together with technology companies are meeting consumers' desire to access music online. Looking back over the past year, the legitimate marketplace has grown by leaps and bounds. Four different services now offer content from every major music company, and several others provide a rich array of music and listening options. Music fans can enjoy hundreds of thousands of tracks in many different ways.

That's not meeting consumer's desires. What we want is a central place where you can download music in the format we've chosen, which our computers can handle, and our CD players and iPods and Rios work on - MP3. We don't want new formats of encoding that offer no advantage to us and constrain how we can use the music we've paid for.
But what these services do not yet have is enough customers. No business can be expected to compete against an illegal service that is offering the same product for free.

Bollocks. It's more than possible for commercial services to thrive alongside free services. ITV has managed to exist alongside the free services of the BBC; many newspaper markets have freesheets which co-exist with paid for titles. The fact your competitors are illegal should make it easier, not harder, for you to compete because you do have the ability to appeal to people's better nature. The trouble is that you're not offering the same product for free. You're offering a less useful version of the product - the reason why people aren't downloading from the official services is that they don't give people what they want. They want music they can burn to their CDs, stick onto their portables, that they can use. The RIAA position is akin to offering the news values of Metro, but expecting people to pay International Herald-Tribune subscription rates for it. It needs to be the other way round.
If the legitimate services are to have a chance to succeed in the marketplace, we must take action against those who trample the copyrights of songwriters, artists and record labels.

Hmmm. Well, possibly - let's leave aside the way record labels are quite happy to trample the rights of the artists themselves, seeing as its Christmas. Of course, if you'd got your arses into gear earlier, you wouldn't have been in this position, would you? Its not like people didn't tell you this was the way the wind was blowing. The free services are squatting in a house you left unoccupied and uncherished. Your now using the courts to try and win back an advantage you squandered.
The notion that pursuing peer-to-peer network piracy violates personal privacy is just plain wrong.

First, no one enjoys the right to commit a federal crime anonymously, and downloading or uploading copyrighted works such as software, movies or music without permission is clearly illegal.

Bollocks squared. If you're checking a person's computers to see what they've got, it's invasion of privacy. Unless you have some sort of strange stoolpigeon network, whereby someone rings the green phone in your office with a tipoff - "Ginger Teaspout is downloading Kenny Loggins from Bearshare now" - the only way you can possibly tell what's on a person's computer is by looking at it. And since nobody calls files things like "Bruce Spingsteen - Born To Run - have never bought the record.mp3", the only way you can begin to find out if a file called 'borntorun.mp3' is a downloaded naughty Bruce-steal is by looking at the contents. That seems pretty much like invasion of privacy to me.
Second, users open up their computers to the peer-to-peer networks, not copyright owners. It's like walking down the street holding up a sign and then being mad that someone has read it.

Bollocks cubed. It's actually like leaving a catflap in your front door, and then being mad that someone has snuck through it and started to rifle through your personal papers - i.e. fair enough.
And third, colleges and others can address this problem in non-invasive ways, such as using filtering systems and bandwidth-management controls.

Tesseract of bollocks. Filtering systems? Do you mean checking what people are sending from their own discs? That sounds pretty much like an invasion of privacy to me. And, more importantly, "bandwidth management controls" - are you really so blinkered to the rest of the world that you think the only thing that university computers are used for is to swap Bruce Hornsby songs? Did it ever once occur to your well-rewarded brain that there are many, many reasons why university networks might be transmitting large volumes of data over the internet? Should we really shackle academia in order to ensure that Mariah Carey doesn't lose the odd sale? "Sorry, Mrs. Kapinski, but we tried to send your CAT scan data to an expert in a University Teaching Hospital, but it bounced back. I'm sure you understand, though - your health is nowhere near as important as ensuring Now Thats What I Call Music 8 doesn't underperform."
Ironically, it's the peer-to-peer networks that actually put users' privacy at greatest risk. A recent study by Hewlett-Packard showed that typical users of a network such as Kazaa inadvertently expose personal files, including credit card information and e-mail, for millions to rummage through.

Opps. Is my face ever red now - I'd assumed all along the RIAA campaign is about trying to protect its sometimes dubiously obtained copyrights in the face of people who are sick of paying over the odds for recorded music. But it turns out that its actually only been trying to save ourselves from the nasty hackers who are "rummaging through" our hard drives stealing our credit card numbers and emails. Say, do you suppose that's how the Daily Mail got hold of those Cherie Blair emails - was she attempting to find Charlie Drake's My Boomerang Won't Come Back and let the journalists in while she was doing it?
Given the scope of the problem, we are taking measured steps to combat online piracy. These efforts are a necessary means to an important end, which is an expanding and dynamic legitimate online marketplace — a reality achieved after a year of progress and multiple new licensing agreements from the major record companies.

This would be the dynamic legitimate online market place that you said a few paragraphs ago that doesn't have customers because of the existing free alternatives, would it? Let's be fair again and assume that maybe you expected nobody would make it through this far.
Hilary Rosen is chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America. For legitimate services to thrive, violators must be stopped.

That's exactly how it ends on the USA Today website. Curious, isn't it? Do they mean people are violating Hilary? Or has that become the the full title of the RIAA?

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