Friday, July 23, 2004

HARSH?: We got an email from a person in a place to know arguing that we've been a little harsh on Korda Marshall, as he's one of the good guys in the music industry; apparently he tears strips off his employees when they describe music as "product" and, more importantly, he didn't suggest charging more for CDs with no copy protection - maybe the plan would be to make the copy-protected sort cheaper. Perhaps, but since CDs are already criminally over-priced, giving a discount for broken CDs is hardly a great leap forward, is it? And besides, it doesn't resolve the central question: If DRM is intended to stop people from using the music they've purchased outside of what is allowed by copyright law (i.e. by sharing it with other people), why expect people to pay more for a CD simply to allow them to do what they've already paid for (i.e. playing it in their car, or on their PC)? It doesn't matter if the broken CD is priced at fivepence, it's still not a proper CD, it's still attempting to drive a rather large tourbus through copyright law by attempting to legitimise record companies telling us which of our CD players we can play their CDs on. And it won't do anything to stop people uploading tracks from the un-DRMed version to the internet anyway.

Maybe if the record companies actually invented a DRM that worked, rather than tried to make up for their shoddy, shitty, half-arsed attempts that lock up computers and won't work on car players, then we'd be getting somewhere.

We're not convinced, incidently, that the CDs which won't play in a car are the result of a DRM balls-up. Maybe the record companies are afraid that, frustrated from putting the new Bootsy Collins and Winfired Atwell mix up on Kazaa, people will breach their copyright by driving their cars to other people on the file sharing network with the record playing and windows rolled down? Perhaps, somewhere in EMI's HQ, they're working on an exceedingly heavy CD that people won't be able to lift up and share with their friends.

One further note which occurs to us on Korda's comments: His attack on "dishonest critics", implying that it's music journos who are the main leaking points for music onto the web. A trifle unfair, perhaps? With journos under more and more restraints - getting CDs glueed into walkmans, being summoned to a distant moor to hear the first play of an Alanis album and then spun round and round so fast they won't be able to remember the tunes to hum to anyone else, or simply only given shit albums to work with - that primary source seems to have been well plugged, and yet unreleased work still cascades through the ISPs like Elizabeth Taylor smashing through the doors of an unlicensed sheebeen. Indeed, a lot of the highest profile leaks have come before any promo copies have been pressed up. Could it be, despite Marshall's assertion, that it's people working in the music industry who are undermining their own business models by leaking away?

1 comment:

Gary said...

I really don't understand the obsession with DRM, because it's effectively penalising the very people who are willing to pay for music instead of downloading it from somewhere dodgy.

It's good that the industry is trying to come up with bright ideas, but I think there's still a lack of joined-up thinking. The gap between songs going to radio and going on sale is longer than ever, and the labels could eradicate a lot of the P2P problem by making tracks available legally at the same time they hit radio. For example, the Natasha Bedingfield single "these words" went into heavy rotation on radio and satellite TV at the beginning of July; it doesn't go on sale until August 16th. Inevitably, it's been on Gnutella for weeks.

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