[ISN] Critical Eye - Don't Confuse Fans With Pirates

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Mar 27 2002 - 23:21:13 PST

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    April 2002
    By Roger Ebert
    This year, Universal's music division plans to use a new
    copy-protection scheme that excludes its discs from being played at
    all on "Macs, DVD players, and CD-compatible video game consoles."  
    This according to Peter Cohen of MacCentral, who also reports that the
    plan will block discs from being copied to other CDs or being saved to
    the hard drives of most PCs in the MP3 format. The first disc to get
    this treatment is More Fast and Furious: Music From and Inspired by
    the Motion Picture, a title that will live in infamy.
    That the CD itself has been ripped off from other CDs (it is a
    compilation of tracks having little connection to the movie or one
    another) is a delightful irony. That Universal has copy-protected it,
    and blocked out Macs and DVD players altogether, has to be the worst
    marketing decision in consumer electronics since the original DivX
    format (which was Circuit City's widely hated, intrusive pay-per-view
    system). It confuses fans with pirates. My guess is that no musician
    or band still actively engaged in trying to build an audience will
    want to come anywhere near it.
    The determined pirate, of course, will not be affected by the new CDs. 
    She will simply connect her stereo to her computer, then press 
    "record" on her ripping software as she presses "play" on her 
    conventional CD player. This will yield a digital file that can be 
    shared with the world (not to mention her portable MP3 player).
    Why do people grab music off the Net and download it to CDs, iPods, 
    and other storage devices? Because they like it. They like it a lot. 
    They like it enough to go to the trouble of obtaining it despite the 
    various roadblocks. They are fans. Would they rather have a mint CD 
    from Virgin or Tower, with the original cover art? Of course. Will 
    they eventually be paying customers for the music they are currently 
    sampling? In most cases, yes. Technically they are stealing, but in 
    fact they are an instrumental part of the process by which a lot of 
    real CDs get sold.
    Back when I was a member of the prime music-buying demographic, I went 
    into Markland's Record Store on Main Street in Urbana, Illinois, and 
    took the latest 45s into a soundproof listening booth where I could 
    sample them. I sampled them a lot. So did all the other kids. 
    Sometimes we would sample the same song every day for a week. The 
    Marklands knew what we were up to. They also knew that we yearned to 
    own those records, and that when we found the 89 cents for a 45 or the 
    $3.98 for an LP we'd be their customers. We were fueling our 
    MP3 fans using the Web are essentially doing the same thing. They are 
    finding new bands and singers. They are spreading the word. If the 
    music industry ever finds a way to block the copying of music, the 
    bands that are protected will be invisible to this most sincere form 
    of promotion and publicity.
    Consider, too, that most of those fans are not necessarily short of 
    funds. Hey, they own a PC that can rip and burn. Their time is 
    valuable. When they discover a band they like, they can spend a lot of 
    time downloading it off the Web or a little time buying the CD at 
    discount. Studies suggest that more sales are generated by the 
    music-sharing process than are lost.
    The late, unlamented DivX scheme represented the same idiotic 
    marketing reasoning that the Universal Music Group has implemented. So 
    did the Hollywood studios' original opposition to home video. We live 
    in a time of buzz, when musical reputations are formed below the radar 
    of the accountants of the music industry. The way to launch a new CD 
    is to get it talked about - not to insult potential fans by making it 
    unplayable on their equipment even after they buy it legitimately.
    Peter Cohen reports that Universal plans to offer refunds to customers 
    who buy a disc and find they cannot play it. He also observes, "Many 
    retailers employ a no-return policy once the CD's wrapper is off." And 
    wisely so, since it would be the easiest thing in the world to buy a 
    disc, rip it to your computer through your stereo, post it on the Web, 
    and then return the CD for a refund. Did I just say that?
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