brni (brni) wrote,

watch it rise. see it fall.

There was a discussion recently on the Ecto mailing list that started with a kvetch about Apple installing spyware in iTunes Plus files (which is not the case – they are embedding personal information in the files, but not installing software that phones home or rootkit's one's computer), and ended with a discussion of illicitly downloaded music files.

One person suggested:

Sadly, the real answer is "provide content that users are willing to pay for and not steal", and price it to minimize the loss due to inevitable theft. The media companies appeared to understand this at one time, but greed has pushed reason aside.

My response was thus:

I think that that ("content that users are willing to pay for and not steal") is really a matter of re-education. That's a "hearts and minds" issue, and requires a fundamental change in the Recording Industry, in the artists, and in the people.

People will be far more likely to spend money knowing that the cash is going to support the people who make possible all the amazing music they love, than they are when they know that the bulk of it is going to execs with private jets, advertising firms, and lawyers. Which means that for the industry to remain viable, it needs to reimagine itself as something that is there to support the music and the artists, not the other way around. And for those artists who manage to break through and make obscene gobs of money, we'll be more likely to want to give you some of ours if we know you're going to spend it on helping out others, rather than bling and cocaine.

And the people? The people need to start being able to identify with and empathize with the people whose music they love. Less hero worship and more understanding that these are people who need to make a living.

The nature of tech is that no matter what the process of copy protecting the content is, as long as it is decodable enough to listen to (or for other media, to watch, to read, etc), the copy protection can be gotten around, and will be gotten around. The more draconian the methods for enforcing copy protection (RIAA lawsuits, Sony rootkits, DRM that limits the ways in which one enjoys the music one has purchased all come to mind), the more people are going to want to do whatever is necessary to circumvent the process.

The answer to this has to be social. Technical solutions will be worked around and scoffed at; legal solutions will only breed more resentment. The current sad attempt to address this issue involves the RIAA, which is a professional organization that promotes the interests of its members, which are the record companies, not the musicians.

And in the midst of all this, the musicians are suffering. Used to be that they were getting screwed by the record companies. Now they're still getting screwed by the record companies, but they're also getting screwed by their fans. Read this entry from Pendragon's Nick Barrett; it goes into significant detail about the economics of running a band, and the actual losses incurred by illegal copying:

And then, y'know, go spend some money for the stuff you've downloaded.
Tags: pirates
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