[rumori] the wsj rants against online music services (fwd)

From: Steev Hise (steevATdetritus.net)
Date: Tue Dec 18 2001 - 19:20:42 PST

suprising stance for them, but even the WSJ seems to


December 17, 2001


Music Copyright Protections
Threaten Users' Ability to Enjoy


MUSIC LOVERS, beware. You may be lucky enough to get Apple's sleek iPod,
which holds 1,000 tunes in digital format, or some other MP3 player this
holiday season. Unfortunately, it could be useless in a year or two,
unable to play new music.

Don't blame Apple or the other portable player makers. It's the fault of
the recording industry, which keeps tightening restrictions on what you
can do with the music you buy. These constraints are ostensibly meant to
thwart the rampant copying unleashed by Napster and its successors. But
they also threaten consumers' ability to enjoy the music they've paid for.

The problem is that record companies don't seem to want to sell you music
anymore. They want to lease it, collecting rent checks in perpetuity.
People who fail to keep up on their payments may well find that their
music collections have evaporated.

You can see this trend in new online music services that seek to offer
legitimate alternatives to file-sharing services -- but put all sorts of
limits on when and where you can listen to songs. It's also apparent in
new copy-protected compact discs that redefine the idea of "owning" a CD.

IF YOU GO to the record store and buy a CD that incorporates copy
protection, you'll find that you can't "rip" it, or transfer the songs
onto a personal computer. (Because of glitches in the copy-protection
technology, you may not be able to play the disc in a regular CD player
either, but that's another issue.)

Should you care? Absolutely.

I've ripped hundreds of CDs onto my computer but I'm not a criminal or a
pirate. These are all CDs that I paid (or overpaid) for. I often prefer to
listen to the music I've bought on my computer. My PC has decent stereo
speakers, and I spend a lot of time working there. But it's more than
that. With the songs on my hard drive, I have instant access to my entire
collection -- much better than rooting through piles of discs. I also like
to transfer the files to my portable MP3 player so I can listen at work
without schlepping CDs back and forth. And I take songs from several
albums and burn them onto custom-mix CDs ("Still More 80s") for the car.
E-mail Tom Weber at tweberATwsj.com1.

Copy-proof CDs won't let me do any of that. Certainly record companies are
entitled to take measures to stymie widespread copying, in which hundreds
or thousands of illegal duplicates are made from a single CD. But somehow
the legacy of Napster has given all copying a bad name.

Did you know that under U.S. copyright law, it's generally considered
permissible to make copies of music you've purchased? "It's completely
legal," explains Jessica Litman, a law professor at Wayne State University
and the author of "Digital Copyright." As long as you're making a copy for
private, noncommercial use, you're pretty much in the clear. File-sharing
services have gotten into trouble by enabling copying on such a massive
scale that it's not really noncommercial even if no money changes hands.

NOW, AFTER TWO years of complaining about services like Napster and KaZaA
without offering alternatives, record companies are finally fielding their
own online music networks. But guess what? Those networks don't just
prevent illegal copies. They block other copies, too.

Look at RealNetworks' new RealOne Music service. It costs $9.95 a month
and lets you download 100 songs (saving record companies the cost of
producing and distributing actual CDs). But you can't burn the songs onto
a CD or transfer them onto a portable player. You can't move them to
another PC either. To do that, "you will need to set up a different
customer account and purchase another subscription," RealNetworks says on
its site.
Receive e-mail notifying you of the latest publication of E-World. See the
Personal Journal e-mail setup page2 for details on how to subscribe.

Those 100 songs, by the way, expire after a month. If you find a song you
really like, you can keep it active, but it gets charged against the next
month's allotment. RealNetworks argues, with some merit, that it's not a
bad deal. "You get to try on the order of eight to 10 CDs a month, for
half the price of a single CD," says Erik Flannigan, vice president of
music services and programming. But even so, are consumers really ready
for music that expires?

Pressplay, a soon-to-launch rival from Sony and Universal, will be a bit
more friendly to portable use. You'll be able to burn songs onto CDs, but
quotas will govern how many. "We want to show consumers we understand what
they want," says Pressplay CEO Andy Schuon. Transfers to portable MP3
players will still be forbidden.

Eventually, online services hope to support portable players -- but only
when those devices can count how many times you've listened to a song or
check to see what date it is. That way the services can wipe out the songs
if you're behind on your rent. The approach could make listening to new
music about as enjoyable as a cab ride in a traffic jam with the meter

If you object to what the music industry is doing, don't buy CDs labeled
copy-protected. If you get a disc home and you can't copy it, take it back
to the store. To keep posted on what's happening, visit
www.fatchucks.com3, a Web site where music fan Chuck Heffner lists CDs
that listeners have reported have problems. And if you decide to pay for
an online music service, make sure it gives you what you want.
URL for this Article:
Hyperlinks in this Article:
(1) mailto:tweberATwsj.com
(3) http://www.fatchucks.com/

Copyright 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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