RIAA: "All your music are belong to us"

Steven Metalitz, a lawyer representing the RIAA and MPAA believes that there is nothing wrong with users buying DRMed content, and then that content later on not being accessible.

Steven Metalitz, a lawyer representing the RIAA and MPAA believes that there is nothing wrong with users buying DRMed content, and then that content later on not being accessible.

Here's what Metalitz said in a letter to the legal advisor at the Copyright Office:

"We reject the view that copyright owners and their licensees are required to provide consumers with perpetual access to creative works"

All of a sudden, DRM isn't about preventing piracy, it's a business modelYou bet that the music industry wants a mechanism to exist where people have to rebuy music. The industry has made obscene amounts of cash from people who rebought music due to losing the original (record getting scratched, tape getting mangled in the car stereo, CD being used as a ninja death star) and from those who have repurchased music to keep up with technology ("This is gonna replace CDs soon; guess I'll have to buy the White Album again ..."). A mechanism where people pay once for a particular song or bit of music scares the music industry. All your music being safely stored on your PC and iPod means that fewer people had to rebuy content. Combined with the fact that audio quality is now as good as it needs to be, unless there's a major technological shift that means that content has to be remastered in some new and more compelling way, people just won't need to repurchase music.

Note: The music industry also hate you being able to pick up the tracks that you want rather than having to buy the whole album, but that's a different story ...

Rant time -->

I'm kinda surprised at Metalitz saying this, basically because he's admitting that consumers should have no expectation that what he or she buys actually works. In fact, it blurs the line between "buying content" say via iTunes, and say renting it using something like Zune Pass. In fact, renting the content puts the user in a stronger position because at least when they run into DRM hassles they have the option to stop paying (apart from the fact that these sorts of services are pretty pricey unless you are a real music fan, although with Zune Pass you do get to keep ten tracks a month as MP3s). All of a sudden, DRM isn't about preventing piracy, it's a business model.

DRM is a mess, plain and simple. Put simply, the mechanism allows big corporations to change at random the terms of a purchase on you without your knowledge or consent. Buy a book, CD or DVD and the person who sold it to you can't access your property and demand it back. With DRM, it's easy. DRM has also eroded a fundamental principal that it was meant to protect - rights. It allows consumers to enter into a contact to buy something, such as a license to play a particular song, but have that right removed at some point down the line, turning the initial purchase agreement into one where the user really just rented the song. You're clicking "Buy" but it really should say "Rent". 

It has to be said though, that with the introduction of DRM-free music, and CDs being so cheap, anyone who is still "buying" DRMed music is a sucker (all you can eat subscription models are a little different and suit some people well). But the issue goes much further than music. It affects all DRMed content that doesn't have a clear expiry date. Games downloaded from Steam, content for the Xbox/PS/Wii, movies, audiobooks ... everything. The amount of cash that some people have invested in "ethereal" DRMed content is incredible, and their access to said content is based solely on the whim of the company they are dealing with. and this side of things my friends, is set to get a whole lot worse ...

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