The music scene: legal vs. illegal

The music scene: legal vs. illegal

Summary: Music is a huge part of our lives, not just students, but it does have a major effect on how we interact, integrate and collaborate. Music can be seen as a work enhancer, a relationship matcher, a commonality between groups or connections - most just see it as something to compliment a mood.

TOPICS: Security

drm.pngMusic is a huge part of our lives, not just students, but it does have a major effect on how we interact, integrate and collaborate. Music can be seen as a work enhancer, a relationship matcher, a commonality between groups or connections - most just see it as something to compliment a mood.

I wanted to explore the two different angles to this: DRM protection or no-DRM protection, and the ability to actually download and/or gain music from an online source. I'll start with a little background.

DRM is two sided. It stands for "Digital Restrictions Management", which essentially allows those who legally purchase media from t'Internet like music, videos and software, to use them for themselves and nobody else. Sounds fair, but when you get into the nitty-gritty of it, it means you can't share a really great song with a friend; you can't transfer your music or media onto different devices such as portable devices some of the time, and if your computer buggers up, you can't get the music back.

On the other side of it, it's a digital padlock which your computer only has the key for. It means regardless of what happens, the end user will/could end up losing out more than those who provide the media - the record producers, the film directors and writers.

For Mac users it's quite easy, because iTunes is already integrated into your computer. For Windows users, you've got Windows Media Player (unless you have the "N" version because of those bureaucratic tossers in Brussels), but with all this legal crap thrown at us, we're not free to do what we really want to do. I'm just going to take a random selection of legal download service examples.

Which is best to use - the legal way, or the illegal way? Will I now get fired for this post? Or will the lawyers phone me in the middle of the night screaming at me? All very possible.

argh.pngiTunes: a good platform which allows you to buy, search, play, modify and download music to your iPhone, iPod or any other iDevice they might have. Works great on Mac's, but not so great on Windows. When using it on Windows, it downloads and installs a whole load of other potentially damaging stuff, can/does cause crashing on some systems and when QuickTime is installed, can overwrite your file type applications so you'll find your default media application isn't automatically used anymore.

Not only that, if you download files which are DRM'd, you'll be able to transfer them to your iDevice but really lucky if you can get them working ion any other device, computer or music application.

Napster: after being shut down years ago for being an illegal peer-to-peer service, it's now a legitimate online music retailer. You pay around $20 a month which lets you download anything you want and as much as you want, or around $30 if you want to be able to download music with a more lenient DRM licence, allowing you to transfer to other devices.

It doesn't work with Mac's or iPods; serves you right for being so arrogant and using a crap computer with an equally stupid music player which works with one service only - it's own. The DRM blows its own brains out when you stop paying for the service, so you have to keep paying to keep playing.

n85-small.jpgNokia "Comes with Music": it's about time the world's biggest mobile phone maker jumped on board the online music store bandwagon. It seems to be a "free music service" but it's not; the key is in fact part of the name. You buy certain phones like the Nokia 5310 (and even that's not available in all countries) and the subscription is included with the price of the phone, allowing you to download music for a whole year.

After that, it'll probably cost you to renew the subscription, and even then, you're downloading DRM files again. You'll be able to download and playback on the phone, and that's it. You won't be able to share it and you won't be able to back it up, but at least once your subscription expires, you'll still be able to play the music files - so not all is lost.

Download illegally: it won't cost you anything, the music tracks are DRM free, but there's not a guaranteed chance you'll find what you want. On the other hand, the entire world wide web, all the peer-to-peer networks and BitTorrent networks are all much bigger than the entire collection of downloadable media from all of the above mentioned services.

You run a slight risk of getting caught, fined and thrown in prison, but provided you don't distribute them back on a massive scale, the chances are you'll be fine. If you really feel guilty about "stealing" money from those big, rich, important record producers and the spoilt, obnoxious and arrogant music star, put a penny or a couple of cents into a charity box at the local superstore.

I don't condone illegal activity, to the point where I'll discourage serious crimes and suchlike. But downloading music should be more open and simple, cost much less and have much lower restrictions. Under the DMCA, you can't even lend your little sister a CD of yours to listen to or to copy. It's bloody ridiculous and annoys the hell out of me, but this is how the world works I'm afraid.

Unfortunately, and the CNET lawyers really won't like this much, downloading music illegally, as in without buying it, actually gives you the most freedom over your music. Copy it, share it, move it, play it, edit it, convert it, or upload it again - you can barely do any, definitely not all, of these things with DRM'd music.

Or... just work out how to remove the DRM from legally downloaded music. It's still illegal, if not more illegal, but at least you're buying the damn thing.

Topic: Security

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  • Napster pricing?

    Your pricing on Napster is way off. The Napster subscription service is $12.95/month, for PC and streaming device (Roku SoundBridge, Xbox 360, etc.) playback only. Or it's $14.95/month for "Napster To Go", which has the ability to work with WM-DRM (PlaysForSure) players, phones & PDAs.

    If millions of tracks via subscription isn't your bag, they also sell DRM-free MP3.
  • RE: The music scene: legal vs. illegal

    What about all of the DRM-free MP3 download services out there? Amazon is probably one of the biggest/most well known.

    You're not barred from doing the copy/share stuff like with DRM-enabled content, but it's also not (as) illegal because you're paying for it still.
  • Time for honesty

    Direct from my reply to the UK governments consultation paper or P2P countermeasures q.v.

    "The current malaise is the result of greed on the part of all involved
    - rights holders who have failed to pass on media distribution advantages resulting from the availability of broadband Internet
    - ISP???s who are quite happy to charge premium rates for ???unlimited high-bandwidth usage??? but then cry foul when a customer attempts to call in this promise
    - and consumers who are apt to become freeloaders at the drop of a hat when they feel they are being abused by corporations or government.
    Time for everyone to be honest and negotiate a realistic solution."

    Your post, like others on ZDNET and PC sites in general, takes one position (typically your own) and fails to recognise the two essential topics.

    1. Existing legal procedures are so unwieldy and expensive that copyright violations cannot be punished in a cost effective and timely manner. Time to streamline this process, not only for P2P but for all legal activities. (Think of the complexity and cost of house sales ... if we get any more :-(

    2. I like the idea of a collaborative agreement between all parties. If everyone keeps fighting their own corner the technology war will simply escalate. However all sides must be willing to cede some ground. Rights holders must establish a cheap global digital distribution market (89p per song is outrageous); ISP's must provide the transmission mechanism in a neutral fashion and be open about what it will actually cost. Freeloaders must stop stealing and pay at a reasonable rate. "New commercial model" the paper says. Sounds like the right answer to me. Of course negociations may fail.

    "You run a slight risk of getting caught, fined and thrown in prison, but provided you don???t distribute them back on a massive scale, the chances are you???ll be fine."
    Chances in the UK have just gone up: the major ISP's have signed an agreement which starts at warning 1,000 infringers per month per ISP for a trial period ... pending further measures according to the effect of this initial onslaught on those infringers detected.

    "Unfortunately, and the CNET lawyers really won???t like this much,"
    Oh yes they will! The legal profession thrives on milking consumers and corporation in times of conflict.

    I have also suggested a form of media control which would apply to ZDNET:
    - articles describing piracy methods should be punishable (AKH and EB both guilty)
    - articles condoning copyright violations should be punishable.

    • I take it your a music industry shill eh?

      If you are I want my DRM'd 600 dollar Library back from when Rhapsody bought Urge. Screw that, I buy from amazon ATM but if push comes to shove I'd gladly support piracy over DRM.
    • There is no real problem, offer quality music DRM free.

      Amazon MP3, I predict, will surpass iTunes sales on a per year basis within 2-3 years. I have personally directed hundreds of people from iTunes and p2p (after telling them it is illegal) to purchase QUALITY DRM free music. (They need to advertise more, but nobody who learns of them uses iTunes for DRM infected when better quality cheaper is found at Amazon)

      On p2p, it's generally 128 kbit/sec crap. Who wants this, it's truly crap.

      Secondly, I use Linux, and like hundreds of millions of others, we refuse to purchase DRM infected crap and won't download illegally. Before Amazon, you know what I did with my money? I kept it in my pocket (I did some build your own CDs from Walmart though).

      For the millions who will steal content, the industry is DIRECTLY responsible because of DRM. Provide an EASY avenue to purchase music, the masses will. Yes, there will always be piracy, like there will always be shoplifting, deal with it, like all retailers do, and stop throwing good money after bad punishing the people who will spend their money on those who will NEVER pay a cent. They will listen to 48 kbit/sec truly awful garbage that takes 2 hours to find and download instead of paying the 3c said bit rate is worth.

  • RE: The music scene: legal vs. illegal

    I don't think this argument is really relevant let alone worth posting about... DRM is dead. Any service with DRM at the moment will soon be selling music without it - it's the only way for the labels to combat pirated music. The major labels will allow this for any service who can make them money in their ailing market (maybe not Apple, as Universal and others actually want to break iTunes monoply).

    You say of Napster; "It doesn't work with Mac's or iPods; serves you right for being so arrogant and using a crap computer with an equally stupid music player which works with one service only - it's own."

    You could say the same of iTunes!! i love my iPod but it +iTunes really sucks and let's me down sometimes... Apple's Fairplay DRM is just as limiting.

    I don't think Nokia said Comes With Music was 'free' just that music 'comes with' a new phone.

    *meh* semantics.

    P2P's great but it seems the noose really is tightening on illegal filesharing in the UK. Having said that though, legal P2P is meant to be available before the end of the year, which should be interesting.

    I appreciate what you're saying Zack but there's so much more to what's going on out there! Do your homework : )
  • The solution is...

    Buy CDs. No really, think about it.

    Firstly, if we all rejected completely the idea of DRM encumbered music by REFUSING TO BUY IT, how long do you think it would be before it was abandoned?

    No one can force it on you. It only prospers becuase it is accepted.
    • yes!

      this gives you:
      1. an instant physical back up.
      2. the freedom to use on any device
      3. the freedom to import in any format
      4. the freedom to import at any quality level.
      5. a firm legal standing.

      the only minus is:
      1. it's not instant. you have to go to a store, then
      do the import.
      • yes!, indeed

        I'm a strong proponent of just buying the CD. I
        seriously warn people away from any music download
        services because the lack of future portability.
        "Unless you really want to buy the same songs again in
        five years!", I burble.

        A few benefits, beyond those mentioned above:
        1. paying to support the artist (admittedly,
        supporting the "industry" as well, but they do play a
        role I suppose)
        2. Future compatibility (perhaps implicit in the
        earlier points). As long as computers have CD/DVD
        drives, you can regrab the audio to whatever modern
        audio trend happens to be in vogue.

        As for the instant gratification, I personally use
        torrents to grab the tracks, then buy it from Amazon.
        It turns up a few days later, then if the torrent copy
        is substandard in some way regrab it. Otherwise I
        just stick with the torrent copy. This is probably
        still illegal and possibly detectable, but I can't
        imagine any prosecution sticking if you can produce
        the physical CD.
        • Not exactly...

          [i]This is probably still illegal and possibly detectable, but I can't imagine any prosecution sticking if you can produce the physical CD. [/i]

          It's not the downloading, it's the uploading. Hell, even just "making available" is enough in the eyes of the RIAA to get a six figure lawsuit filed against you.
          Hallowed are the Ori
    • I agree entirely.....

      I do just that. If I like something enough I buy the CD or DVD. Then I can copy it so that I can listen or watch on the move. I would never buy music online and it galls me that I have to buy a DVD and rip off all the nonsense that's on it just so that I can enjoy the movie. Anyone else fed up with watching endless adverts and anti-piracy rubbish on DVDs they've bought? The biggest fan to the piracy fire is the cost of CDs and DVDs. IMHO the industry has got it's base price completely wrong, thus fuelling piracy. If they pumped the same amount of money into discounting popular music etc that they pump into DRM and all the other anti-piracy efforts there would be less piracy in the first place. Most people will pay for something if they don't think they're being ripped off.
    • The Solution is...exactly

      I couldn't agree more. CDs still offer the best solution and are value priced at any discount storeonline or off. Furthermore, my trips to browse CDs are a real pleasure that I enjoy. Ripping them into my music library and arranging playlists are equally pleasureable.
      • Your solution.

        By RIAA standards, your ripping your owned CD is illegal, as is sharing it with anybody!
    • That's not really a solution

      Digital music distribution has grown, and CD sales shrunk, because of all the advantages of the former and the disadvantages of the latter. Digital music is easy to find, it's usually cheaper, and it's immediately available for use via a digital platform (a computer or device). CDs require a visit to a store (often several, if you're looking for something less common), frequently cost more (nevermind the gas and time required), and then you end up with a physical object which, while valuable as a backup, also requires storage and care.

      I used to cherish the ritual of buying music, the packaging, the design, even the smell, and the record stores I supported, but I've gladly given that up to be able to effortlessly stick my music collection in my pocket, and download that song that's stuck in my head while I'm sitting at a coffee shop. My conversion was sudden and probably irreversible. My car's backseat used to be strewn with scratched CDs, and my apartment with stacks of cases separated from their contents, and I don't see much reason to return to that (yes, I could take better care of them in the first place, but digital music requires no such discipline).

      More importantly, if the tide shifted back to CDs and piracy continued unabated, don't you think the record companies would redouble their efforts to copy protect CDs? DRM sucks, but it doesn't really get in the way of how most people use music, and that's why people accept it. That doesn't make them fools, they just don't see any need to take place in this philosophical battle because a minority believe paying $9.99 for an album gives them absolute freedom to do anything with its contents.

      If you're going to fight the RIAA, support artists who refuse to participate in its money-grubbing, artist-cheating practices. Support local artists, go to shows, spend your money in ways that directly benefit the artists. Deciding which format to buy the new Metallica album in is hardly participating in a revolution.
      • Well,...

        If (often DRM-encumbered) download music works for you, well, good for you.

        My comments were addressed to Zack, who was complaining about the situation, and I offered a solution. You might think I'm in a minority, but not only do others here agree, but go look at the actual sales data for music, and I think you will discover what a minority really is (and that you're in it).

        I have not objection to electronic distribution, only DRM-encumberment. DRM schemes on CDs have been tried and HUGELY rejected.

        As for costs, the picture is not that clear to me. I buy most of my stuff online, so I have to wait a say. Patience is a virtue.
    • CDs could be worse

      I've got a CD that doesn't even let me rip it to my computer. So, every time I want to listen to the songs, I'll have to stick the damn thing into the drive.
    • I Agree Also

      to a point.

      Most music today isn't music, it's junk.

      And with CDs, the aluminum oxide surface can corrode after five years. Gold lasts much longer.

      I agree completely with your observation that DRM continues because people blindly accept it.

      Boycott the entertainment industry completely and they'll abandon DRM and watermarking.

      DRM and watermarking are violations of "fair use" established under copyright law in the Universal Studios - Sony "Betamax" lawsuit.
    • I agree, and here's a GREAT way to do it.

      I make no money, am completely unnafiliated, etc. CDs can be one or two hit wonders, build your own to have a legal, DRM free CD at all in cost, physical CD including shipping for about $1.12/song

      Between Amazon and WallyWorld, I have yet to NOT find a song I am looking for.

    • So which...

      of the around 1200 albums I have on vinyl should I buy again? You should also know that about a quarter of them aren't available on CD, much less via download on the Internet even though I've bought many again on CD's also. Plus a couple of hundred or so that aren't going to be redone, though I have them on vinyl. Then there's the minor problem of the ones where I bought 2 or 3 copies of them on vinyl never knowing if I'd see it for sale again. And the autographed heart bleeds for the poor record companies.

      I've only been at getting this stuff moved over to mp3's for about 5 years now.
      • you have a unique problem.

        not too many people have that problem. rejoice though,
        because your vinyl (assuming you take good care of it)
        probably sounds better than CD or MP3 ever could.
        You've heard of the Slow Food movement? maybe you
        should start the Slow Music movement. =)

        There are devices for transferring your vinyl to your
        computer, but personally I keep my vinyl away from my