Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 16/8/2005Wish they'd make their minds up. Remember Home Taping is Illegal, And It's Killing Music?

Tuesday 16/8/2005

Wish they'd make their minds up. Remember Home Taping is Illegal, And It's Killing Music? Music pulled through. Then Napster was going to marmalise the industry: six years on, and it's still possible to get just about any song you like when you like through file sharing networks - and the gutters have yet to be piled high with the starving bodies of the talented.

So, what now? How about burning CDs? Yeah, that'll do. According to the NY Times, Mitch Bainwol, chief executive for the Recording Industry Association of America, believes ''CD burning is a problem that is really undermining sales,'' with 'Burned' CDs accounting for 29 percent of all recorded music obtained by fans in 2004, compared to 16 percent attributed to downloads from online file-sharing networks. Copy protection technology ''is an answer to the problem that clearly the marketplace is going to see more of."

Copy protection's the answer, Mitch. That's right. Now, what sort of copy protection lets the CD play perfectly well in all legitimate circumstances and locks out the piratical hordes? There ain't no such beast. There was no such beast for tapes, either, with the sad result that the young Goodwins and his friends had draws full of illicit C90s with each others' record collections on. We simply couldn't afford to buy everything we liked, let alone everything we only sorta liked (imagine the life of shame if I'd paid for Kajagoogoo), because we'd spent all our money on music we loved.

You cannot stop people sharing music. It's basic human nature. The party tapes we make -- illegal. The records we lend each other -- illegal. The MP3s captured off the radio and emailed to our friends abroad ("Heard this? It's really good. I think you'll love it") -- illegal. But is any of it wrong? More to the point, for people who equate right and wrong with profit and loss, does it really hurt sales?

People will feel it's wrong when they buy a CD and it won't play on their PC. Or they can't move a track from a CD to their iPod. Of course, it won't matter: two minutes on the Internet and they'll have learned how to bypass whatever clumsy system has been put in place. You don't get people to change their basic morality by hectoring them: you can educate them, but only when you have logic and evidence on your side. When that same NY Times story says that music sales overall are up 21 percent year on year, logic and evidence aren't your friends.

All those C90s have gone (including, I alone am sorry to say, my early Devonian experiments in multitracked synthesiser and looping ZX Spectrum BEEP commands from well before the Aphex Twin got his act together over the Tamar). I've replaced most of them with full-price CDs, as have most of the rest of us children of the 80s. Damn that home taping.