This link may be of interest but perhaps in a New Zealand sense -
by Russell Brown
Digital rights management is going the way of the dinosaur.
For two years, the New Zealand branches of the four major record companies,
via their industry body, RIANZ, have been lobbying to ensure that their
interests are best served in the endlessly gestating update to the Copyright
Although they have had to swallow a new provision permitting us (with
conditions) to copy music from a CD to a computer or portable music player,
they have done fairly well. In particular, they have won sweeping statutory
protection for digital rights management (DRM) software, which controls how
digital media can be copied and used. The provisions are so strong that the
bill has been called back for high-level re-examination.
But in the interim, something extraordinary has happened. The major music
companies – all of them – have abandoned DRM. EMI broke the line midway
through last year, announcing that nearly all its catalogue would be
available as paid digital downloads without DRM; it can be purchased as
"iTunes Plus" at the iTunes store and in MP3 form from various other digital
retailers (including the Kiwi-only
Universal Music followed when the online retail giant Amazon opened its own
Then, in the haze of the holiday season, Warner Music, hitherto the most
fanatically pro-DRM of all the majors, announced that Amazon would be
selling its music as DRM-free MP3 files. A few days later, Sony BMG
announced that it, too, was going DRM-free.
The industry has had its problems with DRM, most notoriously in the case of
the Sony CD copy-protection that secretly installed a "rootkit" on
customers' PCs, exposing them to malicious internet attacks.
But it wasn't consumer problems that turned the majors: it was more the fact
that DRM – which they had hoped would allow them to control their markets –
had in fact become a tool for others to manipulate markets in ways that
stripped the record companies of power.
We need to go back a little here. After Napster established the idea of
downloading music from the internet, the majors formed into two cartels and
tried to act as their own online retailers. It didn't work – for one thing,
you couldn't buy one cartel's releases from the other one's shop.
Meanwhile Steve Jobs and Apple were making up for a slow start in digital
music, with the iTunes software in 2000 and then the iPod in 2001. The iPod
was already a tiny colossus in the market when Apple launched the iTunes
Music Store in 2003. It had the mark of Jobs. For simplicity, all releases
would cost the same. And Apple's DRM, FairPlay, was far more reasonable than
anyone else's: purchased tracks could be played on up to five authorised
computers and as many iPods as you liked. But only iPods.
It would have been difficult to support the competing Windows Media DRM on
the iPod. But Apple also refused to license FairPlay to anyone else. It had
shares of between 80 and 90 percent in both the music download and portable
player markets, and those downloads played on one portable only – Apple's.
Jobs was dictating terms to the industry. And DRM gave him the power.
Warner has frankly stated that its aim is to create – in Amazon – a
competitor to iTunes. This should be good for consumers, but there are
problems: the Amazon Music Store is available in the US only; it's not clear
what Warner's terms for going DRM-free with iTunes will be, nor whether
Amazon might extend to markets like ours (where, ironically, the dominant
retailer is Vodafone Music, which uses Windows DRM); and, on a technical
basis, it is daft that the industry should converge around MP3, an ageing
format that achieved ubiquity purely because it couldn't be retrofitted with
But one thing is clear. For music at least, attempting to tightly control
consumers' use of what they have bought has not only failed to prevent
piracy but become more trouble than it's worth.
*Next week: so what does the music industry do now?*
*Email: [log in to unmask]@dubwkise.c2o.nzj *
On Jan 14, 2008 5:28 PM, Richard L. Hess <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> The following was sent out by Garry Margolis. Does anyone know what
> is really going on here?
> RIAA Still Thinks MP3s Are a Crime, Despite Post's False Correction
> of File Sharing Column -- Updated
> By Ryan Singel January 08, 2008 | 1:43:49 Pm
> Following a crusade on behalf of the Recording Industry Association
> of America by News.com <http://news.com/> journalist Greg Sandoval, the
> Washington Post
> posted a correction to a column about a file sharing lawsuit which
> was misleading headlined "Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After
> Personal Use."
> Unfortunately, the correction is actually wrong:
> A Dec. 30 Style & Arts column incorrectly said that the recording
> industry "maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally
> purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer." [...]
> In fact, the RIAA does not recognize that you have a legal right
> under the Fair Use doctrine to rip your CDs into MP3s to listen to
> them on your computer or digital audio player.
> When asked point blank today if the RIAA believes it is legal to make
> MP3s, spokeswoman Liz Kennedy refused to answer the question and
> instead sent this boilerplate text from the RIAA's anti-piracy website:
> [T]here's no legal "right" to copy the copyrighted music on a CD onto
> a CD-R. However, burning a copy of CD onto a CD-R, or transferring a
> copy onto your computer hard drive or your portable music player,
> won't usually raise concerns so long as:
> The copy is made from an authorized original CD that you legitimately own
> The copy is just for your personal use.
> The RIAA has not and will not say that ripping MP3s for personal use
> from a lawfully purchased CD is legal, despite Sandoval's lobbying
> for the group.
> UPDATE: Sandoval disagrees strongly with Threat Level.
> We're going to have to disagree. I don't want to get into a
> blow-by-blow with you, but the Post story was wrong. I was hardly the
> only reporter to write that.
> As we've noted here at Threat Level, the RIAA's court statements and
> along with statements on its own web site make it clear, the trade
> organization does not believe that individuals have the legal right
> to make digital audio files for their own use from copyrighted media
> they legally purchased.
> And as David Kravets pointed out here, the RIAA's lawyer used that
> argument -- that individuals don't even have the right to make MP3s
> -- to persuade a jury to levy exorbitant fines on file sharer Jammie
> Thomas. The judge told the jury to consider that simply offering
> files for download constituted copyright infringement -- the RIAA
> didn't have to prove anyone actually downloaded the files.
> But it wasn't clear until after the testimony whether the judge would
> require proof that someone actually downloaded the songs she made
> available on Kazaa. So the RIAA's lawyer engaged in a scorched earth
> campaign, argumentatively asking Thomas if she had gotten permission
> to simply rip the songs.
> Before knowing whether the judge would enforce a burden of proof the
> RIAA couldn't meet -- they had no proof anyone actually downloaded
> songs from Thomas, the RIAA's lawyer was building a case to have
> Thomas found liable for simply ripping songs without permission.
> That's why the Sony executive said ripping a song was the same as
> stealing one, though now the RIAA finds it convenient to say she
> didn't understand the question.
> Sandoval, whose reporting I usually respect, should be embarrassed
> for carrying the water for the organization that crippled Digital
> Audio Tape recorders and tried to sue digital audio players out of
> existence. In the latter case, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
> found that a MP3 player that moved music from a hard drive to the
> player was space-shifting - a "paradigmnatic non-commercial personal
> use entirely consistent with the the purposes of the [Audio Home
> Recording] Act."
> The problem with Marc Fisher's column was that it unfortunately left
> the impression that the RIAA was suing a guy in Arizona for ripping
> MP3s of music he bought, when the suit is actually about him
> distributing the MP3s. But the filing at issue in the suit was
> characterized fairly and accurately by Fisher.
> Any correction to it should have simply noted that while the RIAA
> does believe that it is illegal for Americans to make digital music
> files from legally purchased CDs, they have not sued anyone for doing
> so in absence of a belief that person shared such files on the internet.
> So, to sum up, the RIAA does believe that a majority of American
> music buyers are thieving criminals, but it's not going to sue anyone
> over ripping MP3s because) a) it's not really a big deal to them
> anymore b) there's no real way to find out and/or c) it would be
> terrible publicity to sue someone for using an iPod.
> Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
> Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
> Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.