Opinions

The Gauntlet versus copy protection

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The music industry is a lot like a soap opera. You're always confronted with phenomenal new bands who spring out of nowhere like new romances. It's ripe with high profile feuds and break ups to keep you on your toes and it's even full of bungling do-gooders who end up causing more problems than they solve. A prime example of this is the major labels and their ceaseless war on internet piracy.

Ever since Napster reared its ugly, semi-functional head, the majors have been in a ceaseless race to try to outwit anyone bent on spreading their music illegally on the internet. One of the love children of this perpetual battle has been the dreaded "Copy Control," spearheaded by EMI, which fails in every respect except its uncanny ability to annoy those who are more apt to buy the CD in the first place.

The latest brilliant idea to come out of the Copy Control camp recently arrived in the mail here at the Gauntlet: they now make CDS which can be digitally copied a limited number of times. According to EMI's website, this is supposed to stop people from making illegal copies of their music while allowing them to "listen to their music in many different environments."

Of course, this new software does absolutely nothing to stop people from pirating these albums the black hats want so desperately to protect. I popped a copy controlled CD into my computer and immediately copied it to my iTunes library as MP3 files, using up one of the three copies the disc allows me to make. With these MP3S now secure on my hard drive, nothing but my own scruples and computer illiteracy stopping me from offering them on a file- sharing program or seeding them with bittorrent.

So, if the new Copy Control features are so wholly ineffective at doing what they're designed to do, what good are they? People who don't buy music in the first place are going to have no problem finding these albums online. The only people who are inhibited by copy control measures are those who go through the trouble of actually paying for the damn thing in the first place. Something doesn't seem right here.

Why should I, someone who buys my music or receives it free in exchange for a review, be penalized for putting a copy of an album on my computer at work and my computer at home while making a back up copy in case the CD gets scratched and maybe putting a few songs on mix CDS for friends? It really seems like the major labels, and EMI in particular, are going to an awful lot of trouble to piss off the few customers who have stayed loyal to them when they could easily be stealing from them.

In many regards it's easy to sympathize with the major labels and artists who don't want to see their music pirated. Regardless of the quality of the music in question, it's an artistic output and the people who made it deserve to be rewarded. Attacking the true fans - is not the way to go about fixing the problem. In fact, it will only serve to exacerbate things as more and more people become sick of being abused for appreciating art.

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Comments

It seems more and more like the idea of "Copy Protection" is designed to circumvent fair-use than prevent piracy.

For instance, look at the pay-music sites online that allow you to pay for music downloadable in DRM-enabled formats (IE, .wma). Some of these have built-in mechanisms that prevent you from burning a song or copying to a device more than 4 times(or however many the site decides). This, despite the same song being available in non-restrictive formats for free. Furthermore, copy-protection really prevents nothing as the songs are invariably played through some variety of speaker, allowing them to be then captured by some other device containing a microphone...

If the music industry was at all serious about online distribution, they would sell high-bitrate songs in a non-restrictive, open-source format like Ogg Vorbis. Until then, they're just annoying legitimate consumers. That's my take, anyway.