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Fear is the dealkiller...
November 10, 2006 12:48 PM   Subscribe

MSNBC soft pedalled the story while others have offered their regurgitated take on the press release. But I can't find anyone asking the tough questions about the new deal between Microsoft and Vivendi/Universal wherein MS will pay Universal a flat price for every Zune player sold.
With big names like David Geffen saying, "Each of these devices is used to store unpaid-for material. This way, on top of the material people do pay for, the record companies are getting paid on the devices storing the copied music." are we really getting to the point where everything we think we know about property and theft is going to be re-defined in terms of someone's perceived loss?
posted by I, Credulous (65 comments total)

 
analogy: since a van can be used to transport illegal drugs, should we jail everyone who owns a van lest they actually transport drugs?

And I'm aware that the Canadian gov't was, until recently, levying a fee against each iPod sold to offset the perceived loss to the recording industry (as it also does on blank tapes, and CD-Rs marketed as "for audio"), but this is business getting into the levy game without legally needing to do it.

and: yes, the title is a Zune Dune reference. "All Hail the Conquering Worm!"
posted by I, Credulous at 12:53 PM on November 10, 2006


I wonder if Geffen realizes he sounds like a blithering idiot?
posted by selfnoise at 12:55 PM on November 10, 2006


Microsoft: the extortion enabler.

I wonder what kind of massive kickback to Microsoft execs is involved in this deal.
posted by clevershark at 12:55 PM on November 10, 2006


Seems like a pretty simple contract arrangement. MS wants Universal music in the Zune Store. Universal wants mo' money. So MS agrees to pay Universal $1 per unit shipped in exchange for getting the Universal music into the Zune store. It's not like someone forced MS to pay Universal - they agreed to it.
posted by GuyZero at 12:57 PM on November 10, 2006


If memory serves, the audio cassette was surcharged to pay the recording industry for potential losses. They proposed this again for the DAT platform in the 80's, which was sued into oblivion because it represented a greater threat with no loss of quality.
posted by Brian B. at 12:57 PM on November 10, 2006


Also, it's MS's own fault for building a device locked into just one online music store. The record companies have figured a few things out since they fell all over themselves getting into iTunes. And one of those things is that they have a lot of power in these deals. Maybe once MS & Apple wake up and realize that an open ecosystem of compatible devices and vendors is better in the long run they'll abandon their lock-in strategies.
posted by GuyZero at 1:00 PM on November 10, 2006


This is rather strange. Why would microsoft agree to give someone money that they don't need to? It's just bizarre.

The Zune is such a strange thing. It's lo larded up with DRM one can scarcely imagine why anyone would want to buy it, until you remember that most people have no idea what DRM even is. The iPod also has DRM and it's still popular.

The really weird thing is how it won't even play Microsofts "play for sure" files, because of DRM incompatibilities. How in the hell could they have pulled that one off? In a fair world the Zune would be the death kneel for DRM, but I suspect it will actually be popular, just like the Xbox became popular. Microsoft has enough marketing money to make this a success.

Oh, one interesting thing, in Canada all mp3 player makers are required to pay a fee to the Canadian version of the RIAA. In the US all blank tapes and "music" CD-Rs also have a special tax that is paid to the RIAA, the fact that these fees are paid is why it's legal to tape and share any music you want too with your friends (it's true)
posted by Paris Hilton at 1:02 PM on November 10, 2006


Also, it's MS's own fault for building a device locked into just one online music store. The record companies have figured a few things out since they fell all over themselves getting into iTunes. And one of those things is that they have a lot of power in these deals. Maybe once MS & Apple wake up and realize that an open ecosystem of compatible devices and vendors is better in the long run they'll abandon their lock-in strategies.

Are you out of your mind? iTunes' lock-in has made Apple a fortune, and given them a ton of power. It's ironic, because it's a result of the record companies' insistence on DRM
posted by Paris Hilton at 1:04 PM on November 10, 2006


$1 a unit to Unversal for a $250 HD doesn't add up to much in my opinion. Since 2002, almoust 70 million iPods have been sold. While I wouldn't sneeze at $70 million, over the course of 5 years it isn't have much money for them not to mention that the Zune would need to match the iPod's success which it just cannot do. Really we're talking about $10 - $20 million in my mind which isn't that newsworthy.
posted by pwb503 at 1:05 PM on November 10, 2006


MS & Apple wake up and realize that an open ecosystem of compatible devices and vendors is better in the long run

If I were MS or Apple, I wouldn't bet on an open ecosystem being better for my long-run profit. I'm no technology-indsutry expert, but surely Microsoft didn't achieve its current dominant position by encouraging open ecosystems. Similarly, I don't think Apple's iPod profit would be improved by opening up the iTunes+iPod ecosystem.
posted by matthewr at 1:08 PM on November 10, 2006


Expanding n PH's comment: the US tax on blank recording media which supposedly goes to pay artists for songs duplicated onto those media (but in practice, AIUI, none of it ever gets to the actual artists).

The Zunegeld is just cutting out the middleman.
posted by hattifattener at 1:09 PM on November 10, 2006


How in the hell could they have pulled that one off?

They haven't pulled it off. I have heard absolutely zero interest in the Zune.... and the fact that "Plays For Sure" doesn't play in the Zune is a gigantic PR foulup. How could you name something that and then tell your customers that it doesn't work in newer devices?

This thing is circling the drain before it even launches. From what I can see, you'd have to be remarkably stupid or ignorant to buy one.
posted by Malor at 1:11 PM on November 10, 2006


Oh, one interesting thing, in Canada all mp3 player makers are required to pay a fee to the Canadian version of the RIAA. In the US all blank tapes and "music" CD-Rs also have a special tax that is paid to the RIAA, the fact that these fees are paid is why it's legal to tape and share any music you want too with your friends (it's true)

You know I've heard that, but the 80 gig iPod sells for $399 in Canadian dollars, which is around $353 in US dollars, which is almost the same as the US price. And blank cds are pretty cheap if you buy them in 100 packs, if there is a levy I don't think it's being widely enforced.
posted by bobo123 at 1:13 PM on November 10, 2006


Copying from my Ask:

Given MS's new focus on its own device rather than encouraging an ecosystem of 3rd-party devices, it makes perfect sense.

Should this become a precedent and eventually propel legal manoeuvring to such a degree that *all* mp3 players have to pay a "poll tax" to several content companies in order to be sold, we could expect to see consolidation in the market and a reduction in the number of players sold. Effectively, it creates a high barrier to entry and penalises small manufacturers. MS can afford to pay such a levy, many others can't or won't.

Ultimately, it is part of a strategy to create an MS/Apple duopoly in the mp3-only marketplace, instead of the rather fractured situation at present. Finally, it's an attempt to move the entire market towards a subsidised subscription model, which MS would love to get into with the mobile phone makers. Encouraging a rise in the price of content players increases the relative sales of service-subsidised players (such as phones sold on contract by phone companies) versus non-subsidised players. These huge companies would really prefer to only have to deal with each other around a cartel-shaped table rather than being forced to participate in huge scrummages with hundreds of vendors at trade fairs and such-like.
posted by meehawl at 1:14 PM on November 10, 2006


are we really getting to the point where everything we think we know about property and theft is going to be re-defined in terms of someone's perceived loss?

I think that has always been a core motivation of property rights at least since the the downfall of feudalism. Of course there has also long been an underlying idea that you deserve rights in things into which you put time and labor (c.f. Locke), but the flipside of that just puts us back where we started: when someone deprives you of your deserts, you perceive a loss, and wish to invoke the protection of property law.

But I don't take that to be the actual core of what you're getting at; you seem offended somehow that MS is paying off the record labels in order to facilitate the release of its new music player. You know that the Zune has a bluetooth-like swapping feature, right? Where you can use the device -- without any external software or connectivity -- to copy music you haven't paid for? Doesn't this strike you as the slightest bit similar to Napster or Grokster, both ruled illegal & shut down by federal court order? If you were MS's corporate counsel, you'd be foolish not to set something up with the record labels if you were going to release a device with this feature.

I think the real disgrace is the other pound of flesh that was extracted from MS to make this deal go through -- the fact that the copied songs only last for 3 days or 3 plays, whichever is shorter. If carrying around a Zune allowed you to really tap into an ad hoc musical network of all the people around you, and not have it all disappear a couple days later... now that would be worth quite a license fee.
posted by rkent at 1:15 PM on November 10, 2006


iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED -- $10/unit goes to support Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa.

Zunebrown -- $x/unit supports poor ol' UMG.

It's clear. Apple hates music!
posted by mazola at 1:17 PM on November 10, 2006


"Universal, which releases recordings from acts like U2 and Jay-Z, said it would pay half of what it receives on the device to its artists. The company is expected to receive more than $1 for each $250 device, according to executives who were briefed on the pact." from the nytimes piece.

hattifattener if by middleman you mean the publishing companies, that's interesting: break the publisher's power by circumventing them and paying directly to the artists (with the attendant options for "hollywood accounting" wherein even Batman doesn't turn a profit) would be a smart move...

Paris hilton: I don't see how my iPod is tied into one online music store. I've got dozens of legally-purchased, DRM-free mp3s in my iPod, and none came from iTunes Music Store.

and pwb503: I think what most upset me was the levy with respect to the assertion that if I'm carrying an MP3 player, I must be in possession of music I didn't lawfully purchase.

and bobo123: that tax isn't on general CD-Rs, it is only on the CD-Rs that are labelled "for music" and usually cost a coupla bux each, not $0.50 each...
posted by I, Credulous at 1:20 PM on November 10, 2006


Actually I think the Xbox comparison is pretty apt. Most people I know really didn't get into the Xbox till it got modded. And even then, it wasn't to play free games, it was for the coolness that the user created apps like XBMC offered.

The Zune could provide a great hardware base for a whole series of interesting user modifications: DRM free music, video, Wifi enabled downloading, games, basically all the things that Microsoft didn't think to include.

Then, like the Xbox, in the next major hardware revision, they will pick and choose among the best of the mod software, rewrite it and call it their own.
posted by quin at 1:20 PM on November 10, 2006


from meehawl:
"Should this become a precedent and eventually propel legal manoeuvring to such a degree that *all* mp3 players have to pay a "poll tax" to several content companies in order to be sold, we could expect to see consolidation in the market and a reduction in the number of players sold. Effectively, it creates a high barrier to entry and penalises small manufacturers. MS can afford to pay such a levy, many others can't or won't."
again, from the nytimes piece:
"In 1999, a federal appeals court ruled that one of the earliest digital music players, the Diamond Rio, was not covered by a federal law that required makers of certain audio recording devices to use anticopying technology and pay a royalty to the record labels."

essentially removing the necessity of the Diamond RIO from carrying the SCMS (Serial Copy Management System, I choose to pronounce it "scams") that was part of the downfall of DAT as a consumer format...
posted by I, Credulous at 1:29 PM on November 10, 2006


oh, and quin, the our office is currently installing MS Sharepoint and CRM, all configured by a re-seller/developer.
one of them pointed out this bit of wisdom to me:
"MS always releases an 80% finished product, then waits to see what 3rd party solutions to the missing 20% will crop up, and either buy the 3rd party and their solution and -- or just re-engineer the idea for themselves -- and then include it in the next version."

Think MS would have gone to the bother of IE7 if Firefox (which is Open Source and can't be "bought," only ripped off) hadn't been such a huge success?
(I'm ignoring Opera's contributions to browser development because it didn't seem to make enough of an impression beyond a certain level)
posted by I, Credulous at 1:35 PM on November 10, 2006


oog. sorry about the typos there...
posted by I, Credulous at 1:37 PM on November 10, 2006


[Opera] didn't seem to make enough of an impression beyond a certain level

Tabs.
posted by meehawl at 1:43 PM on November 10, 2006


You know, if I have to pay a fee based on the idea that I might use something for piracy, I will not feel guilty at all if I actually do use it for piracy. You cannot charge me a fee for a capability on a device, then tell me I cannot use it; if I have been charged for it, it's fair game.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:49 PM on November 10, 2006


meehawl: yep, but most people, I'll bet, started using tabs when the got into firefox...a subjective guess, of course...

mitrovarr: I hear you!

AND I've always found it odd that, say, Sony's electronics division is busy designing and improving hardware for making copies of CDs & DVDs, while their music and movie divisions are busy crying about losses in the CD & DVD retail markets...Sony's brass aren't ignorant of the apparent contradiction, either, which just shows that they're willing to make money any way they can (innovation and real products & support of antiquated groups like the RIAA and lobby pressure on the government for legislated protection of their IP libraries.)
posted by I, Credulous at 1:57 PM on November 10, 2006


Are you out of your mind? iTunes' lock-in has made Apple a fortune, and given them a ton of power. It's ironic, because it's a result of the record companies' insistence on DRM

But will it stay that way? Imagine if the record companies decided to collude (I know, it's crazy, but imagine) and raised the wholesale price of songs while demanding that Apple not raise consumer prices. If they basically dictated that Apple got virtually nothing and the labels got everything. Or if they said they'd pull their music unless Apple paid $1 per iPod. How much could the labels demand before Apple said no? I'm sure there are plently of highly paid lawyers pondering that question daily.

MS had more to lose here than the labels did. They need Universal to play ball. So they made concessions.
posted by GuyZero at 1:58 PM on November 10, 2006


rkent writes "You know that the Zune has a bluetooth-like swapping feature, right? Where you can use the device -- without any external software or connectivity -- to copy music you haven't paid for?"

Yes. Copy it so you can listen to it 3 times. In the course of the next 3 days. After that the track self-destructs. It's the MP3 equivalent of a record store having a "listening station" where you can sample tracks off a few selected albums, basically.

Also, transfer over Bluetooth takes a lot longer than people think.
posted by clevershark at 2:01 PM on November 10, 2006


"are we really getting to the point where everything we think we know about property and theft is going to be re-defined in terms of someone's perceived loss?"

The prime example of this is the music and movie cartels and big commercial software vendors howling about alleged losses to "piracy" which are mostly hypothetical. They put out bogus statistics purporting to show that they would have earned billions of dollars more if not for piracy, but it's all based on the idea that every real or hypothetical, paper-constructed download represents a lost sale at full retail price.

For too long the mass media have accepted this kind of whining uncritically. Now at least a few more organizations closer to the mainstream are beginning to expose the unlikely assumptions behind the inflated numbers. See for example Techdirt article on Australian government study.
posted by jam_pony at 2:02 PM on November 10, 2006


mitrovarr: If I have to pay a fee based on the idea that I might use something for piracy, [then piracy] is fair game

But you don't have to pay a fee. You only have to pay if you decide to buy a Zune, which no-one is forcing you to do.

You're saying that, purely because the cost of a crime to the manufacturer is included in the purchase price, you have some moral justification in committing the crime.

A crude analogy would be taking out insurance. Insurers can estimate how many people will get away with committing insurance fraud. They can then adjust their prices to take this into account. Does that mean you are morally justified in defrauding the insurer?
posted by matthewr at 2:10 PM on November 10, 2006


I think what most upset me was the levy with respect to the assertion that if I'm carrying an MP3 player, I must be in possession of music I didn't lawfully purchase.

Yet this is the whole premise of a new wave of copy right enforcement ! If people download , let them download if they like it so much, but charge them some other way.

By enacting a flat fixed tarif on all of the media sales, all of the mpX player et all one can , probably, enjoy a revenue stream so secure, solid and almost risk free it is like printing money !At the same time one can develop the sales of enhanced digital product, like for instance personalized cds et al and maybe even sell songs for cents-a-track to M$ wholesale, which will later resell at $1 a pop or whatnot.

Meanwhile piracy can go on almost undisturbed as people will find more convenient to just buy the damn track at an accessible price, also subsidized by fixed costs.

This all _works_ is plausible and possible and likely, except for one thing : it distorts the whole notion of copyright , from right to receive something with obligation to produce and give a copy , to right to exact money for using something
without any obligation.
posted by elpapacito at 2:12 PM on November 10, 2006


matthewr, the analogy is wrong. With the music CDRs it's government forcing consumers to insure the record companies against losses due to third parties, as a condition of buying the product. With the Zune it's Microsoft insuring record companies against third party actions and overpricing their own product for the premiums.
posted by jam_pony at 2:17 PM on November 10, 2006


"Most people I know really didn't get into the Xbox till it got modded."

You must only know some pretty hardcore hackers then. Most people I know got into the Xbox when they saw people playing Halo on it, same as I did. I actually bought my Xbox specifically to play Halo, and thought it was well worth it (though of course I have other games for it too) - Halo 2 definitely cements that, we're all still playing it online. Kickass games and Xbox Live were what sold millions of people on the Xbox, and made it a success - and a worthy challenge to the PS2's dominance of the console industry.

There isn't going to be a "Halo"-like, killer app phenomenon for the Zune, although if they un-cripple the wireless sharing that might help a bit. It's just a music player, and it's got much better competition out there from pretty much everyone else who makes players.

Circling the drain before release, I agree.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:22 PM on November 10, 2006


Oh, one interesting thing, in Canada all mp3 player makers are required to pay a fee to the Canadian version of the RIAA.

Not anymore, the federal court of appeal ruled that the levy on mp3 players amounted to a tax and only Parliament has the right to impose taxes under the Constitution Act.
posted by squeak at 2:33 PM on November 10, 2006


death kneel before zod!
posted by quonsar at 2:37 PM on November 10, 2006


Unlike normal mp3 players, which have legitimate non-infringing use (format shifting), the Zune is designed to wirelessly share your music with other Zune's nearby, for a period of 3 days a song. I think the $1 fee will be related to getting a no-lawsuit agreement over this feature - even with the 3-day limit, the share feature would seem to clearly expose MS to lawsuits.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:45 PM on November 10, 2006


most people, I'll bet, started using tabs when the got into firefox

What do you think gave the Firefox people the idea to do tabs? Tabs had been a minor option on some media browsers since the late 80s, and maintained a very low profile during the 90s. NS and IE, however, drove the idea of tabbed browsing out of the market place (except for odd curiosities such as Internetworks and Netcaptor) and out of the minds of most developers and UI designers. Opera brought it back, in a big way. I remember working on media browsers and multimedia during the mid/late 90s and it was amazing how far ahead of the game were these Norwegians.

Much of the early development of Firefox consisted of racing to adopt as many Opera UI features as possible.

I think perhaps you and I have a different definition of "impression". I am using it to mean "influential" in a continuous sense, while you are using it to mean "popularity" within a more constrained time-frame.

It's like saying the ipod was popular, but that that Compaq's PJB was influential, being that it was the first hard drive player and absolutely blew away everything else in 1999. The capacity differential between it (~5GB) and the flash players then available (~100MB) was just vast.

Consider this though. Earlier in 1997 a mail order Korean company had begun selling the first mp3 player ever, mail order, called the MP3MAN. It started appearing in weird little ads in PC magazines. To some people that made a huge impression. But if the Korean company(Sayhan?) had been forced to pay a licence fee for every player it sold, then it might not have bothered. MP3 players might have still happened or, as noted above, they may have been as successful as DAT.
posted by meehawl at 2:58 PM on November 10, 2006


zoogleplex : You must only know some pretty hardcore hackers then.

Actually at that time in my life, that would have been an accurate statement. Though our adoption of modded Xboxen was really more due to the lifestyles we were leading. We were all gamers, but most of us preferred PC gaming. One of my friends became fascinated with the idea of putting linux on an Xbox (yeah, he was one of those kinds of people :) and in order to accomplish this, he needed to learn how to mod them. Once we all saw how cool XMBC was, and that we could stream divx files directly from a samba server to a television (which is the hotness) we all had to have it.

Most people I know got into the Xbox when they saw people playing Halo on it, same as I did.

Halo is great, no question.

There isn't going to be a "Halo"-like, killer app phenomenon for the Zune,

This is probably a true statement, I had predicted that a huge modding community would jump all over the PSP, and while there certainly is a small culture of developers, Sony has kept it remarkably well locked down. Lacking something like Halo to spur sales, the Zune will likely flounder as an Ipod wannabe, but the tech that underpins it is interesting.
posted by quin at 3:42 PM on November 10, 2006


As some other folks said... this is misunderstood a lot, even here in MeFi...

There's about 30Gb of legal MP3 music in my iPod. I think I bought one or two songs from the Apple Store, mainly just to see what it was like, but the other 99.9 percent came from all over.

I know I bought some games (Zuma rocks) and I do "buy" the free song of the week when it's interesting, so I have some of this protected content. Never seems to be a problem, but I never try to use it on more than five machines at once, I guess. That ain't very restrictive.

There's no iPod lock in. There is a license lock on software (songs and games) you buy from the iTunes store, true, but it's multi-device and pretty damn portable, so big whoop. Same as buying software from any online anything. This license lock is only as-related to the iPod as it is to any PC or Mac or anything else you play the content on, though. It's more like a software serial number than anything else.
posted by j-dub at 3:49 PM on November 10, 2006


"are we really getting to the point where everything we think we know about property and theft is going to be re-defined in terms of someone's perceived loss?" (from the FPP)

That is a great framing of the issue, by the way. Even worse, it's perceived POTENTIAL loss.

Points to He, Credulous or She, Credulous or whoever.
posted by j-dub at 3:50 PM on November 10, 2006


Most people I know got into the Xbox when they saw people playing Halo on it, same as I did.

Halo is great, no question.

Ah, Bungie. We sorely miss thy Mac-only roots.

Imagine if Apple, not Microsoft, had snapped them up.
posted by j-dub at 3:52 PM on November 10, 2006


In some aspects, this kind of entertainment tax is progressive and good.

The devil is in the details and the whole thing falls apart when you start looking at who is getting money. UMG takes their cut, I'm paying UMG regardless if I think their catalog sucks, and the artists who will receive compensation will receive it based on commercial airplay/charts/etc. Again, my money going to support artists I probably hate.

The whole thing supports a system I don't want to support.

I would much rather see some system in place where the artists I listen to receive my money. Sort of like if you could just buy their music directly... for 99ยข/track maybe?
posted by mazola at 3:56 PM on November 10, 2006


Are you out of your mind? iTunes' lock-in has made Apple a fortune, and given them a ton of power. It's ironic, because it's a result of the record companies' insistence on DRM

The best part about it is that Apple's device and software (a) has DRM which locks music purchased from biggest legitimate outlet for major-label stuff to their platform but (b) also is more than perfectly usable in an environment with open content.

They don't win as strongly in scenario (b) as scenario (a) -- I'm sure some revenue would drop -- but they'd do just fine with (b). At least, says this happy iPod owner who only purchases a small portion of his online-bought music at the iTMS.
posted by weston at 3:56 PM on November 10, 2006


So Universal would rather have MS pay $1 to them. Can't they be arsed to convince a customer to buy one more song at that $1/79 points price? Will they then market it as "you get a free universal track if you buy Zune!"

IMHO It's an attempt to impact Apple's negotiations with the record labels down the road. MS likes to raise their competitor's costs as a means to sell their own products.
posted by infowar at 4:05 PM on November 10, 2006


"Ah, Bungie. We sorely miss thy Mac-only roots."

I still have my copies of Marathon and Marathon 2! (Even tho I no longer have a Mac that will run them...) :)

"We were all gamers, but most of us preferred PC gaming."

Yeah, I had originally been a PC gamer (flight sims and shooters), but I just stopped playing games about 7 years ago, for two reasons: 1, I started freelancing as an artist; 2, I was using high-powered Macs for the artwork, and thus buying new ones every couple years, which made it impossible for me to also buy new high-powered PCs for gaming. So I stopped playing games.

Playing Halo on my buddy's Xbox got me back in via consoles, I haven't gone back.

"Imagine if Apple, not Microsoft, had snapped them up."

Halo would have been a Mac-only game (later ported to PC), and the Xbox would probably have failed, and Sony would be 95% of the console market. I think it went better for all of us that Microsoft bought them.

One thing does occur to me, which is that MS can and probably will make very attractive deals to bundle the Zune with Dells and HPs and Gateways etc., which might get them into more hands than they could without that ability, so the sales numbers might be better than I was thinking, but that would be an artificial inflation, and it might not "stick" the way the iPod has.

But then, I'm still using a 5-year old 1st gen 10GB iPod, which still works great for me. :)
posted by zoogleplex at 4:11 PM on November 10, 2006


matthewr: But you don't have to pay a fee. You only have to pay if you decide to buy a Zune, which no-one is forcing you to do.

You're saying that, purely because the cost of a crime to the manufacturer is included in the purchase price, you have some moral justification in committing the crime.

A crude analogy would be taking out insurance. Insurers can estimate how many people will get away with committing insurance fraud. They can then adjust their prices to take this into account. Does that mean you are morally justified in defrauding the insurer?


No, it's not the same, because the insurer is not being extorted to pay money to someone else. This is like if the gasoline companies had give 1c/gallon to insurers because people used their product to commit insurance fraud by arson.

I've actually cooled on this issue, though, because the $1 fee does appear to buy the ability to legally do a little bit of file-sharing; that 3-day sharing thing someone else mentioned. Sure, it's a pretty shitty feature, but $1 is a pretty cheap fee.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:53 PM on November 10, 2006


DaringFireball has an interesting take on it.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:14 PM on November 10, 2006


I think the real disgrace is the other pound of flesh that was extracted from MS to make this deal go through -- the fact that the copied songs only last for 3 days or 3 plays, whichever is shorter.

And that is the dealkiller. The Zune hasn't been out long enough, if in fact it's out yet at all, for this to start happening to people. "My Zune is broken!" Once it does, my prediction is that two things will happen: (1) Zune sales to the tech-clueless will drop through the floor; (2) someone will figure out how to fix this anti-feature, and at that point, the tech-aware will start buying one or two each, probably secondhand from the tech-clueless.

(For the tech-semi-aware: this is the reason why there's always a flurry to put Linux on things - because it makes replacing the vendor-supplied crap software that comes with a device so much easier. Linux on it, at least after the hardware drivers are working, allows full access to everything the hardware is physically capable of.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:14 PM on November 10, 2006


cred: "I don't see how my iPod is tied into one online music store. I've got dozens of legally-purchased, DRM-free mp3s in my iPod, and none came from iTunes Music Store."

I don't understand your point. I will have hundreds of legally purchased, DRM-free MP3's AND WMA's on my Zune, none of which will come from the Zune store. Did you not realize that the Zune can do all that, just like the iPod?
posted by Dunwitty at 7:26 PM on November 10, 2006


The interesting thing is that the Zune allows uninhibited sharing of copyrighted images. This amounts to inducement of copyright infringement. I'm considering contacting MS to get my cut of the Zune sales. It's only a matter of time before my copyrighted images are stolen with their device.

Meanwhile, the music sharing scheme still infringes. 3x3 is arbitrary, it may as well be 3000x3000. It's still copyright infringement, there isn't a clause anywhere in copyright law that says reproducing a copyrighted work without permission is legal if you cripple the copy with DRM.
posted by mullingitover at 7:30 PM on November 10, 2006


oh, and cred: I'll also have AAC/M4A files on my Zune. Whereas my iPod won't let me play any of my non-DRM'ed WMA files. I'm trying again to see how you think the iPod is less locked in than the Zune.
posted by Dunwitty at 7:36 PM on November 10, 2006


zoogleplex thanks for the link. I should read DF more often...he always makes me think. In this case I'm agreeing with the vew that this is a cheap way for microsoft to poison next year's contract renewal between Universal and the iTunes music store.
one thing I don't understand is this bit that DF quoted:
If Microsoft had vetoed the payments, it would have been forced to go to market with only a portion of the music available on the Apple iTunes Store.
I don't understand at all how Microsoft has to "go to market" with any content at all -- is there a Zune Music Store in the works, too? (pardon my ignorance) If so, who cares? Only Microsoft -- the rest of us can find plenty of places already where we can get our content from...
posted by I, Credulous at 8:50 PM on November 10, 2006


and Dunwitty I was responding to someone else's comment that said iPod was "locked into" iTunes Music Store as a content provider, a statement I diagreed with because all of the purchased music on my iPod that I didn't rip myself from good-old-fashioned CDs came from emusic.com. [emusic.com sells non-DRM'd 192 VBR MP3s]

As for the other esoteric audio compression schemes that my iPod won't play: I'm not that concerned...MP3 is the basic vanilla sex of the audio compression world, and that's fine because every portable digital media player in the world will play that format. If I want to share some files with others** I don't have to worry about converting it to some, possibly proprietary, format for them to enjoy, and if they offerred me music in some unusual format, you can bet I'll probably be looking for freeware conversion software to change it into MP3, so I can check it out on my iPod and on my desktop computer at work...

Also, I haven't checked out the Zune player too deeply -- I'm not in the market for another MP3 player right now, and won't be until my 30GB iPod Video goes tits-up -- but I would certainly expect it to accept a wider array of compression formats that iPod's, because MS needs every trick it can stuff in there to try to crack iPod's position as the Kleenex of portable MP3 players...
This Bluetooth sharing thing, which people seem to be really excited about (and again, as people have mentioned -- it'll take a LONG time to share that song over BT), is also a big legal sticking point. Isn't the inclusion of this feature somewhat hubristic of MS? Just because technically you CAN do something doesn't mean you should...
(and again, back to my post from earlier, hardware divisions are busy creating disc-copy devices, content divisions are shitting themselves because it's easy for the public to make perfect dupes of the content. wha-fuck?)

**(for purely informational purposes, of course, just like we used to give away collections of our favourite tunes on mixed tapes, in the hopes that the recipient would get into great music we loved too, then go buy their own copy of the whole album)
posted by I, Credulous at 9:17 PM on November 10, 2006


Credulous - you're the second person in this thread to speculate how file sharing over BT was going to take "LONG time".

Yet in 20 seconds I was able to find 3 YouTube videos showing two Zunes exchanging music - looked like less than 60 seconds a song.

Your whole post has the sound of "whatever is happening can't be good, because Microsoft is doing it".
posted by Dunwitty at 9:46 PM on November 10, 2006


Consider the $1/player a security flaw tax. Universal knows two things: (a) the MS music pipeline is a high-risk proposition and (b) they're not going to make much money off music sales through that pipeline.

It's not like someone forced MS to pay Universal - they agreed to it.

Universal is an oligarchy. It is reasonable to believe Microsoft was indeed forced into it. The music industry prefers a "pay to play" model in all its dealings.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:05 PM on November 10, 2006


Dunwitty thanks for mentioning that. I would like to know, for context, how long each song was, and what the bitrate was -- both will make a significant difference to the transfer time.

I could say some smart-ass thing about "Micro$oft" being pure evil, etc. but I won't.
I used windows-based machines for 12 years, going through Win95, 98 and XP.
I switched to an iMac this year because I liked the hardware, i had a need for a new computer (the old one was six years old), I had a small financial windfall, and it could run BOTH MAC OS X and Win XP...if it didn't run XP, I'd've built another PC at my local mom-and-pop PC store and installed Win XP on it...
I only have an iPod because my wife and some friends pooled their money and bought me one for my last birthday.

So, that's context for some of my discussion here. I threw this out here to hear what other, better brains might make of this situation. I might be seeing a tempest in a teapot, or it might be the start of something really unpleasant for people who like music (and movies and other forms of art that can be shared through digital files.) That's what I'm here for...

On the other hand, your comments have you sounding like a Zune Zealot...but again, that's just supposition on my part, and not relevant to the issue at hand.

peace,

I, Credulous
posted by I, Credulous at 12:05 AM on November 11, 2006


and [made the Xbox] a worthy challenge to the PS2's dominance of the console industry.

I agree with your post in general. It is not modability that made the Xbox at all successful, it was Halo.

However.

I question your definition of "worthy." The PS2 has sold a couple orders of magnitude more consoles than the Xbox. The PS2's somewhere in the 110 million area, the Xbox has moved about 25. The Xbox has been a successful challenge to the Gamecube's domination of, um, whatever. (The Gamecube's moved about 20 million or so.)
posted by sparkletone at 12:40 AM on November 11, 2006


The PS2 has sold a couple orders of magnitude

Small point. "Order of magnitude" is a times-ten increase, or 1000s of % more. The PS2 has shifted several times the quantity of the xbox. It is a factor increase.

For the PS2 to have sold a couple orders of magnitude more than the xbox, it would have needed to have sold something like 2.5 billion.
posted by meehawl at 6:33 AM on November 11, 2006


125 is an order of magnitude more than 25.

'pedia: "The order of magnitude of a number is, intuitively speaking, the number of powers of 10 contained in the number."
posted by five fresh fish at 10:07 AM on November 11, 2006


Ooohhh... pedantry!

Orders of magnitude usually refer to decimal orders of magnitude, though it is possible to say things like "a binary order of magnitude larger" which would be a fancy way of say it was double. I have been known to say things like this. ("It's an order of magnitude larger! Well, a binary order of magnitude, sure").

Anyway, to be precise, 250 is an order of magnitude larger than 25. 2.5e+1 -> 2.5e+2.

125 is about 2.5 * 10^1.7, so it's less than an order of magnitude. Though more than half an order of magnitude more. Magnitude difference = log(larger/smaller). Difference in dB is 20 log(a/b).

I would concur that about 110M PS2s have been shipped. I couldn't find xbox numbers, but if we take 25M plus about 5M Xbox 360's, it's 30 to 110. So that's 0.56, very close to half on order of (decimal) magnitude. Or the PS2 has outsold the Xbox by 11.3 dB.

(I still have a stereo where the volume knob is calibrated in negative dBs below the max volume, which is zero. Perhaps this is common, but it's always struck me as odd. My stereo, it goes... to zero.)
posted by GuyZero at 11:49 AM on November 11, 2006


I couldn't find xbox numbers, but if we take 25M plus about 5M Xbox 360's, it's 30 to 110. So that's 0.56, very close to half on order of (decimal) magnitude. Or the PS2 has outsold the Xbox by 11.3 dB.

I was just ball-parking it, but if one trusts The Quantum Encyclopedia entry, the Xbox has sold about 24 million units.

PS: This orders-of-magnitude thing is totally my favorite accidental thread derail ever (admittedly, I think it's possibly the only one I've caused, but...).
posted by sparkletone at 10:53 AM on November 12, 2006


It's only a derail because GuyZero isn't differentiating between casual conversational use of "order of magnitude" and a strict scientific use thereof.

Your original use of the phrase was quite correct for the context in which it was said.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:47 AM on November 12, 2006


fff, no it wasn't, except as hyperbole (eg "the PS2 has sold like a million times more units than the Xbox"). 100.56 is not a couple of orders of magnitude.
posted by hattifattener at 5:08 PM on November 12, 2006


Zune file sharing is wifi (802.11b/g), not bluetooth.
posted by myeviltwin at 7:48 PM on November 12, 2006


Several "orders of magnitude" is probably appropriate to describe the number of songs traded via p2p versus the number of songs sold via itunes and other pay-per-download stores.
posted by meehawl at 1:23 PM on November 14, 2006


Yikes, I go away for a weekend and look what happens...

sparkletone, it's true that the sales number gap is pretty wide between Xbox and PS2, but remember that the Xbox was released roughly 18 months, I think more, after the PS2 came out (first released in Japan March 2000), so you'd have to subtract however many PS2's had been sold by November/December 2001. I don't know what that number is, but I'd have to guess it's substantial, and thus the percentage would be greater for Xbox sales.

Considering the GameCube's relatively tiny sales (tho it's a great box!), the Xbox has been the only "worthy" competitor to the PS2.

I don't think we're going to see the Zune sell roughly a quarter of total iPod sales starting as of this week, not ever.

And Credulous, yes, MS is starting an online music store "clone" of ITMS. It's in the article. :)
posted by zoogleplex at 1:43 PM on November 14, 2006


It's not a Zune, it's a Microsoft Brick. Thing is bloody enormous.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:37 PM on November 14, 2006


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