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Steve Jobs' Thoughts on Music
February 6, 2007 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Thoughts on Music "...in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store." — Steve Jobs
posted by timeistight (137 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excellent commentary by Steve Jobs.
posted by davebarnes at 12:54 PM on February 6, 2007


Is there anyone left in the world who really thinks DRM is *good* for consumers, and needed this to convince them?

All the points in the article are very "duh", but I guess it's nice to see someone in his position state them publicly, which I assume was the point.
posted by zerolives at 12:55 PM on February 6, 2007


un-be-lie-vable (YouTube)
posted by hal9k at 1:00 PM on February 6, 2007


Am I missing something or can Mr. Jobs tell consumers why itunes isn't selling DRM-free music of (indie) labels who are willing to license their music DRM-free ?

(Don't tell me no label would, they do on emusic).

No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

Uhh, can't give you that point either, Mr. Jobs.
posted by fizzix at 1:02 PM on February 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


Since Apple does not own or control any music itself, it must license the rights to distribute music from others, primarily the “big four” music companies: Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI. These four companies control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s music.

Huh. I always thought there were five "big" record companies...

EMI, BMG, Sony, Warner, and Universal.

..."big" meaning, of course, record labels represented by the RIAA.
posted by Laugh_track at 1:04 PM on February 6, 2007


Edit: Guess Sony and BMG merged somewhere along the line and I missed it. Oops
posted by Laugh_track at 1:06 PM on February 6, 2007


Laugh track:

Sony owns half of BMG. It's referred to as "Sony BMG" because of this. So effectively, there are four record companies.

Whatever. They can all go suck a fuck, however many there are.
posted by Mikey-San at 1:06 PM on February 6, 2007


Squeeze 'em, Steve! KICK 'EM IN THE BALLS! SQUEEZE!! CRUSH THEM!!! SQUEEEEEEEZE!!!
posted by loquacious at 1:07 PM on February 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


What's interesting is how often there IS major label content on Emusic, drm-free and ready to go; the entire CCR catalog is available from emusic.
posted by nomisxid at 1:12 PM on February 6, 2007


Personally, I've spent 0 dollars on CDs in the past few years, about $10 on itunes songs and probably close to $1000 at stores like Beatport, Audiojelly and others that sell completely non-DRM'd MP3s.

I think the sweet spot is selling higher quality non-DRM'd MP3s at 2 or 3 times the price of DRM'd ones.

I've happily paid $2-$3 for non DRM'd 320k mp3s, and I'll happily continue to.
posted by empath at 1:12 PM on February 6, 2007


This is the kind of announcement that should end with a pronouncement of what Apple's going to do to get the ball rolling.

Nada.
posted by cillit bang at 1:13 PM on February 6, 2007


Wah! It's not our fault, it's the music companies! They make us! Wah!
posted by freedryk at 1:13 PM on February 6, 2007


What is happiness, Steve? TO CRUSH YOUR ENEMIES, TO SEE THEM DRIVEN BEFORE YOU, AND TO HEAR THE LAMENTATIONS OF THEIR WOMEN.
posted by loquacious at 1:14 PM on February 6, 2007 [4 favorites]


zerolives writes "Is there anyone left in the world who really thinks DRM is *good* for consumers, and needed this to convince them?"

Well, management at big record companies, I assume.

I'm guessing iTunes doesn't distribute any indie music DRM-free because it would be too much trouble. They want to stick to a single format.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:15 PM on February 6, 2007


CCR's not on a "major" label, never has been. They're on Fantasy Records, which is owned by the Concord Music Group (who also owns/distributes Stax, Prestige, Pablo, Contemporary, Riverside, and a few others). Although they're obviously a conglomeration, it's an independent conglomeration. Hence, the eMusic connection.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 1:18 PM on February 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Our Father, who art in Cupertino,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy OS come,
Thy will be done,
On Mac as it is in Windows.

Give us this day our daily updates.
And forgive us our Parallels,
As we forgive those who backdate stock options.
And lead us not into spyware,
But deliver us from viruses.

For thine is the market share,
and the adoration of fanboys,
and the high margins,
Until something better comes along.

Amen.
posted by lovejones at 1:21 PM on February 6, 2007 [18 favorites]


From my experience working with a digital music store which shall stay nameless, dealing with DRM and non-DRM product at the same time is a customer service nightmare.
posted by Captaintripps at 1:22 PM on February 6, 2007


This is the kind of announcement that should end with a pronouncement of what Apple's going to do to get the ball rolling.

I think that Jobs' very public statement is Apple getting the ball rolling. This statement will put a lot of pressure on the big four record companies to defend their continuing decisions w/r/t DRM, etc. Which are, IMO, indefensible decisions.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:28 PM on February 6, 2007


"Am I missing something or can Mr. Jobs tell consumers why itunes isn't selling DRM-free music of (indie) labels who are willing to license their music DRM-free ?"

My guess would be the "big four" locked Apple into a deal where they wouldn't distribute indie non-DRM music. They're that sort of bastards, and they're terrified that OMG IF THAT CHEAP INDIE MUSIC GETS THE SAME LEVEL OF ACCESS TO CUSTOMERS THAT WE DO THEN WE'LL BE PUT OUT OF BUSINESS.

Which is going to happen anyway, but they're in convenient denial of it.

But, give 'em props for being aware that allowing the playing field to be leveled will demolish them fast. Wait, nah, don't give 'em props. They're a bunch of complete assholes, and I'm very much enjoying watching them dying like a just-caught fish on a seagull-crap-covered pier.

There's no technical limitation that would keep Apple from distributing non-DRM AAC files, mr_roboto. DRM or not the files are just bytes to transfer. iTunes and the store server architecture don't have anything to do with the content of those bytes, and iTunes works fine with AAC files ripped from your own personal CDs, I have lots of them.

From the article:
"Apple was able to negotiate landmark usage rights at the time, which include allowing users to play their DRM protected music on up to 5 computers and on an unlimited number of iPods. Obtaining such rights from the music companies was unprecedented at the time, and even today is unmatched by most other digital music services."
Boy, he ain't kidding. I thought it was amazing that they managed to wrangle that deal, and I still do. Look at the Zune license agreement, it's nowhere near as liberal.

"From my experience working with a digital music store which shall stay nameless, dealing with DRM and non-DRM product at the same time is a customer service nightmare."

Can you explain a bit more fully, Cap?
posted by zoogleplex at 1:30 PM on February 6, 2007


I thought it was amazing that they managed to wrangle that deal, and I still do.

The reality-distortion-field works on corporations, too.
posted by empath at 1:33 PM on February 6, 2007


Would you dispute that those major labels are wasting their time and energy (not to mention political capital) on DRM, empath, given Jobs's statement:
"So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none."
posted by zoogleplex at 1:37 PM on February 6, 2007


zoogleplex: It's a nightmare because in both letting people know the differences in the formats and dealing with people who, no matter how much effort you put into letting those differences be known, end up wondering why the stuff they paid for isn't working (and there are really an awful lot of those).

Apple, of course, could probably come up with better user interface solutions to the problem for iTunes in that regard than my former employer could (hell, even I can at this point), but it's also not worth it to them on their end to split up the provisioning that way.

Hell, there are probably tons of instances where the copyright or publishing or both on independent songs are owned in part by major labels. What do you do if one of those tracks is on an album of music which would otherwise go DRM free? Maybe the major label won't have enough stake in it to care, but perhaps they might.

That's why it's great for sites like eMusic. They don't have to deal with that bullshit and they've got The Orchard behind them making all the deals.
posted by Captaintripps at 1:41 PM on February 6, 2007


If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store.

He knows the record companies would never let their product go out on the wilds of the Internet unlocked, so while this statement looks like a bluff, it's one that will never get called. Never in a million years.

Okay, so the product goes out DRMed. Meanwhile, he can continue to sell an iPod ecology that helps its market share by playing both unlocked and locked content, but the locked content only works on his products.

Jobs is playing this gambit very smart by putting the ball back in the record companies' corner. Instead of Apple, consumers can force record companies to bear the blame for one consumer-unfriendly blemish on using a consumer-friendly product. Very smart.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:43 PM on February 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


zoogleplex: empath is a techno DJ, which makes iTunes a pain to find anything. You can't search by record label and you can't play the songs with Traktor or Ableton or Final Scratch or whatever.
posted by mkb at 1:46 PM on February 6, 2007


Thanks, Captain, that makes sense. I have the feeling Apple could work the problem out, though. I think the majority of iPod users only listen to their songs via iTunes or their iPods anyway, as I do, but I could be wrong. I've bought a number of songs from iTunes, and I've never had a problem with portability because I don't use any other players.

"He knows the record companies would never let their product go out on the wilds of the Internet unlocked, so while this statement looks like a bluff, it's one that will never get called. Never in a million years."

Um... Blaze, did you read the article?
In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system.
How, exactly, is selling 90% of music on CDs that are easily ripped and uploadable to the Internet NOT letting "their product go out on the wilds of the Internet unlocked?"

Jobs is saying that the labels are letting these files loose anyway, and he's right. It's a mental illusion for the labels to think that by selling their music on a physical product, there's some kind of "security" attached to that.

Yes, yes, I know that LEGALLY, the security "exists." I understand that the user is "breaking" the system by first ripping the CD and then putting the song out to be downloaded by others. But in practice that legality is totally unenforceable; that's the reality of how things have panned out, which the labels are never going to change. Given the infrastructure in place and the desires of music consumers, selling non-DRM CDs is, for all intents and purposes, setting the songs "free."

mkb: Okay, that's cool. I'm sure it would be possible to add "search by label" to iTunes. Playing them in the DJ apps... well, that sucks. But if they dropped the DRM, which seems to be a waste of time anyway, then it wouldn't be a problem, and we'd see a happier empath!

"Instead of Apple, consumers can force record companies to bear the blame for one consumer-unfriendly blemish on using a consumer-friendly product. Very smart."

Bingo. Start voting with your wallets, folks!
posted by zoogleplex at 2:01 PM on February 6, 2007


If people would stop stealing music, and justifying it with self-righteous robin hood bullshit (as they do every time the subject of the ethics of stealing digital music is raised on MeFi) there would be no pressure for DRM.

But people steal music. A lot of it. Plain as day, in spite of the license agreement, without concern for getting caught.

It's you music thieves who ruin it for those of us who would happily pay for our DRM-free hi-bitrate music.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:04 PM on February 6, 2007


Blaze, did you read the article?

I did, but we're obviously reading Steve's strategy differently. To me, what's critical is that Steve ain't selling CDs. He's selling bits. So bringing up CDs is a red herring.

How, exactly, is selling 90% of music on CDs that are easily ripped and uploadable to the Internet NOT letting "their product go out on the wilds of the Internet unlocked?"

It's not preripped: You have to rip a CD and then push the bits out from somewhere.

Why do you think the RIAA swamps the P2P services with garbage data? Who do you think the RIAA is suing? They might make embarassing mistakes but they don't always pick a name at random out of the phone book. They're not doing this stuff for laughs; there's a goal in mind.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:07 PM on February 6, 2007


empath is a techno DJ, which makes iTunes a pain to find anything

Most techno DJs do not use iTunes to organize their music collections, and most DJs do not purchase digital tracks from the Big Four.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:09 PM on February 6, 2007


No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

He makes it seem like they haven't tried. I've gotten a few CDs over the years (all EMI) that were copy protected and made it hard or impossible for me to rip. If the labels could come up with a way to DRM CDs without people bitching about software being left on their computers, they would.
posted by quoththeraven at 2:14 PM on February 6, 2007


What are all of the notable music stores that sell ONLY non-RIAA music and ONLY non-DRM music? I mean ones that actually benefit the artists (i.e. not the Russian one, whatever it was)?

Also I admit that I am too lazy to research this myself but I was curious about something. If you like a major label band but do not want to buy their CDs because you do not want to send one cent to the RIAA, what are "safe" ways to still support that band? I had been under the impression that if you buy shirts, tickets to concerts, etc.. any profit from that would all go to the band/artist. But something I heard on the teevee the other day was somewhat contradicting that. So tell me, does any sizable amount of that go to the RIAA/label?
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 2:17 PM on February 6, 2007


weretable: Chances are you'll still be supporting the artists by going to concerts, getting t-shirts, etc.

What you probably heard that contradicts that is that now labels are starting to horn in on that profit as well by giving themselves a cut in contracts. That's not widespread yet, but I'm sure it'll get there.
posted by Captaintripps at 2:19 PM on February 6, 2007


Most techno DJs do not use iTunes to organize their music collections, and most DJs do not purchase digital tracks from the Big Four.

That part also. However all of Ghostly's stuff comes out on iTunes first and the entire Tresor backcatalog is on there, and they're not part of the big four.
posted by mkb at 2:25 PM on February 6, 2007


If people would stop stealing music, and justifying it with self-righteous robin hood bullshit (as they do every time the subject of the ethics of stealing digital music is raised on MeFi) there would be no pressure for DRM.

Could you go back to the sandbox? The big kids are playing.
posted by hototogisu at 2:25 PM on February 6, 2007


What are all of the notable music stores that sell ONLY non-RIAA music and ONLY non-DRM music?

Bleep
From their FAQ:
Finally, Bleep files have no ‘DRM’ or copy protection built in. We believe that most people like to be treated as customers and not potential criminals - DRM is easily circumvented and just puts obstacles in the way of enjoying music.
posted by afx114 at 2:28 PM on February 6, 2007


The real question is, what prompted this? Why is this linked from the front page of apple.com? I've never heard of Apple making a weird public statement like this before. Did some back-room negotiations with the record labels break down recently?

Does this have something to do with Wal-Mart's movie download service launched today? With Apple's settlement with Apple Records yesterday?

What's Apple's game here? Why does Steve Jobs care enough about getting rid of his own DRM to circumvent all the usual channels like this? The real story here is somewhere between the lines.
posted by designbot at 2:34 PM on February 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


But people steal music. A lot of it. Plain as day, in spite of the license agreement, without concern for getting caught.

Is that really true, fourcheesemac? Can people really be so wicked as to deprive the record industry executives of what meagre lifestyle they enjoy?

I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:36 PM on February 6, 2007


The real question is, what prompted this?

European regulators getting ready to pretty much outlaw iTunes because of DRM is what prompted it.
posted by afx114 at 2:37 PM on February 6, 2007


afx114, good point. I hadn't thought of that connection. That would explain the bit about European music companies at the end.
posted by designbot at 2:45 PM on February 6, 2007


A store which does do both DRM and non-DRM according to the labels' wishes is Finetunes.
posted by Captaintripps at 3:00 PM on February 6, 2007


"Is that really true, fourcheesemac? Can people really be so wicked as to deprive the record industry executives of what meagre lifestyle they enjoy?"

Really. Forcing the people who create the valuable things they sell into contracts that resemble indentured servitude while doing their best to never pay them a dime they don't have to, that's an equitable business model? And then also ripping off the consumers who buy the product? Screw that. If they had a business model that didn't completely rely on extortion, thievery and cynical exploitation of their audience, maybe their audience wouldn't have so quickly and gleefully turned around and commenced to screw them back as soon as a viable avenue to do so appeared.

Yes, I've got a personal bone to pick with the labels. I've seen how they work from the inside. They are, to the core, a bunch of scumbags, the worst businesspeople in the entire entertainment industry, and I'm including Hollywood agents in that. If they had any brains they could make ten times the amount of money they make now, without DRM and without ripping everyone off, but they don't. Steve Jobs knows they could do that, and Apple would stand to benefit greatly from selling ten times as much as they do now, so of course he's going to push the issue some.

Meanwhile, let 'em remain stupid. Once the artists realize - and they're realizing it, believe me - that they can cut the labels out of the picture and make more money selling to fewer people in a more reliable fanbase, they'll all bolt.

Y'know what I'd like to see? I'd like to see some already-famous big label band, who already have a bunch of money of their own, when they come to the end of their current 5-album contract, decide to completely divorce themselves from the biz and go for direct distribution via all the various digital channels - no plastic. Corporate sponsorship, sure, but no music business money at all.

I mean, I don't like U2 for instance, but at this point does anyone think they couldn't maintain a viable, lucrative career as a self-contained business entity? Look at Prince, he seems to be doing just fine, thanks.

Bah, all this handwaving seems silly to me. The problem will be settled by market forces in any event, and I'm pretty much positive the labels will come out losers. And good riddance.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:09 PM on February 6, 2007 [4 favorites]


This kind of reminds me of that "I don't really want to do this" parent talk that comes right before they spank your ass. Jobs wants you to believe he is anti-DRM and pro consumer but hey he can't help it if his poor engineers can't develop a DRM system, like PlayForSure, that would let you use your iTunes music on your Creative Vision M after your iPod finally dies of all those scratches.

Because DRM is so hard Apple will unfortunately have to sell you a replacement iPod every couple of years. This pains Steve Jobs because he turned down those back dated stock options. It pains him so much he dresses like a goth kid. You know the type. The kid who wore black but never got goth enough that his parents would disapprove.

The best part is that once you are locked into the iPod for life replacement scheme because you don't want to lose 3% of you music collection (on average - screw you overly honest iTunes shopping rich people and that 3% is a current snapshot with digital music its infancy - that number should grow and grow) you will have to reduce the dissonance of your imprisonment by convincing yourself that you are somehow better off. I suggest focusing on the tactile qualities of your nano. So small, smooth and shiny. If it is going to fuck you over you might as well describe it like a high end dildo.

iPods are beautiful consumer devices (though under featured - i want radio) but the iTunes store is for suckers who are willing to pay a buck a song for a license that expires when your iPod dies unless you pay apple the renewal fee.
posted by srboisvert at 3:17 PM on February 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Meanwhile, let 'em remain stupid. Once the artists realize - and they're realizing it, believe me - that they can cut the labels out of the picture and make more money selling to fewer people in a more reliable fanbase, they'll all bolt."

There was an article about this exact thing in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago. Natalie Merchant started her own label because she could break even selling 1/10th the albums she'd have to sell with a big label. Artists also feel like they have more freedom to record what they want, rather than being pressured to come out with "hits". Richard Thompson mentioned in the article that in the old days you might get some advertising type and tour support from a label, but now unless you are one of the big ticket stars you don't get any support. He records what he wants, and shops it around. I think it's really up to the artists to leave the big labels. I think it could spark a new renaissance in music, but then I could just be dreaming.
posted by Eekacat at 3:33 PM on February 6, 2007


srboisvert writes "iPods are beautiful consumer devices (though under featured - i want radio) but the iTunes store is for suckers who are willing to pay a buck a song for a license that expires when your iPod dies unless you pay apple the renewal fee."

Or unless you burn a cd.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:35 PM on February 6, 2007


Yeah, PlaysForSure. That went well. I wonder why Apple doesn't want to emulate that system.
posted by designbot at 3:36 PM on February 6, 2007


"the iTunes store is for suckers who are willing to pay a buck a song for a license that expires when your iPod dies unless you pay apple the renewal fee."

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm still using my 1st gen 10GB iPod. It hasn't died, though I've replaced the battery, which cost a whopping $20. I'll probably get a new one later this year, assuming they come out with an iPod with the same look and interface as the iPhone, and give the old one to a friend or my brother. It's not so flimsy as all that, and it's clear that millions of people disagree with you about its feature set.

on preview: what mr_roboto said.

Oh, and I'm also one of those whose collection is almost totally ripped from CDs, tapes and vinyl I already own. I've only bought a few albums worth of iTunes music. There's not much new out there that I want to buy and listen to; the last CD I bought was Imogen Heap's Speak For Yourself, and I bought it as an import direct from her website. It's on her own label, so I'm pretty sure she got all of my money.

"I think it's really up to the artists to leave the big labels."

Absolutely. The entire business model of the labels has this one basic tenet: get young, ignorant, impressionable, unstable, fame-hungry, manipulable - but talented, at least talented "enough" - to hand over their work and control of their lives to the label for a minuscule fraction of the money that they will generate for the label. They're basically looking for desperate attention-whores, or well-meaning, talented creators whom they can transform into desperate attention-whores, to milk every last drop out of until they're incapable of producing any more "product" - at which point they will continue to exploit every bit of that product for as long as possible, preferably well after the artist's death.

We're not talking about relatively steady, relatively honest manufacturing companies, here. We're talking a kind of organized crime that has managed to veneer itself with some level of "respectability," although they really can't hide their sleaze.

The more musicians that learn this early, the better.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:50 PM on February 6, 2007


iPods are beautiful consumer devices (though under featured - i want radio) but the iTunes store is for suckers who are willing to pay a buck a song for a license that expires when your iPod dies unless you pay apple the renewal fee

Huh? The songs live on your computer; when your iPod dies, just put them on a new iPod. And make backups for chissakes. You mean there are people who don't back up their purchases?
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:55 PM on February 6, 2007


Y'know what I'd like to see? I'd like to see some already-famous big label band, who already have a bunch of money of their own, when they come to the end of their current 5-album contract, decide to completely divorce themselves from the biz and go for direct distribution via all the various digital channels - no plastic. Corporate sponsorship, sure, but no music business money at all.

Seems to me that Radiohead is perfectly positioned to do exactly that - their contract with Epic is history, they're probably going to release their next album this year, and they've proven themselves to be very, very smart about the use of the Internet to deal directly with their fans. Last summer, I was lucky enough to score tickets to 4 of their shows via their website, they offer a limited number of seats directly to their fan base (and these were indeed the best seats in each respective venue).

I would gladly pay them their asking price for the next album, and while I would accept digital downloads, I'm one of those old fogies who actually appreciates uncompressed, 16 bit 44KHz CDs (I'm also one of those morons who owns a Pioneer DVD player that can handle SACD/DVD-Audio CDs). I've written to the band's management more than once, requesting that they consider creating a way for fans to pay them a subscription - say, $10 a month - to have access to ALL their studio meanderings and experiments. These new types of business models would probably make up for the lower overall disc sales that would result from the lack of a major label distributor. I mean, if they can sell CDs directly through Amazon, it would seem that their lack of presence in retail outlets (Tower? Dead. Costco? Bleh. B&N? And pay full list? Screw that!), would not have a huge impact on their overall revenues. If I'm going to pay full list, I'd rather give the whole sum directly to the band. And the idea of paying a buck for a DRM-encumbered, compressed-to-shit AAC file, one song for a buck, seems silly to me. While that Russian site is definitely on shaky legal ground, the idea of charging per megabyte, and offering tiers of compression, from 128 to lossless, is the model I'm looking for, and one that I would support.

If they figure this out, and decide to deal with their fans directly, it will change the face of the music industry. And yes, I'm aware of the fact that there are vast numbers of Radiohead fans out there still lacking access to broadband, but that continues to change on a daily basis, and it's likely that a majority of their fans do indeed have broadband. They've got nothing to lose at this point, so I hope they take the plunge and make some history.

And I'll tell ya this as well, vertical market book authors are all waiting to see how these approaches will work in the music biz, for the future of print publishing is staring down the same road. I recently queried a book publisher about putting out a book I'm currently writing - about a creative consumer application with a particular, unique hook - and they told me that they weren't interested in doing a print version, but that they would be thrilled to do an ebook. They offered me no advance, but a whopping 25% of the net proceeds. Gee, great - no physical storage, no shelf space, minimal marketing, no risk on their part, and they keep 75% of the money. Isn't that generous of them?
posted by dbiedny at 3:57 PM on February 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


They Might Be Giants have tried a number of methodologies avoiding record companies and standard distribution for a number of years now.
posted by jscott at 4:07 PM on February 6, 2007


What's missing from this discussion is that in the age of widespread high-speed internet access the model of paying a relatively high price upfront for permanent ownership does not really make sense for the majority of music listening.

I confidently predict that within a few years, almost all consumption of major label music will be on an ad-supported, subscription, or pay per listen/pay per minute basis. The popularity of these services will enable them to be cheap enough that screwing around with file sharing will not be worth the trouble.

Generally speaking if people actually buy music they will expect a completely DRM-free physical artifact in return for their money.
posted by teleskiving at 4:09 PM on February 6, 2007


By the way, I'm expecting exactly the same for movies. It just makes sense: consumers spend more because they get better value for money so everybody's happy.
posted by teleskiving at 4:13 PM on February 6, 2007


Blazecock Pileon wrote:
SJ:
If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store.

He knows the record companies would never let their product go out on the wilds of the Internet unlocked, so while this statement looks like a bluff, it's one that will never get called. Never in a million years.
Bingo!

I wondered about the disconnect between x) blaming the record companies vs. y) companies like Nettwerk that *do* distribute digital music without DRM. Turns out I didn't read closely enough.

This requirement that the "big four" allow free (as in freedom) music distribution sets the bar pretty damned high and strikes me as disingenuous.

If SJ really wanted free music and all the additional benefit that brings to music listeners, he would take the opposite tack, asking all comers, big & small. to free their music on the iTunes store. Presently on the store, even content available libre elsewhere such as testimony before the 9/11 comission and speeches at the DNC are locked up. These are especially egregious because they are even more useful in transformative works for educational purposes than the average pop song, but require CD burning & re-ripping.

If only one of the big four wants to go free, will he do it? Does it have to be all four and no individual big-artist holdouts like the Rolling Stones or Metallica or Madonna?
posted by morganw at 4:16 PM on February 6, 2007


The sweet spot, for me, would be DRM-free FLACs. Maybe with text files filled with lyrics, and some TIFFs of the artwork if I'm buying an entire album. For about a buck. Because that's what I can get with a CD.
posted by adipocere at 4:18 PM on February 6, 2007


I think that Jobs' very public statement is Apple getting the ball rolling. This statement will put a lot of pressure on the big four record companies to defend their continuing decisions w/r/t DRM, etc. Which are, IMO, indefensible decisions.

I'm a little confused, I thought Apple publicly said that they wouldn't remove the FairPlay DRM even if the labels wanted to. I can see the labels agreeing to removing DRM. I can't see Apple going along with it.

More from the Digital Media Project's report on iTunes.

I call shenanigans. I'm curious what's really going on.

(The argument that iTunes can't serve DRM and non-DRM songs in the same library is bunk, imo.)
posted by mrgrimm at 4:57 PM on February 6, 2007


"I'm one of those old fogies who actually appreciates uncompressed, 16 bit 44KHz CDs

Wouldn't it be great to get 24-bit 96- or even 192kHz WAV or AIFF files direct from the artist? :)

"I've written to the band's management more than once, requesting that they consider creating a way for fans to pay them a subscription - say, $10 a month - to have access to ALL their studio meanderings and experiments."

That would be awesome. I'd pay that myself, and to more than one band, too. How hard would it be to do that? It would be just like buying in to a porn site, which is a proven business model!

"These new types of business models would probably make up for the lower overall disc sales that would result from the lack of a major label distributor."

Believe me, just the fact that you make 100% of the money, instead of the usual 0%, would more than make up for it. I'll try to give a quick example:

Major label deal: You get a $1,000,000 advance. Then, you get 10% royalty on sales, but ONLY after your royalty is covered by 10% of gross receipts. Yes, you read that right. You don't get paid after the total gross = your advance, but when total gross = 10x your advance. So, you have to have at least $10,000,000 in total album sales before even have a hope of making money past that advance.

You might think $1,000,000 is a lot of money up front, but it's advanced to you to cover your recording costs and associated expenses. It's pretty easy to blow $1,000,000 fast when recording a major label album, what with studio costs, producer's cut, living and travel expenses for your band - and don't forget that the labels usually have some kind of shady kickback deal with the recording studio and/or producer. You're pretty much guaranteed to spend it all. When you're done making your record, you're broke.

Let's leave out the touring etc. and just talk about CD sales. Let's say the label puts your CD on sale for $14.99 at retail. You have to sell at least 667,111 CDs before you are eligible to receive royalty payments. The label will throw your "hit single" up against the wall for about a month, trying to generate sales. If it works, great - but it only works about one out of 20 times, no matter how much they spend on promotion, and they do their best not to pay you anyway. If it doesn't work, you're toast. You will make zero. You have a gold record and you made nothing, whereas the label probably made a profit off you.

If you go DIY, you can make a label-release-quality CD of 10-12 songs for between $50,000 and $100,000, depending on how efficient you are in the studio. You can do it for a lot less if you have your own home studio and know what you're doing. Assuming you sell CDs yourself for $10 each, you only need to sell 10,000 of them to make your money back - 1.5% of the number you'd need to sell if you go the major label way.

I'm grossly oversimplifying, but you get the idea. If you're an artist with a dedicated fan base in only the tens of thousands, and you are smart about it, you can probably make millions of dollars on your own.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:06 PM on February 6, 2007


zoogleplex, I don't know how "major" the Bare Naked Ladies are down in the states, but I can assure you that up here in Canada, pretty much all artists have revolted against the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association), which actually only represents the "big four" now, since all the indie labels withdrew. So the CRIA doesn't actually represent any Canadian residents anymore apparently.

The BNL have announced that their next album will be distributed as DRM-free MP3s on a USB stick.
posted by djfiander at 5:27 PM on February 6, 2007


the iTunes store is for suckers who are willing to pay a buck a song for a license that expires when your iPod dies unless you pay apple the renewal fee.

As someone else already pointed out, you don't know what you're talking about. The songs you buy from iTMS work on unlimited iPods. If you'd read the article you'd have known this. It's in the first sentence of the fourth paragraph. There's no renewal fee.

In addition, if you wish to switch to a different player after your iPod breaks, just burn it and rerip as an MP3. Problem solved.
posted by dobbs at 5:28 PM on February 6, 2007


I thought Apple publicly said that they wouldn't remove the FairPlay DRM even if the labels wanted to.

But that's a textbook example of the EFF's shameful practice of using an out of context quote to write a mudslinging opinion piece about someone they don't like.

In this instance I think the guy was just being pragmatic. The article's from 2004 when the iTMS was still in its infancy. It would have been unthinkable for him to have answered that question any other way and badmouth DRM in public.

In any case, we don't know if he was actually asked about "even if the labels wanted to". The EFF have spun it that way, but we have no idea what the wording of the question asked was.
posted by cillit bang at 5:29 PM on February 6, 2007


"zoogleplex, I don't know how "major" the Bare Naked Ladies are down in the states, but I can assure you that up here in Canada, pretty much all artists have revolted against the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association), which actually only represents the "big four" now, since all the indie labels withdrew."

Hell yeah!! Go Canada! :)

The Ladies were considered "major" down here, though not "huge." They had a couple of big radio hits, as I recall.

"The BNL have announced that their next album will be distributed as DRM-free MP3s on a USB stick."

Can't say as I've been a fan of that band, but they just earned a big grin and a thumbs-up from me. I might just buy that there USB stick, even if the music's crap! Someone I know will enjoy it. :D

That's a great way to try a new business model. I hope it works out for them.

Just try to spread the word to your music-fan friends that they should completely stop buying "big four" CDs, and start looking around for other sources of music they might like. The Internet's got a whole lotta places to do that. The more people laugh in the RIAA's (and CRIA's) face, the better.

It sounds like Europe's going to force a smackdown, at least in their market, so things are gonna change methinks.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:49 PM on February 6, 2007


Going back in the thread a bit here, but can anybody explain the European iTunes scandal to me? As far as I can see, they are in trouble for producing a software product that can only work with one of their hardware products. Isn't this the same as, for instance, not being able to play Nintendo's Super Mario Sunshine on anything other than Nintendo's Gamecube? Or, you know, any other case of a company designing their products to work specifically with one another?
posted by aaronetc at 5:58 PM on February 6, 2007


As someone else already pointed out, you don't know what you're talking about. The songs you buy from iTMS work on unlimited iPods.

The renewal fee is the cost of the new ipod. Your choice is the cost of a new ipod or not being able to listen to any music you bought from Apple anywhere but iTunes.

Even the PlaysForSure lockin isn't as severe.
posted by null terminated at 7:07 PM on February 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Some have argued that once a consumer purchases a body of music from one of the proprietary music stores, they are forever locked into only using music players from that one company. Or, if they buy a specific player, they are locked into buying music only from that company’s music store. Is this true?"

Duh.

This is just one of many reasons why I haven't jumped on tihs particular bandwagon. I don't have an iPod. I don't think I'd take one if it were given to me for free. If Steve Jobs would pay me to carry one around, I'd think about it.

One of the reasons why is cuz it's not the only one. There's competition. And competition's great. However, if you lock yourself in with one competitor, you can't jump ship and go to the other guys when they win a battle. You go down with the proverbial ship.

What if three months from the time I get an iPod, one of the competitors comes out with something that blows the iPod away? The entire industry, and this part of the market is so unpredictable and volatile right now. I simply don't have the disposable cash to throw at such an uncertain investment.

I would have thought people woulda learned by now. 8-tracks. Laser Discs. Betamax. In a thread a couple weeks ago I got dissed for my opinion of games that don't play on a PC, but it's the only platform that's broad-range. Everything else has a built in shelf life and a built in expiration date. I'm surprised they don't stamp a date on game platforms like they were cow's milk. They start to smell bad soon as you take them home.

What's made fat cats out of the music industry is they have taken the same product - "the best of the sixties seventies eighties nineties and today" and every few years they repackage it in different boxes claiming better sound quality and bells and whistles and we lap it up like the sheepdogs we are. We continually run off that cliff like lemmings. Like cattle to the slaughter. We are fools.

Why do they do this? Because they CAN. Because we let them. They claim people who download and share music are stealing from them. They have been stealing from consumers for decades. Legally. The law is no longer around to protect the consumer. It only exists to make money for the state, and protect the corporations.

Civil servants do not serve civilians. They haven't for a very long time now.

Steve Jobs is trying to look like he's playing middle man here. He wants the consumers to understand the pressure he's under. "This is why I can't give you what you want." Bullshit. It's a lie. He can't get where he wants with the music industry if he gives us what we want, because we're not the one's holding his leash.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:17 PM on February 6, 2007


zoogleplex, the Barenaked Ladies actually released their last album "Are Me" in DRM free MP3s or FLAC format for sale on their website.
They also took a very cool step and sold DRM free versions of their songs that were split up by tracks (vocals, drums, etc) so that fans could do their own remixes and post them on the site.
posted by shinynewnick at 7:24 PM on February 6, 2007


null terminated writes "The renewal fee is the cost of the new ipod. Your choice is the cost of a new ipod or not being able to listen to any music you bought from Apple anywhere but iTunes. "

Unless you burn your songs to a CD.

null terminated writes "Even the PlaysForSure lockin isn't as severe."

The PlaysForSure DRM can include burning restrictions, can't it?
posted by mr_roboto at 7:24 PM on February 6, 2007


I am very curious about the coincidental timing of Jobs' letter and this Wired article pointing out that, in fact, Apple actually has the freedom to make the iPod become the new CD.

Not mentioned in the article, but the very first thing that came to mind wasn't Apple making the iPod the new CD, but Apple becoming their own record label period.

Reading Jobs' statement with that thought in mind what I saw was a different gauntlet being thrown down. I think Apple is about to become the next big music label. One that has to sell no physical media except playback devices. Ultimately, even that will be irrelevant. iTunes Music Store will be more important that the iPod in the long run.

Apple already has a distribution model and a ready made market in place and distributed to millions of people. Remember that little throwaway line at this year's MacWorld Expo keynote? "We are no longer 'Apple Computer' but simply 'Apple Inc'." Jobs used their movement into the telephone field to announce this to deflect from the fact that Apple Inc can basically now become its own music label. That makes his entire posted statement make a LOT of sense as well as very much making the threat to current music lablels significantly more meaningful.

It would also make a lot of sense why after so many years in court that Apple Corps finally came to an agreement with Apple. Steve probably went to them and said "Look, we have 90% of this market. We have the customers. We have the distribution method in place and it's proven. You let us use 'Apple' as a record label and you get a nice juicy cut of everything we sell when we start selling our own music outside of these other labels."

Jobs' mention of the fight with European anti-trust laws is part of the threat. The record labels aren't providing Apple any monetary or legal support when Apple has to go in and defend the fact that they initially wouldn't have had any product to sell had they not agreed to this DRM locking scheme. If Apple becomes their own music label and they sell their OWN music free of DRM... well... then they can walk in to every anti-trust suit and say "Actually, it's not us. We sell DRM free music at the store. In fact, it's OUR music. We're all about the freedom! Hell, it's the record company in your own backyard that's making us lock things up. Go talk to them. Drag THEM into court, not us." And it will make a LOT of sense. Why? Because at that point Apple will be selling TONS of high-bitrate music DRM free from the Apple store for a premium and making a ton of money.

It would be spectacularly interesting if it just happened to be The Beatles that ended up being the first offerings like this. :)
posted by smallerdemon at 7:42 PM on February 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


dobbs: As someone else already pointed out ... the songs you buy from iTMS work on unlimited iPods.
null terminated: The renewal fee is the cost of the new ipod. Your choice is the cost of a new ipod or not being able to listen to any music you bought from Apple anywhere but iTunes.

Or, as nobody else has pointed out, the songs you buy on CD work on unlimited CD players. Same goes for ol' fashioned vinyl. When your CD or record player breaks, is that a 'renewal fee' too?

You can even burn iTMS tracks to CD with no generational loss, if what you're really trying to say is "I don't like Apple / iPods".
posted by Pinback at 7:47 PM on February 6, 2007


Just a quick thought: when I get ahold of some music by whatever means, be it over the radio or in a friend's car on their stereo or via an mp3 sample on an artist's website or what have you, and I like it, there are two ways I go.

If the artist sells the music directly from their own site/label, or from a small label with publicly-stated revenue sharint, I buy the CD (or digital download) immediately with no qualms whatsoever.

If the artist is only available via CDs/downloads through a major (ie non-artist-owned) label, I usually sit on my decision to purchase for a few days -- and (at least in the last three years) I always decide not to purchase the CD or download.

As a result, over the last three years my music collection has become full of terrific music by artists most people have never heard of, and those artists got paid -- meanwhile, I don't have much of an idea who the big labels are pushing this week, and I don't really care.

I only say all of this because, when you think about it, pre-Napster (ver. 1.0) you'd expect that kind of thing from a music snob, but not from an ordinary guy who likes the Monkees (among other artists commonly snubbed by the musically 1337.) It's a nice direction for the industry to take, and I'm looking forward to more artists making more money from fewer sales. May the explosion of musical diversity continue!
posted by davejay at 7:54 PM on February 6, 2007


Pinback: When your CD or record player breaks, is that a 'renewal fee' too?

Record companies don't make a significant portion of their income from CD player sales.

Defending Apple by saying "you can just burn the tracks" ignores the lock-in problem that Apple is actively creating.
posted by null terminated at 8:16 PM on February 6, 2007


After a little pondering I also realized that Pixar's deal with Disney probably gives Apple access to plenty of already existing studios to start piling bands into for recording for the new Apple Inc music label.

So, yeah, I bet that in a few months you'll be buying DRM free, high-bitrate Apple Music labeled tracks from the iTunes music store and put them on any player you want (but I bet not easily, Steven ain't THAT stupid - but you've always been able to put music from iTunes Playlist on any player or flash media that the Mac recognizes by dragging and dropping straight from a playlist - it ain't that hard).
posted by smallerdemon at 8:24 PM on February 6, 2007


null terminated writes "Defending Apple by saying 'you can just burn the tracks' ignores the lock-in problem that Apple is actively creating."

Criticizing Apple by saying "Defending Apple by saying 'you can just burn the tracks' ignores the lock-in problem that Apple is actively creating" ignores that you can just burn the tracks.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:47 PM on February 6, 2007


Does this mean Steve has a blog now?

Just sayin'.

smallerdemon, I think you're onto something regarding Apple being the next record company of sorts. The 'computer' is gone from the company name, conveniently enough too. Ah, to be living in interesting times, indeed...
posted by rmm at 9:53 PM on February 6, 2007


The more I think about it, the more it makes perfect sense. Hell, they may actually sell CDs. Apple-Pixar-Disney combo means that Disney has the studios and facilities for mixing music, as well as existing CD/DVD distribution channels for traditional media.

What will Apple gain from selling DRM free music? Well, as mentioned early, it would save them plenty of legal fees fighting anti-trust. And they could actually make money from their own form of licensing (talked about below).

Apple also has already proven they can provide large file size delivery with movies and TV shows, so why not DVD Audio quality music? Then make it so iTunes plays them and push out an iPod upgrade to play them back on iPods if the high quality format is different. THEN license their OWN high quality playback to say, oh, MS for the Zune, other audio players, etc. to play back high quality tracks but that you would still have to purchase from the iTunes music store. THAT wouldn't be like DRM being licensed since nobody would be concerned about it being "broken".

Yeah, this all makes sense. All of our own personal obsession about how we deal with our own music, well, it's almost a moot point. Apple sold 2 billion DRM tracks last year. DRM free tracks? How many would they sell? Tons. But when we look at this thread, it's all about own own opinions on DRM and Apple's current and recent (last six years) activities, not about the implications all of this has for the future.

We're not seeing the forest for the trees here it seems. Apple's computer business is just going to be a subsidary of Apple's music business soon. Not the iPod business. Not the iTunes licensed sales business, but Apple's music label.
posted by smallerdemon at 10:38 PM on February 6, 2007


Torgeir Waterhouse of the Norwegian Consumer Council responds to Jobs' DRM letter:

"Our concern is of course that it's Apple and [the] iTunes Music Store [that] should be addressing the issue of record companies and DRM themselves if it needs to be addressed - and as we've stated earlier it's iTunes Music Store that's providing a service to the consumers and therefore has the responsibility to offer up a consumer friendly product."

He seems to be missing the point. If Apple can get the record labels to scrap DRM, isn't that the end goal? Or is the goal to go after Apple at any cost?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:10 PM on February 6, 2007


If Steve Jobs is so determined to free the music, why is it that ipods *still* won't play Ogg Vorbis?

(unless you install non-Apple software on them).
posted by washburn at 11:11 PM on February 6, 2007


Is this something you need a television to understand?
posted by mazola at 11:17 PM on February 6, 2007


Defending Apple by saying "you can just burn the tracks" ignores the lock-in problem that Apple is actively creating.

Explain how. I don't see it. I fail to see anything that makes buying ITMS track not identical to buying a (lower sound quality) cd, at least as far as "lock in" goes.
posted by flaterik at 11:39 PM on February 6, 2007


Er, I mean, is this something you need TV to understand?
posted by mazola at 11:44 PM on February 6, 2007


actually the comments about apple becoming a record label are probably spot-on.

consider that they made what appears to be a "final" settlement with Apple Records the other day. in fact, Apple Inc. gets all the trademarks, etc. and licenses them back to Apple Records.

way, way back when, Apple Records licensed the 'Apple' name to Apple Computer, with the requirement that Apple Computer never enter the 'music' business. i think Apple Records has been to court with AC 3 times now, starting i think with the assertion that the polyphonic sound chip in the Apple IIgs constituted apple's entry into the music biz.

while that claim was pretty bogus, and the agreement has been revised several times, iTMS is pretty darn near being in the music business, and now it would seem that Apple Inc is free to go all the way.
posted by joeblough at 11:56 PM on February 6, 2007


As someone else already pointed out, you don't know what you're talking about. The songs you buy from iTMS work on unlimited iPods. If you'd read the article you'd have known this. It's in the first sentence of the fourth paragraph. There's no renewal fee.

In addition, if you wish to switch to a different player after your iPod breaks, just burn it and rerip as an MP3. Problem solved.


You completely miss the point. It has to be an iPod. That you can burn a CD is a DRM circumventing workaround that puts a manufacturing and labour cost on the consumer and completely and utterly undermines the justification for not licensing Fairplay.
posted by srboisvert at 12:46 AM on February 7, 2007


That you can burn a CD is a DRM circumventing workaround that puts a manufacturing and labour cost on the consumer and completely and utterly undermines the justification for not licensing Fairplay.

This situation is no different than having to use a tape recorder to make copies of music when I was a kid. Tapes weren't free then, and CD-Rs aren't free now. When has this not been so?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:57 AM on February 7, 2007


BP you're implying that shifting from an Apple music player to another brand music player is a shift in formats like from Record or Radio to tape. It isn't. Apple's DRM imposes a cost on transfering your music to a non Apple media player because it refuses to license its Fairplay system to other media player manufactures (for security reasons even though as pointed out it can be circumvented by burning a disc so it isn't secure - it is however quite inconvienent).

Further according to the usage agreement you are limited to burning a playlist 7 times. So if you are 15 now and build a lovely music collection what happens when you are 40 or 60 or 80 and want to move your music collection to a new device? What if you have exceeded your burn limit? Do you have to violate the agreement to continue listening to music you supposedly bought? Plus burning is presented as an accommodation not a right or feature. What if Apple yanks it in an update?

Steve Jobs sings a big song of "Poor me" while at the same time using DRM to justify the creation of a closed ecosystem of music licensing while marketing it as music purchasing. What he says is lovely but what he actually does isn't.
posted by srboisvert at 1:31 AM on February 7, 2007


BP you're implying that shifting from an Apple music player to another brand music player is a shift in formats like from Record or Radio to tape. It isn't.

No, what I'm saying is that iTunes Music Store tracks are "locked" in the same way that vinyl is locked, by virtue of the implementation.

iPods are not locked, by the way. iTunes Music Store tracks are locked. This distinction is an important one, but often misrepresented.

The cost, technical and quality barrier presented by having to copy vinyl/radio/CD to tape is not really different than the barrier presented by having to transcode locked digital tracks to a CD-R.

Tapes were never free, and CD-Rs are not free today. Requiring me to buy tapes to copy a vinyl record was as much of an "imposition" as it is to require me to buy a CD-R to copy a protected AAC file today. I don't agree that it is an imposition, but semantically I suppose having to pay for something makes that something an imposition.

While the physical media and technology are slightly different today, the overall process is the same now as it was then, and tape was used then for the same purpose that CD-Rs are used today.

What if Apple yanks [a feature] in an update?

That's a partially fair complaint and one that the Norwegian Consumer Council has tried to bring up with their country's Consumer Rights ombudsman.

I say partially, because the license terms change only if you agree to install and use a new version of iTunes iTunes Music Store, which you are under no obligation to do. Just uncheck the item in Software Update and it ceases to be an issue.

You are not obligated to install a new version of iTunes to use your existing iPod music player to replay already purchased tracks. However, you may choose to install a new version of the Store/software if there is a new feature you wish to take advantage of, and the Store/software may have an accordingly new license agreement. Again, that's your choice.

Steve Jobs sings a big song of "Poor me" while at the same time using DRM to justify the creation of a closed ecosystem of music licensing while marketing it as music purchasing.

I partially agree. However, the music companies brought this upon themselves by only agreeing to work with Apple at the start, if their media product was locked by Apple.

So Steve Jobs is entirely, 100 percent correct that the reason you have DRM today on tracks sold for the majority-share music player is because of the media corporations' demands three years ago. Blame the media corporations, because they deserve almost all your spite for creating this problem.

On the other hand, by now having the largest share of digital music sales, Apple is currently in a unique position to negotiate terms with the various record companies to reduce the burden of DRM technology in their iTunes Music Store product. They were not in this position three years ago, but they are now.

It's a fair observation that Apple has little motivation to change this arrangement, since playing a body of locked iTunes Music Tracks outside of iTunes currently requires an iPod player, which drives repeat business. (Though, again, you were never required to buy iTunes Music Store tracks in the first place.)

And while Steve Jobs needs to be called on his obligation to push the record companies forward, people who buy iTunes Music Store tracks are also fairly culpable for creating the market for DRMed product. Without the demand, there is no supply. You're not forced to buy music from the iTunes Music Store. Blame the customers.

There's blame all around, and pointing the finger solely at Steve Jobs might feel good if you hate Apple, but it doesn't further understanding of the problem of DRM — or lead us any closer to realistic, actualizable solutions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:27 AM on February 7, 2007


I agree BP exept for the points.

I think that Jobs/Apple are uniquely bad users of DRM. They comply with the Music Industry demands in a way that is overly self serving for Apple. There is no real reason why Fairplay can't be licensed. Apple could give its iTunes store customers greater control over what media player they use with their licensed music but they simply choose not to. Microsoft has done this with PlayForSure.

The "you don't have to update" iTunes argument would be fine if it were not for the fact that security updates and bugfixes are bundled into the product updates. I'm not an iTunes user so I don't know if this is the case but I doubt Apple is maintaining branches. Also read the license. It requires no license update to remove the burning ability. It is specially listed as not being a right.

The problem I have with Jobs is that he is presenting himself as anti-DRM because it is inconvenient for him and the user while Apple is using DRM in the very worst way and people don't care because iPods are shiny and cool.

If Jobs had minimized the DRM impact on users by licensing Fairplay and opening up iTunes to DRM free labels sales then I think he would be in a position to champion user rights.
posted by srboisvert at 4:26 AM on February 7, 2007


I agree BP exept for the points.

That should be except for two points
posted by srboisvert at 4:42 AM on February 7, 2007


Could you go back to the sandbox? The big kids are playing.
posted by hototogisu


I don't do this too often, but fuck you, hototogisu. The childish ones are people like you who defend and condone the outright theft of livelihood and intellectual property because it's cool for the "big kids" to play with their computers.

I'm a grownup. You are an asshole. I hope the RIAA catches you. Thief.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:12 AM on February 7, 2007


And I mean, damn. This one subject makes me shake my head in dismay. If MeFites -- generally educated, intelligent, informed people -- see nothing wrong with stealing music from artists (or for that matter, from big evil record companies), as seems to be the case, we are in an ethical tailspin.

Yeah, the record companies suck. Apple sucks. Most music sucks.

But people make a living making this music available to you. If no one pays for it, it all goes away. Alternate models of distribution and sale are great. But in their absence, you can't steal just because you don't like the price of the product. If you tried it with anything other than music or movies or software, let's say with a nice cashmere jacket at your local Brooks Brothers, most people here would cheer to see you arrested for it. But steal an mp3, no big deal.


"Big kids," I think, is about right. I swear it makes me -- as a musician who watches friends struggle mightily to make a living with their art -- want to root for the RIAA.

Grow. Up.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:21 AM on February 7, 2007


Ok, you're a grownup. A grownup choking on a dick†, as the recording industry boxes your ears with its ham-hands, and thrusts its overfed pelvis.

† The RIAA's dick
posted by blasdelf at 5:24 AM on February 7, 2007


We are not responsible for keeping your failed business model alive. Deal with it.
posted by blasdelf at 5:29 AM on February 7, 2007


Fuck you too, blasdelf. No one is saying you're responsible. You ARE responsible for observing the law. And musicians have a right to be compensated for the use of their intellectual property, as do record companies and publishers and film studios -- AND EVERYONE WHO MAKES A LIVING PRODUCING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.

I know you think you're a cool skaterboi downloading hipster, but you're a thief if you steal music. You are stealing the livelihood of musicians.

The "your failed business model" riposte is a pure red herring. I could put you out of business too, if I could steal the fruits of your labor with impunity. All you are doing is rationalizing your preference for stolen goods with Robin Hood bullshit, as I said.

If you don't like the music for sale, make your own. Otherwise, pay for it. Or don't and see if I care.

One more time, for you and everyone who thinks music should be free to steal: screw y'all. How'd you like it if I came to your place of business and cleared out the shop? Thought so.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:20 AM on February 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have personally seen a rather well known and very respected rock musician, in the late stages of his career and facing declining record sales, discover his latest album being shared on a P2P network. He doesn't record for a major label, anymore. He records on a limited budget for an independent company. He makes great music. His last record was a Rolling Stone top 100 pick in 2005.

He has devoted his entire creative life to music. And now people are stealing it from him.

If you could see the faces of the people you were stealing from when you stole music, you might think twice. But it's all so cool and anonymous and techno to be a downloading thief.

If people didn't steal, there would not need to be locks. Period. If you don't like it that the music industry doesn't trust you not to steal, then prove them wrong.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:25 AM on February 7, 2007


I think what I am going to do is cherry pick posts by people who support illegal theft of intellectual property on MeFi, copy the texts of their posts wholly into my own posts without attribution, and see how long it takes them to cry foul. And then I'll set up a blue/green/gray community blog called "Metaflitter." And I'll use it to embed Matt's content on my own website, and sell advertising and keep the money. And I'll go to the websites of each pro-theft poster, and take their images and blog posts and use them for my new site too. After all, information wants to be free, and it's not my fault that you guys follow a failed business model.

And that doesn't even involve money. You'd still hate it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:31 AM on February 7, 2007


Is that really true, fourcheesemac? Can people really be so wicked as to deprive the record industry executives of what meagre lifestyle they enjoy?

Not buying their product is the appropriate response, not stealing it. "Vote with your wallet", and all that.

Do you advocate stealing cars because the Big Three are the same way (if not worse)? It's only because illegally obtaining music has become so brain-dead easy that you feel entitled to it. Admit it and move on; you're not fooling anyone into thinking your cause is noble.
posted by mkultra at 8:09 AM on February 7, 2007


fourcheesemac, dude. Chill.

No matter how many times people like you and the RIAA try and equate the two, downloading music is not theft. Not legally, not ethically, not in any sense of the word. You can argue over whether it's legal or not, or whether it harms musicians or not, but it is not stealing.

Theft requires that I take something from you, and you no longer have it. If I digitally transfer a music track, the original music track still exists. Nothing has been taken.

The offense that people who download music are charged with is copyright infringement. It may be illegal or unethical (or not), but again, it is not theft. It is a complicated area of law which involves balancing the intellectual property rights of creators, distributors, and consumers.

You can make the argument that a recording label could have theoretically taken in revenue from selling an album, which they will not take in because a person downloads the music from that album instead of purchasing the CD, but it's all hypothetical. It's an estimated failure to take in theoretical revenue, not a theft of existing funds.

And there is not a one-to-one correlation between an album downloaded and a lost album sale. The majority of music which is downloaded by people would probably not have been purchased in album form anyway. And many people continue to buy physical albums after downloading music. Downloaded music may even help some artists gain exposure and increase their album sales.

You're entitled to your opinion, but debate the real situation, not the RIAA's marketing spin. Downloading music may or may not be unethical, but it is not the same things as stealing.
posted by designbot at 8:23 AM on February 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


"Copyright infringement" sounds like something that happens to rich people and faceless corporations. This is why defenders of copyright law want to use a stronger term. Unfortunately, when you use terms that don't make sense like "theft" and "stealing", you lose all credibility. Believe me, if you are using this kind of language you are converting nobody.

I say this as someone who generally supports fourcheesemac's position; breaking the law may sometimes be necessary in life but it should be treated with a degree of seriousness and the justification of illegal copying of music and movies as a form of protest is disrespectful to people who've had to engage in real struggles against unfair laws.
posted by teleskiving at 9:00 AM on February 7, 2007


There is suddenly a whole lot of crazy in this thread.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 9:20 AM on February 7, 2007


Fake Steve's take:
Thoughts on "Thoughts on Music"
More thoughts on "Thoughts on Music"
Even more thoughts on "Thoughts on Music"
posted by timeistight at 9:32 AM on February 7, 2007


fourcheesemac, your passionate defense of an artist's right to protect and profit from his works is admirable - it has nothing to do with 'business models', but rather principles...hey, remember those?

This is all just rampant speculation, but I wonder if it would be feisible for Apple to push itself as an alternative music company - not alternative as in 'alternative music' (although that would be good), but alternative as in, 'Apple ensures that artists get a guarenteed percentage of the royalties that belong to them'. Is there anything in iTunes that guarantees this? Forgive my ignorance... I'm a user but don't follow its operations (err, 'business model'). Does any of the money from iTunes sales make it back to the artists? Could they set up alternative distribution for, let's say, tickets, merchandice? Again, I'm thinking waay 10,000 foot view here, but if Apple started as a true alternative music company (one stop shopping, from delivery of music to tickets to merchandise), I think they'd have a huge groundswell of support from fans. (Forgive me for thinking outloud so early in the morning...)
posted by rmm at 9:47 AM on February 7, 2007


Theft requires that I take something from you, and you no longer have it.

You are going from a situation where they're in an advantageous position (having something you want) to one where they aren't. I'd say that's taking something away, even if it's only an opportunity (ie you may or may not have bought the CD instead).
posted by cillit bang at 10:06 AM on February 7, 2007


So you're arguing that downloaders should be charged with actual, legal theft, just like car thieves and houseburglars. And the actual, real thing they are guilty of physically stealing is…"the advantageous position of having something you want"?

Downloading music ≠ theft.
posted by designbot at 10:15 AM on February 7, 2007


The sweet spot, for me, would be DRM-free FLACs.

The aforementioned Bleep does that too (not for their entire catalog, but an increasing amount). You have to buy a whole album though, for slightly more than $1 per track.
posted by nev at 10:17 AM on February 7, 2007


So you're arguing that downloaders should be charged with actual, legal theft

I said nothing about I how it should be codified in law. I was pointing out the falacy of the artist not losing anything.
posted by cillit bang at 10:34 AM on February 7, 2007


If I digitally transfer a music track [that belongs to someone else], the original music track still exists. Nothing has been taken.

Except for the royalities that would have otherwise been paid to the artist(s), had you paid for your own copy.

Copying per se is not theft, but taking money from someone against their will has been classically understood as theft.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:05 AM on February 7, 2007


I think that Jobs/Apple are uniquely bad users of DRM.

I don't see them as any worse than Microsoft or Napster. For that matter, Apple's terms are objectively lenient, compared with the ridiculous time- and space-based restrictions put in place by Microsoft and Napster.

The "you don't have to update" iTunes argument would be fine if it were not for the fact that security updates and bugfixes are bundled into the product updates.

This is not true. On Windows at least, iPod management is separated from the iTunes Music Store software.

To be clear: iPod music players are not iTunes Music Store digital tracks.

You are not required to own an iPod to purchase or listen to iTunes Music Store products. iPods have nothing to do with having to update the iTunes Music Store or your iTunes Music Store license agreement.

If Jobs had minimized the DRM impact on users by licensing Fairplay and opening up iTunes to DRM free labels sales then I think he would be in a position to champion user rights.

If Jobs had done so, he would have very little product to sell.

That's the simple reality, given the onerous DRM requirements that the record companies enforce upon all three digital music vendors of any significance (Apple, Microsoft, Napster).

I love Warp Records, and I buy some old out-of-print stuff from Bleep, but the flavor of electronic music they sell from Bleep targets a very narrow market — so narrow as to make their DRM position more or less meaningless, with respect to their efforts. They might as well be pushing Ogg Vorbis for what effect it has.

I suspect that the folks here suggesting that Apple may start its own label are probably going in the right direction with this. If Jobs is serious about removing DRM, having Apple sell its own music would probably be the only way to break the cartel, at this juncture.

Consumers are too lazy to shop around, and musicians are mostly too greedy to take a risk outside the existing distribution channels.

Look at what happened when Pearl Jam tried to take on Ticketmaster: they fought the good fight but were smacked down pretty damn hard. All the other live musicians and bands have fallen in line with Ticketmaster.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:22 AM on February 7, 2007


If I digitally transfer a music track [that belongs to someone else], the original music track still exists. Nothing has been taken.

Except for the royalities that would have otherwise been paid to the artist(s), had you paid for your own copy.

Copying per se is not theft, but taking money from someone against their will has been classically understood as theft.


Not giving someone money is not the same thing as stealing someone's money.

If I download "Posit This" by Straw Man via BitTorrent and don't buy Straw Man's album, Straw Man has the exact same amount of money he had yesterday. If I don't download "Posit This and don't buy Straw Man's album, Straw Man still has the exact same amount of money.

Conversely if I download the song and buy the album, Straw Man (eventually, hopefully) gets a little more money than he used to have. If I don't download the song and do buy the album, Straw Man gets the exact same amount.

Whether I download a song or not has no direct effect on how much money Straw Man has. It may very well be that downloading a song makes it less likely that I will buy it, but that is not the claim you are making, and it's still not the same thing as theft.
posted by designbot at 11:51 AM on February 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


If I download "Posit This" by Straw Man via BitTorrent and don't buy Straw Man's album, Straw Man has the exact same amount of money he had yesterday. If I don't download "Posit This and don't buy Straw Man's album, Straw Man still has the exact same amount of money.

Equivalent reasoning: If I walk out of the grocery store with a frozen turkey stuffed under my shirt, the grocery store still has the same amount of money they had yesterday. If I don't walk out of the store with the turkey under my shirt, the grocery store still has the same amount of money.

There's little distinction between a physical object like a turkey, and an ephemeral object, like a series of digital bits in a music track, when the exchange of either object between two parties in a law-based, free market economy, by convention, requires an equivalent exchange of value. That value is usually measured by another ephemeral abstraction called "cash".

In sum, if you download the track without paying for it, that action results in you taking a non-hypothetical amount of money out of Straw Man's pocket, if said Straw Man is expecting an equivalent exchange of value-added cash by giving you his music.

If you take the music without paying for it, that violates the usual market-based agreement to exchange something you want (music) for something he wants (money). Basically, you want something for nothing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:03 PM on February 7, 2007


It seems Norway's Consumer Council wasn't impressed.
posted by bwilms at 12:11 PM on February 7, 2007


designbot: If I steal someone's idea, do they still have it?
posted by mazola at 12:21 PM on February 7, 2007


If I walk out of the grocery store with a frozen turkey stuffed under my shirt, the grocery store still has the same amount of money they had yesterday.

No, it's not the same. If I steal a turkey, the grocery store has one less turkey. If I download a song, there are more copies of the song than there were before.

Let me be clear. I am not making the argument (here, anyway) that downloading music is legal, that it is ethical, or that it cannot indirectly cause a reduction in the profits of record labels and musicians.

I'm simply saying that downloading music is not theft. It is physically impossible to steal a sound. Certain uses of music may be unauthorized, or a violation of licensing arrangements, or harmful to artists, or whatever. But the word "theft" has a specific meaning, and it just does not apply here.
posted by designbot at 12:36 PM on February 7, 2007


designbot: If I steal someone's idea, do they still have it?

Yes. What a silly question.
posted by designbot at 12:36 PM on February 7, 2007


"Except for the royalities that would have otherwise been paid to the artist(s), had you paid for your own copy."

The problem with this argument in the real world is that something like 95% of major-label artists never see a penny of royalties paid to them. And the 5% that do usually see less than half of what they're actually due, because of "creative accounting."

I'd agree with you completely if the labels actually did an equitable business and paid their artists the royalties they are due, instead of hiding the money with various contractual tricks and stringing them along with "advances" that are just barely enough for the artists to continue doing what they do.

"If I download "Posit This" by Straw Man via BitTorrent and don't buy Straw Man's album, Straw Man has the exact same amount of money he had yesterday. If I don't download "Posit This and don't buy Straw Man's album, Straw Man still has the exact same amount of money."

And in the real world of the major label music business, if you download "Posit This" by Straw Man and then you DO go buy the CD in a store, Straw Man will STILL have the exact same amount of money. Straw Man's record label CrapTone Records will make about half what you pay for the CD, with the retailer making the rest. Straw Man doesn't own the copyrights to their songs, CrapTone Records does.

That's why the "you're stealing music" thing doesn't wash so well with people who know anything about the music business.

Now, if Straw Man is a complete independent act, and you don't buy their CD after downloading it, then there's a case that you are harmfully infringing their copyright. And yeah, that could be a problem in the days ahead. However, there are already precedents for people "giving away" their primary creative work and yet still making a decent living from the secondary items attached to it, such as webcomics people selling t-shirts and printed collections. Musicians who are smart about it can do the same thing.

Of course, another big problem with the system is that most artists who sign these horrible deals are so pathetically worried about looking like rich rock stars that they won't admit in public they've been rooked - and they wind up financing their extravagant lifestyles with money they actually owe the record company, if they even get to that point. Their egos won't let them say, "yeah, this life ain't what you think it is, I'm practically a slave right now."

Why do you think so many of them wind up as abject paupers once their brief flame of fame burns out?

As I intimated up above a ways, the artists are the ones that need to give the labels the finger first. That would change things immediately.

Have some self-respect, musicians.

Meanwhile, infringing copyright is indeed against the law. The first option of the consumer should be to just not buy or even listen to anything these labels put out, but there's an element of rebellious support for actual music in downloading piracy.

I think there's a bit of righteousness there, in screwing over a bunch of weasels who have turned a mafia racket into a "business institution."

The funny part is the record companies are still making lots and lots of money. They haven't actually lost a damn penny because of all of this. They're still having record sales years. I told you, they could make 10 times the cash if they had any actual brains to use...

Can you imagine if each of the big four worked out a system whereby, like a porn site, you pay $5 a month to have access to their entire catalog from whatever music devices you own? Some kind of IP or hardware key registry thing? With a few billion "music fans" out there, that might add up. 100 million subscribers means $500 million per month, per label. They don't make anything even resembling that much money.

Do you have any idea how much money Blizzard Games makes from World of Warcraft? Getting close to $2 billion a year just from player subscription fees, not counting any of the other stuff they sell. And their bandwidth costs aren't that high, because the continuous in-game data is relatively small byte-wise. They are practically printing money over there. The entire company went to Vegas for a whole weekend for their latest wrap party!

Steve Jobs knows this. I think the speculation about Apple becoming a "record label" may be absolutely correct. With small "production" costs and minimal distribution costs - and an already brilliant marketing department - they could make insane amounts of money. Seriously insane, defense-contractor-like money.
posted by zoogleplex at 12:48 PM on February 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


If I steal a turkey, the grocery store has one less turkey. If I download a song, there are more copies of the song than there were before.

Your reasoning is still faulty, because you don't understand the exchange involved:

If you steal a turkey, the grocery store receives no money for it, and will never receive money for it, because you don't need to buy a turkey.

If you download a copy of a song, the musician receives no money for it, and will never receive money for it, because you don't need to buy a second copy of that song.

In either example, you want something of value (music) but you expect demand the right to offer nothing of value in return (money).

You fail to understand that a studio musician does not make any money from the original music recording (master disc) itself. A studio musician makes money from exchanging copies of that original for royalty payments.

While copying itself is not stealing, taking money out of someone's pocket is usually considered stealing in common language.

In any case, the law allows violated parties to claim damages and seek financial redress. While copying may not be called theft, the end result is the same.

When you compromise the social contract of not exchanging something of value to you for something of value that you want, but simply taking it (copying it without paying) then this is understood as a loss to the other party.

The legal terminology has decided not to call this theft, although when one party is coerced into providing something of value to another party, without getting value in return, there will be legal proceedings to seek redress — usually through civil penalties that estimate what you would have paid, had you not made illegal copies.

Frankly, the argument over terminology is boring, and I wonder if it simply highlights the respective ethics of those discussing the issue.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:57 PM on February 7, 2007


The problem with this argument in the real world is that something like 95% of major-label artists never see a penny of royalties paid to them. And the 5% that do usually see less than half of what they're actually due, because of "creative accounting."

That's why we have a legal system, to decide in a court of law if different parties are playing number games.

In any case, I mostly blame musicians for the state of the royalty system. If you don't want to run the risk of being screwed, don't get lazy and sign with a major without having legal representation. If you go in nude, you're part of the problem.

If you're familiar with the music industry, there are certainly alternatives to the Big Four.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:01 PM on February 7, 2007


I would never steal a turkey, but I admit that I have downloaded quite a few.

Sorry.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 1:21 PM on February 7, 2007


I see your point, Blazecock Pileon, but I don't think it's that cut-and-dry. If sell bottled water, that doesn't mean everyone who uses a drinking fountain is taking money out of my pocket. Intellectual property law is complex.

If I hear a song on the radio, is that theft?
If I tape a song on the radio and listen to it later, is that theft?
If I give that tape to a friend, is that theft?
If I watch a music video on MTV, is that theft?
If I hear a song in a commercial, is that theft?
If a network charges an artist to feature their song in a TV show, is that theft?
If download a song from an artist's MySpace page, is that theft?
If I buy a CD and then rip that to my iPod, is that theft?
If I buy a DVD and then rip that to my iPod is that theft?
If I download a song and then buy the CD, is that theft?
If I buy a cassette tape and, years later, download the album, is that theft?
If I download a song, don't like it, and delete it without buying the CD, is that theft?
If I make a mix CD for a friend, is that theft?
If I squirt a song to my friend's Zune, is that theft?
If I buy a CD and use one of the songs in a home movie, is that theft?
If I buy a CD and use one of the songs in a home movie which I upload to YouTube, is that theft?
If I watch that video on YouTube, is that theft?

The point is that there are a vast range of ways for music to be heard and shared. Some of them involve the rightsholder paying money, some involve paying money to the rightsholder, and some do not involve an exhange of funds at all. Some are legal, some are illegal, and some fall into a grey area.

It's an oversimplification to say that listening to a song without paying for it is always "taking money out of someone's pocket," "stealing," or being "a downloading thief."
posted by designbot at 1:33 PM on February 7, 2007


(That's "If I sell bottled water…")
posted by designbot at 1:34 PM on February 7, 2007


Reading Between the Lines of Steve Jobs's 'Thoughts on Music'
posted by kirkaracha at 1:34 PM on February 7, 2007


"That's why we have a legal system, to decide in a court of law if different parties are playing number games."

I would agree with this as well, if it weren't for the realities of that situation too. Broke musicians can't afford lawyers.

One of the Big Four labels technically owes me and my former management company some $500,000. Sure, we could sue them for it. We considered doing just that. The problem is that it would cost us more than $1,000,000 in legal fees to fight the lawsuit through to the end - and there's no guarantee we'd win. The label would have buried us in paperwork starting on day one, the usual corporate method used to stifle lawsuits.

If I had a very rich uncle who'd back me I might try it on principle. In the real world, it's an impossible fight.

Fer chrissake, Prince couldn't even use his actual LEGAL BIRTH NAME for years because it was owned by his record company, and he bailed on his contract with them. He's got the last laugh now, though. He's about the only one who does.

"If you don't want to run the risk of being screwed, don't get lazy and sign with a major without having legal representation."

Even with legal representation, you will get screwed if you sign. They've made all their horrible work-for-hire and money withholding clauses into "the standard contract," which you either sign or don't. It was literally put to me as, "well, do you want to get famous or not, kid?"

I had an excellent lawyer, and was able to get a few concessions that they usually won't give - like my copyrights reverted to me after 10 years if the songs were never published. They never were, so I got my songs back, a very rare event. But almost all the other stuff, they wouldn't take out of the contract. Sign, or go back to your crappy day job, kid.

I signed. I wanted to get famous. I was just as pathetic and fame-hungry as anyone else who signs that deal.

I am beyond glad that I wound up getting dumped from the contract and back into reality, though I wasn't happy about it at the time. I would have felt a lot worse as a slave! Their business methods are specifically designed to separate you from the real world, your friends, your family, and are highly effective on people with personality problems. They really do take over your mind.

Kevin Gilbert's "Suit Fugue (Dance of the A&R Men)" (mp3 available at link) will tell you just about all you need to know about the process. His album Shaming of the True (also linked there) tells the whole story, it's worth listening to.

"If you go in nude, you're part of the problem."

Obviously, on this we agree. At this point the information that the music biz is a total scam is freely available on the web and even in print books like Hit Men. There's not much excuse for an artist signing with a major these days, which is why I use words like "pathetic" and "attention whore" to refer to them. Most of them would make more money if they kept a middlin' day job and played bars at night.

Thankfully, it's changing now, which makes me feel good. I guess I'm trying to help...
posted by zoogleplex at 1:35 PM on February 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


If Steve Jobs is so determined to free the music, why is it that ipods *still* won't play Ogg Vorbis?

The major arguement against OGG seems to be that it is processor intensive and thus a battery hog in a portable player.

I'm still pissed that I found out too late that ogg != gapless. I bought a player that did ogg for that exact reason. I would've gotten an iPod and used iTunes 7 (which introduced gapless mp3 playback) instead if I had known.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:47 PM on February 7, 2007


Blazecock Pileon you are still totally wrong
Your reasoning is still faulty, because you don't understand the exchange involved:

If you steal a turkey, the grocery store receives no money for it, and will never receive money for it, because you don't need to buy a turkey.


Store doesnt send you to jail (the possible punishment for actual theft) because YOU wouldn't have to buy a turkey.
They call the police because some OTHER person can't buy the turkey. Thats the point of theft.
When someone copies a song, it doesnt prevent the rights holder from selling it to someone else.

People cant just go making up new meanings for words, or else some idiot could just say you commited a holocaust on this thread with your incorrect arguments.
posted by Iax at 2:50 PM on February 7, 2007


INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

PWNERSHIP IS NINE TENTHS OF THE FLAW!
posted by srboisvert at 3:03 PM on February 7, 2007


When someone copies a song, it doesnt prevent the rights holder from selling it to someone else.

Illegal copying can be called whatever you like, but it's still dishonest and it is still stealing money from someone who is creative. No amount of rhetorical dissembling changes the fact that the musician is getting ripped off by the guy making an illegal copy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:25 PM on February 7, 2007


The only musicians who are making money on major labels are folks like Metallica and Eric Clapton. Everyone else is deficit spending with their own bank accounts. Getting the new Aerosmith single off of a torrent is probably taking a 1/10th of a gram of coke out of Joe Perry's nose. Grabbing a track by The Decemberists from the same torrent is probably taking the cost of an instant message from the phone of Capitol's college marketing director.

Publishing is where the money's made, traditionally. That's why Nick Lowe is very wealthy because of a cover of one of his songs on The Bodyguard soundtrack. You want to steal from some has been or also ran? Don't torrent his album, figure out a way to license his music to Nike without paying him. Oh yeah, he probably signed those rights over to Universal, too.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 3:37 PM on February 7, 2007


No amount of rhetorical dissembling changes the fact that the musician record label is getting ripped off by the guy making an illegal copy.

Blaze, I had to "fix" that for you. I've been trying to get across to you that in the real world, the major label musician makes zippo from sales royalties on their songs. The musicians are getting ripped off by the labels far more than by their audiences.

At least the audience will pay to go see them play, and buy merchandise; these are the places where most artists make their money. Why do you think they tour all the time? If the record labels paid them, they wouldn't have to tour. If you think touring is all light fun and games, you're way off. The only good part of it is the 90 minutes you're playing onstage. Living in buses and hotel rooms for 6 months is grueling and soul-destroying.

If audiences could buy CDs direct from the artist knowing the artist would actually get the money, I think more people would buy CDs - at least, the actual music lovers would. I'm sure there'd be some jerks out there, there always are.

I've addressed the realities of suing the labels. Copyright infringement is not theft, and by pirating major-label songs you are not infringing the artist's copyright, because the artist has given up his copyright. Many people see it as denying the record label the ability to continue ripping off the artists. I think there's truth in that, apart from the illegality of it.

"Publishing is where the money's made, traditionally... Oh yeah, he probably signed those rights over to Universal, too."

If you don't have a publishing deal in place before you sign your contract, the label will insist on getting 50% of your publishing, too. Smart artists try to get publishing lined up before starting negotiations with the record label, which I did, so that doesn't happen. Publishing companies are a nice source of advance money if you can ink with them, and they actually pay you royalties like an honest business should.

Blaze, while you're factually and legally correct, you are stubbornly sticking to an idealization of the business model. The reality is far removed, is actually a betrayal of the intent and letter of the law and of the creators, and that needs to be reformed somehow.

As we've discussed, I think the first step needs to come from the artists themselves, telling the labels to screw off.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:03 PM on February 7, 2007


I said:

"The musicians are getting ripped off by the labels far more than by their audiences."

I should expand on that and say that if you are buying music from the major labels, you are facilitating the record companies ripping off your favorite musicians!

Unfortunately, that applies to iTunes as well, at the moment, which is something of a dilemma for many.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:12 PM on February 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


This brings to mind Garth Brooks' little crusade in the early '90s against record stores selling used CDs. On the face of it, this is not much different. I buy a used CD at a local store - who gets the money? The record store and no one else. Assuming that a torrented album was ripped from a legitimately purchased copy, the only person being "stolen" from at that point is the retailer. This doesn't excuse people who post leaked albums or, I guess, promotional advances, but who's doing that? Industry insiders, at least initially.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 4:44 PM on February 7, 2007


Weeelllll... in a physical sense, you've got a point, joseph. But the copyright law still applies, of course. According to the law, making an unauthorized copy of a work without permission is illegal. As applied to a person like you or me downloading a copyrighted song, we're liable to civil prosecution, not guilty of a criminal charge; the burden of proof falls on the copyright owner. That's why record companies are suing people, that's the proper legal channel for dealing with infringement.

Notice that nobody's up on criminal theft charges. It's because at that level, copyright infringement is not criminal, it's a civil matter.

Now, somebody who takes a whole album of songs, presses them to CDs, and sells them as black market bootlegs, that is criminal copyright infringement, and they will be so charged. That's what they try to aim at the people who share hundreds or thousands of files online.

The burden of proof has always been on the record labels to show that downloading files actually hurts their business of selling physical CDs, and I think very few people believe they've met that burden, seeing as they're still making more money year after year.

It looks to me more like they're hurting their CD sales by being douchebags about DRM. Rootkits, anyone? Feh.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:26 PM on February 7, 2007


There's competition. And competition's great. However, if you lock yourself in with one competitor

Why does this need to be repeated so many damn times?

Let me say it in bold:

There is absolutely NO lock in with the iPod unless you choose to buy tracks from iTunes.

If you don't want lock-in, buy CDs. If you have CDs, any damn DAP out there is interchangeable with another, iPod to Zune to any other.

The lock in iTunes gives is incredibly weak, compared to other DRM systems. Burn the song to CD (completely allowed by iTunes and Fairplay). Re-import. It is now DRM-free. (You take a minor hit in quality, but if you were willing to buy an 128 Kbps AAC, I doubt you'll hear it).

Why do I keep having to repeat this again, and again, and again?

You're gripe is with iTunes' Fairplay, not the iPod. The latter in no way requires the former.
posted by teece at 6:29 PM on February 7, 2007


Illegal copying can be called whatever you like, but it's still dishonest and it is still stealing money from someone who is creative. No amount of rhetorical dissembling changes the fact that the musician is getting ripped off by the guy making an illegal copy.

Well, if that's your concern, the artists getting their dues, why not start by dismantling the very broken music industry? Their theft of royalties due to artists is way, way higher than anything yet reached by illegal downloading. The royalty system, for example, favors megastars and rarely, if ever, pays indie artsts at all.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:00 PM on February 7, 2007


Their theft of royalties due to artists is way, way higher than anything yet reached by illegal downloading.

If there is as much money stolen from musicians by wealthy record labels as claimed, lawyers representing the artists would be all over it on percentage alone. Beyond that I'm not really concerned about Courtney Love not being able to feed her junk habit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:31 PM on February 7, 2007


You really don't get it. We're talking about entertainment lawyers here. Who do you think pays them more, and more consistently? Artists? Or large corporate music companies?

The lawyers know where their bread is buttered. Who do you think writes up the contracts that allow the "creative" accounting?

I'm sorry, but you completely underestimate the situation.
posted by zoogleplex at 8:36 PM on February 7, 2007


I'm sorry, but you completely underestimate the situation.

We'll have to agree to disagree this is a problem, and, in any case, moral relativism is no substitute for rational thinking:

If labels steal everything from smaller musicians, it would have to worsen the extent to which illegal copying takes money from those musicians.

Smaller musicians can't become megastars if listeners are bootlegging tracks and cannibalizing unit sales. After all, the record labels must be stealing every single dime of royalities on whatever meager, legitimate sales are left.

So if you really care about the chronic problem of record labels stealing from artists, consider paying your musicians for the music they make for you, so that they can actually have hope of making a living.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:35 PM on February 7, 2007


"Smaller musicians can't become megastars if listeners are bootlegging tracks and cannibalizing unit sales. After all, the record labels must be stealing every single dime of royalities on whatever meager, legitimate sales are left."

Smaller acts are unlikely to become "megastars" in any event; they generally just don't appeal to a huge mass-market audience. Or, they sound and look just like 6 other bands that the label signed this year, and they lose the "promotional lottery." Some artists are signed just to become tax writeoffs, and their records are shelved forever.

There's been some evidence that file-sharing songs actually increases sales for some more obscure acts, with viral distribution creating a bigger audience organically.

"So if you really care about the chronic problem of record labels stealing from artists, consider paying your musicians for the music they make for you, so that they can actually have hope of making a living."

That's exactly what I do. I don't buy any music that's sold by major labels, nor do I download illegally. There's just nothing they sell that I'm interested in anymore. So I find music I like elsewhere, especially direct from artists I like, and I pay for it. I go see bands live, and sometimes if they have some nice merch I'll buy something of that, too.

"Megastars" is an interesting word. It implies an audience of millions of people.

However, it's quite possible for a band to make a very comfortable living with an audience of 100,000 or even much fewer. It's not a cakewalk, but it can be done, with some hard work and some brains. There have been local or niche-market indie bands doing pretty well for themselves for a long time, and reaching your audience is easier now via the Internet.

It may even be possible to reach "megastar" status that way, but I don't think it's been done yet, and it would take a lot more time than the "instant" fame that big marketing money can buy. It's a lot more possible now than it used to be.

"in any case, moral relativism is no substitute for rational thinking"

Ha, that sounds familiar... have you been hanging out with peeping_Thomist? :)

In this case, I'm comfortable with my moral stance. I think paying viciously exploitative, inherently immoral people and supporting their corrupt business is immoral, so I don't do it.

Do you think that stubbornly sticking to points of law that enable their entirely reprehensible behavior is moral? Do you think that exploiting "suckers" who sign bad deals, whether knowingly or out of ignorance, is moral?

Do you think that the label I signed with breaching my contract by not paying the money they owe is moral? Do you think it's proper that the legal system you claim should be my recourse and remedy is actually incapable of enforcing the contract in my favor, because the other side can afford to manipulate it to their advantage?
posted by zoogleplex at 12:20 AM on February 8, 2007


Do you think that stubbornly sticking to points of law that enable their entirely reprehensible behavior is moral? Do you think that exploiting "suckers" who sign bad deals, whether knowingly or out of ignorance, is moral?

No, I don't, but then I wasn't here trying to justify stealing money from artists, by using illegally copyrighted materials as a means to "stick it to the man", a bogus rationalization and a last resort for thieves. When people want something for nothing, I guess the ends justify the means. Whatever.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:00 AM on February 8, 2007


All these record company shenanigans are why I like LaLa.com so much. I pay to exchange used CDs, and a portion of that fee goes directly to the artists, or failing that, to a fund that supports health and retirement benefits for working musicians. Support musicians and screw the RIAA at the same time. What could be better?

And what exactly is SJ's reason for not supporting FLAC on Apple/quicktime? (Longtime Mac user, Apple and Disney shareholder and, I guess, fanboy.) Still, seems that SJ is trying to get on the right side of this issue.

My vote: copyright infringement ≠ theft. Copyright law mediates a delicate balance of the rights of producers of intellectual "property" vs the rights of consumers and the good of society at large, a balance that currently is seriously out of whack, as noted above, essentially taken over by a mafia-like entity. In the law regarding theft of actual property there is no balancing act between the rights of the owner vs those of the thief.
posted by bephillips at 9:58 AM on February 8, 2007


Music Industry Group Fires Back at Apple
posted by bwilms at 10:59 AM on February 8, 2007


Blazecock Pileon:

I wasn't suggesting that the major labels/publishers screwing artists was an excuse for illegal downloading; I was pointing out that your passion might be better directed.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:46 PM on February 8, 2007


Bingo. - EMI set to be the first label to stop using DRM. And The Beatles just happen to be on EMI. And no Beatles on iTunes Music Store just yet.
posted by smallerdemon at 6:50 AM on February 9, 2007


Well, well, well! That is mighty interesting! :)
posted by zoogleplex at 3:21 PM on February 9, 2007


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