Monday, December 31, 2007

Personal Use isn't Fair Use

Almost as if on cue, to stress the point I made in response to Pete Ashton in this post's comments, the RIAA are now ready to take on even those of us who steer well clear of piracy:
In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings. (via DF)

It's tempting to laugh at this kind of action in a 'what can they do?' kind of way, but it's more serious than that. This is essentially direct action against iTunes and the iPod, as that's almost certainly where most legally purchased but format-shifted content resides. The industry will pretend (again) that they're happy with some kind of kick-back from iPod sales, but that's the thin end of the wedge for them to wring whatever kind of money they can out of the electronics industry in order to compensate for the failure of their business model. More hope perhaps lies in Apple's ability to convincingly put in place technology that lets owners of CDs legitimately and securely format-shift content in a way the industry can grudgingly accept. In the long term, Pete (and others) are right and DRM isn't the answer, and we need to press for the recommendations of the Gower Review to be implemented soon in this regard.

I'll say it again though: I'd sooner have a unintrusive (and Pete, while I've no desire to be some kind of DRM-apologist, it is largely unintrusive as long as you're staying within your usage rights) Fairplay-style lock to my devices than have the music industry propped up with cash from device sales.

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Blogger troutmask said...

As some one who certainly doesn't shy away from "piracy", (I love a bit of high seas shenanigans!), I love the RIAA's increasingly desperate attempts to turn back the waves. The idea that the record companies right to extort money from musicians and those who enjoy their music by means that in any free market should be illegal seems unquestioned by lawmakers and increasingly law enforcers. However it will have as much success in the long term as the attempts by the corn factors to protect their monopolies 200 years ago. Subsisdising failed industries when challenged by new technologies has never been a successful economic practice in the past and why it should be today is beyond me.
It is only natural that the record industry should seek to protect its ability to make lots of money, but why anybody not directly involved should give them any kind of help I don't know? Me, I want Warners, Virgin, EMI et al. to go out of business rather than adapt to the new market place, so I will do everything I can to encourage this awful industry to shoot itself in the foot, with the hope it eventually hits the head.
A tax on Apple, great...keep 'em coming boys......

6:59 PM  

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