"Should you really have a problem..."

It seems the music industry is steam rolling its way into the digital millenium right over its customers. This article on the UK's The Register contains a response from an EMI employee in their "Customer Relations" department. The customer, aparantly, claimed a newly purchased CD did not work in his car stereo. To which, the EMI employee replied in what has to be one the most derisive, beligerant manners I've ever encountered.

The customer was called a liar and a theif. Thankfully, for our amusement, The EMI employee put his words in writing: "The case you are reporting that even multiple players refuse to function can, in our experience, only originate from the realm of fairytales." There's another good zinger following a lecture containing blatantly contrived statistics: "But we fear that these facts don't interest you at all. Because these measures mean the end of free music, something that must cause you much grief." Ouch!

First, let's get one thing straight: all methods of copy protecting CDs involve breaking the CD just enough so that your household or car stereo can still play the CD but not your computer. This is why Philips, who holds most of the major patents on CD technology, does not endorse CD copy protection. Philips has announced that their next CD copier will be able to detect and circumvent CD copy protection.

Second, it is imperative to point out that many household and car stereo systems are already reusing computer technology. This includes the inevitable merger between your CD and DVD player. Even without this eventuality, copy protected CDs simply do not work in many existing household and car stereo systems.

Despite all of this, the music companies are switching to copy protected CDs. Several are reportedly switching completely over in the next year or two. This is their response to the their contention that most CDs are pirated. They derive this from the number of blank CDs sold each year. Of course, there's never any mention that many businesses use CDs as simple, effective means of backing up data. Nevertheless, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) would like to collect a tax every time you buy a CD.

So, let's recap:

For your convenience, here's a graph that plots the rising price of CDs against falling sales, using the RIAA's numbers.

During it all, the record labels lament that they lose money on most of the CDs sold. As a result, they note, they are discontinuing CD singles because they are an unprofitable format. The skyrocketting uptake of Napster, on the other hand, suggests that CDs already cost to much and that, in general, customers only want a few of the songs off of the average CD. They've also suggested their willingness to use the Internet as alternative distribution method. They've even agreed to help record and distribute the music!

Nevertheless, it is apparant by this latest move that the music industry is intent on whipping a dead horse. Music has outgrown the CD, but the music industry has yet to realize it. Fortunately, computers can be upgraded to circumvent copy protection. It sounds like as long as I make my next CD player a Philips, I won't have to worry about my home stereo being able to play my CDs.

As a side note, the Internet may be the closest thing to a free market outside the black market. History has shown that trying to control a free market -- or, worse, attacking it head with close minded attitudes -- always proves a futile gesture. Let's see if history repeats itself.


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