An MP3 Rant

by mcastellon on April 7, 2005

The biggest problem with the file sharing thing is not that I can’t lawfully download music for free, but that there aren’t many options for downloading music lawfully that isn’t limited by sneaky technology that dictates what I do with music once I purchase it. I don’t mind paying for music. In fact, I prefer it. This is good, because copyright laws won’t be changing any time soon, and artists still need to make a living. If I buy a CD, I can pretty much do whatever I want with the content of that CD as long as I’m not distributing it or making money from it. I can copy it onto my computer’s hard drive, I can play it in the car, make backup copies of it, and load it onto my iPod. Strangely, when I purchase a song on iTunes, I’m limited to keeping the song on no more than 5 different machines and my iPod. I can put it on a CD, but I’m limited in terms of where I can store it and what I can do with it.

iTunes is no doubt a near-revolutionary concept. I can purchase just about any song or album I want right now, on demand. No more unnecessary purchasing of entire albums just to have one song. No more annoying CD cases and inserts. Fine. But I would like to see more competition in the music downloading business.

I want to see a company that can offer near unlimited restrictions on the music that they sell, much like when I purchase a CD (which I haven’t done in at least 5 years). I still get the sneaking suspicion that Apple is limiting my use of the music that they sell so I’m bound to iTunes and my iPod. Apple doesn’t like me to manipulate music files. Files on an iPod appear as “hidden” by default, which means a novice user wouldn’t know how to transfer their music from an iPod to their PC in the event their computers hard drive failed. Shouldn’t data transfer involving mp3s go both ways if you’ve already purchased the music? I think so.

More competition in the mp3 business might mean a gradual development of responsible and ethical use of music, instead of these guerilla tactics being conducted by the RIAA et al. Let’s consider selling music that is cross compatible with different players, and allows users to have universal rights with the music they purchased, while still respecting the copyrights of the artists.

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