Friday, April 01, 2005

I told you so.
For years now (10, actually), I've been harping about the fact that the media conglomerates want to do away with physical media. Yes, I know we're just around the corner from HD-DVD. But we're not yet to the corner they really want us to take. Everything on demand. I'm not just talking about music or movies. All software will eventually be on-demand.
See, the principle is like this: when you own a CD, you used to have certain rights (the RIAA would argue otherwise today, despite previous court precedent). You could copy it for your own use (a backup or to keep in your car, etc). You could make a compilation tape or CD for your friends and share the music with them (But we now know that Sesame Street was wrong, kids. Sharing is BAD. Especially over the internet.). You could lend the CD itself to your friends.
You can't do that any more. The RIAA has repeatedly argued in court that you merely buy the privelage of listening to the CD, not the media itself, or the software on it. They've argued that file sharing networks, which have tons of legitimate uses (the only place you'll find slave1project or Kickstand is online, for instance), need to be destroyed because of the simple fact that they have been exploited in the past to download music illegally (which I still argue is bullshit, but that's beside the case).
Right now, the Supreme Court is deliberating over MGM v Grokster, a case that will most likely have a massive impact on the future of file sharing. (You can read more about it here or here or here or here.)
How's that affect legitimate sources like iTunes, the new Napster, etc? Well, what they did, to prevent you from sharing any of the files you bought from them (You paid for 'em, you bought 'em, right? WRONG.) is they installed Digital Rights Management software in them. This means essentially that the ownership of the song is retained by the intellectual property holder and you've merely bought the right to use said file for personal use only. The extra code is just them reminding you that you have no rights. The fun thing is, if you circumvent the intellectual property guards, you're breaking the law. So, you might be using the file for something previously covered by fair use, but since you disabled the DRM, you're in violation of the law.
Now, with downloadable movies, there will of course be some sort of DRM software in place (Sony would never go forward with this plan without it), and that means that if you download a movie from their service, you'll not be able to transfer it between machines, or take it over to a buddy's house to watch...essentially replicating what the industry tried a few years back with the divx DVD standard. You don't own your library any more.
Speaking of which, these practice could threaten public libraries. No more sharing things for free! And that's what libraries do! Sharing = EVIL. They say they're not out to destroy libraries...but how will you take a film downloaded from the library home? Or a CD? Or an ebook? Will libraries just migrate to the net? Some already have, at least on an experimental basis. But the experience isn't quite the same. You can't quite browse the selections online, either. Sure, old media is...old...but you miss out on an essential experience without having the media in hand.
In addition, those of us who've enjoyed personal libraries in the past will eventually become a dying breed. I love my books, my comics, my CDs and my DVDs. I'm sure I'd enjoy the infinite choice this new technology promises, but I'm an owner, not a renter. It's the same reason I don't download movies. I like the ritual of ownership. Maybe I'm a dinosaur.
I just don't think the world will be as fun without physical media. And our ownership rights.

1 comment:

peer to peer file sharing said...

Hi Adam,
I was looking for information about file sharing when I came across your blog. this post doesn't really cover what I was after but it sure looks like it'll be useful. I'm off to find more resources on file sharing. Good luck and keep it up.