Comes the Sun
Did you know that Daylight Savings Time starts early this
year? Yup, second Sunday in March instead of the first Sunday
in April. Congress decided on this a couple of years ago as
an energy- saving measure, figuring more hours of our waking
life in daylight saves energy, which makes a certain amount
of sense. And I suppose it also allows Congress to say “we
did our job” with regard to energy policy, by corralling the
populace like the compliant sheep we are, while leaving the
energy industries alone to feed the beast and run the world.
And it gives Dick Cheney an extra hour to shoot his friends
in the face.
In any event, you may want to check your computer, which may
not have heard the news about the time change. If your operating
system isn’t properly updated, you may find your online world
is an hour off come March 11.
Speaking of daylight, it looks like all this digital-music
static about Digital Rights Management is coming to a head
sooner rather than later. The fun began when Apple’s Steve
Jobs posted a call for the end of DRM, and for all record
companies to allow digital music to be sold without any DRM,
i.e. the copy protections, tracking devices, and number-of-play
restrictions that currently encumber almost every major-label
digital-music release that’s legally available.
Lots of people have been scratching their heads over this
one. While, to be sure, the only way Apple’s been able to
sell major-label music on its iTunes store has been to promise
the labels an effective DRM system, Apple has also profited
massively by creating its own proprietary DRM system (called
“FairPlay”) that links its iPod devices, iTunes software program
and iTunes store, to the exclusion of everybody else. The
whole Apple music empire was built on a combination of cool,
great products, and most importantly, DRM. And Jobs is willing
to walk away from that? WTF?
Well, who knows, but it set off a firestorm of comments and
activity. The Recording Industry Association of America, which
rivals the Republican National Committee in the abuse of logic
and honesty in the pursuit of power and money, immediately
issued a statement that challenged Apple to license its FairPlay
DRM system to all of the other competing online music services.
In other words, the RIAA admits that Apple built the better
mousetrap and wants him to give it to everybody else. The
RIAA’s problem, of course, is that there is no mouse problem
in the first place. Try as it might, the RIAA has totally
failed to establish a link between piracy, DRM, MP3s, etc.
What is abundantly clear is that the continuing DRM schemes
and the total lack of interoperability among musical systems
(along with a wealth of other factors, like the promotion
of crap music and the terrorizing of kids through vindictive
lawsuits) has turned a generation of music listeners away
from the major labels and the legitimate purchasing of music.
Industry blowhard and Warner music owner Edgar Bronfman called
Jobs’ position illogical, and pledged allegiance to continued
use of DRM, in the course of his quarterly earnings discussion,
in which has was trying to explain away a 74-percent earnings
decline for the company that he runs. Moron.
Meantime, major label EMI, which has dabbled with one-off
DRM releases with tremendous success, is rumored to be getting
ready to allow sales of at least big parts of its vast catalog
without any DRM. EMI’s earnings have been hurting, too, and
opening up the floodgates of restriction-free music is seen
as an attempt to regain some measure of profitability for
So you’ve got some major labels saying DRM is the only way
to protect their precious “property” and at least one label
apparently saying that dumping it is the only way to survive.
Meantime, music vendors like Yahoo! are predicting their entire
catalogs of major-label music will be DRM-free by the end
of the year. And the head of eMusic.com, a wonderful and wildly
successful site that sells independent music without any DRM,
predicts that if the majors dump DRM, their profits will skyrocket,
just like his.
And what happens when DRM disappears? Hoo-boy, watch out.
I suspect the legitimate online music market will indeed explode,
with more choice in music format, selection, and price. Pirate
P2P and torrent sites will always be around, but will shrink.
The iPod will retain its domination on the gizmo market only
if it is indeed the best player, and new and innovative players
will proliferate. Integration of cell phones with music players
will accelerate, as will the migration of consumers from buying
CDs to digital files, as the transition to digital becomes
dramatically less confusing and intimidating.
People will be listening to more music, and that means people
will be happier. The world will be a better place. Thanks,
Paul Rapp is an intellectual-property lawyer with offices
in Albany and Housatonic, Mass. He teaches art-and-entertainment
law at Albany Law School, and regularly appears as part of
the Copyright Forum on WAMC’s Vox Pop. Contact info can be
found at www.paulrapp.com. Comments about this article can
be posted at rapponthis .blogspot.com.