Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Copy Protection Aims At The Wrong Target

Just came across an excellent column on Sony's misguided copy protection debacle by Rocky Mountain News columnist Mark Brown. Brown, unlike most writers who've jumped on the critical backwagon since the Sony backlash began, realizes that the issue isn't just the scary spyware that Sony puts on your computer, but copy protection itself, which, as Brown notes, tells the law-abiding music fan who actually buys the cd that he/she can't listen to the music the way he/she wants to.

Unfortunately, Brown's (100% correct) thesis -- that copy protection does nothing to stop diehard music thieves, but rather targets the people who are actually willing to lay down cold hard cash and buy the cd -- misses the point: that we music buyers are, in fact, the precise people Sony is out to attack. The industry has said as much in Sony's defense: copy protection is not about the people who mass-distribute music, either through pirated discs or online file sharing (who admittedly are tech-savvy enough to get around most copy-protection software) -- it's about the casual listeners who copy a disc for a friend. The very act that many of us consider relatively benign, if not actually helpful to the industry (I can't even count the number of discs that have been bought by people who were turned onto a song or a band by a mix I shared, cd's they absolutely would never have considered buying but for the introduction I provided), is the horror that the industry is attempting to curtail.

Anyway, great column. And I particularly like how Brown also targets for derision the latest industry practice of re-releasing albums with a couple bonus tracks. (I don't mean reissuing an oldie with remastered sound and bonus tracks; I mean the new trick of taking a 3-month-old cd and re-releasing it with a couple b-sides.) Talk about screwing the loyal fans...)

Incidentally, I was browsing through the archive of Brown's old columns, and there's a great one he wrote a few weeks back about Badfinger, a great band that had more than its fair share of tragedies. Check it out.


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