Thursday, November 03, 2005

Rant: Why Does Sony Hate Its Customers?

Sorry, folks, but I'm gonna have to break from my prior practice of keeping this a thoroughly apolitical, entirely music-hyping rag. And no, I'm not going to make this into yet another political blog blaring my ideology to anyone who stumbles across it. (Curious? Fine, in case you haven't guessed: Proud card-carrying ACLU member and unabashed Liberal.) But music politics, that's another story. And man, am I pissed.

Now, it's no secret that the music industry considers music fans with complete disdain. Suing college kids who download mp3's was an obvious tip-off, though at least there the industry could argue it was truly cracking down on theft, not fans who were willing to pay for the music they wanted. But now comes the first major attack on paying customers: Specifically, the recent revelations that Sony is including copy-protection software on new cd's that not only limits the ability to copy the cd, but prevents purchasers from ripping cd's to other formats -- and, even worse, surreptitiously installs harmful software on the purchaser's pc that can cause serious damage. (You can get the details here.) Yes, there has been talk of copy-protected discs for at least a year or so, but this is the first instance of widespread use here in the US, and it apparently goes far beyond our worst fears.

Let's make no bones about it: Sony has just flipped us the bird. This is a great big "Fuck you" to us... people who actually BUY the damn things. We're not talking kids engaging in file-sharing, which I'll be the first to admit is legally and ethically dubious. We're talking people like... well, like ME, people who spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on cd's annually, and are prevented from listening to our own music. And it's not just hyperbole; certainly not in my own case. I buy tons of cd's, and NEVER LISTEN TO THEM. At least, not in the same format I buy them. What do I do? I rip them to my pc and put them on my iPod, so I can listen to the music when I commute, when I travel, and in my office. I rip them to my hard-drive based jukebox plugged into my home stereo, so I don't have to change discs when listening at home. And I put selected songs onto home-made mixes for listening in my car. And thanks to Sony (and, presumably, the rest of the industry that is likely to follow lock-step) I am now prohibited from doing any of these things.

Earlier this week, I ordered online the new My Morning Jacket cd, Z, which I subsequently learned includes the copy protection software. As soon as I receive it, I'm shipping it back. As far as I'm concerned, any disc that I can't listen to on my own music equipment is defective by definition. Not sure how that's gonna help the band win fans (or, more significantly, make any money, which you'd think the whole copy protection scam was supposed to ensure). A quick perusal of My Morning Jacket's website tonight reveals that the band and its label were wholly unaware of the copy protection, and includes links to a software patch (though my reading of the info is that the patch will only help expose and possibly remove the spyware; it won't remove the copy protection). Big whoop. It's their album, and it's not my responsibility to put my (very expensive) pc at risk for a frickin' cd. Sorry, but installing patches that may (or may not) counteract malicious spyware should not be part of the listening experience. And if the patch doesn't even do what I need (i.e. allow me to rip the disc to my iPod and jukebox and make mixes for my car), the disc is still essentially worthless to me.

Personally, I hope everyone who buys one of these copy-protected discs returns it. And lets the artists know exactly why you're doing it. (Am I about to fire off an e-mail to the MMJ e-mail address? You bet your ass.) Yeah, we may miss some good music (I was really looking forward to hearing that new MMJ disc, which has drawn some rave reviews). But fuck 'em. We're paying customers. I get better treatment from the minimum wage slaves at Burger King than I do from the RIAA, and I spend a lot more money on music than french fries.


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