Of course this is not a simple question to answer. If you are the RIAA it is absolutely in everyone’s best interests to ensure that those pesky music pirates are not sharing copyrighted material. In fact the RIAA would have us beleive that without DRM the entire music industry would cease to be, I guess that would mean the RIAA would go away as well (which in my opinion might not be such a bad thing). In fact without DRM the entire world’s economic infrastructure would collapse!

DRM for those of you that are not familiar with the term, is a method of encoding digital music in such a way that the consumer has no controll over his or her use of it. If you download your favorite song from Itunes and play it on your Ipod, you can not then move the song to another player, not even your home computer!

This is what the RIAA call fair use, this is a completely different definition of the concept of fair use than most rational people have. Maybe I am just old fashioned, but my theory is that if I buy something, I should be able to tinker with it. If I spend $50 on a clock radio and decide to take it to bits and change it around, maybe add new features, or make it quack like a duck, that is my perogative. I paid my money, I should be able to do whatever I want with the product, and yes I invalidate the warranty, but who cares.

DRM prevents me from doing this. The RIAA is a very rich and influential group who have managed to sneak all sorts of legislation through the US that has effectively taken away the ability to tinker.

Here is the scenario, I buy a song online from Itunes, and put it on my Ipod, however I decide that I like the song and want to play it in the CD player in my car. Let us say I am very good at computer geeking, so I have the technology to remove the DRM layer from the song and burn it to a CD. I have just broken the law!

Technically the ambulance chasing lawyers employed by the RIAA can now sue me. Does this sound fair? All I have done is tinker with something that I thought I owned. DRM combined with the RIAA is the death knell for the music industry, not the pirates! The RIAA and DRM have created an environment where we no longer own something, we are merely leasing it. 

It transpires that the RIAA has been leaning on the government for some time, and, even stranger, the RIAA actually has some pull. My guess is that they have some dirt about President Bush, maybe they caught him using Limewire to download illicit music to his Ipod (only kidding).

News reports are coming in that a Russian based for pay music download site Allofmp3.com has been shutdown at the request of the Bush administration. Allofmp3 were selling music without the hated DRM layer. Apparently Russia was bullied into doing this, the threat being hung over their heads, non admittance to the WTO. Now that’s what I call pull!

Unfortunately most people know so little about DRM and what the RIAA is doing, that by the time they do wake up and notice it will be far too late. The straw that breaks the proverbial camels back will probably arrive when the TV stations all move to the HDTV standard. The DRM proposals are such that the average consumer will think he is back in the 1960’s, you watch a program, and that’s it, no recording, no watching it again. We will be back in those pre VCR and BetaMax days.

Well folks that is what we have to look forward to in this brave new RIAA DRM world.

CNN and othernews organizations (this one included) love to talk about ‘The war on terror’ and ‘The war on drugs’, well pretty soon we are going to be talking about ‘The war on music’.

Simon Barrett


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