I had a very interesting conversation with someone that works in this arena as an attorney. I will not reveal his name, but if you are a regular reader of this news source it probably would not take an IQ of 150 to figure it out! However it was not part of our planned interview so I decided to make this a separate article.

Back in the days when music came on cassettes piracy was an inconsequential problem for the music industry, to copy a cassette took time, and the copy basically lost a lot of quality.

Also if you were the recipient of a bootlegged cassette and you liked the music there was a good chance that you would plonk down the dollars and buy a legitimate copy to get the better quality.

The digital formats have changed this landscape, one original version can be duplicated millions of times with no loss of quality.

Much of the pirate music and video occurs over peer to peer networks, some of the more famous ones are Kazaa and Morpheus.

In an attempt to stem this trend the music industry and the RIAA have taken various steps. The music industry has incorporated DRM technologies into digital versions of music and video. DRM is technology, sometimes software, and sometimes hardware that ensures that the consumer can not copy and distribute the product.

The RIAA has taken a different approach, they like to seek out end users and persecute them though the court system.

I asked my guest, seeing as he is an IP expert, and very much in the loop about this situation. He represents artists, and what he had to say was interesting.

I first posed the question of should the RIAA persecute the end user or the middle man (Kazaa, etc). His reply was that yes, the end user was the best candidate, the end user was a physical person that could be located, the middle man (the P2P networks are often offshore) and very hard to pin down.

I moved on to DRM, DRM limits my ability to use a product in the way I wish. I can download a song from iTunes in MP3 format, but I can only play it on an apple product, what if I want to play it on another manufacturers player?

His response to this question gave me food for thought.

He took me back to the halcyon days of VHS versus Beta, from a technology standpoint Beta was a far superior product, unfortunately Sony wanted to keep the technology close to their chest, whereas VHS found favor with many manufacturers. DRM is similar, one will win out, and it is up to the consumer to make that choice. Choose poorly and you lose, choose wisely and you win.

In many ways he has it right, if you owned a VHS player, you did not buy Beta movies. It certainly was a new view on the issue. While I maybe not in full agreement, I must say that I am giving it some serious thought.

Simon Barrett


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