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How To Live DRM Free In The Digital Age

Posted by Molli Fire on Wednesday, 21March07

Living DRM Free In The Digital Age

Is it possible? It depends on what you do as an individual, and what the manufacturers do with the technology that they make available to the public. You, as an individual, have a say in both cases. The first step needs to be taken immediately, while the second step will improve your stride into the future! Here is a new, more organized installment of “a very detailed report” about what is happening this week with digital media – storage, streaming and sharing as well as some resources for DRM free music experiences. (Feel free to read my previous installment, which is long in the tooth, but pretty widely peppered with links for lots more information about the CRB’s drastic increase in royalty rates for webcasters. You can find it in the archive on March 7th.)

First, if you are not familiar with DRM and its issues, start by reading the Wiki entry for DRM which is thorough in its portrayal of the different opinions and motivations that have polarized the music community.
Next, read Steve Jobs’ “Thoughts On Music” on apple.com which has been a hot topic since its publication February 6th 2007. Jobs basically dumbs down the history of Apple’s involvement with the music distribution companies, explains how hackers are smart enough to crack any protection they implement, forcing Apple programmers to keep up an endless game of “cat and mouse” with hackers in order to keep the big music companies docile enough to not yank its entire catalog from the iTunes Store.

– -if you want to know the punchline from these thoughts right now, then keep reading this section. otherwise skip past the brackets and read the manifesto in full on apple.com- –

[- – SPOILER WARNING – – Jobs outlines 3 options for dealing with DRM, choose one : “The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. … This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. …” But then he ends the lesson by leaving this option in the hands of the Big 4 and the EU. It’s too bad he did not make a more clear statement of intent for making changes to Apple’s software and hardware, nor the imposed DRM on tunes and movies that are not under the authority of the Big Boys….]

In the interest of counterpoint, i’d like to know how Apple and Steve Jobs would benefit or be compromised by opening up the DRM restraints. Would it ease legal difficulties arising in courts in EU countries? Would it eliminate obstacles to launching the iPhone with full online and streaming capabilities? Are we to believe that Steve Jobs is a man of the people, and making this statement as a champion of the consumers?

This time last year, CNN reported in their Money section :

The companies – Universal, Warner Music (Research), EMI and Sony BMG – were forced to accept Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ pricing because the iTunes music store has so much influence over the U.S. download market, the report said. The iTunes music store accounts for 80 percent of paid downloads.

The newspaper says that some labels were considering signing short-term contracts with Apple now and then bringing up the issue again in the near future.

Wow, that’s a lot of influence our man Steve Jobs has. If he has this kind of sway over the market and the big music companies, then it seems he would be able to make option 3 in his statement a reality : a DRM free industry, where all media players can play the music that we purchase in all of our listening environments. No more cds bought from best buy that can’t be ripped to play in the car. No more tunes purchased from online stores that cannot be played in mp3 players not made by Apple. Freedom from restrictive micro-management.

How do we the people, who gave Steve Jobs that kind of clout by purchasing 80% of all our downloads from the iTunes Store with millions of our hard earned dollars, let him know that we want DRM free music.? How do we push him into championing the cause of the consumer and putting his ideas into concrete action? It’s simple, and realistic, and it involves those 2 steps i mentioned at the beginning of this episode. First, we tell Steve Jobs that we like his ideas and we want them to become reality. Second, we use our dollars as voting power, and only purchase music that is distributed without DRM. Believe it or not, both steps are very easy, and most likely will not restrict your musical experience at all.

NOW – –*right now*– – If you want to show your support for a DRM free experience and urge Steve Jobs and Apple to lead the way out of DRM and its Digital Restrictions Mafia, then add your signature to the “Open Letter to Steve Jobs” on the Defective By Design website. The letter simply urges him to back up his online pledge with reasonable action, specifically by opening the DRM for all media in the iTunes Store that does not require this impairment. This would cover giving independent musicians and labels the option to decline DRM restrictions being added to their files on iTunes, as well as opening DRM from other products that are not required to use DRM. Jobs also has the authority and corporate standing as a member of Disney’s Board of Directors to have the DRM dropped from Disney’s movies and videos sold in the iTunes Store.

Now for the 2nd step : Starting right now, you can begin living a life free from DRM. you probably won’t want to ditch all the DRM music that you already have and enjoy listening to, but you can make concious choices about the music that you purchase in the future. So much of the music we listen to today will be out of regular rotation in our playlists a year or 2 from now ayway. Making choices about music now could actually convert more and more of our playlists to be free of restrictions. Defective By Design features an online guide to DRM-free Living. The guide features links to record labels, online music stores, software, players and more that provide digital music to the public without the restrictive DRM.
This is where i cheer and jump for joy – Yay!!! Because, there are some great stores on this list that i already frequent, and have been posting links to for you to listen to the great music that i have been writing about! Not only do i vouch for some of these sites, i highly encourage you to go check out their selection! Bleep.com is on there, a great online store for electronic music (Warp Records, Traum, Ed Banger), hip hop and dj music (Ninja Tunes, XL), blues and reggae (Birdman, Trojan) and much much more. The store is vast, and nearly every song on every album has a preview clip to listen to. And yep – eMusic.com and Canada’s Nettwerk is on there as well. When you are checking out this amazing guide, don’t miss page two, because that’s where you will find the link to DRM-free streaming videos like the Decemberists and Postal Service, as well as internet tv and video podcasts.
Oh, and speaking of defective design, many links in the guide were not working for me! but, i was able to locate every website address by hovering over either the site name or the tag name, reading the address and typing it by hand in the location bar. hopefully DbD will have that fixed soon.

Whew! There you have it, an exhaustive report on how to survive as a music lover in the age of music restriction. Consider this your bootleg bottle of prohibition digital music information! i hope you enjoyed the read, and found it helpful. i imagine there will probably be another installment next week, when the industry announces more ways to steal our money.

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One Response to “How To Live DRM Free In The Digital Age”

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