Most of you probably know that my former company
was MP3.com, which was instrumental in bringing digital music to the masses.
One of the things we stood for at MP3.com was the consumer's rights over
their own music collection. Our belief was that consumers who purchase their
music should have the ability to convert that music into a format they like
and put the music on any device they desire. We even tried to get a law
pushed through congress affirming this (we did not succeed in that attempt).
The last five years have seen multiple attempts to limit consumers' rights
via DRM (digital rights management) technology. These are schemes which
add "big brother" restrictions to what you can do with your own music library.
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It's no secret that the major record labels want to embed restrictions
into music and force those restrictions onto customers, but recently they've
been getting help from some surprising sources -- namely Microsoft and Apple.
While I was the CEO of MP3.com, Microsoft repeatedly offered millions of
dollars to us to convert the library of tunes at MP3.com from consumer friendly
MP3 to Windows Media format. We always politely declined. Microsoft's strategy
was that if they could get the whole world to
convert to Windows Media, then they could get the record labels to pay them
huge sums to limit how consumers could listen to their music. Thank goodness
that hasn't happened yet, because having your music "expire", disappear, degrade
in quality, not be able to burn to CD or load onto your devices is an awful
Microsoft is at it again though, trying to use their money and dominance
in the OS to get a foothold in music by selling out consumers. Recently,
that Microsoft is cozzying up to the leading CD restriction company.
This means we're one baby step away from all music CDs ONLY playing on Microsoft
Windows XP. Imagine having to buy a copy of Microsoft Windows XP for every
music device just so you can listen to your own music, and even then being
restricted from making a compilation CD for your car!
Apple has understandably succumbed to pressure from the music labels to
bolster their chances of securing music licenses for their iTunes music service
by trampling music buyers rights. The 2.4% of the world which use Macs will
find out that all the music in their newly announced service is wrapped
in a digital padlock. This gives Apple (or the record labels) the ability
to control what a buyer can do with the music they purchase. The user doesn't
get to pick which computer they can listen to their music on (Macs only).
Forget any device that isn't an iPod, like my current MP3 player (tiny, no cables,
rechargeable battery - nice). Don't even think about burning a disc full
of 100 MP3s to play in your DVD player. (Have you noticed virtually all new
DVD players will play MP3 files?)
Straight ahead of us is a world where CDs will only play in Microsoft
Windows XP computers. Digital songs you buy online will only work with Apple
software or an Apple sanctioned portable player. You will not be able to
burn any of the music you've purchased onto an MP3 CD to pop into your DVD
player. That's a sad and expensive world for music fans because labels
and large corporations will extort money from their users who just want to
enjoy their own music.
When you pay for music, you should be able to enjoy that music in all the
different and convenient ways available. I'm still a big believer in the
value of MP3 because it ensures that the customer is in control of their
music. Our commitment at Lindows.com
is that we won't build restrictions into our OS that limit how you can use
your music. We'll do our best to stand up for consumers' rights with their
music. Music fans should do their part and not buy crippled music
whether in the form of a "secure CD" or an online music service. Instead
they should direct their dollars to non-copy protected CDs, services like
www.emusic.com (which uses MP3
format) and operating systems that put consumers first, like most Linux offerings
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