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the solution to the digital rights / music download problem . . .

i, cid
so, the times' david pogue has been writing a series in his newsletter about the riaa and their neverending quest to stop filesharing. he posted some of the feedback in the last newsletter and i've gotta say they bring up some good points, but we as a society really need to be paying attention to how much we're giving up.

one person suggests putting digital signatures in each track sold which would identify you. so if a million copies of a particular track are floating around with the same digital sig, then the riaa know who to sick their lawyers on. the major flaw with this plan is that you could just copy someone else's music so it wouldn't have your number on it. and what happens when someone copies _your_ music and puts it out there? how well do you think the music watchdogs' lawhounds are gonna respond when you stand up in court and tell them you don't know how a hundred thousand copies of _your_ britney spears album got out onto kazaa's net.

another person wrote that maybe we should just include an extra tax or charge on blank media that would be collected and distributed to the artists. the more popular a download was rated, the bigger share an artist would get. systems similar to this one have been implemented with varying degrees of success in parts of europe, and canada. but the inherent problem with this system is that people are basically punished (by paying more) for any other purposes said media may be used for--i.e. home videos, backing up your hard drive, holding picture files, etc. and also that doesn't address files stored on portable players and computer hard drives, unless similar and proportional taxes are levied against the sale of any kind of storage media at all.

if a system like that can be balanced properly (with artists actually getting a fair cut of the moolah and everyday consumers not getting scrizzed on the price every time they wanna buy a pack of dvd-r's) then it might work out pretty well. everybody gets a piece. everybody gives up some things. but whether or not it could be balanced (and stay that way) is a _BIG_ if.

somebody wanted the big biz music companies to flood the internet with free radio quality mp3's, making the 'new' internet radio, as a sample and launching ground for music rotations of a sort. an interesting concept, but somehow i don't see the industry going for that one.

yet another letter called for companies to replace damaged cd's and dvd's through the mail or whatever. but that's absurd. why should i have to wait for the mail just to get a new copy of something my home computer could have easily backed up.

and another interesting one is the idea of flattening the pay scale for artists and musicians. i guess you could say commoditizing them. paying artists enough to be comfortable and get value from their undeniable work, but not necessarily on a per copy basis, which is nice for the consumer, nice for the artist, but bad for the proverbial super rich rock star lifestyle. superstars would have to be made the old fashioned way instead of overnight by a song and a video, but it's still an interesting compromise which definately has some merit.

i guess my point is that so far, there is no clear path for an end all be all solution that doesn't screw somebody over, but this is america, right? the artists are getting ripped off by the industry, the industries are getting ripped off by the consumers, and the consumers are always getting ripped off by all kinds of people, but that's a different kettle of fish, now isn't it?

we need to do something, but we need to make damn sure we don't give up too much in the process. when i say that i mean specifically that we don't give up our freedoms to use our technologies as technology demands to be used. if i buy an album or a movie, i want to be able to back it up, and transfer it to different media types as new devices and techniques become available.

artists need a more fair cut in most cases (and perhaps even smaller cuts in certain cases) and the bloated parts of the industry could probably use a little trimming. the real ammo we have as consumers are the choices we make. the best thing you can do is support local and independent artists and labels. there are a _LOT_ of good bands out there not getting the exposure they deserve (probably several good ones right in your home town) and they need your help. you can usually get a cd for five or ten bucks at a small venue concert and you will have some of the best times of your life.

if you don't have the time or means to make it out (though tickets are often very inexpensive or even free) then hop on the internet and read about some new bands. you can often find samples to listen to (which in a sense the illegal filetrade also serves as, getting the music out there, and there's no way to track the cd sales that result from somebody listening to some illegal file download that they might've never heard otherwise) regardless of what your flavor is.

you've got choices, more choices than you may realize. don't let your voice go unheard.


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