I plan on writing up some lengthy commentaries on online music services soon, but for now, let me offer up yet another example of how these services (hamstrung by the truly evil RIAA) are simply not able to deliver happiness to music lovers.
I’ve become enamored with the wonderful and witty musical, Urinetown and a couple of days ago I logged on to PressPlay — a legal online music service that I subscribe to — and downloaded the entire album.
This was, indeed, the second time I had done so, because along with the other dozens of songs I had previously downloaded, my initial Urinetown downloads had stopped working when I upgraded my computer with a new hard drive.
I had contacted PressPlay customer service to ask them why I had to waste my time redownloading all these tracks and why I couldn’t simply reactivate my license, and I was simply given the canned spiel, “Thank you so much for your inquiry [blah blah blah bullshit]. You are unable to maintain or share copies of your downloaded music on other hard drives in order to prevent piracy.”
Charming. I’m a paying member of this service, yet I’m still treated as a crook. Unsurprising, but still maddening.
Anyway, before going to actually see the Urinetown show live yesterday here in San Francisco, I wanted to share my excitement with a friend in Germany, who wasn’t familiar with the music. So, using my portable download credits (available, of course, for an extra fee), I ‘unlocked’ the Overture to the musical so I could send my friend a copy. From an ethical standpoint, I figured this was no different than inviting a neighbor over to listen to my lawfully purchased track. After all, I wasn’t posting the newly-purchased-track up on Kazaa or anything like that.
But of course, it wasn’t anywhere near so simple. After downloading the track from me, my friend was prompted to install PressPlay, which (unbenownst to me initially) she did. After all this hoopla, she was told, of course, that she didn’t have the proper license to listen to the track.
What a crock of horse manure!
Upon futher examining the file, I learned that the dang thing was still wrapped in an obnoxious layer of DRM (Digital Rights [sic] Management)… limiting the number of times I could burn it to a CD, and also, from what I can tell, rendering the track inoperable if I once again upgraded my computer or if my hard drive crashed. And, of course, I’m sure PressPlay would not be so kind as to give me a new license for the damn track I paid for.
When will the music industry wise up? We music-lovers want to do the right thing. We respect artists, we respect sound engineers, we aren’t the type of folks who go into Wal-mart and steal articles of clothing.
But the music industry forces us to be ‘criminals.’ You can guess what I did this morning, after all. I went on Kazaa (sue me now, RIAA, I dare you), downloaded the Urinetown Overture, and e-mailed it to my friend in Germany.
I don’t give a whit whether that’s technically “fair use” or not. I’m sick and tired of spending my time and my money trying to be an honest guy only to be buried under layers and layers of restrictions.
Is it any wonder that the entertainment industry is so reviled? As countless of others have noted with understandable exasperation, if the RIAA refuses to respect us, its potential customers, we will be both unable and unwilling to respect its perverted version of ‘copyright.’