Sony caves on DRM

the last holdout, Sony, admits defeat:

In a move that would mark the end of a digital music era, Sony BMG Music Entertainment is finalizing plans to sell songs without the copyright protection software that has long restricted the use of music downloaded from the Internet, BusinessWeek.com has learned. Sony BMG, a joint venture of Sony (SNE) and Bertelsmann, will make at least part of its collection available without so-called digital rights management, or DRM, software some time in the first quarter, according to people familiar with the matter.

Sony BMG would become the last of the top four music labels to drop DRM, following Warner Music Group (WMG), which in late December said it would sell DRM-free songs through Amazon.com’s (AMZN) digital music store. EMI and Vivendi’s Universal Music Group announced their plans for DRM-free downloads earlier in 2007.

Given this, what will Apple’s excuse be for maintaining DRM on the iPod? Attention Steve Jobs! Doesn’t music want to be free?

the DRM drama, act VII

Cause:

In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings.

Backlash:

In 2007, 83.9 million albums were sold, down 21.4 million from last year. A 20 percent drop in sales is more than a blip; it’s serious trouble.

The industry has been under pressure for years, of course. Back in August, we took a detailed look at trends in the movie, music, and video game businesses and noted that RIAA companies have seen sales drop by 11.6 percent between 2002 and 2006, even as movies hold steady and games are showing sales increases.

Effect:

the Warner Music Group said on Thursday that it would sell songs and albums without anticopying software through Amazon’s fledgling digital music service. […] Warner is the third of the four major music corporations to reconsider its use of so-called digital rights management software, known by its initials as D.R.M., and offer its catalog in the unrestricted MP3 format. […] EMI Group broke ranks with the other major labels and agreed to sell unprotected music through iTunes in April.

Now, some music executives are privately backing the idea of dropping the software from music sold through virtually every service except iTunes, in order to strengthen Apple’s rivals and potentially diminish Mr. Jobs’s advantage. The major labels have been upset with Apple’s inflexibility on music pricing, among other issues.

Warner’s move comes roughly four months after the industry’s biggest company, Universal Music Group, part of Vivendi, said it would sell music without restrictions through an array of services, including digital stores run by Wal-Mart, Real Networks and Amazon, but not iTunes.

Denial:

Apple and Fox have indeed (finally) agreed on an iTunes movie deal, and while details are admittedly scant at the moment, chances are Stevie J. will get to the nitty gritty come Macworld. What we do know, however, is that the alleged partnership will enable iTunes users to rent new Fox DVD releases and keep them around “for a limited time,” though pricing figures weren’t speculated upon. Additionally, it sounds like Fox will be spreading its digital file inclusion from select titles to all flicks, giving DVD purchasers a FairPlay protected file that can easily be transferred (read: without third-party transcoding software) to a computer and / or iPod for later viewing.

Apple is betting on the wrong horse here. I’m coming around to the view that Steve Jobs’ famous anti-DRM letter was just a negotiating tactic and didn’t represent any genuine pro-fair-use sentiment.

power corrupts…

and Google corrupts absolutely. With that maxim in mind, this little Google hack might be of interest:

-inurl:(htm|html|php) intitle:"index of" +"last modified" +"parent directory" +description +size +(wma|mp3) "Linkin Park"

Of course, you can replace “Linkin Park” with whatever other artist or work you may be interested in. This searches open web folder indexes for files that people have uploaded and left publicly accessible. Other enterprising folks have even built an entire application around this, called G2P (Google to Person).

Please use your newfound powers for good, and not for evil.

R.E.M. : Losing my Religion

I’ve always loved this song. Not because I have any crisis of faith brewing, but just because it’s got such a mythic quality to it. It’s also served as an inspiration of sorts to me in various endeavors. Oh no.. I’ve said too much.

Twitter

I joined up with Twitter several months ago, and have essentially never used it. I see that I am not alone in considering its stated rationale kind of pointless. Do any of my friends actually care what I am up to moment-by-moment? If anything I already have a (less fine-grained) system for that, in my google chat status message, which I populate with all sorts of things as my mood strikes me. And I know I have a lot more (vetted) friends on Google than I will ever recruit on Twitter.

(as an aside, a javascript badge to display your Google Chat status on your web site would be mondo cool.)

I am however impressed by Twitter’s technical backend; essentially a device-agnostic messaging system, that lets you essentially blog via IM, cell phone text, or web interface (provided each “post” is only 140 characters long). This suggests that Twitter could be thought less of a social tool and more of a general one that can be easily re-purposed, for example as performance art. I’ve decided to hijack Twitter myself, to use it akin to the old UNIX fortune command, only mine will be populated by great song lyric lines.

If you look on the sidebar, you’ll see a new section called Lyrical; that’s powered by javascript (which I had to hack the code a bit from their example). I wanted something unobtrusive and easily integrated. Now, whenever I get the urge to preserve a great lyric, I can just IM it or cell text it to my Twitter account and it will automatically update on my blog sidebar. This is really kind of impressive if you think about it. At any rate, it’s a cool toy and until I find something even more interesting to use it for, I shall enjoy the freedom of music, one line at a time.

UPDATE: Removed it from my sidebar. Took way too long for the javascript to update, it was slowing down the whole page load. I might add it as an RSS feed module instead.

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