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Sound and Fury: DRM hits a new Lo(fi)

So I read in this article on about SoundExchange's "deal" with Web broadcasters. After pushing internet radio to the brink of extinction, they now graciously extend their hand and offer salvation - for a price.

The back dated fee schedule soon to be charged to internet radio sites would be enough to put a majority of them out of business. But last week, SoundExchange decided they would cap the fee amount at $50,000 per webcaster.

However, this deal is only extended to those who agree to "stop users from engaging in 'stream ripping'..." This is what chaps my hide - first, this is a legal activity - we've been recording broadcast radio all of our lives. And, in a decade where "time shifting" is pretty much the norm, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that 'stream ripping' is essentially the same as time shifting. And to make matters worse, 'stream ripping' takes advantage of the dreaded "Analog Hole" that you may have heard about. No DRM can survive it's horrible depths.

So, what are the main methods to combat this legal practice? Lower the quality of the streams so no one will WANT to rip them. Mixing ads, promos and such over the music, and (according to Salon) crossfading songs so they don't start and end cleanly. Webcasters are being asked to lower the quality of the content to the point that is no longer desirable. I see this as a call to ANNOY your users so that they won't stream rip your content. But oh wait - this also means they won't LISTEN to your content. So while this may seem like a magnanimous gesture from the RIAA, in reality they are just offering two paths to ultimate destruction.

Unfortunately, SoundExchange and the RIAA have bumbled this mess so badly I just don't believe them anymore. I don't think they have my best interests at heart, either as a consumer of music, or as a creator of music. And I believe that this distrust is ultimately the cause behind their loss of revenues.


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Comments (4)
Read More Entries by Scott Snyder.


viggo said:

"We knew at the start that no digital rights management technology is going to be impervious to circumvention"


"I knew right from the beginning
That you would end up winnin'
I knew right from the start
You'd put an arrow through my heart...."

c said:

if only there were some functional version of micro-payments (a tenth of a cent?) built into song formats.... then they could work out a fair system where the artist gets paid every time the song gets played, whether it's on radio, cable tv, the web, your pc, your ipod, your goldfish bowl, whatever.

it would mean re-inventing the industry, quite possibly without record labels. although i'm cynical enough to know it would just mean re-inventing the middleman with a different name. unless EMI, Sony, Warner, and Universal are somehow miraculously savvy enough to step into the niche themselves.

Here's my favorite excerpt from the article you're linking to, David:


"We knew at the start that no digital rights management technology is going to be impervious to circumvention," said Jonathan Usher, a director in Microsoft's consumer media technology group, in a phone interview.


I'll file this under "The Microsoft Duh! Moment of the Year."

This reminds me of a sound effects demo CD in which the company started by playing an airplane flyover, then layered cabin noise under the rest of the demo so the sounds would be too dirty to sample.

In related news, hackers broke Windows Media DRM again on Friday with FairUse4m, a drag-and-drop app.

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