Saturday, January 3, 2009

iTunes & Music

I'm no saint and have a questionable past, but I continue to try to be
a better person. Several years ago I decided that all my software,
music and movies should be legally paid for and went on a buying/
purging spree to get to that state. When you pay for everything you
really know the value before you buy and you don't end up with a hard
drive full of useless apps, music you don't listen to, etc.

Anyway, a few things I found out along the way:

1) Software application licenses often don't make sense. The software
vendors need to think about the multiple machine users (I use 3
regularly) and the multi-user households (I have 3 in my family). Some
do offer family licenses, but several require a license per copy.
Sometimes licensing schemes can be so broken that you can't buy more
than one copy at a single email address forcing you to violate the
license or create a fake/new email just to buy it. Anyway, if you
really try hard to pay for everything you have in terms of software
(perhaps most people do that but I didn't always), you'll find a lot
of inconsistencies and annoyances along the way.

2) DRM for music is painful for people who try to follow the law. It
feels like I'm getting penalized for the crimes of others. So for a
while when I bought music off iTunes, i'd create a playlist, burn it
to CD, and then immediately rip it back as MP3. That keeps the
metadata and gets it in an unprotected form. Not so I can share it or
do anything illegal, but so I can use it where I want to use it
without worrying about odd formats and protection. About 6 months ago
I switched to buying all my music off Amazon MP3. The music comes DRM
free and is cheaper or the same price as iTunes. Its not many more
clicks to get it and it saves me wasting a CD and the other clicks to
get rid of the DRM. I think Apple has to go the DRM-free route.
There's no added value to me from buying it off iTunes and their
"Genius" approach isn't going to make me buy more music from them.

So, the thing that bothers me is that if you went into someone's house
and tried to audit their household for compliance with the music and
software licensing laws who would pass? How would you prove that the
2,635 songs in my music library were all bought and/or ripped from
CD's I owned? They are, but i'd hate to try to go through such an
audit. What if I lost a CD after I ripped it? Was I even allowed to
rip it in the first place? Where are the receipts for the music I
bought off iTunes, Amazon etc?

What it comes down to is you doing your best to adhere to the intent
of these broken licenses and concepts and paying (at least once) for
every piece of music and software that isn't free that you have in
your house (yes, even if you have music you don't listen to - if you
have it you should have paid for it or you should delete it).

People that know my past will find this post funny. A long time ago I
ran a multi-state computer piracy bulletin board that was quite
popular in its time. That was back in the days of speedy 300 baud
modems (you're likely accessing this at 15,000x or more faster speeds
now). I've either evolved or gained a lot more respect for Bubba.