Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Why Music-Piracy and DRM Ultimately Don't Matter


With all the conjecture regarding the new-music model lately, it struck me as strange that no one appears to be considering where we’re really headed, and what the implications for the industry might be once we get there. The following is nothing new, yet appears to have been largely misplaced due to the recent resurgence of free-music myopia:

I won't venture to guess when, but it's probably safe to assume that within the next several years, increased wireless bandwidth, reach, and the propagation of wireless Internet devices will facilitate the inexpensive, real-time, high bit-rate, streaming of music just about anywhere; consequently rendering the digital download obsolete, and along with it, any impetus for piracy.

Beyond the iPod:

Rather than downloading and storing files on an iPod or similar device, all that will be necessary for a user to access his or her personal library of music will be the creation of Internet-based play-lists that are universally read by any connected device capable of reproducing sound.

Want to play your music selections at a party? Just access your library URL from the stereo, and from there select one of your play-lists or singles. While driving? Same thing with the radio. While jogging? Same thing with your cell-phone or personal player.

What will these scenarios all have in common? An Internet connection (wireless or land-line) and a subscription to a music streaming service.

Streaming Service:

Containing virtually the entire history of popular music, and paid for by way of monthly plans offered to the consumer by any number of providers, a music streaming service might, for example, charge twenty-dollars per month for unlimited access; and even less under tiered-pricing designed for less frequent users.

ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and Harry Fox:

Under such a system, all royalties generated by personal use (as well as for both terrestrial and Internet radio, potentially) would be accounted for automatically; which raises the ancillary questions of whether or not performance rights organizations will be relevant, and mechanical royalties applicable.

Piracy and DRM:

It follows that due to the convenience, prevalence and anticipated nominal cost of music subscription services, the use of P2P file sharing would drop significantly; if not (for all practical purposes) cease entirely. At such a point, piracy would literally be not worth the while, and likewise the point of DRM, moot.

Furthermore, with parents paying the subscription for the benefit of their households, those who most frequently engage in P2P file-sharing (teens and adolescents) will find themselves having no remaining musical purpose for it; and in essence, they will have been granted their wish - music will be free. Additionally, educational institutions might be offered steep discounts to subscribe their entire campuses, thus finally putting an end to RIAA lawsuits.


None of this technology is new, it’s all been around for years. The only barrier to the above scenario becoming reality, is that streaming is not yet convenient enough - for high-speed Internet connectivity is not ubiquitous across all potential listening devices and environments.

Of course, land-line DSL and broadband systems already facilitate streaming - YouTube is a good example, whereby with a reasonably fast connection, playback is both instantaneous and contiguous. However, as land-line access means being physically connected, the application of high bit-rate music streaming is currently limited to (for the most part) these connections. As such, for music streaming to emerge as the new standard of distribution, it must also be viable in everyday mobile situations; therefore broadband wireless Internet access must become prevalent to the point that it becomes commonplace, and the new hardware necessary (wireless car radios, personal players and phones, as well as Internet appliance home stereo and entertainment systems) readily available in the marketplace.

1 comment:

Jami said...

I don't think that the media industry isn't thinking ahead at all. I think they've been thinking
ahead for quite a long time.

This is probably one reason that the FCC is trying so hard to squeeze the little people out of internet and radio control of content. Obviously, the FCC is "owned" by big media. There is no other explanation that is logical ... at least there doesn't seem to be any other logical conclusion that can be made to me.

What is "illogical" in the continued flurry of lawsuits against music users. At least
it's illogical if one considers only that the media industry isn't thinking ahead.

But the lawsuits become logical if one considers that the media industry can use this as a sort of torturous promotional tool. They might even make some money on it via settlements or court decisions, as was recently noted in the Jammie verdict. It's a way of retaining the maximum profit margin while gaining almost constant publicity.

This way, once the FCC locks down the internet and radio control access, we can be spoonfed the idea that all this is good for us because it will finally end the nastiness behind the copyright infringement wars...