Though I haven’t posted on it in a little while, there are few things that get me more worked up than digital rights management. I wrote this piece that got picked up by el Reg a few years back, but since then I’ve been relatively quiet on the subject simply because I’ve more or less said what I had to say, and because Cory said everything that I think needs to be said. The evidence that the RIAA (the very same wholesome, honest folks that colluded me and my fellow consumers out of $480M) is protecting themselves from a threat that doesn’t exist continues to grow, as DeWitt notes here.
But last night DRM kicked me in the face yet again. While I was at a friend’s house for some routine PC maintenance, I was asked to explain how to import purchased CD’s into iTunes so they could be copied onto an iPod Shuffle. First up was a homemade-looking CD from a band called “The Frays,” and the CD included the curious (from an RIAA perspective) label on it – “PLEASE BURN FOR YOUR FRIENDS.” Weird, hunh? Why on earth would a band want more people to listen to their music? No problem with that one. The second CD to import was the latest Foo Fighters double disc. Unfortunately, the CD was – you guessed it – DRM’d, asking me to install some sort of copy protection scheme, “for my benefit,” of course. Remembering an old workaround, I ejected and reinserted the disc holding down shift key and sure enough the copy protection didn’t load. Unfortunately, the resulting import into iTunes included a not-so-tuneful assortment of skips, pops and chirps indicating that the technical wizards at the RIAA had adapted to this latest strategy (after they’d gotten around the “Sharpie” vulnerability). It was the same deal with the new Killers disc.
So my question is this: if I purchase a CD, is the RIAA’s stance now that I can’t listen to it in the media player of my choice on a PC – not to mention a portable music player? And if so, do they think the average consumer realizes that? Because I don’t – and it sure came as an unpleasant surprise to my friend. While there is an FBI warning label on the disc discussing the “UNAUTHORIZED DUPLICATION” of the disc, do they believe an average consumer knows importing a disc into iTunes constitutes unauthorized duplication? And what of the bands? Do they think this doesn’t reflect on them?
The real question here is a simple one: if I buy a CD, is it my music? Or not? Because if it’s not, and I can’t do certain things with a CD I’m buying, I think that’s something the RIAA should be required to label clearly on every CD they sell.