The CD Can’t Be Dead! (Can It?)

Cyberlaw Online Music

Ever since I read last week about EMI CEO Alain Levy declaring, “the CD as it is right now is dead,” I’ve been trying to decide what I think about it. Do I agree? (Do I care?)

It’s certainly not a ridiculous thing to say. We’re always hearing about how CD sales are falling, and Tower Records just went under–both ominous signs for an industry that’s constantly telling us how forlorn it is.

But wait. See what happened? The same old problems with the industry are now being blamed on the poor little compact disc.

As Wes Phillips at Stereophile puts it,

[O]nce again we have the spectacle of a major music mogul confessing that he doesn’t have a clue what his customers want. . . . I personally want the highest-quality sound I can get in my
living room, but I also want my music in the gym, on the road, and in
my office. We music lovers get cranky when we can’t transfer the music
we bought from one venue to another—and Mr. Record Company Mogul, you
won’t like it if we get angry.

Instead, we get the record companies bringing lawsuits against their customers and developing DRM technology that prevents the kind of transfer Phillips mentioned. It’s like record companies are working against customers instead of wooing them.

It could be worse, I guess. In Britain, it’s illegal even to rip music from your own CDs to put on your personal iPod. Commenting on a report just released, Dr Ian Kearns of the (British) Institute for Public Policy Research said,

British copyright law is out of date with consumer practices and
technological progress. Giving people a legal ‘private right to copy’
would allow them to copy their own CDs and DVDs onto their home
computers, laptops or phones without breaking the law.

Dr Kearns goes on to say that in developing DRM technology, “it is not the music industry’s job to decide what rights consumers have. That is the job of Government.”

Copyright law is out of date with consumer practices and
technological progress.

It is not the music industry’s job to decide what rights consumers have.

That pretty much sums it up right there. Though not quite the same in the US as in Britain, copyright law generally is outmatched by the latest technological realities, and record companies’ attempts to work within the present system are annoying customers (and not even working!).

As for the solutions to these problems, I admit I don’t know. Let me get back to you. For now, I just wanted to speak up in defense of the poor little CD. (Maybe it’s the music snob in me, but–if you’re keeping score since my first paragraph–yes, I do care.)

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