To (DRM) Freedom!

Tuesday, 3rd April 2007 at 9:00 UTC Leave a comment

EMI have announced that they are to start offering slightly more expensive, alternative copies of their tracks through iTunes. These will have two key features, the first being that they’ll be double the quality of the usual 99c/79p tracks. The crucial shift will be the lack of copy protection on the new tracks, allowing them to be copied to MP3 players and burnt to CD much more easily, all for 20p more.

This is a huge shift, spelling victory for Apple’s Steve Jobs and for listeners worldwide. Whats more, its likely EMI won’t be the last to make this announcement. Sadly, however (and yes, this is open to debate) they haven’t found it in themselves to make the Beattles’ music available for downloading, but hey, one step at a time.

Effectively this means that the battle between Micro$oft and (A)pple is being won by Apple for once. OK, so casting Apple as the anarcho-saviours of techdom is a lot misguided but its interesting just how much effort they’ve put into this. It does mean that music is breaking free, gradually, of the constraints certain bits of technology have put around it.

I was thinking earlier about the effects of music, and how often music changes fastest when life moves most slowly and vice-versa. In turbulent times, we tend to cling to sounds we know and identify our safety with. As an activist, I often hum certain songs when things get tough, particularly out on protests. Some of these are basically ways of calming myself and down and saying “everything will be all right”.

DRM is, or just maybe (fingers-crossed) was, a way to ensure that corporations controlled this experience. Music is part of our common heritage, we shouldn’t allow big companies to come along and steal it, and certainly not to commodify it. Songs with real meaning deserve to be owned by the people who wrote them and those who share in experiencing them. No surprises then, that my favourite bands are always those who’s message is at least as important than their pay-check. So I’ll end in the words of a favourite artist of mine, David Rovics (The Commons):

It’s the commons, our right of birth,
And to you who’d own the music all around the Earth,
Our future is your downfall, when we cut this ball and chain,
You who’d sacrifice the public good for your private gain .

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Entry filed under: Culture, Freedom, Technology.

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