27 May 2011

Will Apple Redeem Piracy?

One of the central arguments I and others make is that piracy is actually *good* for media producers in all sorts of ways (there lots of links to examples in my submission to the Hargreaves enquiry.)

The content industry has simply refused to consider this possibility, because it would undermine all its arguments for harsher enforcement of copyright - even though it might help them to make more money (it seems that control is more important than cash...)

Against that background of pig-headed refusal to look at the objective facts, news of an imminent announcement by Apple of a cloud-based music service could be rather significant:

Apple no doubt has paid dearly for any cloud music licenses, and it's unclear how much of those costs it will eat or pass on to consumers. One possibility would be to bundle an iCloud digital locker into Apple's MobileMe online service, which currently costs $99 a year and synchronizes contacts, e-mail, Web bookmarks, and other user data across multiple devices. Users will be able to store their entire music collections in the cloud—even if they obtained some songs illegally. That would finally give the labels a way to claw out some money on pirated music.

I think this could be an important moment: it would suddenly give the recorded music industry an incentive to accept, if not actively encourage, piracy, because it would effectively be marketing for the new service (and for others that will doubtless come along based on the same idea.)

This, of course, is what some of us have been saying all along; but if it takes Apple to get this idea into the heads of the music industry, so be it. The main thing is that we need to move away from the current obsession with repressive "enforcement" measures that will cause huge collateral damage to freedom and society, as the chilling calls for a "civilised" (as in locked-down, monitored and corporatised) Net at the recent eG8 circus made only too clear.

Let's just hope that the labels don't manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on *this* one, too....

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.


twitter said...

It is hard to think when your head is filled with the vocabulary invented by oppressive publishers. If you ask is "Will Apple promote sharing and software freedom?" the answer is obviously "no" but the natural response is to ask, "Why not?"

Apple's aptly named "locker" in the fog is not a useful service for people who love and want to share music. The service grows the locked down internet by using locked down devices that people have been waring us about for years [2, 3]. Users own nothing and the owners are in complete control, what fun. The surging popularity of Android shows that people want more freedom not less. Sites like magnatunes.com and archive.org do a better job of sharing music and there's plenty of software that syncs files between machines. Apple and obnoxious publishers have made some money through their tremendous advertising and propaganda but that does not mean we should take them seriously. The service is a blast from the phonographic broadcast past that should be allowed to fade away.

Investors and owners of mp3.com must be spinning in their debt. They once offered a similar "locker" to complement a fantastic library of original music. The user proved they owned a CD by putting it in their computer and then MP3.com "ripped" it by making a copy of the files for the user's locker. The business was sued so completely that the "corporate veil" was pierced and individual investors were robbed. Most of the original music collection was deleted.

If you want to talk about "piracy", talk about what happened to mp3.com where music not "content" was destroyed. We should not compare sharing, which promotes music and ensures survival of copies, to murder on the high seas.

Glyn Moody said...

@twitter: well, you're right that calling this "piracy" is an abuse of language. But I use the terminology because I think the attempt by the copyright-based industries to turn it into a term of opprobrium has failed. I actually believe it works against their agendas of criminalising people who share. And so I use it in these contexts.

As you say, this kind of locker service means that people don't really own the music. But then you could argue that *nobody* owns music and art in general - and that the very idea of "owning" such things has led us into the intellectual monopoly mess we see today.

We should concentrate on the sharing, and forget about the owning.