Psst, Hey. Wanna Buy A Used CD?

In a strange reaction to recent sales drops the recording industry seems to be going after a niche market – and one that hardly hurts their financial well being at first glance. As reported at Arstechnica, several states are enacting legislation that makes it very very difficult to buy and sell used CDs.

There is legislation already in effect that dictates that if I were to sell a used CD to a store I would only be able to receive store credit for that CD. The store would then have to hold that CD in limbo for at least 30 days before they are able to sell it back to someone. Scratch Florida off my list of potential future residences.

All this seems to be a way for the recording industry to stem off piracy I suppose – though I am not sure used CDs is really where piracy is striking. But the article mentions an interesting aspect to the story – the Doctrine of First Sale. The Doctrine comfortably fits into the physical realm with such things as CDs. When I buy a CD I also obtain the right to sell said copyrighted work. But how does this translate into the digital world?

If you read the fine print, when you buy a track from some of the online music subscription services, particularly if you subscribe and receive a certain number of songs per period, you are not really buying the rights to that work. You’re really only renting the songs. If you cancel your subscription your music purchases go away. But some stores do allow you to buy the song and keep it permanently. So how does the Doctrine of First Sale work then? With the CD there is the assumption that when you sell it you no longer have a copy for yourself. In the digital world this is not true. You can make unlimited lossless copies of any song you own and sell it (legally or not) without losing your copy.

This has got to be scary to the recording industry – their lifeblood is creating and selling copies of copyrighted work. If anyone in the world can now do the same thing – what business can they hope to keep? But what if they were to whittle away at the consumer’s right to sell what they buy? What if they were to get legislation into the books that says that when a consumer sells a copyrighted work that it is laborious, subject to strange rules, and does not allow them to receive cash for it? What if they were to chip away at this Doctrine of First Sale until it too has to be updated to work with digital works?

Sounds to me like they have a plan here folks. Now lets watch it in action as it unfolds. What can you do? Gee, I dunno, seems to me that if you disagree with this leglislation that somebody out there should be told about your objections and concerns. Maybe someone who works in politics, and who relies on your votes to do so?

Another take might be that this is an attack on the used CD stores themselves. There’s a massive bond that needs to be paid up front in order to be able to sell them. The laws make it prohibitively difficult for people to sell used CDs (fingerprinting? come on!). As a person in the “Internet Age”, why would I bother selling to the local store when I can just hit ebay and get normal, plain old cash without all the bother? Or I could head on over to and trade it with someone else for $1.00. I’m sadened at the idea that we may see used CD stores disappear from the retail landscape – I think they represent part of an important part of a local music scene and their presence would be sorely missed.

Plus my plans to open up a store that includes selling used CDs as a service (along with the vital music matching service that the store would provide as a market differentiator, of course) would go up in flames.

Who’s Humps Are What Now?

Anyone out there sick of the degrading, moronic, sexually drenched music of today’s popular artists? Music that talks about materialism and shallow relationships like they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread? You’re not alone: Alanis Morissette has crafted a parody of a certain song by the Black Eyed Peas that epitomizes the problem. She’s called it “My Humps” – enjoy.

Stop Supporting The RIAA

I think it is sad that the RIAA is approaching their customers with lawsuits rather than with purchasing options that suit today’s digital media world. However I get incensed when I hear that they are not only suing a (then 7) ten year old girl, but also insisting on being given the chance to question her directly rather than through less confrontational methods usually used for children in court cases.

I strongly urge everyone to avoid supporting this evil conglomerate.

How do you know if you’re supporting them? The RIAA Radar website allows you to check a particular artist, album, label, etc. to see if they are part of the sinister corporation. Before buying your music, check out that radar and see if you’re going to be supporting this kind of company, or if perhaps you want to forgo that particular album.

P.S. I’m always happy to provide music suggestions if you’re not sure what non-RIAA music you’d like to listen to.

Compact Cassettes – The Beginning of the End

Maybe it is the incessant rain, but I feel a little blue today. Nothing like some music to make me feel better however – and in that vein I did a little reminiscing with Wikipedia. We all remember the audio cassette, don’t we? How uncomplicated was that format!? Forget DRM. Forget lossless reproduction. Forget sound quality. I remember feeling good when I managed to grab a new song off the radio with the stupid DJ talking over top. I could at least listen to the song whenever I wanted!

Those were much simpler times.

Home Taping Is Killing Music

Now go read the “Home Dubbing” part of that article and see if it sounds familiar at all. Flash back a few decades and the recording industry was warning us consumers about the same problem they are today – the end of music due to reproduction in the home. Maybe the music industry just takes a long, long, LONG time to die?

Resilient stuff, that music.

Taking Music To A HNL

The music industry is going through a massive change right now. They’re having to deal with lossless limitless reproduction of digital music along with instant access by anyone connected to the Internet. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – they’re responding in the wrong way by using such draconian measures as lawsuits against their customers and using DRM to limit their customer’s ability to enjoy their own property. It often seems like nobody out there really gets the whole point of music: community, communication, art and expression.

Today I need to tell you that some people do get it – there is hope! I know most of you have heard of Apple’s iTunes store and perhaps you may think of it as the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’ve previously mentioned that I refuse to shop there due to their use of DRM, so I’ve been unable to really tap into the digital distribution market – until now.

My media player of choice is Rhythmbox. The latest version has quite simply opened up a new world of access to digital media. Just like iTunes, Rhythmbox displays your music collection like a library, allowing you to create playlists from your tracks. iTunes also allows you to browse their online store and make purchases directly within the iTunes interface. This allows you to easily add purchased tracks to your library – seamlessly one might say.

Rhythmbox obviously cannot interface with Apple’s store, but in true Open Source fashion they’ve gone one better: they’ve interfaced with two stores. The latest version now includes access to Magnatune and Jamendo – directly through the interface. Again they one-up Apple by providing you free access to these stores’ complete catalogue: full songs, unlimited listens.

Magnatune allows you to purchase the songs at a price you set (how cool is that?!) and will split the purchase price 50/50 with the artist. Jamendo also allows you to set a price, with the entire amount going directly to the artist. Both offer web interfaces so if you can’t get Rhythmbox installed (Linux only at this point) then I urge you to check out their websites if you’re curious.

But this is all about integration. Within Rhythmbox I have my library, Magnatune’s library, and Jamendo’s library all immediately available. I can listen to whatever I want, whenever I want, however often I want. This is digital music’s next step – it is taking things to a “Hole Nuthu Level“.

At this point none of the big record labels have signed on with either of these stores, so don’t expect to see your top 40 artists in there (yet). But do expect to find good (and bad) independent artists along with some other more open-minded artists who want to leverage these stores for their distribution needs. How large are the collections? Looking at Rhythmbox I see I have access to the following number of tracks:

  • Magatunes: 7,290
  • Jamendo: 20,957

And to top this selection off, I get to decide how much to pay, knowing full well how much is actually landing in the pockets of the people who created the music! Can you say that about iTunes? CDs?

Someone gets it – Magnatune gets it. Jamendo gets it. Rhythmbox gets it. Thank god someone gets it!

P.S. Just a note that I think the record label Nettwerk gets it too, but are approaching it from a commercial point of view rather thana community point of view.

P.P.S. I almost forgot to mention that Rhythmbox also includes integration, meaning I can access their set of playlists and user suggestions as well.

Gomez + Canadianization = Panurge

I just received a new CD on my To Buy list from my lovely daughter (she already knows the path to my heart – as if she needed one) and I have to say I am really impressed – good choice Marley!

Panurge is a new artist to me but I had heard/seen one of their songs/videos some months ago. and really liked what I heard/saw. If you like Gomez, you’ll want to check out this Vancouver band.

DRM – Sony’s Stupidity

A court ruling today in a class action lawsuit filed in Ontario confirms it – I’m not the only one who thinks Sony’s most recent DRM attempts were stupid to the point of being negligent.

The discussion around the ruling also points out some interesting things:

  1. Sony still plans on using and deploying DRM, but doesn’t want the consumer to know about it at the point of purchase
  2. Sony doesn’t want to allow the user to know what Sony’s software is doing to their computer when they’re installing

“Sony refused to agree to put in the more specific protections that we wanted them to put in that do exist in the U.S.,” said Lawson, such as putting labels on CDs that contain copy protection and requiring a plain-language user licence agreement that is displayed before any software is installed.

This ruling excludes Quebec and BC, but if anyone else outside of these provinces bought an afflicted CD – you’re able to get compensation.

An Ontario court approved a settlement deal Thursday that has the music giant offering $8.40, a replacement CD and free downloads of selected CDs to hundreds of thousands of customers who bought the affected discs.

Those of us in BC or Quebec have to wait until our own class action lawsuits go through a settlement approval hearing (Sept. 28 in Montreal and Sept. 29 in Victoria).

Of course, Sony is only promising to do these things until December next year – after that they’re free to be stupid once again. Maybe we as consumers need to do our part here and avoid buying a product from a company that is so obviously unconcerned with their customer’s needs and interests? If we ask Sony’s plans, we can see the following in their FAQ:

17. What is SONY BMG doing about its future content protection initiatives?

We are reviewing all aspects of our content protection initiatives to be sure that they are secure and user-friendly for consumers. The consumer experience is our primary concern, and our goal is to help bring our artists’ music to as broad an audience as possible. As we develop new initiatives, we will continue identifying new ways to meet consumers’ demands for flexibility in how they listen to music, while protecting intellectual property rights.

So seriously, who exactly wants the DRM? Have you asked the artists involved what their opinion of this fiasco is? My guess is that if you really are so concerned with being “user-friendly” you’d look back at those old days when CDs weren’t a threat to the user at all. DRM does nothing but reduce user-friendliness.

Polaris Music Prize – Awards Based On Merit? What The?!

As a Canadian I am aware that we hold the annual Juno Awards to reward the top artists in Canadian music. However I have to admit that I am often puzzled by the nominees for the Junos: they always seem to be big names in music with the little names getting a brief spotlight as up and comers or some such. The music is typically radio-friendly and bland. Frankly I don’t bother with the awards at all – they seem far too “ersatz“. But what is the Juno Award replacing, or standing in for?

Well, finally Canadians have an answer to this question – The Polaris Music Prize. Their mission statement:

The operation of a not-for-profit organization that annually honours, celebrates and rewards creativity and diversity in Canadian recorded music by recognizing, then marketing the albums of the highest artistic integrity, without regard to musical genre, professional affiliation, or sales history, as judged by a panel of selected critics and experts. (link)

Whodathunkit? A music award based on artistic merit? What will us crazy Canucks think of next?!