If you’re interested in the ongoing intellectual property turmoil, pick up this month’s issue of Wired Magazine – an interview with RIAA chief Hilary Rosen, an article with a fascinating description of Kazaa’s structure and its plans, and a marvelous discussion of the tension inside Sony – a hardware arm trying to make devices that move entertainment files around freely, and movie and recording divisions fighting to lock down copyrighted material.
It’s widely assumed that eventually one technology will prevail for digital rights management, to lock down content in a manner that consumers will find acceptable. Sony is making serious moves to control that technology, but it’s hampered a bit by the conflicting feelings of its various divisions. Microsoft, of course, is the 800-pound gorilla that might move in. It’s already released Windows Media Player 9, with sophisticated DRM locking up files in the proprietary Windows Media format – and, in classic Microsoft fashion, it’s trying to license that technology and own the standards for secure online distribution, so it gets a tiny piece of every online music transaction. (“We can now offer our record label customers the ability to deliver high-quality audio for PC playback as well as the opportunity to collect new revenue from consumers who wish to make additional secure copies of their music.” Collect new revenue – you’re spotting the code words, right?) Now Microsoft has released a new form of CD copy protection – supposedly, CDs can be played on a computer but not ripped to digital files.
And the recording industry continues to demonstrate that it is determined to propose only boneheaded solutions to its problems. Yesterday it was a demand that ISPs pay up for “allowing” people to use file sharing programs – charges that would be passed on to you, and you, and you – yes, you in the corner, even though you’ve never used a file sharing program in your life.