Nine Things the RIAA, MPAA, Apple, Walmart.com, et. al. Do Not Want You to Know… or How to Build a Large Digital Media Library on the Cheap

First. I’m going to get two kinds of criticisms for this article. The first is going to come in some form of “… but what you’re suggesting violates the law… file sharing is wrong, it’s unethical. It’s wrong for you to show people how to do illegal and unethical things.”

To the first I would say the ethics are murky. Heck copyright law is murky. The debate between protecting artists’ interests and/or corporate profits is murky. The artists themselves have widely diverging opinions on the subject. What exactly is fair use?

Also, because something is technically illegal does not always make it unethical – the examples are endless: jaywalking, speeding, smoking pot in your house, women voting, sodomy laws, gay marriage, whatever. Some of these issues are black and white for some on both sides and for many are gray and in the middle.

The second form of criticism is going to come in some form of “oh man, why did you have to tell them about that!”

To the second I would say, trust me, they already know.

My personal opinion is that the current state of the RIAA is like that of a child playing with one of those pop-up toys. Every time you hit one of the pop-ups on the head with the hammer another one pops up somewhere else. From shutting down Napster to suing grandmothers, my feeling is that their tactics have largely backfired and done nothing but create an enormous amount of ill will and bad publicity directed their way — not to mention karma.

The point of my article is that I’m not making a judgment one way or the other I’m merely pointing out where the little buggers are popping up these days.

I will leave it to others to discuss the ethics of it all.

On to the list

Nine Things the RIAA, MPAA, Apple, Walmart.com, et. al. Do Not Want You to Know… or How to Build a Large Digital Media Library on the Cheap.

1. Rent it Used. Hmmm… I can pay Apple .99 cents a song or Walmart.com even less or… I can go out to one of the many used CD stores and buy some discs and return them for credit via their “insurance” policy.

So, how does this work? What is an insurance policy? Well most used CDs are priced anywhere from $2.99 to $11.99. If I buy one with say 12 tracks at one of the many flourishing used CD stores (no wonder Tower Records went bankrupt) for say $8.99 then return it within one week for 75% store credit, how much have I paid for a track. Yes, that’s right a little over $.18.

Now you do the math. Would you rather have a perfect, crystal clear mp3 with correct meta data and no DRM for $.18 or would you rather pay iTunes $.99 for a crippled piece of crap. And, yes, the policies also apply to their new CDs.

By the way, when is someone going to come out with the Columbia Netflix CD of the month Club? Remember? 10 CDs for a penny. How about I pay a monthly fee and you send me 10 CDs at a time. I get 10 more when I send them back.

2. Sneaker Net. So if I have burned all my CDs to hard drive and my friend happens to also have an external hard rive, would it be possible to hook both of these hard drives up to the same computer? Hmmm. I wonder. He sure does have an awful lot of mp3s. Since he’s my friend I’m doing him a favor right? Storing a back up copy for him. Isn’t fair use about sharing amongst friends? I mean he can burn me a CD to listen to right? Or can he? Wow, he certainly does have a large collection. Geez, I wonder why all the external 250 gig external hard drives are out of stock at CompUSA?

3. Help Out a Friend, Co-worker, Neighbor, etc., Help Yourself. What, you mean you haven’t ripped all of your CDs to mp3 yet? Here, let me help you out. In fact, since I’m such a good friend, why don’t I just rip all of your CDs for you and transfer them to your iPod for you since you’re not exactly sure how to do it. Just leave them with me for the weekend. Geez if only my hot ex girlfriend with the fantastic indie collection didn’t have that restraining order against me, darn it. Hey I didn’t realize that the public library had CDs… cool.

4. Kaaza Lite. Darn it. I can’t find that new song that I heard on the Soprano’s last night at the CD store. I hate going on to Kaaza. I mean the spyware and pop up ads and the all that crap. What’s that? Kaaza Lite? Interesting. What, do a Google search for “Kaaza Lite?” Ok. I’ll try that. Hey, this sure beats Kaaza.

5. Will I Be Sued? Ok, so Kaaza Lite’s pretty cool, but aren’t I going to get sued for picking off that one single track that I can’t find at the CD store? Well, probably not. First of all supposedly at present the RIAA is only going after you if you’re actually sharing and not just taking (yeah, yeah I know, you’re a giver). Second, even if you are a giver it’s still pretty unlikely. It’s probably more likely that you’d get struck by lightening. Slashdot covered a post on this a while back.

6. How to Find New Artists. Try a legal mp3 site. Just go to Google and type in “legal mp3.” You’d be surprised at all of the free music that is out there right now – this represents a whole new way to find artists and there are some pretty great ones out there. The RIAA also seems to be coming down less on fan sites that offer mp3s as well. Two sites that I like a lot are largehearted boy and copy, right?, but there are many more out there. And by the way definitely follow this new Open Source Media Project thing that JD Lasica is pursuing over at JD’s New Media Musings. It is going to be hosted on the Internet Archive where you can also find much more free music for download.

7. Total Recorder. Do a search for Total Recorder on download.com, tucows.com, etc. What does Total Recorder do for me? Well it records anything played through your soundcard on your PC. Does this include any live music that I record from television? Yes. How about a copy protected CD? Well, if it will play in any way on your PC, yes. What about a radio stream or broadcast? Again, yes. What if on my regular old home stereo system I use my line out to go into my PC and listen to my audio CD through a line in on my PC? Heck, this might just work. Anything that travels as audio through your soundcard can be captured.

8. BitTorrent. eDonkey. Soulseek. Shareaza. Enough said. Google it.

9. Ok, so the music thing is pretty nice but what about high quality artwork to show on that beautiful new plasma in my living room? Check out “advanced image searches” at Google, Yahoo! and (yep believe it or not) Ask Jeeves. Right click, save as, now it’s in your library. But aren’t these images copyrighted? I don’t know, maybe. So sue Google.

Update: As an aside, there is an article floating around the internet that was slashdotted by a guy who says that he has 900,000 mp3s. Although I don’t believe the article is actually factual (but, hey I’ve been wrong before), it is an interesting read into what might be the ultimate geek fantasy… high powered lawyer by day, underwear model wife, a cocktail glass of Grand Marnier and a really swank den in a 6 bedroom house and 900,000 mp3s. Apple’s iTunes has “over 700,000.” Also, how does Peter Buck of REM get and give so many damn mp3s?

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey there, Thomas… I’ve got a constitutional amendment for you right here that says it’s 100% legal for women to vote. There’s nothing illegal at all about it, technical or otherwise.

    Google the 19th Amendment. First proposed in 1878 and finally ratified in 1920, the 19th amendment to the constitution once and for all granted to women the right to vote. One could argue there was indeed never any prohibition save an artificial cultural one. (though it may have spurred local laws-all of which were overridden by the amendment)

    Here’s the text of the amendment, in case you’re curious:

    The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    Cheers!

  2. Anonymous says:

    The point being that what’s illegal has little or nothing to do with what’s ethical. It was illegal for blacks to flee their “masters”. We now know that law was evil. It was illegal for women to vote. We now know that law was evil. The law is an instrument of power, not of justice. DMCA, for example, is evil. Perhaps some day it will be as soundly and as justifiably reviled as Jim Crow laws.


    http://www.blackgate.net/blog/