New Music, and Why I Don’t Want to Buy It

I’m a big music fan. And while I don’t have the most varying range of musical taste, I like to discover and listen to new music. But I have been in a moral dilemma over the current state of new music distribution, and this has been preventing me from purchasing new music. The primary reason; DRM. DRM, as coined by those who created it, stands for Digital Rights Management. DRM, as coined by the FSF and as how I see it, stands for Digital Restrictions Management. Why? It really is both. To the RIAA and (some) artists it is meant to protect the digital rights of their (it’s not really the RIAA’s, but they would like to believe it is and are doing everything they can to make it their) content. But to the consumer it only restricts what they can do with the music that they pay for and enjoy. In theory, it is supposed to combat piracy; in practice though it only gets in the way of the rights, as protected by fair use, of the consumers using the content.

The real problem is that when I listen to music, I am all over the place. I listen to it at home. I listen to it in my car. And I listen to it at work. And at each place I listen to it on different mediums, which means my music must exist in several forms or on several devices. And DRM doesn’t let me do this. My freedoms to use my legally purchased digital music in the way I wish to use it are locked up in DRM. Everything about the music can be restricted by DRM; the number of computers you can have it on concurrently, the types of portable media players that it can run on, and even the number of times you can listen to it and for how long you can listen to it. And just about all legally available digital music contains DRM. There are some unrestricted on-line music stores, but the selection is incredibly limited because of the lack of participation by record companies.

There is the option of actually buying a physical CD. But that is not the way I listen to music and is inconvenient. Also, it is a waste of plastic and energy, and is a pollutant. To some they like the piece of mind that having a physical object gives or they like the liner notes, but to me that is all meaningless. The benefit to a CD though is I, or anyone, can just stick the CD in the computer and rip it to digital form, free of DRM. But DRM is now making its way into CD’s, so you now have to watch out for it there too.

So what is the big difference between a CD and digital music? They’re both providing the same thing, but one is physically open and one is digitally restrictive. One you can share with your friends and save to your computer, all perfectly legal because of fair use. The other is strictly limited in how it is used, only playable on certain computers or certain portable players, and is illegal to circumvent in order to legally exercise fair use because of the DMCA. It just doesn’t make sense to me that the same copyrighted work can be governed so differently.

This whole situation does not make me feel comfortable giving the recording industry my hard earned money. So little of the price of music goes in the pockets of the artists, and anyone who thinks buying their music is supporting the artists directly is gravely mistaken. Yes, some select artists make significant money, but it’s all a show. The thought that my money could fund frivolous lawsuits by the RIAA against innocent children, parents, or grandmothers is just not something I want any part in supporting. I just don’t want to buy new music.

So to the record companies and RIAA I say, stop making criminals out of your customers, and give us back our fair use rights. What you’re doing is driving me and many others away. The only reason why you are around is because creative people need money to make themselves heard, and you have it. You are hurting them, and you are hurting us. With the digital age artists and consumers need you less and less, but you keep butting in and tightening your strangle-hold on the market. People will realize what you’re doing is wrong. It will only take time and you will be no more.

This post was partially inspired by the Day Against DRM. DRM is Defective By Design, protect your freedom!

=== Addendum 10/4/06 ===

Interchangeability — Anti-DRM Ad

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