Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


Another brick from the wall

Chief Executive Steve Jobs Tuesday issued a challenge to the music industry, saying Apple would support an open online music marketplace if the four-largest music companies would drop the use of digital-rights management software. That kind of software prevents the copying of music sold online. In an open letter posted on Apple's Website, Jobs said "DRMs haven't worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy," and said the music companies receive few benefits from selling 90% of their music on CDs, which don't have DRM software built in, and the remaining amount online with DRM technology. Apple's iTunes Music Store is currently listed as the world top-selling online music store with more than 2 billion songs sold. Details here.

One brick at a time, the wall that since 1999 has been obstructing technological progress from letting people enjoy more and better music at a lower price, is coming down. It had to come down: Tower Records is gone, and soon the music industry as a whole will realize that distributing music via CDs or similar devices is also gone for good. The movie industry is slowly learning the same lesson as Wal-Mart is entering a partnership with all of the six major Hollywood studios to sell digital movies and television shows on its Web site.

The bricks are being removed, one at a time, but the process is made slow and painful by the silly resistance of vested rent-seeking interests. Digital content can be sold efficiently and in very large quantities via the web. Copies of that same digital content can be made and distributed via the web withouth the obstruction that current "anti-piracy" regulations impose upon this economic activity. The cost reduction that digital-web distribution of music makes possible is so large, that a competitive market for music could leave plenty of room for charging the lawful purchaser of originals for the implicit value of the copies he/she will eventually donate or sell to other.

There is plenty of money - probably more money than there has ever been - in distributing and selling digital content via the web, without the obstacles created either by DRM or by any similar attempt to prevent people to do what they want with the files they lawfully purchased.


The value of a copy is equivalent to the amount of money the purchaser is willing to pay the supplier for it. More importantly, the supplier deserves to retain 100% of the money for supplying this copy - none to the author of the original.

Copies are not art.

If you take a photo for enlargement, you pay for the copy, you do not pay for the photographer's skill.

Art should be paid for separately.

Art for money, money for art.

But please, try to get them to let us download the .wav file instead of the crappy mp3. Or at least a 320kb mp3...

Apparently many of the kids today either do not have access to or have not heard a good sound system with appropriate listening material. An old LP sounds better than an mp3. I hope we dont get stuck with this lossy format forever by asking for this "download" stuff.

My computer's lousy speakers refuse to show the difference.

At any rate, it is well known that Ogg/Vorbis for lossy compression and FLAC for lossless compression give much better quality or much smaller files, but mp3 has gained popularity, and thus we are stuck with it.

Quality rarely sells as well as popularity.

Just like mrbill, I'd like to see more lossless audio files being sold out there. I know the name of at least one company that sells lossless files: Magnatune. Their service is awesome. It's a shame that they don't have such a great diversity of artists.

More important than audio quality though is the issue of "portability". What if tomorrow some invents some lossy codec much superior to mp3 and vorbis? Will you be willing to reencode your whole MP3 collection to something of smaller size but inferior audio quality (lossy x lossy = very lossy). Given the low price of data storage today, I'd prefer to have everything lossless, and encode as needed.

Check out Jamendo.com for enlightened artists - some of whom aren't shy to release high fidelity.

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