As many are aware of, it's possible to make so-called copy-protected music CDs - music CDs that can be played on ordinary CD players, but not on a PC. This way the CDs can't be copied, and thus not being spread on file sharing services - of which there are many now. And as they can't be shared, people will buy the CDs instead.
That's the theory, at least.
Theory doesn't always line up with reality - so what's wrong with this picture?
Well, let's take the company SONY, which is one of the companies that has stopped releasing what we know as CDs. They've gone for the copy-protected CDs, which does not follow the standard for encoding. Not following the standard, but instead the bastardised encoding, can put you in the situation that the copy-protected CDs will not play on your equipment. In fact, we've already seen that these copy-protected CDs can ruin the equipment they're played on. They're Broken CDs. I'll call them BCDs from now on.
"Very well," says SONY, "But it does say on the cover (in that tiny lettering) that it can't be played on a PC or Mac! And it doesn't have the CDDA Logo either."
True enough. But there are three points:
So what does SONY achieve with this move? It does make it more inconvenient for those who choose to buy the music; it can only be played where SONY wants it to be played, not where the consumer - the ones buying the music - want to play the music. Is the adapting to the times?
But the story's not over: Many people do manage to copy the BCDs, and burn their own CDs from them. A situation where the copy works better than the original - the copy is perfect, and the original is broken. And, of course - as it's possible to copy, it's also possible to share the music on p2p networks. The BCDs is a lesson in futility - but how long will it take before the lesson is learned?
There is, of course, a third part to the story, too. Think of it: If you know that a product is inconvenient to use, and even possibly ruin your equipment, would you buy it? I know I won't - unless there's some real advantages to it. And the more people realise that the BCDs are broken, the less people will buy. Then we'll get the situation the record companies fear, the situation they're blaming piracy: Declining sales.
Yes, I know the sales has gone down by 18% last year - but the releases went down by 25%, so for what were released, the sales went up. Again.
Don't ignore what many artists are saying, too: They've seen an increase in sales and interest as their music was spread for free. And why is that? Simply: For most people the important thing is convenience (for a reasonable price) - not that it's free.
What does the industry want with this move? Stop copying, true - but it's also a major test. If they succeed, they're able to control how we use the products we own. And if they can control that - they can squeeze more money out of us: We have to buy one CD for the home, and again for any other products we have and want to play the music on.
The only way for the music industry to get their way with their current thinking, is by removing the rights we as consumers have. The rights to play the music where we want, when we want, and on the equipment we own. Do you want to give up those rights, just because you're not inconvenienced by it right now? Because - who knows how we want to use our products next year. Or sooner.
It's up to us, let's vote with our money. Don't buy broken products.
How long will it take before the record companies are offering what the consumers want? Soon? Late? Too late?
We'll see. Music will survive. The music industry in the current form will not - it will have to adapt to reality.