Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Home Taping is killing music... piracy.

With all the fuss about copy protection in the digital download age it is very easy to forget that this kind of concern has proven to be of concern before the digital age.
Copying copyright music, or anything else subject to copyright for that matter, is illegal - IT IS AS SIMPLE AS THAT.
The real issue is therefore how best to deal with the threat of infringement of such copyright and the major labels have, for several decades, worried about just such things and tried a variety of approaches.

When vinyl was still the predominant format they were worried about the impact that home copying on to compact cassette tape might have.

Yes it is true, the tape was a major advance in technology but mainly because you could record your own and play them in car players (the personal tape player became widely affordable somewhat later), rather than as a format for purchased music, and it is that what really prompted the worries that led to the above, which I took from the sleeve of a 1978 vinyl album.
Now, however, the mere thought of cassette tapes has a slightly strange effect on me: half of me thinks I should view them with childhood nostalgia while the other half remembers that they were a pain. They were always getting wound either too tightly or otherwise too loosely or even worse self-destructing in a tangle of knotted tape (a kind of road-side pollution, as car players were particularly prone to this, now happily all but forgotten) that could also take the player with it into oblivion. Well, music is still with us...

Even assuming one's tape of choice was behaving as it should then actually finding the start of any given song was a lottery with no winning numbers given those little "counters" that were hopelessly unreliable (and a really good case of an analogue but apparently digital accessory). I'm sure, and actually hope, that there are die-hard fans of the cassette tape out there surely as there are those whose "comfort food" of first choice would be rice pudding topped with pineapple chunks, or with rose-hip syrup for that matter.
I salute you, but just can't bring myself to join in!
My antiquated format of choice for music actually has almost any number of extra limitations and impracticalities that tape overcame at a stroke but it also has one advantage - that of locating the start of tracks - that CD shares. It is nothing other than choice and, unless this is the first time you have had the misfortune to somehow stumble across this blog, you will have noticed that my foible is vinyl. Yes, it is nostalgia pure and simple: It is an odd kind because, while I do have "old" vinyl from the pre-cassette days, what I like most of all is current vinyl! Of course I listen to CDs, which unlike vinyl are usable in a car, and I am quite happy with using mp3 and other related digital technology and I would not wish a return to a vinyl-only musical world for a moment - unless perhaps the only alternative was cassette tape only!
For me the real thing about vinyl is simply the reality of it - and also, for 12" in particular, the platform it allows for cover artwork - because the pleasure of handling, cleaning and then playing it is exactly the same regardless of if it is as old as BBC Radio 1 (that is actually slightly younger than I) or if it actually first went on sale today.

In recent years copy protection of CDs has sparked a number of attempts to make this more difficult but there are problems. Some systems have been only used in specific markets and issues concerning what is, by law, actually allowable in different countries have proved to be merely the tip of the iceberg since made much more difficult the threat of illegal downloading.
Would you be discouraged to buy an album that, even if you never attempted to do anything illegal, might somehow damage your equipment and, if it somehow did, you would have no legal claim for your loss.

Such consumer contracts are not illegal, at least in the US in 2005, but is this kind of approach really the best when totally illegal downloading - which accrues nothing to the label, artist or anyone else legitimately involved - has now become the major threat?

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