The Cat In The Bag Whoops!

Joi and I were chatting this evening about iPod Nanos (“Nanoi”? “Nanim”?), delighting the capacities of this small machine, and gnashing our teeth at the ways that Digital Restriction Management (David Berlind is getting credit for that term lately, but I thought I remembered Doc using it years ago) monkey-wrenches the revolutionary effects that’ll overtake the recording industry eventually, like it or not.

(To illustrate my point: what other industry devotes so significant a proportion of its business energies to preventing you from maximizing your use of the product? Does your bed restrict how long you can sleep on it, or with whom? Does your lawn mower work only on your property? What if you had to pay twice as much for a home appliances that only worked up to your property line, and shut down as soon as they contacted the border of your property? You’d better not move; you’d better have a very clear idea of where your property line begins, and not use your tools too close to that line, just to be sure. And remember, you’re paying extra for the technology that makes these hypothetical tools less useful.)

We were imagining the world I wrote about last month, in which Nani are just a little less expensive. You buy one for your sweetie, and load it up with music — do you really re-purchase every selection all over again, to fill up a 2-gig (you cheapie) iPod, or do you just download songs from your CD and mp3 collections? You have a friend whose musical taste you want to improve — you buy him an iPod and. . . what? $500 worth of bluegrass music he may not like? You know a DJ, an archival-music whiz, or just somebody with whiz-bang taste in music; what makes more sense than that they fill your iPod with files they have right on hand? And I’d bet that the situation only gets hairier, faster, as TV-on-iPod becomes more generally available.

I’m not at all against musicians and filmmakers earning a living — I’m against their intermediaries demanding that technological innovation accommodate carved-in-stone business practices, rather than requiring business practices to accommodate innovation. “Your failed business model is not my problem.” (And now that I notice that Meg has given up the subway-tile design for her blog, I may try my hand at it; I always loved that design.)

I can’t imagine that as iPods grow more affordable, more common, and more capacious, that the music-buying public will remain docile about intrusive restrictions on the simple act of copying a file. There’s tons of profit to be made in other areas, friends, with an extra-big helping for those who get there first.

[Later: By the way, I wanted to tip my hat to Joi for a post earlier in the week, where made a specific point of acknowledging that “[he] knew nothing about Eastern Europe,” then went on to show that he took that as an occasion to start learning. With that one post, Joi provides a powerful illustration of Margaret’s and my convictions about how and when people learn. On the other hand, it looks as though he’s spending most of the time he should be working on his thesis playing “World of Warcraft.” . . .]

5 thoughts on “The Cat In The Bag Whoops!

  1. “Your failed business model is not my problem.”

    I actually have that on a T-shirt, it always starts a good conversation.

  2. “what other industry devotes so significant a proportion of its business energies to preventing you from maximizing your use of the product?”

    What about the Colleges/Universities we teach at? Instead of opening the doors to anyone who wants to learn, we set up vast bureaucracies of who can and can not be admitted and what regulations they need to adhere to. Oh, yeah, that’s different, because it’s the industry that you and I live within and know best. Would you really think it so different if you were in the other business?

  3. “Does your bed restrict how long you can sleep on it, or with whom?”

    No, but the neo-Puritan movement in the Anglican Communion apparently wants to… (sorry, couldn’t resist 🙂

    I agree, the current DRM situation stinks on ice.

  4. You go Conrad! Although in defense of the education industry there is a resource constraint. Y’know So-Krates? The guy down the hall? His log only has two ends and he sits on one of them. Were he to stand up and shift his technique from dialog to monologue he could maybe accommodate two or three more brats, but the quality would suffer. Still, if you can teach three people 40% of the material, that nets out 20% better than teaching one person 100% of the material, so I’d say we have a wiener here Conrad! Let’s see if we can manufature more So-Krates Logs (TM) from recycled plastic bottles and give everybody a seat!

  5.   As alluded to by fp, your bed and lawn-mower analogy is not the greatest. The restriction management on a lawn-mower needs no extra research to implement, since it’s neither cheap nor easy to reproduce an engine.
    I heartily agree that there must be a better solution than DRM, but I was a high-schooler during the days of Napster and have seen enough gigabytes of non-purchased music and movies. It’s the “simple act of copying a file” that helps the uninformed and weak-conscienced make more copies than is legal, ethical or healthful.
      Fear Uncertainty and Doubt for the future aside, there are two main things Apple’s FairPlay system is doing right: (1) raising awareness of copyright law and concepts like non-exclusive resources and (2) helping usher in a new business model while the RIAA militants overcome their psycopathic tendencies.

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