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.” . . .]