As noted last night — with some very witty responses from incredulous readers — the record industry is now pushing for DRM on all radio. It’s a bad idea to begin with, and they’re bringing it up in a context in which it doesn’t even belond, negotiations on royalty rates, at a bad time — in the midst of negotiations that have broken down. I’d love to stop covering this issue, but the most recent round is too absurd to pass up. (Feel free to spread the word, since Congress demonstrated that, at least on a basic level, they’re listening to you.)
So, record industry, why is it you would want to push for a broken, proprietary, exorbitantly expensive to a problem that doesn’t exist as part of a discussion to which it’s entirely unrelated? The RIAA’s Senior Vice President of Government Relations (otherwise known as Grand Poo-bah of Politician Lobbying) Mitch Glazier was happy to explain to Technology Daily:
“Why wait until it is a big problem to start addressing it? There are available technologies in the marketplace to address this issue.”
Yes, indeed. Why wait for a problem to actually exist before legally mandating a solution? A technology exists! Therefore, you are obligated to use it — regardless of cost, whether it functions on the devices people use, whether better technologies exist, or whether there was even a problem in the first place. Which would you prefer: a record industry that works to solve today’s real problems, or one that creates massive, new problems to solve the problems they imagine might exist in the future?
None of this really seems to justify much of a response, but the Digital Freedom Campaign has taken a deep breath and tried to muster a logical response anyway (I don’t envy them the task):
“The music industry’s top lobbyist is calling for the implementation of a burdensome, costly, and completely unnecessary technology by webcasters who play and promote the artists the RIAA claims to represent. He then admits that the issue is “not a big problem,” said Jennifer Stoltz, a spokesperson for the Digital Freedom Campaign. “For the RIAA to try to impose unrealistic and wholly unnecessary technical mandates on an innovative and vibrant industry as part of larger, unrelated negotiations process is baffling.
“The specific issue at hand is not commercial piracy, but rather fair use of legally recorded music for personal use, which is perfectly legal,” Stoltz continued. “Requiring webcasters to implement mandatory digital rights management technologies to prevent any personal recording of Internet radio streams is an imposition on both webcasters and consumers. It is a costly solution without even a hint of a problem. There is no evidence whatsoever that stream-ripping or commercial piracy from Internet radio is an issue, and the RIAA and SoundExchange should proceed with the ongoing negotiations with webcasters without demanding provisions that would further harm and inconvenience Internet radio listeners.”
Sorry, Jennifer, you lost me in all that logic-y, fact-y stuff, probably because I was so overwhelmed with the sense that you hate music and intellectual property.
Of course, it makes sense that webcasters and the record industry would have different interests, and it’s their prerogative to defend those interests. As readers have noted on this site, navigating the law and finding rate structures that work isn’t a simple task. But that’s all the more reason to focus on issues at hand.
Some have asked if it makes sense to go past the industry altogether. For individual artists, that may be a solution. But with so much music tied up in the current system, that doesn’t really help the webcasters. Attempts to survive on free music historically haven’t gone so well (as MP3.com tried, and failed). Certainly, this doesn’t engender faith in the record industry to achieve sound policy on sound — to say the least.