Think about it, MP3 players have been the best thing to have happened to music since hmm… we discovered tunes? I shudder to imagine the relative inferiority of Walkmans and Discmans we used to endure with. With MP3, you can carry hundreds or thousands of songs in digital formats without lugging huge CD albums ever again. Mp3 players are symbols of freedom, convenience and even icons of fashion (if you have iPod) and the digital age.
But they also polarize our society, here’s why:
- Have you seen middle-aged folks using MP3 players?
- Why are they not using MP3 players?
I think I have the answers. Computer illiteracy and legal restrictions.
Illiteracy Perpetuates Inconvenience and Impracticality
To even begin using MP3 players, you need MP3 tracks. Thats tough for older folks who have most of their music collections in CDs or audio cassettes. lack of computer skills will restrict them from converting these formats. But this is easily solved through the many computer courses available today as our society modernizes with the digital era. Of course, older folks can always buy MP3 tracks. But try telling your dad to buy that Frank Sinatra or Beatles album for $0.99 per song (and cheaper for an entire album) when he already has it all on CD. There’s no motivation for him to use MP3 players at all due to his inconvenience of format conversion and impracticality of making duplicate purchases.
The inconvenience issue can be solved. But not the impracticality issue. Here’s why. RIAA, the Recording Industry Association of America, that represents the US recording industry, and also the most influential in the music world, strongly forbids it.
An Unfair Piece of Law
As of February 2006, RIAA has decreed that CD ripping of music is illegal too, see here and here. They have decided, in collaboration with the legal courts who rubber-stamped their proposals, that when you buy a CD, your rights only extend to the music tracks in that plastic CD format, not any other formats. Especially not MP3 or any digital file because that doesn’t constitute fair use for them, the record companies.
What a load of BS. I own the Cds by paying cold hard cash for them, i should jolly well do what I can with them right? The music labels never mentioned this to me when I bought it, otherwise I wouldn;t have paid for those CDs, would they? Its perfectly commen sense to be able to do whatever you can with music in your CDs, no?
Flip-flopping of the RIAA
Apparently, RIAA used to think so too:
For those who may not remember, here’s what Don Verrilli said to the Supreme Court last year: “The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it’s been on their website for some time now, that it’s perfectly lawful to take a CD that you’ve purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod.”
Well, they changed their mind later, in order to ensure customers MUST continue listening to music in CD format, else become criminals. At the same time, they, at first, resisted selling music as digital files on the Internet but finally gave in reluctantly after iTunes came along but not without many complaints about how long the prices were on iTunes and how they were still not making money. In other words, they want to make money both ways and force those who already have CDs to buy those tracks again on digital formats. Simply bloodsuckers. This is no way to treat your customers.
So do you blame middle aged folks from not owning MP3 players in droves? Or blame young people for turning to illegal P2P networks for illegal Mp3 tracks? I am not justifying the 2nd group’s actions. But when push comes to shove, nobody’s an idiot to pay through the nose for songs they already have and own. People get smart, and learn to get around unfair policies, and in this case, stupid laws. They will either rip or download illegally. Its a free world. THe music labels can’t control what people do in their private homes especially when they are not using brains to understand the fallacies of their own strategy to selling music. Those lawsuits against individuals might win them battles but the war has already been lost. Now, a landmark case on August 3 2006 where RIAA lost against a woman, might turn the tide further against RIAA.
The Digital Divide
Hence, since it is totally illegal to rip music from your Cds, impractical to buy MP3 files for songs you already have, and impractical for some to learn how to buy Mp3 songs they don’t own, a significant proportion of our society today are prevented by legal and social barriers to own MP3 players without being legally exposed. Ask yourself where many of your friends got their MP3 files in the first place. Steve Jobs would own the entire Earth and all our asses if we had bought from his iTunes.
This is the Digital Divide, also a social boundary and tyranny of RIAA that separates the old from the young from what should otherwise be an equal access opportunity to music enjoyment.