Tuesday 4 September 2012

Dastardly Digital Deceptions

Recently I was having a chat online with Gary our American correspondent about the vagaries of music ownership and recent developments. There are a great many reasons for buying downloadable digital media, it's quick to arrive,convenient ( no trekking down to the city to get that elusive album) and increasingly is released ahead of the hard copies. Not surprising that the record charts are heavily weighted reflecting the huge amount of music (and film) that artists are selling to a worldwide audience.

In a lifetime we invest a staggering amount of money to obtain our collections of film and music now we can add into that books with the increasing popularity of digi-books. No longer a need to schlepp to Waterstones to buy Jon's latest best selling band biography it can be on your iPod/ Kindle in minutes, so you can marvel about just how much alcohol was consumed by so few stage crew and who it was that knitted sweaters to relax between gigs. Try to get your head around just how much you can spend in a lifetime that's a problem (or not) with digital media, difficult to visualize because it takes up no space compared with traditional distributions.

One tiny chip the size of a little fingernail will hold as much music as the three flight cases of albums and singles I used to strain to lift into the back of the estate car for my mates gigs. A whole library of books can sit concealed in a device smaller than a paperback that you can even read in the dark without that essential torch of your childhood. Your lifetimes collection is unlikely to degrade Apple and Amazon keeping backup copies in that mythical cyber 'cloud' so each time an upgrade trashes your devices library it can be recovered or perish the thought reinstalled on a new device if your precious player gets a hangover from being immersed in an otherwise refreshing drink. Sounds fabulous doesn't it protected from every destructive eventuality your massive investment will be there for eternity for your grandkids to enjoy.

That is the very big fly in the ointment how many books albums films have you bought? and of those how many do you own? " back the truck up Derek what do you mean how many do I own? " I hear you cry out, yes the fact is you own none of them not one, read carefully those umpteen thousand words of your account Terms and Conditions. Over your lifetime you have paid out all that money probably around forty to ninety thousand to 'borrow' the content and that is none transferable. No splitting it up in your will so that kid you never really liked just gets the later G n'R and the best kid in the world who looks like he paddled at your end of the gene pool gets all the ones with Slash playing. It all belongs to daddy, in this case Amazon and Apple and they are not about to share it out.

Before you present your access all areas pass to Peter Grant at the "Great Gig In The Sky" you had better be sure your nearest and dearest have got full access to your email accounts and passwords or that investment is gone for ever don't discount that those custodians of your accumulated cyber wealth may at some point work out that 150 years old according to your account might be a little fishy and pull the plug. Even as I write this lawyers in the US smelling blood in the water have started circling . With plans to circumvent the unfairness of it all and needless to say in the ensuing feeding frenzy make a bucket full of money. Will the consumer win out ? I'd like to think that the in litigious US a class action suit will cause a change in the T & C but Apple are famous for the depth of their war chest, ask Samsung and Motorola just how much money they are prepared to throw at protecting their interests and intimidating potential litigants so don't be surprised if this all goes away quietly.

We have had record companies crying about illegal downloads and file sharing almost since the day it was invented yet to my way of thinking I cannot see this is any better. I cannot suggest that there are other options available to protect the content you paid for from avaricious corporate paws and the likes of iTunes make it very difficult to 'backup' but I would think if you were able to do so you might not lose too much sleep over the corporate discomfort.

I can assure you when Peter Grant is checking my pass and hopefully having a laugh about any comments I may have made about his former employer and associates. I will have left a legacy of film books and music for my loved ones to enjoy and that will require those flight cases plus a couple of roadies to move.


  1. Well done Derek !! Makes me glad I hate change. I fight it a lot. I STILL buy CDs, DVDs, and books. It maintains value (as much as someone will give you for whatever certain item / collection). Legally I can't trade. I understand the main reason for that. Everyone don't have have Bill Gates money and can buy everything they are interested in. MP3's, not only can't you trade them, but it appears you can't legally give them away as well.

    * GB *

  2. What makes me laugh about all of this and I am of course being cynical is that the record companies were totally against downloading when the downloading business first poked its head above the parapet. If only they knew then that people don't actually own the music they buy but are merely borrowing it. Money For Nothing? Well Mark Knopfler was right all those years ago after all and now I bet some record companies or at least some unemployed record company executives are now wishing they had been more accepting of downloads.......Some of them may even have still had a job ;)