I like the iTunes Music Service, but I do have a problem with it, which I’ll get to farther down in this article.
iTunes for Windows and Mac iSbogus is a nicely done commentary on iTunes. Nicely done, but I’m starting to disagree with the message there. Ever since Napster hit it big in ’99, many people have been justifying their file sharing by saying that the artists don’t get any of the money anyhow. That site brings up the same message… the artist’s cut is small, and often just goes toward recouping the investment in the recording.
I’m not saying that the RIAA is a great bunch of people. Their tactics are heavy handed, and they’re holding back progress by trying to cling to outdated business models. I hope a better system comes along. But, people have been blasting RIAA contracts for years now. Artists who sign up with the RIAA at this point have no one to blame but themselves if they find that the deal is not profitable. No one is forcing artists to sign with the RIAA. If they do choose to sign with them, there must be some value they’re expecting to receive for the giant hunk of ownership they’re passing along.
So, if my problem with iTunes is not the RIAA, what is my problem with iTMS? As I said at the beginning, I like iTMS. In fact, that’s the only way that I’ve bought music for the past few months. I’m fine with the quality of the files, and I’m happy to be sending along the message that I am willing to pay for single song downloads.
The part that bothers me, though, is that I am tacitly implying approval of the DRM used by iTunes. What I really want to be buying is MP3 files, and I think that the RIAA are fools for not recognizing that copy protection is only inconveniencing their customers. It does very little to protect them from unprotected copies circulating on the net.
So, why do I buy from iTunes? The service is very good and I am confident that I can turn them into unprotected AAC files with no further loss of quality. There are already tools out there to do so. Is removing the protection from these files illegal? You’d think so, under the DMCA. However, there is a long standing tradition of fair use that was even made into law in the form of the Home Audio Recording Act which explicitly allows people to copy music for their own personal use.
I’m making my opinion clear here: all DRM sucks. Period. I would like to vote with my dollars and pass my money on to a service that offers me uncrippled copies of the songs I want. Until then, I choose an inferior service over taking the goods without compensating the producers.