Something doesn’t add up. ARIA, Australia’s version of our RIAA recently announced that sales continued to slide there this past year, while critics pointed out that they really had a record-breaking year with 50 million album sales. Thank ArsTechnica for the link. This matches news from the UK this past summer. So why is the industry lying?
Ignore for a moment the ironic story about the music industry using P2P stats to improve their marketing and sell more records. Also ignore other stories that suggest that reported declines in US record sales may be a result of rising DVD sales or organized crime’s mass-pirating of CDs.
The music industry is fighting a war to control the media we use and how we use it. For many years they’ve profited as consumers buy new copies of their music to keep up with existing formats (vinyl to tape to CD). Now record companies want to continue that practice and force consumers to buy duplicate copies of their music for multiple digital formats and multiple devices.
Ken Fischer at ArsTechnica has it right:
For the first time in history, we can copy content and distribute it over massive global networks. We can put copies on every device we own, and we can even modify the content to suit our own needs. But more important, and don’t miss this now, for the first time in history, the content producers and distributors have a technological way of shutting off Fair Use through contract language, DRM technology, and anti-circumvention laws. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: DRM is not about piracy, it’s about shutting down fair use. It makes a lot of sense when you start thinking about DRM being Sonny Bono’s twin brother. It’s one of the key piecess of that horrid affront to the progress of civilization: the perpetual copyright.
It’s not a real war until Congress declares it, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that Congress is siding with big business (big campaign contributors) against individual citizens (small, unreliable campaign contributors). More details are at ArsTechnica and CopyFight, but the short story is that millions in tax monies are going to be spent chasing file traders. Further, it looks like even more civil liberties are at risk in this “battle.”
All of this is just to set the stage for restrictive media technologies, music and books that expire, and a legal framework that erases the notion of fair use.