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Dateline: 25 January 2000 Early Edition
Read The Previous Edition

A Meteor In The Sky?
This month we've seen two media giants getting into bed with a major Internet company. I refer to the deals between AOL, Time Warner and EMI.

On the face of it this sounds like a pretty sensible idea -- the media companies say they know the future is on the Net so they're merging with a key player rather than fighting against them.

However, I'm not so sure.

Why do I doubt the veracity of these claims?

Well for a start, the recording industry is petrified of the power that the Net has given independent musicians. Suddenly, the traditional music publisher and distributor has become all but redundant. There are bands all over the world who are recording, mixing and publishing their own music using low cost gear in conjunction with the Net -- and they're producing results that are every bit as good as the major labels.

The recording industry's license to print money is about to expire -- and they know it.

To try and counter this, the Recording Industry Association has been firing off legal salvos like the Russian Army in Chechnya. First they tried to have the Rio MP3 player declared illegal, now they're suing MP3.com -- the single largest distributor of independent musicians in the world.

They're also absolutely petrified of the fact that, as the DVD crackers have proven, it is now almost impossible to protect intellectual property such as music and video from piracy. The ease with which their products can be copied and distributed through the Net is also driving the recording industry and movie studios to distraction.

Faced with these problems, would it not make sense therefore to get into bed with the big-players in Internet access -- not in order to gain the smarts needed to harness the power of the Net to distribute and market your own product -- but to have some control over how the Net is used.

Think about it -- if a major recording and studio companies gain control of the key ISPs, they are then in a very good position to monitor, control and regulate the flow of music on the Net. It's certainly not hard to insert code sniffers that could watch for MP3 headers in IP streams for instance.

We can see how "out of touch" the recording industry is with the concepts of the Net and computers by simply looking at the way they license music to their customers. If I buy a copy of Windows 98 and the CDROM gets scratched, I can go to Microsoft and they'll swap the dud disk for a new one at a price which is significantly less than the full retail. They acknowledge that I have purchased a single-machine license for their intellectual property.

If you scratch one of your music CDs or tangle a cassette tape of your favourite band -- just try getting the recording company to come to the party. They will tell you that you have to go buy a whole new copy at the regular retail price.

Is it any wonder therefore that the market is turning away from the old-fashioned recording companies and embracing the new wave of Net-music?

Wake up all you dinosaur-like record companies -- I see a huge meteor streaking across the sky in your world and no amount of whining is going to stop its impact.


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