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Where's All The Blood Coming From? 8 May 2002 Edition
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Late last year I wrote a column ridiculing the Music Industry and its lame attempts to deal with piracy.

Perhaps it's time to see if they've learnt anything in the six months since I wrote that piece.

Well, there's still no web site to support the NZ Industry's "Burn and Get Burnt" campaign, unauthorised copies of top 10 hit albums still flow like water on the Net, and the inflexible attitudes of those at the helm remain unchanged.

Last week I spoke again with Michael Gladding from Sony and revisited some of the issues I'd raised previously -- here are the highlights of what was discussed.

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It was confirmed that New Zealand is definitely going to see copy-protected CDs on the shelves of its music stores -- probably sooner rather than later.

Gladding says that the industry has to do something to stem the piracy of its property or the result will be lost jobs in the local industry.

I was once again told that the industry wasn't really after the casual-copier (the person who makes copies of music they've legitimately purchased for their own personal use), although this is still regarded as an illegal act under NZ copyright law and was not condoned at all.

The real problem, I was told, are the professional pirates who are running off multiple copies and selling them en-masse at their workplace, flea-markets or elsewhere.

Perhaps the most telling indicator of the music industry's failing grasp on reality is the issue of copy-protecting CDs.

The simple copy-protection systems being used on some music CDs pose no barrier to the "professional" pirates who the industry claim are the real problem. These people can produce excellent unprotected copies using just a cheap CD player and PC.

Those most affected by these protection schemes are the regular folks who find that their latest purchases won't work in the DVD player or PC. What's more, they can no longer back-up their sometimes significant investment in legally purchased CDs to protect against accidental damage.

If these people aren't the problem -- why penalise them with a system that does absolutely nothing to impede the activities of the serious pirates?
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  • What piracy?... - Peter
  • Music Industry... - Neil
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    The industry also appears to totally ignore that it only takes a single "clean" copy to be ripped from a protected CD and the genie is out of the bottle.

    What's more, once that copy (or a copy of that copy) hits the Net, the fact that the genuine item can't be played on their PC or DVD player and is far more susceptible to damage from minor scratches is going to encourage people to download rather than buy.

    In effect -- the recording industry is still shooting themselves in the foot but are too stupid to figure out where all the blood is coming from.

    Let me try to help them out...

    Firstly -- copy protection is exactly the wrong thing to do. It will discourage those most affected (the regular folks who aren't professional pirates) from buying legally sold CDs while having zero effect on the real thieves.

    Secondly -- instead of trying to take something away (the ability to play a CD on any player and protect a sizeable investment), why not consider adding some value to encourage people to buy legit albums? Remember -- that value doesn't have to be packaged on the CD, there are other ways of delivering it over which the industry could maintain full control.

    Thirdly -- don't' fight the Net (you're outgunned in numbers and intellect), embrace it. Acknowledge that it's a brilliant way to deliver music and additional value to a huge global audience. Don't consider everyone to be your enemy, look how you can turn the current problems into benefits -- it can be done but you won't find the answers within your own blinkered halls of power.

    Fourthly -- you've got a big image problem that needs fixing. There's an overwhelming belief that the industry is ripping off customers and recording artists alike. The perception is that the current decline in album sales is not due to piracy so much as the quality of the product being sold.

    Even Sir Elton John, in an interview last week on Australia's channel 9, attributed the sales decline to the "crap" the industry is trying to sell right now.

    I was always told that a salesman's job was to make the prospective customer feel important, liked and respected. So long as the music industry does exactly the opposite by branding all their customers as criminals bent on theft then I suspect the decline in sales will only steepen.

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