How the music biz can live forever, get even richer, and be loved

A modest proposal

Now what most of you are thinking are that the DMCA, and the EUCD will prevent such phones and players ever being sold. But remember most of this technology is legitimate. Only a small software hack or dongle will be needed to turn a legitimate mp3 phone into a pocket p2p network. Batteries included.

You're also underestimating China. If Nokia doesn't make such a device, then someone else will. Or they'll make a dongle. Then you're back to square one. Does China have the will to do this? Ask Qualcomm or Ericsson. Or Intel or Texas Instruments.

The most popular form of 3G has a very complicated royalty structure and most of the world's 3G networks must pay a few dollars back to the companies who hold most of the patents: Qualcomm and Ericsson. They developed the CDMA technology which is what 3G is based on. Now China has developed its own 3G technology and isn't in a rush to pay royalties to the IP holders. Qualcomm and Ericsson are very upset about this. China is also developing its own microprocessor - so we'll finally see a PC that costs what it should, around a fifty quid, and its own digital signal processor, which is an important part in every mobile phone handset. We know the PRC has the will to ignore WIPO because it's doing so now. Do you think you can persuade the US to retaliate economically? Not with the amount of dollars China holds. The US economy can't afford to.

All this personal sharing technology - this social hardware - will dwarf the peer to peer networks. But they won't go away either. I think the legal and technical approaches so far against P2P have had some effect, but not very much. When you're arresting 12 year-old girls, there's a cost too. There are cryptographic techniques that haven't been deployed yet that split a file up amongst hundreds or thousands of computers and hide each piece on a hard drive, so that even the owner doesn't know what he or she is harboring.

You really know that P2P doesn't have a ghost's chance of being prevented until everyone is using a TCPA (locked-down) computer, and all recorded material is protected with a compliant DRM scheme. Bill Gates has promised you he'll be able to deliver his part of the answer.

But do you really want to bet your business that he can deliver? Windows Longhorn with Palladium, its part of the deal, was originally supposed to ship this year. The version that ships in 2006 won't have everything that Microsoft you promised in it. And do you really want to bet your business that it won't leak? That the CD manufacturers have got it leakproof. And the BIOS people, too?

And do you really want to bet your business that anyone will buy these machines? PC makers want to sell you a PC. If it doesn't play music the way people expect, they'll sell one with Linux that does.

That's a big gamble.

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