Feeds

12th century thinking haunts digital music

On serfs, fanbois and bandits

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

British digital music company 7Digital claimed a coup yesterday by becoming the first online music store to carry DRM-free catalog from the "Big Four" major record labels. Calling it a coup is misleading, however. It's really further confirmation that the top of the music business is run along feudal lines: closer to the 12th century than the 21st.

At the apex of this power structure is the King, with a divine right to rule - and apportion land and revenue raising concessions as he sees fit. Barons who pay the necessary fealtye may receive a generous property apportionment and collection rights - although these concessions may be withdrawn at any time.

But because the Barons were formerly Warrior Knights, and had their own private armies, the relationship was in a constant state of tension. The King feared the old Warrior Knights might be getting too uppity, or keeping too great a share of the tax collection.

Divide and rule

Five years ago the royal court permitted one baron, Apple, to launch a digital download store - but only if it bore the King's seal of DRM. Apple had its own army of "fanbois" - derived from the old Norman word for a slavishly devoted following of peasants. So iTunes went ahead with the reluctant blessing of all four major labels.

Five years ago too, you may recall, eMusic relaunched its own subscription service - but without the King's approval. Because eMusic thought DRM was lousy for its customers, it refused to take the catalog concession on offer, because it had compulsory DRM attached. eMusic also offered much better value than the iTunes concession. It meant the King may receive lower per-unit revenue, even though there would be more of it. As a result, the major labels withheld their catalogs from the service.

Pledging fealty

Negotiations with major record labels are always tricky

So 7Digital becomes the first UK music retailer to offer DRM-free catalog from all four major four labels: Universal, Warners, Sony and EMI. This, it's hoped, will provide competition for the other barons: Amazon, which hasn't yet launched in the UK yet, Apple, with its fearsome but mostly harmless army of fanbois, and Tesco, where the serfs already buy their turnips.

All this may be largely irrelevant, however. For beyond the few, safe, patrolled thoroughfares where the Barons raise their taxes, roam the hordes of "freytards" - who simply scavenge what digital music they can. And that's most of the people, finding most of the music, most of the time.

The King has belatedly realised that if the freytards continue their plunder, tax raising concessions will soon be completely meaningless. He's realised, too, that the Baron he so dismissively kicked out of Court five years ago, eMusic, now offers one of the most attractive legal alternatives to banditry: it's cheap, good value, and doesn't penalize the serfs for experimenting with new music.

Medieval lawyer writes out another copyright infringement lawsuit

A music industry lawyer writes out another copyright infringement lawsuit

(And today, most of the King's court and advisors now believe that more radical measures are needed: scrapping the divine exclusive right to make copies, in exchange for a voluntary subscription-style payment, thereby taking the freytards out of the banditry business. Publishers and independents thought that waging war against the peasants was daft in the first place.)

Alas, the punishment goes on.

eMusic continues to be withheld the vital concession that would permit it to build a mass market business: it still can't get DRM-free catalog material wholesale from the big four major labels. So eMusic is justified in viewing yesterday's 7Digital deal as a further example of anti-competitive behaviour, and perhaps longs for a fair court where its case can be heard.

But the Enlightenment hasn't happened yet, and Feudal thinking still holds sway. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Bladerunner sequel might actually be good. Harrison Ford is in it
Go ahead, you're all clear, kid... Sorry, wrong film
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix
Everyone else in Europe compensates us - why can't you?
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
Forget Hillary, HP's ex CARLY FIORINA 'wants to be next US Prez'
Former CEO has political ambitions again, according to Washington DC sources
prev story

Whitepapers

Free virtual appliance for wire data analytics
The ExtraHop Discovery Edition is a free virtual appliance will help you to discover the performance of your applications across the network, web, VDI, database, and storage tiers.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
The total economic impact of Druva inSync
Examining the ROI enterprises may realize by implementing inSync, as they look to improve backup and recovery of endpoint data in a cost-effective manner.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.