The Wall Street Journal is excitedly claiming that the recording industry, in a "turnabout," is now releasing unrestricted MP3s. From the headline, that sounds exciting, and would be really impressive if it were true that the industry was finally recognizing how much damage copy protection has done to their market over the years. It's given Apple tremendous power over the labels by putting them in the power seat, while shrinking the labels' overall market by limiting who could actually make use of the files and what they could do with them. So, plenty of people have been pushing for the big labels to recognize the value of moving to unrestricted MP3s -- and the success of both E-Music and Allofmp3 (no matter how legal or illegal it may be) in getting people to buy unrestricted files should show that there's a market for them. So, what's the evidence that these record labels have turned around their thinking? Apparently, it's the fact that one label has decided to release one song as an unrestricted MP3. It's not at all clear how that's a turnaround, or even a trend worth WSJ treatment. After all, it's not even new. Yahoo has already done a few tests with different labels and unrestricted songs -- and this is more of the same. While it's good to see some very, very tiny experiments, that's hardly a turnaround and it's hardly a recognition of the problems caused by copy protection. It's just a weak admission that these labels still don't know what they're doing so many years after it's become clear to plenty of other people that this is the direction they have to go in.
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