Making Unreasonable Legal Demands Doesn't Represent A Digital Music Strategy

from the sue-'em-all dept

When Microsoft recently announced a deal to give Universal Music a cut of the sales from every Zune device, we noted that it wasn’t at all clear why, apart from avoiding Universal’s litigious streak, which has most recently targeted MySpace. Over at Digital Music News, a post points out the two events and wonders, based on them, what point there is to work with record labels on digital music products and services. It points out that Microsoft’s desire to play nice with the labels has probably had a detrimental effect on the Zune, taking what could be a cool feature — wireless P2P music sharing — and hamstringing it with restrictions to the point where it’s unsatisfying. On the MySpace suit, the point is one that the labels have failed to pick up on time and time again: that sites like MySpace actually help them out by letting people publicize their products and attract new listeners. You’d imagine that Universal might have figured this out, since plenty of musicians seem to have caught on, and actually put their music up on MySpace themselves so people can hear it and spread it around. Whatever happens with the suit, Universal won’t win: if they lose the suit, MySpace and other sites will have a nice legal precedent and no reason to work with the labels in future. If they win, they might make a short-term financial gain, but will alienate MySpace and other sites that come after them. The bigger issue, though, is that a plan based on wringing payments out of anybody and everybody for copyright infringement does nothing to address the drastically changing content landscape, and doesn’t represent a long-term strategy.

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Comments on “Making Unreasonable Legal Demands Doesn't Represent A Digital Music Strategy”

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Shaun says:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I never ever deliberately listened to music before one of my friends gave me some “illegal” copies of mp3’s. I have since downloaded the rest of the band’s music and (after downloading copies first) bought 2 of their albums.

Score one for that record label. And they didn’t even have to try for it.

koz says:

“Whatever happens with the suit, Universal won’t win: …” not sure that’s the correct analysis – they make their short term gain, then and then make smaller and shorter term gains with whatever comes after Myspace etc. then wen they’ve milked as much as possiible they change policy and cooperate and at the same time hype these “new”services… and 6 months later the general public thinks Universal are paragons of virtue and practically invented the new distribution methods and donated them to the American people……

Paul (user link) says:

Zune hacked espec. wireless protocol

The lesson for the record labels is: your time has passed, you’re dead and you just don’t know it yet. Time to go quietly. You’re just feeding lawyers, not musicians. DRM is only effective against amateurs i.e. your customers, not against your non-customer “pirates”.

DRM is doomed:
I’m waiting for the Zune to be hacked in order to bypass the DRM, especially in respect of wireless, so that you can capture songs from a Zune on your laptop or wifi-enabled PDA… even cooler would be to sniff two zunes “talking” and capture transfers passively, or to break into someone’s Zune and steal all the content without them knowing.

Sam says:

Zune holds potential the way ipod linux did in it’s infancy. The chance that someday you will be free to do whatever you want and not just what the company intended you to do(which is crap)

A Venture Capitalist cousin of mine and I are working out a plan to start with independent record labels and offer their music online for hopefully less than half of itunes. I am positive it can be done, it will just take a good business plan and a professional “We’re not out to destroy the RIAA but rather provide an alternative method of delivering music”.

If anyone has any comments on how to make it a successful non-drm distribution source, fully legal, signed with bands etc, seriously email me. You guys are the closest things to activists this industry has.

Mr.Obvious says:

I have said it before and I will say it again.Until the music industry comes up with a fair way to distribute music at a fair price I won’t buy anything from them.I will stick to being a criminal in the eyes of the bought and paid for laws the Music industry paid our Government to make.Out of all the songs on my iPod 99% are MP3 music free of DRM.And the ones I do have were given to me free from Apple.Thats why the music industry is in the shape they are now.Because the very large MAJORITY of people look at it the same way I do.And that is the way it will stay till they concede or sue everyone of their customers so that they have nobody left to but their music.Plus if you ask me their hasn’t been much music released in the past few years that sound worth a crap.I doubt I have downloaded very many at all here lately there just isn’t anything new with a new good sound.

Hamish MacEwan (profile) says:

Oh They Understand Fine, You Don't Understand Gree

On the MySpace suit, the point is one that the labels have failed to pick up on time and time again: that sites like MySpace actually help them out by letting people publicize their products and attract new listeners.

Oh, think UMG understands the free promotion they get, and the huge benefit that represents when the RIAA acknowleges promotional expenses are half the cost of a blockbuster.

And? You expect gratitude? UMG have probably worked out they can sue any and all of the illicit promotional channels AND the promotion, and consequent sales will continue.

You see its all about squeezing as hard as you can, screw your artists, get your fingers in the hardware, sell the recording, sue the free “advertiser” and get your promotion for free.

All you suffer is being despised which is what the big bucks for lawyers and suits are all about compensating, it wouldn’t be brains and integrity now would it?

me says:

It is not just the RIAA you have to worry about if you are a rising musician. If you are on your own and want to venture out without having the RIAA robbing you, and sniffing your butt. .. You have to convince many people you are worthy to get air time. Radio, etc. Or else you have to have a mighty big plan to get your talents across the Internet. Radio is hard very hard, because most of those DJ’s get a royalty for playing “someone else’s” music. I don’t think it is suppose to be that way. If it is suppose to be that way it is really fu…d up.

Andrew Dubber (profile) says:

Universal cannot win this

It’s already clear that Universal should not be able to win this legal battle, on the principle of ‘blind conduit’ (or, in the USA, ‘safe harbour’). MySpace fits the definition of an ISP quite nicely. They ask their users not to post illegal content, just as the telephone companies ask their users not to make obscene phone calls. If notified, they act, but they will not patrol.

The more important question for the labels should be about getting a cut of the advertising dollar that NewsCorp makes off every page with music in it. This should be proportional, based on a percentage of revenue — and distributed through the collection agencies, as is the case with commercial radio.

Suing MySpace and everybody else one at a time is entirely counterproductive, and it stands in the way of making a workable industry practice based on mutual benefit.

Andrew Dubber
New Music Strategies

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