Monday, December 31, 2007

RIAA Works to Kill the CD

Once upon a time there was vinyl, and for a short time 8-track and cassette tapes. We flirted briefly with DAT, but the shiny compact disc came along and crushed them all. CDs are now feeling the pain as the MP3 rises in popularity. It's a foregone conclusion that they someday will be as obsolete as the technologies that proceeded them--but who thought that the record industry itself would be responsible for the final death blow?

In an article in the Washington Post, record companies are not only going after people who download and share music for free, thus cutting into their ever shrinking revenues, they are now targeting consumers who legally buy CDs and copy them onto their personal computers!

"In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings."

My collection of CDs sit untouched on a special shelving unit I bought for them. Alphabetized, cases uncracked, gathering dust. As is my old CD player. I play almost all my music on my iPod. The only way to get the music on my iPod is to copy it into iTunes on my laptop and then sync my library with my iPod. Otherwise I cannot listen to said music. So why would I buy a CD if I can't listen to it using my preferred playing device?

I wonder if the brain trust that came up with this brilliant strategy really thought things through. If it's illegal to copy a CD onto your computer so you can listen to it with your MP3 player, then who's going to buy CDs? If an average CD costs about $15, and you can buy it on iTunes for $10, then the record companies lose $5. Hell, why bother with the whole CD when you only listen to 2-3 songs which you can get from iTunes for $2-3?

While the CD was never a great replacement for the vinyl album, we did get cover art, lyrics, etc. I'll be sad to see it go. But thanks to the RIAA, it won't be death by attrition, but instead murder most foul.


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