Missed This Salon Article – File Formats and Music

Musical snares (Letters in response)

This is not the place to engage in a detailed discussion of the relative merits of the different formats. Suffice it to say that about a year ago I committed an egregious error. When I finally purchased my first computer with a CD burner, I was so excited about being able to make my own CD mixes that I unthinkingly went ahead and used the Windows Media Player to rip all my favorite CDs to my hard drive. The Windows Media Player allows users to encode their songs only in the WMA format, which (like iTunes’ AAC format) comes with various digital rights management capabilities built in.

Now I have all this music that iTunes won’t play, and a bunch of songs purchased from iTunes that the Media Player won’t play. So, at the moment, I am prevented from burning a CD that has songs from both libraries. There are converters available that will transform WMA files into AACs and eventually there will no doubt be converters that perform the reverse service, but the process is a hassle that may end up downgrading the overall sound quality. I would have been far better off if I had ripped all my CDs to MP3s to begin with, because iTunes and the iPod will play MP3s. (And even, better, the iTunes software will allow me to rip my CDs into MP3s.)

I should have known better, because now I’m sitting exactly where Microsoft wants me, facing a significant “switching cost” if I want to adopt iTunes as my music-management software of choice. It takes time to rip CDs — and I have a lot of ’em.

[…] I am confident that the marketplace is going to steadily deliver a progression of options that benefit me in some way: a wider selection of songs, lower prices, easier-to-use software. But I’m not confident that I won’t be endlessly posed with a series of ever more onerous switching costs. Perhaps, once hard drives and bandwidth get big enough, we’ll be able to do away with compression formats altogether, but companies like Microsoft and Apple are still going to strive to lock users in to their software/hardware platforms as long as they can. And that is decidedly not an example of the marketplace serving my consumer desires.

Here We Go Again

Donna sent me the heads-up — CNet News: RIAA files 80 new file-swapping suits

It subsequently sent warning letters to 204 people early in October, saying they had been identified as likely targets of a new round of suits. On Thursday, the group said that 124 of those people decided to try to resolve the issue without going to court.

Note the RIAA is generally celebrating: RIAA Strikes Back At Music Pirates In 2003 — Slashdot commentary: RIAA Calls Settlements Proof that Education is Working

Slashdot includes this transcript of a recent (pending?) South Park episode, spoofing A Christmas Carol and the RIAA’s music downloading posture:

Re:South Park (Score:4, Funny)

by LordKronos (470910) on Friday October 31, @08:47AM (#7357128)


Here is the transcript:


Detective: This is the home of Lars Ulrich, the drummer for Metallica. [they approach a bush] Look. There’s Lars now, sitting by his pool. [he’s seen sitting on the edge of a chaise longue, his face in his hands, softly sobbing]

Kyle: What’s the matter with him?

Detective: This month he was hoping to have a gold-plated shark tank bar installed right next to the pool, but thanks to people downloading his music for free, he must now wait a few months before he can afford it. [a close-up of Lars sobbing] Come. There’s more. [leads them away. Next seen is a small airport at night] Here’s Britney Spears’ private jet. Notice anything? [a shot of Britney boarding a plane, then stopping to look at it before entering] Britney used to have a Gulfstream IV. Now she’s had to sell it and get a Gulfstream III because people like you chose to download her music for free. [Britney gives a heavy sigh and goes inside.] The Gulfstream III doesn’t even have a remote control for its surround-sound DVD system. Still think downloading music for free is no big deal?

Kyle: We… didn’t realize what we were doing, eh…

Detective: That is the folly of man. Now look in this window. [they are at another mansion, and they look inside a picture window] Here you see the loving family of Master P. [He’s shown tossing a basketball to his wife while his kid tries to catch it] Next week is his son’s birthday and, all he’s ever wanted was an island in French Polynesia. [his mom lowers the ball and gives it to the boy, who smiles, picks it up and drops it. It rolls away and he goes after it]

Kyle: So, he’s gonna get it, right?

Detective: I see an island without an owner. If things keep going the way they are, the child will not get his tropical paradise.

Stan: [apologetically] We’re sorry! We’ll, we’ll never download music for free again!

Detective: [somberly, dramatically] Man must learn to think of these horrible outcomes before he acts selfishly or else… I fear… recording artists will be forever doomed to a life of only semi-luxury.