[CrackMonkey] .mp3 "OpenMG" Sony Power Grab
Peter Peterson II
pedro at zork.net
Fri Mar 17 10:14:24 PST 2000
This is interesting... I got this from an tech letter I subscribe to...
[snipped discussion of Sony .mp3 players]
It turns out, though, that the hardware is less interesting than the
MP3 software that runs on it. The Magic Clip and Memory Stick Walkman
are the first two MP3 players that play only copy-protected music,
encoded to Sony's OpenMG "standard." That doesn't mean you can't play
the MP3s you've already ripped; you just have to run them through
Sony's software first. Of course, any music you rip with the Sony
software won't be playable in your Rio or Nomad, or in RealJukebox.
Real Networks, makers of RealJukebox, says its product will support
OpenMG by summer.
I'm of several different minds about this. On one hand, I'm very aware
that copy-protected software is always squeezed out by unprotected
software of equal (and sometimes lesser) quality, and for very good
reasons that scarcely need rehashing here. It strikes me as totally
unlikely, given the same content available in a protected format and
an unprotected format, that the consumer market would freely choose
On the other hand, performers and music companies have a right to
control -- and be compensated for -- the distribution and performance
of their work. Digital distribution must support that right to
compensation, the same way that UPC scanners brought a previously
unknown level of honesty to the music charts and sales statistics.
I can't quite blame Sony for wanting to protect that intellectual
property that accounts for a significant part of its profitability.
And in fairness, OpenMG doesn't keep you from making electronic copies
of music you already own. It just makes it less convenient for you to
hand digital copies around.
There's talk of selling music electronically in OpenMG format. At
super-low prices (like a few cents per track) that may make sense, but
only for promotional purposes to entice the public to spend more for a
more permanent and portable version. If I'm spending $14 for an hour
of music, there's no way I want that investment tied to a hard disk
that will unquestionably either fail or be replaced before too long. I
own a 78-rpm record of George Gershwin playing "Rhapsody in Blue" with
the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Although most performances may not be
worth saving for that long, any medium that threatens that sort of
archiving is a technological dead end.
The best Sony could hope for is that the music industry will embrace
OpenMG for whatever reason -- leaving unprotected MP3s to be a geek
subculture of some kind. But unless consumers get some distinct
benefit from OpenMG-encoded content that they don't get from MP3s,
that'll be just some vague and fond wish.
P. A. Peterson II -- pedro at zork.net
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