Monday, February 12, 2007

Birthday Time Again!

Past Midnight, means it's my birthday. Twenty - I'm not a teenager anymore.

Meh, for some reason I'm really non-excited at the moment. I'm more posting this out of tradition than anything else, especially since I'm fairly certain no one reads this blog anymore.

Truth is, it doesn't even feel like a birthday.

Must be because it's monday.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Music, DRM, and Mr. Jobs' Good Idea

Today an interesting item appeared from within the annals of Apple's website: post by non other than everyone's favorite CEO/Mogul/Salesman, Steve Jobs, entitled "Thoughts on Music". The page addresses recent calls for Apple to open the FairPlay DRM used in the iTunes Store, and points out how the current content-protection systems of the industry came to be in the first place.

However, the real interesting bit comes a little further down, where Steve outlines the three possible directions the online music industry can take from here. First, they could "stay the course" and keep up the fragmented, proprietary DRM systems that consumers love to hate today. Second, Apple could license FairPlay to other companies, but that would make meeting the music industry's security requirements monumentally more difficult. Finally, we could probably take the best course possible, and just do away with DRM entirely.

In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system.

So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none.
It's not a new request to hear, but it's certainly new to hear it from the guy in charge of the world's largest source of DRM'ed music! Unlikely though it may sound, if the music industry would ever do this, Steve Jobs is the man who could convice them.

Honestly, I think the reluctance to sell DRM-free music is mostly due to corporate nervousness, not any justifiable business position. Here's an example - take Fred, a fictional college student living with 3 other undergraduates in an on-campus 4-person suite. He's a mostly honest kid, but he's pirated his fair share of music in the past. Fred wants to get a new song he heard on the radio. He could use his university's Ruckus subscription, but that wouldn't play on his iPod because of incompatible DRM. He could buy it from the iTunes store - that would make sense, but he'd like to be able to share the song with his roommates, and FairPlay would only let the music play on Fred's iPod. So he resorts to Limewire, or BitTorrent, or any of a million other illegal sources that you, dear reader, are likely intimately familiar with.

Now, here's where the RIAA throws a fit. Fred resorted to stealing because he wanted to do something illegal! You can't just get a song and share it with your friends! That's wrong and we won't allow it!

Ah, but see, it's happening anyway. Thousands of times every day. Even people who still buy CD's are likely to let friends and family rip them. You can't stop that with anything short of Big Brother. I feel for the content creators, I really do. Heck, I'm going to school to become one of their ilk. But, illegal or not, this is simply the way the world works, and it will still happen no matter how much the RIAA screams about it. Fred is going to share his music. He has some morals of his own (independent of the law, I might add), so he won't post it on the internet, but he still wants to share it with his roommates, and that pulled him away from legitimate online music sources. From my own experience, I'd say "Fred" accounts for a very large portion of my generation. (Most of the rest won't settle for any price but "free," so there's little you can do about winning them over)

Now, let's pretend iTunes sold DRM-free music. What changes here? Well, Fred might decide that the song is worth a buck to him, and buy it. He's a nice enough guy after all, and the DRM was the only thing stopping him before. (He'd probably be even more likely to go legit it he could get it for free from Ruckus) He buys the song, then throws it over AIM to his roommates. They all listen, and a grand time is had by all. How did the record companies fare in these two scenarios?

Profit made from DRM'ed store: $0
Profit made from DRM-free store: $1

Now of course, in this situation the record companies would argue they're really entitled to $4, not $1, and probably that Fred has "stolen" $3 from them (if the lawyers got involved). But that's their fantasy world. In the real world, the choice isn't between $1 and $4, it's between $0 and $1.

So the real question is, who wants a dollar?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Superbowl Ads

Seeing as A) The Steelers weren't playing, and B) I'm in a communications school, watching the superbowl this year was mostly an exercise in watching the ads for me. (Although, after that first amazing touchdown, it was pretty sad to see the Bears lose it.)

Since I already have to pick my favorite Superbowl ads to discuss in my TRF class tomorrow, and since iFilm has pretty much all of them available online, I figured I might as well post my favorites here. CBS also posted all of the ads, and in somewhat better quality, but I'm having trouble getting many of them to load. Probably just swamped with traffic. So without further ado, and in no particular order, my favorite ads from Superbowl XLI...

Bud Light: Language Course with Carlos Mencia
Come on, it's funny. Even if you hate Carlos, it's still funny.

GM: Robot
I felt so sorry for the little guy!

Coca-Cola: Happiness Factory
Very imaginative, to say the least. Apparently there's also an extended version of this that was shown in movie theaters.

Bud Light: Rock Paper Scissors
The first commercial that grabbed the attention of the people I was in the room with, and said "The Superbowl Ads have started!" Clever.

I also liked the "Grand Theft Auto" Coca-Cola ad, but I've seen that one in theaters (and also on TV I think), so it wasn't new to me. The Bud Light crabs stealing and worshipping the beer was funny, and the Dalmation was cute, but I think my list had enough Bud Light ones already!

Honestly, no blow-you-away amazing ones this year, but I thought it was pretty good overall for Superbowl ads. (The "sexed-up GoDaddy" bit is starting to get a little old though...)