exit planet dust

Okay, haven’t had an excuse to rant about something in the `biz for a while now. It’s time.

As part of my usual morning’s devouring of media sources, I browed through The Register. El Reg is the tech world’s scandal sheet, and it’s consistently entertaining, but only intermittently informative. Most of their writers are Brits, but since they’re writing about the IT industry, they employ a couple of stringers out in California, that being kinda ground zero. Anyway, one of those stringers is Andrew Orlowski, and today the Register leads off with another one of his stories on Apple’s iTunes Music Store. The article is here. Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait.

Back? Okay, good.

There’s a problem here. And the problem is that Andrew Orlowski is, point-blank, an idiot. This is at least the third article he’s written for the Register harping on this very same point, and it’s just as daft now as it was the first time.

According to Orlowski, there’s some mass ideological movement converging behind the idea of compulsory copyright licensing for music, and only that dastardly Steve Jobs and his evil plan to use iTMS as a trojan horse to deliver eeeeeevil DRM technology to The Poor Exploited Children Of The World is standing in the way of this incipient technolegal nirvana.

Horsepucky.

Outside of a few techno-utopian bloggers, there is zero momentum in any arena that matters for compulsory music licensing. The labels don’t want it, Congress isn’t even considering it, and even the artists most associated with a liberal position on mp3 file trading aren’t pushing it as a solution. The reason is simple: the “vast pool of wealth” with which to compensate artists that compulsory licensing would allegedly create, would have to be administered by someone, and all of the options for that are head-explodingly awful. Sure, Bono and Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson will get paid no matter what, but how, precisely, is your local pub band supposed to determine what percentage of that pool is rightfully theirs, and who is going to be empowered to make that decision?

Slotcar Hatebreath, a writer for the defunct and sadly missed Suck used to joke that one day the federal government would subsidize artists to not produce art in the same way that it currently pays farmers to not grow food. It’s hard to envision any scheme for compulsory music compensation that doesn’t come eerily close to making that joke a reality.

And of course… the United States is just one country: how in the name of god could this be made to work internationally, considering that most of the world’s states are signatories to treaties that have rather bound their hands in regard to how copyright laws are implemented?

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, Apple has actually managed to implement a system that satisfies the record labels’ paranoia and makes sure that the artists get their cut without overburdening the end-user with useless restrictions, and it turns out that the consumers like it just fine. This appears to piss off Orlowski something fierce, I guess because it’s depriving him of a windmill to tilt at.

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