Sunday, October 14, 2007

Karma is a Callin'

Recently, launched their new digital music download service. I have never bought into the "legit" digital download services (iTunes, etc.). Generally speaking, the audio quality has been piss poor, and the digital rights management (DRM) protections have been worse that ridiculous (limiting playback to iPods/iTunes, or Windows (yada) Ultimate (yada) Live (yada) 360).

I have never understood how otherwise rational people could create a business model predicated on pissing off and annoying your paying customers with an inferior product, while people who steal unprotected MP3s (conveniently ripped from non-protected CDs from the same music companies) from file sharing sites get better quality, no DRM hassles, and the ability to use the music anywhere they want.

What caught my attention with Amazon is that they sell standard MP3s, with no DRM nonsense. Nice! In poking around the site, content is still limited. However, the songs are ripped using basically the same settings (highest quality VBR or 256mbps) using the same high quality encoder (LAME) that I use to digitize my own CDs. Double plus nice!

I immediately dove into my digital music archives, looking for files that (ahem) had slipped in there over the years when karma had its back turned. To my (pleasant) surprise, there were only about 15 songs where the RIAA and I may have had something to talk about (sorry, I could never justify purchasing a full Carl Douglas album to get a legit rip of "Kung Fu Fighting"). My rule of thumb had always been that if I had more than one song from an album, it was time to purchase the album. I was pleased to see that it had worked out in practice.

A very pleasant (and convenient) 30 minutes later on Amazon, and I had brand spanking new, DRM-free, high-quality, and karma approved versions of ~10 of these songs in my music library (including "Kung Fu Fighting"!).

Amazon is continuing to rip albums into its collection. I'm sure some labels will continue to fight selling legit DRM-free content (even though they already sell that same DRM-free content on CDs), same as I'm sure some people believe the world was created 6000 years ago or that the Cubs actually have a chance to win the series next year.

I'm looking forward to the death of DRM as the music industry rationalizes. Look for some thoughts on how to accelerate that process in future posts.

In the meantime, the Amazon end user license does have some unfortunate limitations on traditional fair use rights for things you purchase (for example, you're not allowed to sell the MP3 you purchase from Amazon to another person). If you're the sort of person that believes karma reads the fine print, you may want to do the same.

For those that have been held back by DRM nonsense, get on over to Amazon, start going legit, and make your preferences heard with your $$.

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