Aug 21 2007
I like “Beaker” a lot and while I sometimes disagree with his take on things, I found that I couldn’t agree more on his stance on digital watermarking of MP3 files. Anyone who thinks that the current stance of watermarking files so that they can tell which songs are popular isn’t just an experiment to see if users are willing to accept the technology hasn’t been watching the extremes the music industry is willing to go to for a buck. This is the same industry that was willing to compromise the security of your computer by placing a trojan on your computer to track usage of their audio tracks.
We already know that the MPAA is watermarking the movies they send out for review and can track back to the person who shared them fairly easily. It’d only take a couple of cycles of computing power to add a serial number tied to your download account in the audio track of a song. This is scary enough, but given the privacy track record of music companies, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they included additional personal information to make it easier on themselves to hunt down ‘offenders’. And what the RIAA puts into a MP3, some industrious individual will find a way to extract later.
The funny thing is, the same people who find a way to decode the watermarks will probably be only the same ones who’ll find a way to remove the watermark. It’s an arms race between corporations trying to protect a dying paradigm and users who just want cheap music they can play anywhere. If the recording industry would stop spending so much time trying to punish listeners for enjoying music and instead spend the same energy trying to get music to market cheaply enough that most people would rather buy it than take a chance on a bittorrent source, everyone would be happier. The recording industry would probably make more money in the long run, even though they’d no longer have total control over the distribution of their music. And that’s what this is all about, control and profit.
By the way, anyone who thinks the line about “protecting the artists” is anything but crap hasn’t paid much attention to what happens to all but the top 2-3% of musicians. I wish I could find some statistics on how many artists end up owing the recording companies money after their first album.