I wrote to Universal's new address asking why they were going to stop making CDs I could play on my Mac. Here's the response I got, annotated:
On Wednesday, January 9, 2002, at 12:51 PM, MusicHelpOnline.com Support wrote:
Thank you for your feedback regarding copy protected CDs. We
appreciate your opinion, as the consumer experience with the music we all
love has always been a priority at the Universal Music Group.
I don't 'consume' music. I listen to it. It's still there afterwards (though I get the impression that you'd like it if it wasn't).
Unfortunately, over the last few years, the music industry has been faced
with a growing problem of unauthorized CD "ripping" leading to illegal
Internet distribution of music - a practice that is hurting everyone from
recording artists to songwriters to record stores. This illegal copying is
taking place on a massive scale, with literally millions of copies being
made without any compensation to the creators of the music.
Interesting progression of words here. The ripping is 'unauthorised'. Who needs to authorise it? Some ripped files have been illegally distributed, I'll grant you that, but then you say that 'copying' is illegal.
Under the Audio Home Recording Act, ripping and copying are not illegal at all; they are expressly permitted. You are confounding the legal acts of copying and ripping with the illegal one of distributing your copyright content without your permission. You are applying technology to attempt to prevent the former, instead of legal prosecution to prevent the latter. This is your mistake.
Your second mistake is take the word of someone that they can stop CDs from being copied. If someone can play your CD, they can redigitise the output, and rip that, and distribute it online. Its not worth my time and effort to fiddle around to rip the CDs in this way, so I won't buy them, but I'm sure the illegal distributors will work this out.
Net result: you have a lot of fed up former customers, and your music is still distributed online without your permission. Fewer people pay to listen to it, you get less money, and the illegal distribution goes on unchecked.
If a way is not found to protect the music from these abuses, recording artists,
songwriters and many others will be deprived of their livelihoods. The
changing economics could cause fewer new artists to get a chance to find
The music is not being abused. It is being listened to. It doesn't need protection.
Or do you mean 'protection' in the sense of 'protection racket'?
Courtney Love wrote a very well-reasoned essay on who is abusing whom in the record industry.
Universal Music Group is committed to protecting the rights of our artists,
songwriters, and copyright holders, and, like the rest of the entertainment
industry, is evaluating emerging technologies to assess their viability while
also attempting to maximize the consumer experience. In addition,
Universal is exploring new ways to make music available in a variety of
online formats. We are also working with technology companies on new
offline formats that appeal to consumers.
Uh huh. Let me explain again. I have an iPod. (125,000 other people do too, and its only been on sale two months). It lets me carry around about 120 CDs worth of music at a time, in a package about the size of one CD box. I like this. I'm listening to more music than I was before because of it, and I will continue to buy CDs to rip and put into my iPod. If that isn't an offline format that appeals to consumers, I don't know what is.
However, you are explicitly working to stop me doing this. When I buy CDs at the moment, I look at the artists name, not the record label. Now I'll need to check that its not a Universal CD, in case you have 'protected' me from listening to it. This is one way of building awareness of the Universal brand, but probably not a useful one.
We have licensed copy protection technologies developed by others and
are experimenting with the integration of those technologies into some of
our CDs as a first step in measuring their effectiveness in an evolving
marketplace. While the CDs with copy protection may not be playable in a
limited number of CD players, UMG is currently working with our
technology providers to achieve 100% playability. We also hope to
include Macintosh-based playability on copy-protected discs in the future.
We have not finalized our plans for 2002 nor have we made a commitment
to put copy protection on all of our CD releases.
You hope. I'm supposed to buy your CDs on the basis of a hope that you can kludge something together? Let me make it clear. I want Red Book Audio CDs, the gold standard for Audio Quality. I don't want CDs that break this spec, with an extra data track that includes some ghastly software player with a clickthrough licence you have bought from some software snake-oil salesman.
I have some very nice software to play CDs, thanks. It also helps me organise my collection, and move it to my iPod. I don't want to run your software.
I trust that these corrupt, Red Book violating CDs will be clearly labelled as such, so I can tell not to buy them? Otherwise, I'll just have to avoid all Universal CDs until you commit to shipping Red Book ones again.
UMG has also established www.musichelponline.com to provide
consumers with support and to answer any questions you may have
concerning copy protected CDs.
We appreciate your business, and your support for the musicians who
bring so much to all of our lives.
You evidently don't appreciate my business, as you have gone out of your way to stop me playing your CDs. I'm sure your support for musicians is just as sincere.