Stereophile is finally collectible. Either that, or I'm the biggest audiophile sucker out there. A few weeks back, I finally caved into temptation and signed up for an account on eBay, the website via which millions of folks buy and sell stuff in an online auction, and on which someone once tried to sell a human kidney. (It was not allowed.)
Like the proverbial camel who took over the tent after getting just his nose in, it appears that once copy protection is given an inch, it will inevitably try to get in all the way. At least that's how it appears with an increasing variety of CD copy protection systems now currently being tested en masse by the major record labels. Latest to announce a new "evaluation agreement" is BMG Entertainment, which will use and evaluate SunnComm's MediaCloQ "digital content cloaking technology", first put to the test earlier in the year on a Charley Pride CD (see previous).
Start policing your employees' use of file sharing networks or we sue you. That was the threat from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to Fortune 1000 companies last week as the organizations announced the publication and distribution of a guide "to assist US companies in preventing copyright abuse on their computers and networks."
Savvy music fans willing to ignore the built-in copying restrictions on consumer-targeted CD recorders have always had their computer-based CD and DVD recorders and hard drives to play with, especially when it comes to manipulating MP3 files. Maybe not for much longer. A new content-protection approach is attempting to tighten the digital noose around the necks of PC users who have spent the last few years virtually unencumbered when it comes to—as Apple so succinctly puts it—rip, mix, burn.
See update at end of article. iTunes continues to grow and Napster has been reborn, but these last few months have been a bumpy ride for MP3.com. The music site, known for its large online music library featuring unsigned independent artists, was purchased on December 14 by San Francisco-based CNET.
Most folks have enough room in their homes (some college students excepted) to easily place 100W amplifiers without regard to size or heat. But in the car, high-powered amps have always been relegated to the trunk or under a seat, often requiring creative solutions for anything with real heft.
Most audiophiles are generally loathe to think that they'd run their main audio systems from a computer. Last time we ran a poll, answers such as this one from David L. Wyatt, Jr. were typical: "Why in the world would I hook my computers to my stereo? If I want to make a compilation CD of the music I have purchased, I'll just burn one."
Love it or hate it, MP3 users are a huge new market, as yet untapped by the music industry. Portable digital compressed-audio players, whether employing Flash memory or compact hard drives à la Apple's iPod, are estimated to begin reaching critical-mass sales numbers around 2006, with an installed base of 24 million units by 2007. Most observers agree that this dramatic growth has been driven, in large part, by the vast quantity of no-fee music that is available in the format, as well as the players' ease of use and flexibility.
The music industry repeatedly points to online file trading as the explanation for its declining market. But annual sales are still well ahead of 1998's figures and several analysts note that when you take into account the economic downturn, increased competition for entertainment dollars, high CD pricing, uninspiring new music, and consumer resistance to copy protection, those negative numbers should really be far worse.