As the weather gets warmer, college students look forward to summer activities like playing frisbee, grilling or sitting on the porch and listening to some music. Here’s what you might want to know about downloading music this summer:
EMI and DRM
Apple recently announced that it will be releasing music from the EMI Group on the iTunes store without DRM, or digital rights management, security on it. In the past, the iTunes store has sold music with a security system that allows only the user who purchased the songs to listen to them. There were also limits to the number of times a particular playlist could be burned.
Most record companies have insisted on the use of DRM to prevent listeners from illegally distributing their music. But many users feel restricted by the security system and wish they could use their purchased music however they choose, without subjecting it to hacks that circumvent the DRM (hacks which are technically illegal under both American and international law).
Under a new agreement with EMI, Apple will distribute music through the iTunes store without any DRM at all. This will allow consumers to use their music in any way they see fit without having to use technical tricks to gain access. It will, however, still be illegal to share music, unless you own the copyright to the song. The reaction to this change has been almost unanimously positive.
Keep your eyes open for more labels to jump on the bandwagon in the near future. Another side note to consider is that EMI owns the rights to the Beatles’ music, which has never been released legally online before. There are rumors that Apple is negotiating to bring John, Paul, George and Ringo into the 21st century.
Colleges and Illegal Downloading
In spite of DRM security on iTunes purchases, online file sharing is still prevalent. Programs like LimeWire and Kazaa are available for users to share files, frequently copyrighted MP3s. These programs are especially prevalent on college campuses, where students have little money to buy music with and plenty of access to high-speed Internet connections.
Sales of CDs have been falling steadily for several years, including an 8 percent drop just reported on April 18. Some of that drop is due to factors such as legal online music purchases, but a significant portion is due to illegal file sharing. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is looking for ways to fight back.
Recently, the organization has begun suing people who download music. Because many downloaders are on college campuses, there are not always names associated with the file sharing. Frequently it can be seen coming from a college network, but there is no individual information. The RIAA then subpoenas the college for the names of the students. So far, some colleges are resisting, but many have already handed over the names of downloaders.
This summer, you will hear warnings about applying sunscreen or not swimming for two hours after eating. But take my advice: practice safe downloading.