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Friday, May 18, 2007

You will soon be able to download music online!

Yes, folks - hidden away in the depths of the BBC technology pages is the revelation that at last, after years of false starts and obfuscation, you will finally be able to legally download music online.

Of course, many people falsely believe that they can already download music. They are sadly mistaken. The current set of online stores allow you to purchase a limited legal right to listen to music on very restricted terms - this is not ownership in any sense that the word has been traditionally applied (even to copyrighted materials).

I am not condoning downloading communism - I fully appreciate the need to respect an artist's rights to their own work, however I am against DRM whose implications are hidden from those that are purchasing the protected content. There are now millions of people who believe that they have extensive digital music archives, and while they only use their iPods they are none the wiser.

If you buy a CD you are purchasing both an optical disk and the legal right to play and use the music on that disk in a wide variety of ways. If you purchase a music file from a store such as iTunes, you are purchasing only a set of rights, and ones which are not as extensive as those you enjoy with the music on a CD. In particular you lose the right to store the music on other formats, and to store unlimited multiple copies for personal use. This has serious long term consequences for your music collection (and negates one of the main advantages of having a digital copy in the first place).

Now at last a real company (and not some dodgy outfit) is planning to extend its customers the same wide set of rights with music purchased online. This is major news, one of the most important technology stories I have read this year and it's amazing that it's tucked away on the BBC back-pages. The record companies may be beginning to trust their customers again - and this particular customer is very much looking forward to making his first online music purchase, some twelve years after the technology actually made it possible.

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