Friday, December 15, 2006

Apple. DRM, Rand...

This article is long over-due….it all started when I ‘n madcap were discussing about apple, DRM…’n I asked him…how do you think Ayn Rand’s philo will fit into all this….? ‘N the Q got redirected to me…’n due to lack of time? Said‘ll blog about it sometime…. ‘N having nothing better to do, coz of being sent home early due to ppl staging protestations in front of office, here I am inking my thoughts on the subject…

Disclaimer…

Let me clarify, this post is just to air my views or rather my lack of views, coz ‘m still not sure where I stand on this… ‘n coz I keep seeing this, thought will put in here also, though doubt if this topic is that controversial, anyways here it is –the views are mine alone ‘n not subscribed by my employer :D And all the said things below are based on what li’l knowledge I possess, so if some things are wrong then it is due to non possession of facts rather than any intentional over-looking…

Ok, let me begin with what started it all…iPod. Now I must confess ‘m a big-time apple fan but in this post I will try to be as un-biased as possible…. It started off with my confusion o’er what mp3 player to buy. Well I had always loved the apple’s click-wheel interface ’n the oh so classy look of ipods but they did have a major draw-back that they dint have any kinda radio support( which was a major major reqmt for me) ’n dint support that many file formats either. But even with these draw-backs I was considering iPod. At this time was asking everyone I knew about other alternatives ’n that’s where madcap came in- ’n he being my total opp. i.e. apple hater… , started off on a tirade against it. His major gripe was the ‘DRM’ of-course, well even ‘m against it but it dint bother me much coz me never plan to buy music off iTunes ’n neither am I rich enough to possess more than one player, so the Q of playing the bought music on other players doesn’t arise at all. :P Probably ‘m being selfish ‘n looking at only my needs, but if ‘m buying the player for myself, then it should follow that I should buy something which suits my needs…rite? ;)

A li’l history…

Anyways his take was ‘apple’ is evil, coz of the DRM, ‘n all that customers who bought the music have no where to go but stick to apple. I totally empathize with the ppl, it’s one sick situation to be in. But let’s start off from beginning….When iPod was launched, did any one ever (cud have) imagine (d) such a situation…? A song for 99c was such a brilliant move that it was instantly lapped up by ppl as well as by the music industry which was then fighting the ‘napster’ ‘n such p2p sharing. It was like, to quote Godfather – “I’m gonna make you an offer, you can’t refuse” ‘n to top that it was perfectly “legal” too….: D The record companies never imagined that iPod would become so bloody popular, I doubt even if Jobs himself imagined it would grow this much… So now you have ‘Universal’ music wanting a chunk of the cut, coz it considers all music on iPod as stolen!!!

Btw here’s a nice script of a hypothetical conversation b/n Jobs ‘n Doug Morris.

DRM…

Btw why did it take so long for any decent competition to arise for iPod? 2 yrs back I doubt if any one wanted to use any player other than iPod, but that was then. ’N the fact is that now ppl don’t want DRM, they want to pay only once for their music ‘n be able to play it on iPod, zune or any player. So why it is that apple is still sticking to DRM? ‘Coz IMHO it doesn’t need it to lock customers using it, coz iPod is such a gr8 prod by itself that ppl will use it anyway. Probably that explains why there has not been a major customer cry o’er this ‘coz ppl don’t want to use anything else…? But then as madcap was saying all these big-players ‘apple’, ‘M$’, ‘sony’… can all come up with a DRM standard which allows inter-operability. :D So then is DRM to prevent/disabuse P2P? If so, it’s a total failure coz as long as you have DRM you will get hacks to circumvent it…

Then is ‘Music Tax’ the way to go, like Peter Jenner says? ‘M not sure but what ‘m sure of is that DRM is defi not the way to go….

Artists, Record Labels, free music….

Free music…well rather music for free…are you really depriving an artist’s lively-hood when you d/w a song illegally off the net? When you d/w a metallica song, is it that they will lose one rupee, oh I mean one dollar from their millions? So you see it is really a bad thing to do…

It’s a different matter that new artists/bands don’t mind their music being distributed freely on the net, coz that’s how they will get popular but as soon as they start getting popular and get signed by record labels, there goes your free stuff…

Now record labels are painted across as the evil ppl, which is not entirely wrong considering that not much of the proceeds go to the artists who deserve it. But in this dog-eat-dog world, no one is free of blame: artists sign enormous multi-million dollar deals for a record whether they deserve it or not is another matter altogether. ‘n the consumer, of course if he is get something for free, will he pay for it else where?

Pls: On one hand you have artists like developers of ‘South Park’ whose sole aim of creating is so that people should watch their shows…’n then you have comedy central whose aim is to milk as much money as possible from the viewers…

How much greedy is greedy? Where do you stop? ‘N should you stop at all?...

Well guess this is the crux ethical Q involved in all the above.

All companies start off small; they develop one revolutionary product on top of which they start growing. So you had M$ beginning with MS-DOS, then Windows ‘n then came the Office ‘n IE. Now this is where the things got murkier. You had Netscape a pioneer in the browser ‘n Word Perfect but M$ started shipping IE ‘n Office integrated with windows. A gr8 business strategy some would say, but ethical? But then some ask what is ethics in business?

‘N then you have some companies piling upon patents on patents, which hinders the very purpose of ‘patent’. Patent concept was developed to foster innovation, but with all the patent filing by big conglomerates one never knows when one may use an idea unknowingly, which is already patented ‘n the big corporation comes knocking on your door for royalties.

Free s/w Vs Proprietary….it can be one entirely diff post altogether but for samplers - if I want to make money off what I code is it a bad thing? ‘Coz if you release the source, any normal intelligent person can compile it himself ‘n use it for free. It seems ppl have no problem with making money but it’s only when one starts to make too much off it they start having problem. They expect you to start allowing others to compete with your own product. This was where I thought of Ayn Rand. Remember ‘Atlas shrugged’ ‘n Hank Rearden's companies? No one should make you feel guilty of being rich when others are poor, when you have earned it. But in what way you earn it is what matters. ‘N in today’s competitive business environment there’s no way you can live without stepping on someone’s toes. So you have company like ‘Google’ with motto – ‘Don't be evil’ getting increasingly into danger areas where it’s being accused of wrong-doing.

Having said so much ‘m still no where near the answer for the above question.

‘Haves’ ‘n ‘Have-nots’ ‘n ‘Doers’ ‘n ‘Non-Doers’…who is black….who is white? But ‘As it always is - there’s only grey….’

pls: tried to post this frm Google docs as the blogger keeps telling me to....but da darn thing doesnt work! hope google stops advertising stuff which dont work...

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

ipod.. allows radio attachments.. add ons :) dont say bad things about ipods! or i'll send you the zune :)

madcap said...

ooh I missed out this one... grrr!! lol!! Just my add my thoughts to ur writeup.

The point that ppl miss is, the freeloaders/downloaders are still as active as they were before DRM surfaced happened. Meanwhile, some of the ones who'd rather have their CDs in that official jewel case it comes in are turning to p2p cuz they cant rip or copy or mix the songs off of it -- remember mix tapes & CDs? Maybe now it's mixed mp3s?

AFAIK Metallica didnt sue Napster for an album song or a published single, but _they_ claimed it was a demo, not-for-release, not-meant-to-be-heard-by-the-public song that cheesed em off. Cuz they claimed a bad-quality song may damage their reputation (something like that, dont exactly remember it now).

Fact: When SP wanted to release their left-over demos as one last treat to their fans, Virgin backed out cuz they said it's too early to release a second album and they wanna see how well Machina does in the charts. Which cheesed off Corgon (the Pumkins frontman) and he released the album to his fans online for FREE to download. (It's still available at archive.org for d/l as of today and many other places)

FACT: The Allman Brothers claimed last year that out of the 99 cents iTunes is selling their songs for, after iTunes and their label have had their share, the band's getting less than 5 cents for each song sold. Meanwhile, the labels, RIAA and the DRM backers and distributors claim how DRM is to protect the musicians and ensure they get paid for their music.

Fact: Music spreads thru sharing. People have been sharing their LPs, then tapes and then CDs with their friends or foes since ages. So, u now have Internet and you also share music with strangers. RIAA calls it piracy. A pirate is someone who takes your money by force for his own profit. The ones who're sharing music over p2p aren't making any profit -- they probably love the music and what others to have a listen to. mp3s dont give u the CD-quality sound; flac and wav files do. Now, lets compute the percentage of songs floating in lossless formats over p2p networks.

Fact: The lables/distributes dont care a fidler's fart if say I'm looking for Van Halen's Right Here Right Now at the stores, unless another 100 thousand are looking for that too. So the labels should stop cribbing if I turn to p2p to get the stuff. The bands hand over the responsibility to the labels to take care of distributing their stuff. Meanwhile the labels are not doing their jobs properly.

Fact: 99 cents for a lousy mp3 is very expensive, when u get the full album for 10 dollars in proper packeging.

Fact: An overwhenming majority of listeners aren't tech savvy. They are the ones who get pissed off when their songs refuse to play in a devise where DRM lock comes into play. iTunes songs dont play anywhere but iPods is a major hurdle cuz maybe it wont play in the damn car stereo or if one moves sonewhere else in the planet. Does Apple warn a customer before they buy the song of these facts apart from that license agreement or whatever they display which probably has 10,000 words that noone reads? How about an easy to read FAQ? Meanwhile, since there non-tech savvy ppl dunno how to break the DRM (even if it's legal in their country).

Fact: All big corps cry out loud for fair play and free mkt economy when they're in the 2nd place, yet the mkt leader puts as much restriction to free mkt economy and fair play as they can.

Fact: I forgot my thought process in the way. lol

[quote]"if I want to make money off what I code is it a bad thing? ‘Coz if you release the source, any normal intelligent person can compile it himself ‘n use it for free."[/quote]

Free Software (or Open Souce as some prefer calling it) never denies u to make money off of ur code. RMS used to sell an Emacs tape w/ souce in it for $150 in the 80s. Red Hat makes a helluva lot of money by selling services around whatever it distributes. (Note: CentOS, which is actually a RHEL minus the RH artwork, gives u 100% binary compatibility with RHEL, but it hasn't thrown RH out of biz has it? On the contrary RH claims it has more than 3/4 of the GNU/Linux server mkt)

There are probably 1 in 10,000 who know in order to compile u need to follow a ./configre && make && make install. And of those few maybe 10 pencent know how to tinker with the code to suit their needs. So if you're a good enough coder or a group of em, u can build a career around services for ur code, like RH has done. (It doesnt matter how much I dislike looking at that RH desktop, lol)

FSF inists that not giving ur code to your customer is bad, but they put no restriction on what you charge for ur ur work. Of course in a free mkt economy u have compititors driving the prices down, but the dinosaur corps dont get it and want as much restriction on free mkt as a Communist country's govt. So, when Ballmer and Gates calls GPL a cancer and compares Free Software to communism, they look like complete idiots, which they are obviously not and thus you can only derive they are just lying.

madcap said...

Here's Scott Andrew's, a folk-rock indie part-time musician, take on artists against p2p.

http://www.scottandrew.com/blog/archives/2005/03/aint_worth_stealing.html

madcap said...

Woops, this is the actualy writeup that I remembered reading: http://www.scottandrew.com/blog/archives/2004/11/different_currencies.html
Anyway, its a good read if you like to know the opinion of a low-key indie musician.

"But even worse: DRM doesn't help me sell records. Am I really going to put a big sticker on the CD that says "now with DRM!" and then expect to sell more records? DRM is the opposite of the "free toy inside" approach. Or maybe it's the same thing, except the free toy comes to life, grabs a toy you already own and escapes down the heating vent with it."

Sarfraaz Ahmed said...

Try reading this http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2006/Nov-19.html

Puthali said...

"There are probably 1 in 10,000 who know in order to compile u need to follow a ./configre && make && make install."
seriously wud have argued abt this point...if i hadnt come across a colleague this very morning, who dint know it! :D

Puthali said...

'n yeah....considering 'm in a company which does exactly da same...i.e. make money off services...i shd be all for it...
but the fact is this whole model is pretty new...'n as obvious it aint tht profitable...now if M$ just made say Windows open source, there would be thousands who will just package it and prob offer better service than M$ itself...:D

Sarfraaz Ahmed said...

"Providing services aint that profitable"

Sorry, i dont believe that is right. You cant generalise something like that based on a single company's performance. To earn profits, you need to have less costs and more service deals. This formula is a bit skewed on the wrong side for your company.

Not just software, there are quite a lot of non-software companies that provide services [ like providing security, or say free home delivery ] that spend less but earn more. There is a huge number of software services company and mostly from india that are profitable. So, providing services isnt a new model at all.

And coming back to companies using open source products to give services and earn profit, you have RedHat that is profitable [ and also in a way affecting the services of your company ].

Puthali said...

well the key thing thr was 'not tht profitable'... :)
'n abt services...thr are services 'n thr are 'services'... :)
me was talking abt packaging the opensource products...prob 'm da only one who doesn't feel all right with it...somehow its always like few gr8 ppl, develop an awesome product, and then a big corp comes along packages it 'n makes money off it...it would have been nice if they (da ones who actually developed it) could also get a cut of that...
or it may be that i haven't got the picture right...(very likely) :D
so feel free to correct my notions... :)

Sarfraaz Ahmed said...

I know the discussion is going completely off-track from what it started, but its good none-the-less :-)

You seem to be seeing things only from one side. Sounds more like the zamindars not giving the share of their profits to the hard toiling farmers :D. It isnt that bad. Here are some questions that might give you some extra perspectives.

Great guys code great softwares in open source and few like-minded people come together to form a small company, what we know as start-ups. Why do you think they want to sell of these start-ups to big corporates ? No, its not just the money. Remember, these guys want to see their softwares sold. Apart from a great piece of code, what else do you need to sell a product ? Few things I can think of are, "brand name", "large sales force", "lots of money" and "good reputation in the market".

So, its basically the "economies of scale", where you can sell more at a lesser cost, and yet earn more profits just because you can sell large quantities of the product that drives people to sell their startups to larger corporates. And ofcourse, they get a very handsome amount of share in the profits. First with the initial sale of their start-up and later on with various incentives while working as part of the bigger corporate.

Puthali said...

Sounds more like the zamindars not giving the share of their profits to the hard toiling farmers
Eggjactly...lol... :D

madcap said...

"somehow its always like few gr8 ppl, develop an awesome product, and then a big corp comes along packages it 'n makes money off it...it would have been nice if they (da ones who actually developed it) could also get a cut of that..."

This big corp, usually recruits that person/group of people responsible for the product, or actively backs its development by donations. Like Red Hat employs Alan Cox and Andrew Morton (and perhaps a lot of others who've been part of the kernel dev team since the mid 90s), similarly IBM has a lot of people hacking on the kernel and other server stuff too, or how Yahoo even tho cant buy off FreeBSD, but it invests a lot in FreeBSD's development. Or like Novell bought Ximian, which was a small start-up doin great stuff. While some companies cant capitalize on the new model of business, doesnt mean it's inefficient. Besides, a part of the FLOSS biz model is making in-house custom software. Since, it's in-house and we dont see it, doesn't mean it dont exist.

Plus at the end of the day if u're good in providing services, u've won the mkt. Like RedHat/Fedora's desktop feel and appearance is lame compared the SLED10, but at the end of the day RHEL4 is probably 10 times more stable and RH has a great team of ppl providing the essential support that enterprises need that Novel insn't able to provice or market properly. Similarly, RH doesnt care CentOS is actually a gratis RHEL distributor (when Novell isn't even challenged by such a stuff), cuz CentOS doesn't have the time/resources to provide the paid-for Tier 3 support. Or like Oracle thought "oh it's must be easy to create a RH knock-off and take away their customers by providing cheap service." Well, their Unbreakable Linux is majorly broken as some of the initial testers have reported and enterprises cant trust em cuz they dont have any credibility in the "Linux" mkt.

Again the distros back other projcts too. Like Mandriva and SuSE (pre-Novell)invested a lot on the KDE project cuz that was their default desktop, while RH (and now also Novell) invest on GNOME.

rAKeSH said...

my goodness what a discussion and to think it all started with an MP3 player lol.

Basically the people who buy music off the net aren't worried about the quality rather they want to hear the music badly. Because the quality of music that you buy from any online store not even half the CD quality. So People who really want to enjoy their music in the highest quality will definitely go the store and buy music in CDs and Vinyls.

@madcap://Free Software (or Open Souce as some prefer calling it)
hey free software and open source software are do different things. Don't combine them. basic difference is that with free software you don't get the source code and it need not be under the GNU GPL whereas in the case of open source software they are released usually under the GNU GPL and also u get the source code along with it.

//but the fact is this whole model is pretty new...'n as obvious it aint tht profitable...now if M$ just made say Windows open source, there would be thousands who will just package it and prob offer better service than M$ itself...:D

yup thats definitely true ;)