7digital to offer DRM free music from Warner

Music, Piracy 2 Comments »

After news broke last week that Play.com had launched PlayDigital, offering DRM free music to its customers in direct competition with iTunes, Warner has now increased pressure on Apple by striking a deal to sell its own catalogue DRM free to customers of 7digital.

7digital is one of the biggest online music retailers and has now started selling more than 150 of the most popular albums from Warner, £3 cheaper than iTunes offers the same music for. The deal will allow customers who do not own an iPod and don’t use iTunes to get access to Warner’s offerings.

The DRM protection Apple uses on tracks sold through its iTUnes service has been a frustration for many music lovers for a long time, as in essence it is meant to prevent customers transferring music to portable music devices that are not iPods.

By offering tracks in a DRM free format Warner’s albums are available to customers of 7digital in Britain, Spain, Ireland, France and Germany and playable on almost all digital music players. Material owned by Warner includes that from artists such as Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

With the deal 7 Digital becomes the first major European download sevice offering Warner Music and EMI tracks in the MP3 file format. PlayDigital itself is yet to strike a deal to sell the Warner music catalogue. 7digital are also said to be in talks with Sony BMG and Universal to sell DRM titles from the catalogues of these big industry players.

“The addition of Warner Music’s MP3 catalogue means that over 80 per cent of 7digital.com’s 3.5 million track catalogue is now DRM-free.” - Ben Drury, 7digital’s CEO

7digital hope to make their entire catalogue DRM free by 2008.

This deal is just one example of how, due to a decline in CD sales and increased illegal music downloads, the record industry is being forced to find new ways to appeal to music fans.

“Hopefully this will lead to a price war, as I think Apple have had things their own way for too long and are simply too expensive.” - Tim Wiggins of Stuff Magazine

PlayDigital Offers DRM Free Downloads

Music, Piracy 20 Comments »

Launching an online music download store has been a popular online money maker with the rise of portable mp3 players, and with that, online retailer Pay.com is the latest company to announce that it has launched such a service, but this time with a difference – its downloads are DRM free.

Providing music tracks without digital right management copy protection will allow customers of PlayDigital to download tracks and albums onto most mp3 devices. Tracks with DRM are restricted to what players that they can be played on, and can even be restricted to a set amount of plays.

Amazon has released a similar service in the US offering DRM free music to its customers. Amazon did have plans to launch in the UK, but PlayDigital is now the first DRM free music download service to enter the UK market.

With the launch of PlayDigital, Jersey based Play.com is challenging the dominance of Apples iTunes service in the UK with Apple selling tracks with DRM included. Tracks bought without DRM from PlayDigital will not only be cheaper but can be played on more mp3 devices including Apple iPods.

The DRM free songs that are to be offered initially are made up from records from the catalogues of EMI, with expansion planned throughout the services first six months pending major deals with other record labels enabling PlayDigital to sell their DRM free music tracks.

Top 100 tracks will be available for 65p as opposed to 79p on iTunes, with albums available from £4.95.

Sony’s Rumoured Clampdown on Second-Hand Games

Gaming, Piracy 1 Comment »

As regular readers of The Shelf will know, we are firm supporters of the Playstaion 3 over the Xbox and Blu-ray over HD DVD for a variety of reasons, of which Sony sponsorship is not one of them, having access to the latest gadgets before they hit the market would have its benefits.

However, recent rumours have started to concern us here, and although they are unfounded according to Sony there has been increasing talk of the PS3 manufacturer taking steps to cut down on the second hand games trade that has been o popular retail model for high street stores such as game.

The plans that have led to an explosion of opinion in forums, blogs and journals online include the insertion of code on game discs that binds it to the machine it is first played on, thus eradicating the second hand sales market overnight.

“The technology would allow an authentication code to be read and then rendered unreadable; making the software unplayable on any machine but the one which first read it.”

The supporting argument here is that second hand game revenue is not shared with the manufacturer of the original game. Although they have clearly already been paid once for the game title, the argument is that often resold games use server resources in the form of tech support. A significant number of people calling up saying “I don’t have my serial number” are quite likely to be from second hand sales and this cost manufactures money.

I personally believe that this is a bit far fetched, when you pay near £50 for a title are you not paying for technical support for the games life – whether it was you who paid that is by the by – the fee for this support has been received.

The other point is that second hand game stores will often promote second hand titles over new ones, and as companies do receive revenue from second hand titles they are loosing revenue. As such manufactures would like to see an official refurbished games policy where both the shop and game manufacturer gets paid.

I see a problem in this. Games manufactures have already been paid once for a title and as such the most successful games are those that sell the greatest volume, and in reality this is a fair assessment. Would implementing the aforementioned policy simply encourage game making to aggressively advertise mediocre games?

After initial sales disappointment in the product would be encouraged so that the game title is sold onto the next person, with the manufactures taking a slice of the re-sale profit. We would the be left with manufactures measuring the success of games by the amount the game is circulated second hand, not by initial sales encouraging lower quality games to be released.

From a user perspective I think this would severely restrict the offering of any console implementing this technology, not to mention an incredibly bad business idea. As a result

1. Users could not sell a game after you’ve played it
2. Users could not buy or play any second-hand games

So what happens when I’ve bought round to a mate’s house to play, even if it’s to encourage him to get a copy so we can play online? I can’t bottom line.

Secondly if you invest in a bad game you are stuck with it, which would mean make people more reluctant to buy game titles.

Thirdly all games that a consumer has invested in throughout the years (for instance PS1 and PS2 console games) would be unplayable on the new PS3 with this technology.

Lastly I don’t know what would happen if like many first generation consoles they needed replacing under the manufacturers warranty. The new console would make the games bought to date redundant, meaning a customer has a lot of expensive drink coasters on their hands.

A quote from Sony has said

“I would like to clarify that this is false speculation and that PlayStation 3 software will not be copy protected to a single machine but will be playable on any PlayStation 3 console. “

But there is often no smoke without fire. Could it be such plans were in the pipeline only to be shelved because of the consumer reaction? Either that or a very clever marketing trick from Microsoft.

File Sharing Legislation

Piracy, The Interwebs No Comments »

It seems in the next step in combating digital piracy the government has opted to step in, as news broke this week that they are considering file sharing legislation in an attempt to push internet service providers to take a more active role in the crack down of illegal file sharers.

The move is directed towards ISPs and industries who are yet to come together to fight the problem. It is thought the preferred solutions for all are voluntary partnerships between creative industries and ISPs so that regulation is not required, but this news seems to says that unless these companies come together and put such schemes in place then the government is ready to intervene.

“”For the most part I think there are going to be successful voluntary schemes between the creative industries and ISPs. Our preferred position is that we shouldn’t have to regulate,” said Lord Triesman

The argument of ISPs is that they cannot feasibly track every packet that is sent across there networks, and although a route by which illegal file sharing took place, does not condone it in any way, shape or form. Searching single data packets that are sent across networks would also break data protection laws in place to protect individuals.

The arguments currently hindering the ideal voluntary agreements seem to centre around the two issues of intellectual property rights and privacy of the user, and the stalling block is trying to find a balance between the two. Privacy advocates will object to any legislation, but it also seems true that illegal file-sharing affects the income of many musicians.

Either way it seems the pressure is increasing in regard to illegal file sharing within the UK. As previously posted about on The Shelf, the US has seen several case studies demonstrating the growing pressure to protect copyrighted material, and in such cases end user pirates have been targeted, but with this announcement came assurances that the government has no interest in hounding young teenagers who share music.

The legislation is more aimed towards “software pirates that sell bootleg copies of programs, games, movies and music, for profit”, and users of P2P programmes who download songs to listen to without paying are not being directly targeted.

This threat of legislation comes at a time when the music industry is already trying new innovative ways of combating piracy. Recently Radiohead released their latest album “In Rainbows” digitally online, with users only paying what they wanted. However even though fans didn’t have to pay anything to get the album legally it was still reportedly pirated 500,000 times.

It seems that in some instances online file sharing is as much a cultural activity as it is about saving money and making profit of bootleg copies of material with copyright in place.

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