Music, ads, missteps and piracy

Yesterday, I was reading an article that YouTube intends to increase ad frequency for users that use it primarily for listening to music. The supposed explanation is simple: they create internet traffic that’s mostly unused as the video transferred is not being looked at, those having the music on background usually doing something else either on other browser tab or completely out of the browser.

The points is to direct those users to specialized (and potentially paid) music services, yet here comes another great misstep: they are not available in all countries, or are severely limited in some. Trying to push users to a service only to show them “not available in your country” only makes the step more fickle and will only make people look for ways to bypass it. Some might use adblockers, some might try to use VPN or something for bypassing country limitations and some might go back to pirating music.

It’s a few months ago when I was thinking about piracy when it comes to e-books, where, fortunately, the issue was limited by the immense choice and lower cost of self-published books. Yet, it was probably the music industry – way sooner than gaming and movies – who was hit by this the hardest. The music industry made several massive missteps on the way, which in fact supported piracy in its inception, so I would say.

I would start in late 90s or early 2000s. Back then, I still used portable CD player, which could play mp3s and read DVDs so I could stuff a bunch of CDs into single mp3 DVD. Not as efficient as mp3 players, but decent solution. Eventually, the player was lost when we were burgled and I eventually bought my first mp3 player. As it could show the name of track, album, artist and such, it meant I had to get these information to the music track itself.

In those early days, CDs sometimes had some kind of protection to prevent ripping mp3 files. To prevent them being copied illegally, but it had the side-effect of preventing legal owners to put them to their portable players. Or create a copy for their car player, because no one would risk damaging an original in their car. What was worse, the track information was not there, and it took several years before that changed. Combined with the slow conversion, downloading pirated mp3 ‘CD’ was eventually much faster than ripping the original and filling in all the data as all the pirated sources had that filled in, including cover image. Absurd as it might look, the approach of music publishers made even owners of legitimately bought CDs download mp3s for convenience.

Music industry had several more mistakes which were aimed at pirates but hit pretty much everyone else. A small local band got into a trouble for not announcing a “public music production” (or how exactly the law names it) and threatened with large bill for breaching copyright laws. For playing THEIR OWN MUSIC, to maybe two hundred people.

I eventually bought an iPod touch back in 1/2009 (maybe it was 2010) which I still have and still use. I know that these days, online streaming services are there, but even these have some limitations. Not so much about their libraries, but about the fact that they are online. They can work well at home or in office, but the main upside of mp3 players is that they work anywhere. Train, bus, plane, high in the mountains… you’re not limited by the need to be online. Something I know well myself. I was writing at the end of summer about my holidays where even phone signal was weak at the hotel and pretty much non-existent in the hills, now think about internet connection.

Try to use Spotify here…

Not to mention that in my country, mobile internet is still extremely expensive with quality that goes to hell once you move out of a city. For me, as someone who listens to music while hiking, mp3 player is irreplaceable.

So, long story short, companies supposed to help the authors get their deserved money are doing very poor job and often going against what they try to stand for. That is being said by me who goes to concerts and buys band’s shirts to support them. Said by me who goes to cinema to watch movies while some people pirate them on day two and later sees the DVD cost double the cinema ticket, for movie I already saw and with no doubt that the anti-piracy effort inflated the price significantly. By which, I am posting this image from 2010 that is probably still very much true.

Too true…

The “best” part? Software that allows to cut all these unskippable parts took a few seconds to find and was so foolproof that anyone who would want to skip all of these could do that by creating a pirate copy of his own, legally-bought DVD. Talk about shooting yourself in the leg, huh? Closing thought: all the trailers on a DVD with movie are outdated and irrelevant in a few months and make them even more annoying.

BONUS: I remember a case where one such anti-piracy company was sued for breaching copyright laws by using an image for their campaign without the author’s permission…

That’s one random mesh of thoughts over, next time I guess I’ll be writing about something more usual for me.


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