New business model: hate your customers

About a month ago, I wrote Universal Music Group to complain about reports that starting in mid 2002, all their CDs would be copy protected using a format that renders them unplayable on Macs and on many CD players. Today I got a response from an automated support email that I’ve posted. I think there are two things in the letter of interest:

  • First, they claim that they hope to include Mac-based “playability” on copy-protected discs, and that they “have not made a commitment” to put copy protection on all their CD releases. This directly contradicts the statement made in Billboard last month.
  • Second, they claim that “unauthorized CD ‘ripping’ leads to illegal Internet distribution of music.”

The second is an interesting and novel claim. Let’s break it apart. First, what does “unauthorized CD ripping” mean? The last time I checked, fair use allows me to make a copy for personal reasons. This blanket “unauthorized” accusation and the copy protection measures that attempt to prevent it are only infringing my fair use rights. Second, how does ripping lead to distribution? Last time I checked, they were two separate acts. Just because I rip one of my CDs to put it on my iPod doesn’t mean I’m going to distribute it on the Internet. I agree that file sharing programs like Napster and KaZaA are designed to facilitate distribution. But ripping? Oh man we’re in trouble if the RIAA goes after that one.

Universal: why we’re afraid of our customers

Okay, so I posted a complaint at Universal’s site like a lot of other people, which is why I got the following message today. I’ve highlighted in red the two bits that I find interesting:

From: “ Support”

To: [my email]

Subject: MusicHelpOnline Support

Date: Wed, 09 Jan 2002 15:01:20 -0600

Thank you for your feedback regarding copy protected CDs. We
appreciate your opinion, as the consumer experience with the music we all
love has always been a priority at the Universal Music Group.

Unfortunately, over the last few years, the music industry has been faced
with a growing problem of unauthorized CD “ripping” leading to illegal
Internet distribution of music
– a practice that is hurting everyone from
recording artists to songwriters to record stores. This illegal copying is
taking place on a massive scale, with literally millions of copies being
made without any compensation to the creators of the music. If a way is
not found to protect the music from these abuses, recording artists,
songwriters and many others will be deprived of their livelihoods. The
changing economics could cause fewer new artists to get a chance to find
their audience.

Universal Music Group is committed to protecting the rights of our artists,
songwriters, and copyright holders, and, like the rest of the entertainment
industry, is evaluating emerging technologies to assess their viability while
also attempting to maximize the consumer experience. In addition,
Universal is exploring new ways to make music available in a variety of
online formats. We are also working with technology companies on new
offline formats that appeal to consumers.

We have licensed copy protection technologies developed by others and
are experimenting with the integration of those technologies into some of
our CDs as a first step in measuring their effectiveness in an evolving
marketplace. While the CDs with copy protection may not be playable in a
limited number of CD players, UMG is currently working with our
technology providers to achieve 100% playability. We also hope to
include Macintosh-based playability on copy-protected discs in the future.
We have not finalized our plans for 2002 nor have we made a commitment
to put copy protection on all of our CD releases.

UMG has also established to provide
consumers with support and to answer any questions you may have
concerning copy protected CDs.

We appreciate your business, and your support for the musicians who
bring so much to all of our lives.

A very worthy Pilgrim

Congratulations to Mark Pilgrim’s DiveIntoMark for receiving the Best Scripting Weblog award in the 2001 Scripting News weblog awards.

After the nominations, I browsed my competition and quickly figured out that this guy was really where it was at, scripting wise. For that matter, so were my other competitors–it’s a complete mystery how I got nominated. 🙂 But it’s an honor just to have been in the running, and so thanks to Dave and all who voted for me.