Silly iTunes

When looking up Dr. Horrible on iTunes to see whether I would buy it for myself or put it on the birthday/Christmas list I realized that a number of the songs on the soundtrack were shorter than 30 seconds and being sold for $0.99. With free previews which contained the whole song.

It is possible to snag the 30 second preview of a song. I’m not sure how it works, but they show up on mp3 search engines for new songs when the full version isn’t available all the time. Why on earth would iTunes try selling those individually at all, let alone for 99 cents rather than 69 cents? On that note, while I’ve seen plenty of $1.29 songs since iTunes destandardized its pricing scheme, I have yet to see a single $0.69 song, even though they supposedly exist. If the eight second long Dr. Horrible theme song isn’t deemed to be worth less than $0.99, what could be? Donkey’s braying? Dogs barking?

There must, somewhere on iTunes, be a recording of Steve Jobs sneezing once, which is priced $0.69- the only item in the entire store at that price.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog is great, by the way, and you can watch it for free on the website. Go do so, it’s only 42 minutes long. Believe me, it’s worth it.


Debate: IP Law and DRM Pt. 2


Declaring that IP law is unenforcable is absolutely absurd, and a great underestimation of the abilities of modern law enforcement. This article portrays just one method by which the UK has successfully reduced music piracy. In short, they threatened to take away internet access through the cooperation of ISPs (Internet Service Providers).

There is no reason that this methodology could not be adapted by the rest of the world. Some will say that ISPs sharing their online activities with the government is a violation of their privacy. Is it a violation of your privacy if a police officer catches you making a drug buy? Why shouldn’t there be representatives of the law patrolling the internet as well? Just so no one blames the ISPs, it’s not like they had much choice in the matter. It’s either turn over records willingly or wait for the court order, and cooperation has fewer solicitor’s and processing fees.

As for websites such as Skreemr and GTCloser, among others, simply make them illegal. Even if they remain legal (after all, they’re only search engines) tracking internet activity will allow law enforcement to know who is using those sources. As for the legality of such a ‘violation of privacy’ it is clearly not an issue in the UK, which to me suggests that it won’t be a problem in much of the world. Even in the US where this is much hue and cry over any ‘violation of privacy’ the Patriot Act lays down precedent for all kinds of ‘privacy infringements.’ Nowhere in the US Constitution is privacy promised. It is a priveledge, not a right, and by participating in illegal activities, whether it be terrorism or pirating music, you forgo that priveledge.

All the other points made by my opponent are simply statements about the way things are, not the way they have to be. International accord can and should be made so that IP law is consistent. DRM can be added to all CDs and DVDs. It’s already present on some, so this is clearly not an imposibility.

IP law is enforcable so long as law enforcement and law makers put in the necessary effort. Just like any other crime, it takes effort. Cops on the street or cops on computers. But it is perfectly possible.

Previous Posts in Debate:


Point 1: IP Law is Unenforceable

Debate: DRM, Pt. 1

Current IP Law is Unenforceable

Feel free to check out the introduction to the debate

Freedom of File Sharing side

Point 1: Enforceability

If you take a book or CD off a neighbor’s shelf, is it stealing? Yes. Of course it is. The fundamental problem with this is that your neighbor no longer has the book or the CD in question. Is it considered stealing if you read that book, or listen to the CD? Have you somehow reduced the value of either object? No. Those who would put DRM (Digital Rights Management) software on all IPF (Intellectual Property [containing] Files) seem to believe otherwise. In many cases, IPFs cannot be freely transfered between computers or devices due to DRM software.

But let’s not mince words. The problem isn’t that iTunes will only let us listen to our music on five computers and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to transfer music from one computer to another, particularly music not acquired through iTunes. The problem is that we’re expected to pay for music, music files with prohibitive DRM, when we could get the same file DRM free elsewhere. The only hitch is that this action is illegal under current law in the U.S., at least for certain methods of acquiring the file. Limewire, Frostwire, and BitTorrent are all filesharing programs which cannot be legally used to share copyrighted files such as most music, books, or movies in digital format. Other methods of acquiring files, namely MP3 search engines such as Skreemr are in a legal gray area.

So why, other than the presence of the law, should I not download MP3s and other files for free? Am I going to get caught? Probably not. Even if the feds somehow discover that I’ve downloaded a file via Limewire or BitTorrent, it’s nearly impossible to trace that file to discover whether or not the source was legal, or where I got it from. Especially with BitTorrent. It’s not as if the government can track every transaction made over the internet so that in some police office near you a little light goes off for your address whenever an illegal file is transfered to or from your computer.

Let’s assume for a moment that websites such as SkreemR are made illegal and removed from the internet in a sudden, decisive government action. Further assume that all file sharing programs are made illegal (they are currently legal, but the sharing of IPF is an illegal use), and are magically erased from all computers. I can still find files, with a little more difficulty, on the internet. Some obsessed secretary typed up the entirety of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone into a .txt file and posted it on his personal website? Cool, I’ll download it and put it on my Kindle. Not convinced? Alright, assume that someone develops an amazing web crawler which finds and deletes any illigal IPF posted on the web. What’s to stop my friends and I from e-mailing each other all the songs off of any CD’s that we buy? Absolutely nothing (say it again).

Now, this is specific to music and multimedia, but note that there is no DRM on most CDs

Ive found the answer!

I've found the answer!

and DVDs sold in stores today. Thus there is no need for DRM to be cracked before distributing a file. All that needs to happen is for one person with little to no technical know now to buy a CD or DVD and upload contained the IPF to the internet. All of a sudden there’s no need for anyone else to buy a copy- it’s freely available to anyone in the world.

The totality of that availability- the fact that anyone in the world can download it- offers another complication. The laws and regulations of multiple international juristictions. Hypothetical situation. User 1 lives in Bangladesh, where IP law protects music for ten years. Ten years after the song “Hittin’ up the Hits” was registered and released in Bangladesh, User 1 uploads the file to her blog. User 2 lives in Brazil, where IP law protects music indefinitely. User 2 sees the song on the blog and downloads it. Legally, things get really complicated, really fast.

The last defense for the downloader of illegal IPF is this- strength in numbers. There are far too many people downloading them to catch them all. IP law in the Information Age is like Prohibition. It may or may not be a good idea from an idealogical standpoint, but it’s not going to work. The government should just eliminate or alter the law and stop embarrassing itself by pretending that the current law has any meaning.

Next: Rebuttle of Point 1 by Intellectual Property Protector

After that: We get into the justification and ethics.

P.S. Either my computer or WordPress exploded and stopped this from being published on time. I only just noticed. Sorry about that.

Debate: DRM, Introduction

Over the next few days/weeks I will be posting a debate, held with myself, on digital rights management and intellectual property in the Information Age. We all know that current laws are unclear in some respects, and unenforcable in others. Should information, including music, books, and other IP, be freely distributed, or should new measures be implemented and new laws passed in order to protect the rights of authors, musicians, and other IP holders who depend on their IP for a living?

Freedom of Information Abstract:

“Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy” therefore free sharing of files containing IP (hereby refered to as IPF) is, in fact, beneficial to the creators and keeping it privatized is to steal it from the ‘commons’. Beyond this, it is impossible to properly enforce protections on IPF. Given that free distrubution of IPF doesn’t harm the artists, and will exist regardless of the state of the law, it should be legalized.

Digital Rights Management Abstract:

Piracy of IPF is theft, cutting into or eliminating the profit margins of IP originators. Law enforcement should continue to make an example of those who distribute or use pirated IPF. By offering serious consequences for any who are caught pirating IPF, and through the use of improved DRM, there is no reason piracy cannot be minimized, if not eliminated. Lastly, IP law should be clarified to eliminate potential loopholes.


If you have an opinion, an arguement, or a reference, feel free to post it in the comments or e-mail me.