A couple of individuals whose last names are Tucker and Ruth have filed a couple of important law suits in the last month. Class action law suits which means that the plaintiff is asserting that the true number of plaintiffs that form the ‘class’ in the ‘action’ are too numerous to count. The operative word is “individuals” here because that is the constituency of people who are downloading music from Apple’s iTunes and buying music from the conventional big music players (Sony, BMG, Universal, TimeWarner).
The two class action cases are based on a claim that Apple and the big music players are effectively a monopoly because they collectively are over 75% of the market providers of music; and, because they have deliberately and consciously disabled the individuals in the market from having the right/ability to use the music that they are acquiring over different platforms. In short, it is the choke hold that Apple and the big music players have over the music buyers options of how or where to play the music that is the problem.
The law suits are a further indication that the consumer market is growing intolerant with being dictated to and restricted in how the music plays. The ‘Consumer Technology Bill of Rights’ has been percolating through the grassroots communities for some time and involves these rights:
1. Users have the right to “time-shift” content that they have legally acquired.
This gives you the right to record video or audio for later viewing or listening. For example, you can use a VCR to record a TV show and play it back later.
2. Users have the right to “space-shift” content that they have legally acquired.
This gives you the right to use your content in different places (as long as each use is personal and non-commercial). For example, you can copy a CD to a portable music player so that you can listen to the songs while you’re jogging.
3. Users have the right to make backup copies of their content.
This gives you the right to make archival copies to be used in the event that your original copies are destroyed.
4. Users have the right to use legally acquired content on the platform of their choice.
This gives you the right to listen to music on your Rio, to watch TV on your iMac, and to view DVDs on your Linux computer.
5. Users have the right to translate legally acquired content into comparable formats.
This gives you the right to modify content in order to make it more usable. For example, a blind person can modify an electronic book so that the content can be read out loud.
6. Users have the right to use technology in order to achieve the rights previously mentioned.
This last right guarantees your ability to exercise your other rights. Certain recent copyright laws have paradoxical loopholes that claim to grant certain rights but then criminalize all technologies that could allow you to exercise those rights. In contrast, this Bill of Rights states that no technological barriers can deprive you of your other fair use rights.
These cases pursue number two and four, above, the right to space shift and the right to use legally acquired content on the platform of their choice.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) seems to have gotten a grasp on the solution ahead of the big music company members who comprise the RIAA. Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA, recently joined in possibly supporting these two ‘rights’ when he said, “We are focused on interoperability”.
What interoperability will look like; and whether the leading device manufacturers, Apple and Microsoft, will begin to offer some version of ‘pret a porter’ remains to be seen. But the recipients of music are definately not passive recipients. Consumers want the music and they want to be able to take it with them beyond the machines from which they first legitimately access it. Watch this space. As it is known, we’ll be discussing it here.