Wrongs or Rights?

By now, most EM readers are well aware of the raging battle over who will control access to digital content, be it audio, graphics, video, or text. Should

By now, most EM readers are well aware of the raging battle over whowill control access to digital content, be it audio, graphics, video,or text. Should anyone control the public's ability to copy andreuse digital content? Common sense and the courts seem to favorgranting control to copyright holders, but it's far from clear howcontrol should be established — if it can be established atall.

Some digital-audio protection methods involve modifying the files,which can affect sound quality. Other methods may not affect quality,but they prevent legitimate duplication — backups, for instance.Mutually incompatible technologies further muddy the waters. Moreover,some parties want to use these technologies to glean information aboutbuyers for marketing purposes, which I find questionable.

In “The Digital-Rights Debate” (p. 110), Darin Stewartexplains the state of digital-rights management, including thepolitical issues, how currently proposed schemes work, and why anyonewho creates digital content should be concerned.

However, I think more needs to be said. I understand the need tofind a fair way to protect copyright holders, but some of the optionsdisturb me. First, any scheme that is not compatible with all computerplatforms is, to me, unacceptable because it dictates which computeryou must own in order to listen to music. Any scheme that preventsusers from making backups and personal copies of digital media is alsoproblematic. In my view, such schemes violate the consumer's legitimaterights.

The schemes Stewart describes are extremely complex. You and Iprobably can't set up such systems ourselves, meaning only the wealthywill be able to protect their intellectual property — unless webecome dependent on rights-management companies. That flies against theentire DIY approach we electronic musicians thrive on.

Before we support any scheme, we need to think carefully about itsimplications for independent musicians and for consumers. Let's keep aclose eye on those who would trample on our rights in order to furtherpad their wallets.

On a different note, you may have noticed this column's new name,“First Take.” We're retiring the name “FrontPage” as we introduce our brand-new “Front Panel”section. A few “Front Panel” items are familiar: “RevUp” and “Key Changes” from “What's New,”parts of “Web Page” (see our Web site for the rest), and“15 Years Ago in EM.”

But “Front Panel” is much more than a reshuffling ofexisting elements. We've filled it with a variety of short applicationstips, ranging from recording techniques to ways to get more from yoursoftware and hardware. Heading up the section each month will be our“EM Cool Tip of the Month,” contributed by Cool BreezeSystems. After you read the “Cool Tip,” you can visit ourWeb site (www.emusician.com/cooltip) to view a streamingmovie about the tip and take a quiz to review what you've learned.

As with everything in EM, we welcome your feedback about thenew “Front Panel” section. Feel free to e-mail us at emeditorial@primediabusiness.com.