The latest ruling in the on/off/on saga of whether or not we can rip our music will confuse more than it clarifies – and it looks like there will only be one winner…
First home taping was killing music, except it didn’t.
Copying music to tape, and later digital media, wasn’t allowed, but hardly anyone took any notice.
Then last October the Government decided we were allowed to make a copy of our own music for private use, so we could play it on new-fangled modern devices like the iPod (after all, only launched 13 years previously, in October 2001).
Was there widespread rejoicing in the street, exalting the wisdom of our legislators and their forward thinking? Umm no, just business as usual.
Now, it appears we’re not allowed to copy our music again – at least not until a way is found to compensate the record companies and the like for this latest attempt at killing music. Which of course we’re not – others are managing that very nicely indeed, thank you, without any help from us.
You see, having first managed to get a levy put on blank cassette tapes in Germany in the 1960s, later extended to other countries and to recordable CDs, the music industry seems pretty confident it can pull off the same trick on the blank media of today.
So presumably that means hard drives, USB thumb drives, any memory card usable in a computer or portable device and so on? Looks like it, although of course any of those devices can be used for storing pictures, business presentations, that difficult first novel you’ve been working on for years, even this website – as well as music.
Could be a healthy revenue stream for the music industry, if it manages to get even a few pennies from the sale of just about anything able to store data.
Or are we going to be asked our intentions every time we buy any kind of storage, before the levy is either applied or waived?
Only Sony is making it simple for the proponents of a new blank media levy with its ¥18,500 dedicated music storage ‘Premium Sound’ SDXC card (left), although given the price one might hope any extra charge could be absorbed fairly easily.
No – the upshot of all this looks likely to be a few pennies on any digital device able to store anything, meaning no-one will even notice (given that storage is now cheaper than it’s ever been). After all, it already works for them in other markets, so why not here?
Mind you, not sure how all that is going to work in an increasingly globalised market, where you can buy almost anything from almost anywhere – will suspicious-looking small packages from overseas levy-free countries be impounded at ports of entry, having been detected by specially-trained SD card sniffer dogs? Will there be dawn raids demanding suspected storage smugglers come out with hands up, kicking their SSDs in front of them?
However it works – assuming it does – only one thing’s for certain: the record companies and the like will get richer. In fact, they may have so much money coming in from such a storage levy that they’ll never again have to do anything messy like finding, supporting and promoting new artists, let alone releasing new music.
We could find ourselves in a world dominated by ‘safe bet’ music, back-catalogue compilations and winsome female vocal hits derived from meaningless but oh-so-artful corporate TV ads, in which anyone with anything new to say or play must struggle to be noticed or resort to self-funded releases.
Perish the thought we could ever find ourselves in that state!
Anyway, for now, if you’re wondering how you can listen to your music, it seems that the law is ‘Not a NAS’.
Written by Andrew Everard