Who is Really Winning

When it comes to digital media, who is really winning? Are the consumers coming out ahead with the ability to get their media from more places or are the companies winning because of the consumer’s ability to get their media in multiple places? The idea of consumer choice might be helping the large corporations, that a large portion of the geek community hates, to really come out ahead.

When it comes to selling and distributing digital media, the big companies have their hands in everything and no one is allowed to sell something or even make it available without their consent. This makes some level of sense, because after all they are spending the money to produce this content. But instead of offering free downloadable solutions, they continue to nickel and dime their customers to death. These content creators have gotten a law into place that basically says that utilizing any method to access the content that they do not have their hands in is illegal. The television industry even tried to get Tivos to be illegal while the recording industry was busy targeting internet radio stations and recording capable satellite radios.

The idea that a customer might come up with a new way to access their content scares the snot out of these people, so they try to get their hands into every possible distribution method they can to maximize their money making potential. But it seems slightly unreasonable to lobby to have laws passed that supersede already long established laws. They managed to get it to be illegal for me to take a DVD (a movie I have purchased for personal use) and make a copy that is playable on my iPod. Instead, the movie industry wants to purchase the movie again, spending another $10-14 dollars so that I can play that movie on my iPod or computer on top of being able to play it in my DVD player. DVDs already cost $15-$30 dollars depending on which version of some movies you buy. Add it all up and I am spending around $30 (on average) just to be able to play a movie on all of my devices legally. Seems a little shady to me to use the law to further a business model, but I am not a business major.

I understand that there is a desire to protect the content, especially when it is sold online. But there needs to be some middle ground somewhere. Why can I not pay $5 dollars extra for a DVD in the store that comes with a version I can play on my iPod? Why not sell music CDs with a data layer on the CD that contains high quality Mp3 files that I can play on my portable media player? And instead of using DRM to limit the usability of these files, why not watermark them to know exactly where they came from. There are ways that these companies can work with their customers to come up with logical and realistic ideas to downloadable digital media.

The way I see it right now is that if things keep going the way they are then we can expect the consumer to be the loser in the long run on downloadable digital media. The companies producing the content are not concerned with what is fair or even right in this case and are working extra hard to ensure that we as consumers are nickel and dime-ed until our dying day.

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