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View Full Version : the failure of pay-to-play subscription services

2003-12-10, 03:28
Subscription pay-to-play services such as iTunes (http://www.apple.com/itunes/) and Napster (http://www.napster.com/) have been commonly referred to as a legal alternative to peer-to-peer.

There are two things wrong in these assumptions. The first one is that peer-to-peer filesharing is illegal. This has not been proven by the large amount of civil lawsuits filed by the RIAA against users. Rather it attests to the unfairness of a legal system, which allows well-financed groups to intimidate individuals through the power of frivolous lawsuits. Consumer Reports magazine was sued by Isuzu for writing a bad review of one of their cars. Ford sued the domain owner of fordreallysucks.com because they found the domain name to be disparaging of their corporate name. Microsoft is now in the process of suing Lindows because they find its name is too similar to their own. The intentions of these lawsuits are not for the reasons the various corporations would officially admit to. The real reasons they file these frivolous lawsuits are to punish, intimidate, and wear down their opponents. They are well-financed and are able to afford the time and cost of lawyers. The RIAA has done the same thing to hundreds of common people for the same reason. The mass amount of legal action has given the misinformed public the perception that p2p filesharing is actually illegal.

If peer-to-peer filesharing is deemed illegal, then those very laws will have no more weight or moral relevance than laws banning alcohol during a Prohibition period.

The second misconception is that pay-to-play subscription services can replace peer-to-peer. They are actually not comparable because in the former, the downloads occur from a centralized server. In the latter version, the downloads occur from another user. This allows for any content to be found. The amount of material is more varied on peer-to-peer, because signed, unsigned, official, unofficial, and remix versions all are available.

Another disparity between subscription services and peer-to-peer is the file format used. The popular subscription services are using files which are subject to Digital Rights Management, with aac files in iTunes and wma files in Napster. Users are restricted from fully using their DRM-controlled files. In peer-to-peer networks, the popular file format is the mp3, and allows the users full freedom of their files. Not only that, but users can get higher quality of music from peer-to-peer networks. The formats the subscription services sell are on the poor end of quality, despite their claim that it is "CD quality".

The typical prices of these subscription services are $1 per song downloaded, and $10 for a whole album. Their prices are outrageous, and most people would rather buy a real CD than to get a collection of DRM files on their computer. Their prices do not reflect their costs, as it costs them close to nothing to have people download files from them. Yet they refuse to lower their prices because they claim that they need to give money to the artists. Actually, artists only get about 12% of revenue of sales.

Even if pay-to-play services were absolutely free, they would still be lousy compared to peer-to-peer, which they claim they are competing with.

The only reason pay-to-play subscription services have worked so far, is due to a mixture of ignorance and fear on the part of the public. We do not rejoice when these pay-to-play services succeed. Instead we see it as mass failure and mass extortion.