Legal Digital Music Services at Universities Suck

Yahoo is running a story on how students continue to use illegal file sharing networks, despite being provided with free legal music download service. The reason?

[Students] continue to tap file-sharing networks or syphon digital music files from friends to load their portable music players.

Getting music on file-sharing networks can mean an unrestricted selection of tracks with no limits on copying if one is willing to take the risk of being sued for copyright infringement or contracting a computer virus.

Legal services typically offer some 1.2 million tracks, but limit how and where the songs can be heard — often requiring that students stay at their desks. Getting songs to transfer to digital players costs extra, and tracks may not work with all gadgets.

Duh! Students do not appreciate crippling DRM – wow, what a surprise. Who would have thought that people would actually like to burn a CD, or transfer your music into the iPod. What do the music vendors say to this?

“The complaints were you couldn’t burn music for free, you couldn’t put it on iPods,” said Bill Raduchel, chief executive for Ruckus, which provides music to more than a dozen universities. “No legal service is going to meet that need.”

Really? Not a one? Why? What is so wrong about letting people exercise their fair use with the files that are already paid for? Let’s think about this – they are already getting the music for free – which means that the only factor making them choose illegal network rather than the legal ones is the quality. Provide superior quality to the P2P network, and you will see file sharing rapidly drop on university campus.

If the students could download fee high quality, non crippled music legally why would they download illegal stuff? Sure, they can burn some CD’s and share with the room mate, or take them home with them – and maybe give them to a family member. But that’s basically covered under fair use.

It is as simple as that – if you sell DRM’d music, people will prefer to download superior quality copies illegally. If you take away the DRM you might see few people abusing this, but in general you should see much more profit coming in, and much broader mind share. Sigh… These people never learn.

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