Love this! The French are drafting a law to break up the supposed monopoly that Apple has with the iTunes and iPod Commerce-verse that’s grown up around these products. There are so many things wrong with this law that it will be nothing more than 2 seconds in effect before it’s challenged in the EU Court system, which, thankfully, has a habit of doing exactly the opposite of the French desire.
First things, we’ll do a bit of definition checking with the handy dictionary.com:
- Exclusive control by one group of the means of producing or selling a commodity or service: “Monopoly frequently… arises from government support or from collusive agreements among individuals” (Milton Friedman).
- Law. A right granted by a government giving exclusive control over a specified commercial activity to a single party.
- A commodity or service so controlled.
- Exclusive possession or control:
- arrogantly claims to have a monopoly on the truth.
- Something that is exclusively possessed or controlled:
- showed that scientific achievement is not a male monopoly.
And now that we’ve covered that, let’s look at what Apple really has – the iPod, a very well designed device used for both storing and playing gobs of music and it fits in your pocket. Handy that. And iTunes, a program that both catalogs your current digital music library by allowing you to import CDs you already own, and a service to sell you more music, television, etc., to fill up the remaining space on your iPod. The files that you download from iTunes are of a specific type and have DRM, Digital Rights Management, software embedded in the files. Big Brother is hiding out with Bob Marley, mon!
So where’s the monopoly again? Microsoft, the convicted monopolist, has Windows Medea the Slayer which is truly miserable software yet several different online music retailers use this as the basis for their iTunes competitor. As does Microsoft itself, of course. And other lost souls use the RealMedia monstrosity to attempt to accomplish the same goals – an online music store. Real and Microsoft are both vendors and competitors to the companies using these whackjob programs as foundations for their businesses. It’s not a wonder that they aren’t doing well, the basics of their businesses aren’t sound on top of having crap software. So iTunes can’t be a monopoly because there is competition, even if it’s weak and sad and pathetic. Like Bill Gates chin.
And the iPod isn’t a monopoly either. Wildly successful? You betcha! The only game in town? No, but this is mostly like Internet Explorer for Windows isn’t the only game in town, but it’s the game most people play. Only unlike IE/Win, the iPod doesn’t have it’s own gravitic anomaly that is responsible for more sucking than a cargoship of Dysons could ever hope to muster. But still, ‘wildly successful product’ and ‘monopolistic device’ are not the same.
So what are the French really up to? Aside from wanting to be seen to make any decision that doesn’t involve corruption in Iraq, riots in their cities, or a rash of births of baby boys destined to be under 5’2″ tall and wanting to rule the world, they are trying to understand technology by reading the funny pages. And they are wasting their time, as this will probably have the exact wrong effect they imagine.
Here’s how I see the scenario playing out.
- France passes this Silly Law. Great. Woo. Yay. We. Are. Voters! But the law is passed, which is like lighting the fuse on a fireworks display. The one you knocked over by accident. The one that is now horizontal and facing the fine art and architecture of your city. Flame on, Froggy!
- Apple will appeal to the EU.Why? Because they have to. You will know that something is amiss, however, when Microsoft, RealMedia, and the RIAA or it’s EU analog join Apple in the appeal.
- The EU shall make rumblings about ‘zat damn buncha sheitze-knobbins’ or however the German’s will say it. Press conferences will be held, much will be ballyhooed, and the law will be technically in effect, but none of the software biggies will make software to remove the DRM’s from the files sold in France. That would be software that could remove all the DRM! Aha, first real problem!
- Apple threatens to shutter the iTunes:France store! Riots with the cities cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Cloris Leechman is hired to, yet again, lead the peasants in a revolt against the government. She punctures her breast with a knitting needle once again.
- The French Get a Clue! But alas, our heros are too late! People all over the world are looking at the members of the organizations like the RIAA and seeing the illegal businesses they really are, for the first time.
- Apple fires a salvo across the bow of the USS RIAA! Saying something like “We never wanted DRM in the audio anyway” (which is true) and perhaps,“Our customers have always wanted to own their music, we’ve been forced to add this crap to the tracks because of the RIAA and the MPAA. We’d rather not have to deal with it.” And the RIAA shall be caught with it’s pants firmly around it’s ankles.
- Poo Collides with Spinning-thingies! Now the real monopoly is exposed. The RIAA and the various European, Asian, African and South American analogs are exposed as The SongFathers they are, leading to serious investigations, new artist contracting, many hurt feelings and yet another instance of someone actually purchasing a Cockapoo voluntarily.
- STRIPPPED! DRM goes all Christina Aguilera on us!
- iPod sales go up! Why? Well the last of the reasons to not own a version of this device is removed, which is not being able to play the pirated crap you stole anyway. Which you can already do, actually, the iPod has been able to do this since the very first one. However, the myth that it can’t is the current problem, and that myth goes away here.
- iTunes sales go up, too! Huh? Wha… how?!? Oh, wait, the software is easy to use and I can now watch those music videos and tv shows iTunes sells on devices like, um, my PlaystationPortable or my DVD player, if I burn the DVD. OOOH, I can play the files on my TiVo, I think! Can I? Regardless, the store is a simple, fun, easy-to-use and well designed, and once you use it you’ll agree. Once the restricted rights crap is gone, so goes the myth that you can’t play the files anywhere, and iTunes sales go up.
- The French burn a soufflé. Tired after a long day of destroying Vivendi, the last of the truly World-wide French companies, the populace thinks about rioting, but instead torches a soufflé as a warning to others of their national just-not-happy-with-anything-ness. We are, understandably, doubled over in mirth.
Regardless of what happens with this legislation, the concept of being able to own what you pay for is core to humanity, and in turn core to democracy and our planet-wide society. It’s always a shock for people to find out they don’t own any of that fancy software they use, it’s merely licensed for their use. That license can be withdrawn, refund not included, too. We humans like to own things, and music has been for the last 100-some-odd years one of the defining ‘things’ for most people. We all know those people with amazing collections of vinyl albums, and you probably know people with 8-tracks, cassettes, or even 45’s or the old tubes from the Victrolas.
Regardless, those things, be they metal tube, vinyl platter, magnetic spindles or a pile of shiny plastic coasters of music, we own, and when it comes to the computerized pile of 1’s and 0’s, the digital versions of those tubes, platters, spindles or coasters are the files sold, not rented, but sold in iTunes. The sooner we rid of the DRM madness the better, but, the French cannot lead us in this battle. Charlamagne is long dead, and the charlatans of Paris lack the insight, foresight, knowledge, aptitude and balls to actually do this the right way, although they have fired the first, unwitting, volley.