Monthly Archives: May 2006 is illegal – WE WISH… illegal says IFPI

For those of you who didn’t know, Allofmp3 is a music download site like iTunes… but that is where the similarity ends.

  • iTunes protects its products with DRM (Digital Rights Management) software that restricts what you can do with your music once you have downloaded it. AllofMP3 eschews DRM and offers a choice of formats, including MP3 and Ogg Vorbis.
  • Tunes provides one level of quality, while allofMP3 allows you to select the sound quality level to your taste, with higher quality attracting a higher cost.
  • Perhaps the biggest difference is that iTunes charges 99c per song, while AllofMP3 charges less than a third of that – two cents per megabyte of music downloaded.

They can do this because allofMP3 is based in Russia, where a loophole in the copyright law allows them to get away with paying much lower royalties than Apple, who sends on more than 70% of their proceeds to the music business, who, thanks to a little loophole of their own, pay the artists a pittance of about 4.5c per song.

Naturally this has gotten the US music business in a bit of a snit. Their industry group – the much-reviled RIAA – who has taken it to their international counterpart, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), who has declared allofMP3 “illegal” Whatever that means.

The IFPI alleges that that allofMP3 is operating illegally, allofMP3 contends that they are operating within Russian law.

Given that…

  1. It is legal to purchase music in Russia.
  2. Last time I looked there were no import restrictions preventing me from bringing music into this country from Russia or anywhere else.
  3. Previous attempts to take them down have failed.

…I am forced to the conclusion that allofMP3 is not, in fact, illegal. If they are operating within they law the IFPI cannot touch them.

That is not to say that they are obviously blameless – if they are not paying the royalties that they should be paying then they may be doing something illegal, which is a completely different kettle of bananas. The Execs at Enron may have been doing illegal stuff, but that did not make Enron an “illegal business”.

Russian companies are not inherently illegal just because American business cartels don’t like them, however much the RIAA may wish otherwise.

I love this site… not because they are cheap, but because they allow me to choose how I want my music and do not put restrictions on what I can do with my music afterwards.

Personally I consider iTunes to be too expensive – 99c/track is actually more expensive than a physical CD, quality is not as good and DRM makes it less versatile. In spite of this, the artists actually get less from downloads than from sales…

Having said that, I consider allofMP3 to be too cheap – I would consider 20c-50c per track to be reasonable. I would like to think that there are enough honest people out there who feel the same way to make it wildly profitable for the music business if they would lower their prices and eschew DRM.

The music business’ standard defence is their claim that “you cannot compete with free“, but allofMP3 has exposed the lie in that claim. They have proved that if you make it cheap and easy enough, people will buy. 20-50c/track would actually be cheap enough to make piracy uneconomical for all but the most impoverished (who weren’t going to buy anyway).

The alternative is to create an entire generation of young people who hate the music industry and keep their hands firmly in their pockets; at present, that is precisely the RIAA’s current business plan.

What is particularly galling to me is that American jobs are bring “offshored” at an alarming rate to save money… but when we, the people, offshore our music purchases for precisely the same reason, suddenly that’s bad, bad bad.

Because of the immense pressures and the huge amounts of money involved, I have no doubt that allofMP3 will eventually be shut down, but until then I will continue to use it until it can be proved to my satisfaction that it is illegal.

Web FTP Upload is back!

Some time over the past twelve days the FTP upload for these webpages came back up. Nice of them to tell me.

The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time

RealPlayer, Windows ME, Internet Explorer and IBM’s unreliable DeskStar (AKA “DeathStar”) Hard Drives all made the list, but the all-time worst was… naah, I’ll let you find out.

Immigration Thoughts

There has been much ado in the news lately about immigration. I just wanted to clear up a couple of points.

  • There is no such thing as an “Illegal Immigrant”. Like the word “Citizen”, the word “Immigrant” is a word that describes a legal position. People who are here without going through Immigration are not immigrants – they are called Illegal Aliens.
  • Immigrants have rights. Illegal Aliens do not have rights … except for the right to be Arrested and Deported.
  • Illegal Aliens are Thieves. They do not pay taxes, which places a bigger burden on the rest of us.
  • People who employ Illegal Aliens are breaking existing laws.
  • America is made up of Immigrants. Not Illegal Aliens.

I know whereof I speak; I am an immigrant myself. I came over here in 1994, from England. Going “illegal” was not an option for me – I would rather return to England than spend my life working for slave wages and looking over my shoulder. I went through an eighteen-month INS Procedure that took six years (!) in order to earn permanent residence.

Deporting 10-15 million people is not is not an option, but giving citizenship to people who entered this country illegally is simply unfair.

I don’t always agree with the President, but he has to walk a fine line between legalism and compassion. No matter what he decides, he will upset millions of people.

Lincoln once said “”He has the right to Criticize who has the heart to help”. So, what suggestions do I have?

  • Those who are already here and are willing to pay their taxes, learn English and pledge Allegiance to the USA should have the option to become Legal Permanent Residents – not citizens.
  • Those who want to become citizens should return to their country of origin and reapply.
  • Enforce the Immigration laws already on the books.
  • The INS is horribly under-funded – adequately fund them so that they can do their job.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for your representatives to jump in here – neither political party is going to tackle this issue head-on, as both sides have too much to lose. The Republicans see illegals as a source of cheap labor; the Democrats see potential votes.
I close with a quote from Star Parker

There is something not convincing about illegal immigrants demonstrating to claim they have inalienable rights to come here, be here, work here, become citizens here – and make all these claims in Spanish.

How You Are About To Become Responsible For Credit Card Fraud

How You Are About To Become Responsible For Credit Card Fraud

The basic idea is simple enough; back up a credit-card purchase with a PIN-type electronic signature. So far so good.

What is not so good is the change that this will make in the Credit Card system.

Under the current system “Chargebacks are a big pain in the butt for online merchants. Right now the card holder (you or I) has considerable latitude in refusing to pay for anything that is bought in a shop, especially online… most people do not actually realize just how much power they have under law when seeking to nullify a payment made by credit card. When a card holder does this, it is called a “chargeback” to the merchant..”

That’s right, the merchant takes all of the risk for bad transactions.. but not for much longer. In the view of the credit-card industry, this new system is now secure enough to move that risk. Given that there are only three parties in the transaction – the merchant, the bank and you, guess who will be left holding the bag?

That’s right… you. “…if you are hacked and fraudulent transactions appear on your bill, then you and the bank that issued the card to you are going to have to sort it out. You will not be able to charge the fee back to the merchant.”

First Check 21, now this.

If you were looking for a good reason to stop using credit cards, you have just found it.

Don’t upset your Customers

Annoyed customer of Amazon does a little digging… and single-handedly brings down their one-click patent house of cards.

The Microsoft EULA Demystified

Here, in plain English, is what you agreed to when you click on “I agree” in the End-User License Agreement

Everyone Wants to ‘Own’ Your PC

Wired News: Everyone Wants to ‘Own’ Your PC

An ecxcellent piece by my favorite Guru, Bruce Schneier.
To quote Steve Gibson, “It’s MY Computer!

Helicopter parents = Shattered Children?

No escape from ‘helicopter parents’

Parents! Are you “hovering” over your children? Are you their best friend? You may not be doing them the favor that you think you are…

Oh no not again

Usenet News Server offline – gives a “480: Authentication Required”, but providing authentication info does not help.

Spoke to Alec B via support chat. He said “The newsgroups are going up and intermittently…. authentication is not the problem…. Access is just intermittent… The DNS is having a hard time keeping it’s resolution to the real server.