Pandora’s Box (or why Dianne Feinstein needs to read this post)

I came across this article explaining that the RIAA is suing XM over its new Inno device.

The lawsuit isn’t the issue I want to discuss. The RIAA seemingly is in the business of suing people and companies, and suing a well loved company like XM is so typical of the way they act that it was predictable.

But later in the article it discusses a new bill called the PERFORM Act
(Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music) of 2006, which is sponsored by Dianne Feinstein, Democratic Senator from California.

The PERFORM Act would force the use of protected formats for all streaming
media services, whether online, on cable or through satellite radio and TV.

When I go looking for wisdom, I often look back at the myths and fables I learned as a kid.  I find they contain the wisom of prior generations that are being passed on to our generation. And few myths are as powerful and full of insight as Pandora’s Box.

In this case, Pandora has released digital technology upon our society. Maybe it is a misfortune like the ones released in the fable (clearly the RIAA thinks so), maybe it is a gift from the gods (I certainly think so).  But one thing is for sure. You can’t put digital technology back in the box and as much as the RIAA and our goverment may try, the rules of the analog world cannot and will not be used to hold back the innovation unleashed by digital technology.

What’s worse is that Senator Feinstein’s bill requires "protected formats" for all streaming services. Protected formats is a code word for DRM and unfortunately it means proprietary formats that are being used by big corporations (like Apple and Microsoft) and the media companies (like those who are behind the RIAA) to stifle the flow of bits in an open network and an open ecosystem.

Senator Feinstein is from California so I would have thought she was hip to all the amazing amount of innovation, job creation, and wealth that has been built upon open technologies and "democratized innovation". Clearly she missed that boat.

Which leads me back to the music business and this post by Altay where he suggests that once the artists are free from the business models required by the analog world (packaging, distribution, and analog promotion), that they may be better off with a world where the music is in fact free and the money is made in other ways.

I think we are headed in that direction for sure but it will take a long time to get there, and things like the PERFORM Act will only make it harder to get there.