Tuesday, August 24, 2004


Starting Monday, UC Berkeley kicks off classes and Pop Life (well, ok, just me) begins our NINTH year in grad school there. Add in the four I spent getting my BA and that adds up to lucky 13.

Yeah, scary. But let's not dwell on that right now.

Redherring.com's Irina Slutsky reports on how music file companies like RealNetworks and Napster are signing deals with universities to provide discounted music downloading services. At Cal, for example, they just partnered with RealNetworks. Slutsky interviewed me for the piece and just to reiterate my points there:

Let's put aside the ethical debate around file sharing and downloading for a moment. Legally, we know sharing files is illegal but like many other things that college students get into that aren't legal either (drinking, drugs, underage sex, cheating on tests, hacking government websites, you know, the usual), it comes down do a larger issue of enforcement. While I'm not a big fan of RIAA's philosophy (more on this in a sec), I have to admit that by suing students last year, they at least showed folks that they weren't asleep at the wheel and there's nothing like hitting a 17 year old with a $10,000 fine to get everyone else to take notice.

This all said however, I don't think legal file networks are going to be huge among college students. The reason why iTunes is selling music out the door is because their service is ridiculously convenient and at $1/song, it's not exhorbitant. However, when you're in college, especially at UC Berkeley (I know this from experience, believe that) you usually:
1) are tech-savvy, at least enough to figure out how to do things rather than just giving up after one minute of frustration,
2) have lots of time on your hand, at least away from a 9-5 desk setting,
3) are living off ramen and therefore, don't want to spend any of your (parents') money that you don't have to.

Add all that up and it comes down to: college kids are going to continue to download files as they please. Trying to attack the server-side is going to be increasingly hard as networks continue to decentralize.

I'm not the first to say this but truly, what RIAA and both the music and movie industry needs to start thinking about is changing their traditional models of revenue. Downloading is simply not going to go away simply because they wish it so and trying to find technological ways of defeating it (such an especially encoded DVDs or CDs) will ultimately prove limited since it's almost guaranteed that someone else will find a way to easily bypass it. Instead, if the industry is worried about losing revenue, they need to rethink how they make their money - perhaps get away from strictly retail and look to diversify their revenue base (like all the rest of us have to in this economy). I actually think all these legal fire sharing companies are a step in the right direction and iTunes success is a testament to the fact that outside college dorms, millions of people are willing to buy music legally because frankly, who really wants to try to figure out how to make Limewire or Kazaa work properly? Feel me?

Question for anyone out there who knows: why isn't video game piracy more rampant? Given how lucrative that field is, how come we don't see video games swapped as much as movies or music (besides a file size issue)? Or is that going to be the next big thing?


  • (This comes a few days late but...) not to sound like a pig, but that celebration between US beach volleyball champs May and Walsh was definitely on some psuedo-lesbian hotness. I mean, May spanked her partner on the ass. Okaaaay? I'm just saying.

  • Apparently, one of hip-hop's greatest duo's got beef. So much for "Lots of Loving."