HOME Technology 2004
Nearly legal takeaway music
Legal sites claim back on-line territory
In the very near future you will be able to legally download your favourite music from the Internet or create a personal compilation CD from commercial kiosks for a nominal charge.

Basically the music industry has sat on its collective thumb crying foul while their electronics divisions sold a whole generation CD and DVD burners, MP3 players and burning software that enable exact copies to be made of any song ever produced.

Music lovers have the technology to do what they like with their LPs, tapes, CDs, DVDs or downloads. Changes to New Zealand Copyright Act planned in 2005 will finally condone legitimate copying for personal use, including format shifting form LP to CD or MP3 format.

That’ll ease the conscience for the thousands who’ve rallied to devices like the iPod, Sony's new hard-disc Walkman and similar products from Samsung and Creative Technology. Competition for the take-away music market is also coming from tiny solid state MP3 players and high capacity memory cards which can be easily interchanged between devices.

Far from resulting in the demise of the industry, as the frenzy of anti-downloading, anti-burning publicity suggested, the music business still has a healthy heartbeat. There’s more music from more artists available now on more platforms and formats.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America CD shipments are surging ahead. The value of all shipments to mid-2004 was up 4 per cent on 2003 and 10 per cent more CDs have been shipped to retail outlets to meet increased demand.

The good news for the industry comes after four years of steep decline blamed on illegal downloading and piracy. Some blame the slowing on economic recession, competition from DVDs, video games and MP3 players, strong interest in world music from independent labels and the suggestion mainstream labels have lost touch.

IDC in its 2004 projections calls on-line music ‘the first layer of the broadband content value stack’ pointing out the success of on-line music services such as iTunes, Musicmatch, Napster 2.0, SonyConnect in the United States and OD2 in Europe.

Peer-to-peer networking was a ‘disruptive technology’, so different to existing models it forced fundamental change, opening up enormous opportunity for those nimble enough to follow through.

Now at last the ‘industry’ is reclaiming its territory from the remaining free file-sharing networks such as iMesh, Kazaa and eDonkey.

But attempts at an industry standard for downloads and devices remain bogged down in a confused mire of digital rights, copy protection and playback technologies. The major investors insist on trying to lock customers in to their way of doing things.

Research firm NPD Group says Apple with its iTunes commanded nearly 70 per cent of the legal download market between December 2003 and July 2004. Napster took 11 per cent, while MusicMatch, RealNetworks and Wal-Mart took 6 per cent each.

Meanwhile Big Champagne, a research firm that tracks peer-to-peer file sharing says file sharing is actually on the rise. It claims seven million people are on-line using peer-to-peer services at any particular time - half in the US. That’s a 20 per cent increase over 2003.

In New Zealand demand for the IPod was so great it took six months to clear back orders and there were several thousand advance orders for the new mini IPod which went on sale in July.

The problem is there are no New Zealand outlets for iTunes or the other major music download sites. Mostly the US sites won’t accept New Zealand credit cards unless subscribers have a US street address.

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