Access Vs. Possession

Some more schools are jumping onto Napster 2.0.

Apparently, the deal N 2.0 is offering knocks down the normal $10 a month price for this service down to about $3 a month. For a nine-month school year, that’s about the price of 2 CDs.

Seems like an awfully good (if not quite perfect deal) to me.

Yet you’d think the Nazis had come to power in such schools from the comments being made in some circles.

First, you have people screaming about the cost. The cost? It’s pretty strange hearing people with tuition bills of 20-$30 thousand dollars scream that a $30 bill per school year is going to bankrupt them.

$3 a month is peanuts compared to any student activity fee I’ve ever seen.

Even if you make a comparison between this $3 a month fee and the typical student’s personal entertainment bill (chemical or otherwise), $3 would hardly make a dent in even that.

So cost arguments are ludicrous.

Napster 2.0 is a tethered service. If you (or somebody else) stops paying for the service, the music becomes inaccessible. One would think it obvious to anyone with minimal intellect, much less college students, that the solution to that problem is to keep paying for the service (either during the summer, or after college), but that seems completely beyond the grasp of many.

I guess college students aren’t what they used to be.

Another “throw anything you can against the wall and see if it sticks” argument focuses not on what is being paid, but who is being paid. In this case, the unspeakably evil RIAA.

Hmmm, so long as you dislike somebody enough, you don’t have to pay them? That’s not going to get you very far in the real world, though it might get you on Judge Judy.

A Few Minor Fixes

One semi-reasonable argument against N2.0 is that a tethered file can’t be transferred over to a portable device like an MP3 or CD player.

Then again, when you’re only paying around $3 a month, maybe you’re getting what you paid for.

It seems to me there ought to be some way of doing just that for at least MP3 devices, with a Napster user being able to plug in a device and tell the service that this is an authorized device. Might take some work, but it seems doable.

CD players may be harder to do, but after all, if there’s something you really like and want to own, you can just pay a dollar and do just that.

Access Vs. Possession

What is unintentionally hilarious about the people complaining about this is that they have zero respect for the property rights of others, but demand absolute property rights for themselves.

They don’t or won’t understand the difference between access to something vs. owning it, renting as opposed to buying.

It’s the difference between renting an apartment and buying it. If you rented an apartment for a month, and then told the landlord after the first month, “Go away, this apartment is mine now,” that would make you not only a prime candidate for eviction, but also psychiatric observation.

And that would be true even if you thought the landlord was evil.

The New York Yankees have a cable channel for which they charge the cable company a few dollars a month for access. Either I pay that much extra, or pay for a more expensive cable package which includes it.

This gives me access to watch Yankee games, no ifs, ands or buts about it. However, if I went to Yankee Stadium with my cable bill and demanded a seat at the ballpark, again, I’m going to make some mental health professionals earn their keep.

And calling Yankee owner George Steinbrenner greedy wouldn’t change that a bit.

Actually, my Yankee example isn’t quite accurate. It really would be like going to Yankee Stadium with my cable bill and telling them that I now owned a seat in Yankee Stadium.

Think I’d fare any better?

But Somebody Proved That I Can Get And Keep All The Songs I Want For $5 A Month!

This factoid is a gross oversimplification of the recommendations to be made in an upcoming report by a Harvard professor named Fisher. He would impose taxes (either user or income) in lieu of paying for music/movies.

I could go on for pages as to why this proposal is bad (and probably will one of these days), but to keep it very short for now, it is a deeply flawed analysis in that it downplays what the eventual cost of such a system would be once such traffic were legalized. Either the $5 per month fee would quickly escalate to something like $20-30 a month as such copying became the norm (the equivalent is happening in Canada with the media levy), or the fee wouldn’t be increased to the extent necessary due to political pressures, and the music/movie industry would eventually go down the tubes for lack of money.

It just wouldn’t work. It’s not that you can’t have a pricing model for music and/or movies that is basically “all you can eat” while keeping the makers happy. You can, but any successful model will look more like Napster 2 than legalized P2P.

There are all-you-can-eat restaurants all over the United States. Some of them even serve decent-quality food. But you pay for it with a bill rather higher than that of a typical lunch/dinner.

What a lot of the relatively more reasonable people seem to want is the musical equivalent of an all-you-can-eat restaurant with prime steaks and chops and ribs for $2.99. What makes this desire unworkable and ridiculous is not the concept, but the price.

Can’t be done successfully. If a restaurant tried to do it, they’d either soon run out of money, or change the menu much for the worse.

Sorry, but there is no free (or near free) lunch.


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