Saturday, November 18, 2006

Foiled by DRM. I blame EMI and the RIAA.

I recently purchased a new import EMI CD that is impossible to get in CD shops in this country. It's Grace Chang's (Ge Lan, 葛蘭) CD called 我要你的愛 (Wo yao ni de ai, or "I want your love"). Chang is an artist who was big in Shanghai and Taiwan in the 1940s and 1950s, and the title track is absolutely brilliant -- when I lived in Taiwan I owned a compilation that had it, and two of my old bands, The M-9s and Feiwu, played a Ramones-style cover of this song.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I bought a new EMI CD via, a mail-order company based in Hong Kong, because I wanted to hear Chang's other recordings. The CD came today and tried to play it on my Mac. It tried to read it for five seconds, then spat it out. I tried again, and the same thing happened.

Then I noticed the small print on the back of the cover:

This disc contains copy control technology. On some equipment CD playback problems may be encountered.
There was a website URL on the back of the disc,, which I visited. The site was three years old and had a bunch of FAQs related to why they are using this obviously flawed "digital rights management" technology, and suggested fixes. None worked.

Listen up, EMI, and the RIAA (Recording Institute of America, the industry organization which promotes DRM and attempts to punish users who share songs over the Internet): You just lost a customer. Like tens of millions of other people in this country, most music I listen to is in digital format on my hard drives. I usually play new CDs once -- when I copy them onto my computer. My old "real" CD player, a giant Onkyo with a six-CD changing tray, is gathering dust since I started listening to music almost exclusively on my Mac or iPod while I surf or work online.

Instead of respecting your customers' listening preferences, you treat them like criminals and prevent them from enjoying music that they bought through legitimate channels. The next step for me is obvious: Download a P2P client just so I can get the music I paid for. I know someone has already cracked the DRM you use (there are lots of workarounds on the Internet) and I frankly don't care if it's an "illegal" version. EMI violated my trust, I feel no obligation to follow the rules the company has imposed on legitimate customers like me.

No comments: