The last few days have been a veritable goulash of excitement, activity, stress and temperature. Aside from the fact that I've been working at home and getting next-to-no sleep, I've been trying to assemble a plan for New Year's Eve for Kaia and I and some friends. We finally nailed down our plans, which is a plus, but since the temperature went from winter-bearable to winter-record low, I got sicker and sicker until I landed in bed this afternoon with a slight infection.
Since I've got a deadline next week, I'm not planning on slowing down any time soon, but the less I'm outdoors the better. This kind of cold weather inspires people to forgo fashion sense and do whatever is necessary to avoid typical December weather; so I've got gloves, scarves, ear-wraps (replete with iPod connectors) and hats. The stuff of excitement it isn't, but on the plus side, since it's the first real awful weather we've had, it should kill off the novely thereof pretty soon, and I'll happily move onto more exciting topics :)
Speaking of which, close on the heels of Sony's embarassing (and short-lived) foray into including hidden anti-piracy software on its cd's (which led to all sorts of issues, including the installation of spyware and the opportunity to open the door for hackers to send out virii to the user), I did a search for some of the offending CD's on the list of infected/recalled CD's and I discovered that most of them were freely (and illegally) available online.
Since I first encountered freely-available music (in the form of mp3 files) through Napster and elsewhere, I usually downloaded stuff which was even mildly interesting, and then -- once I had the opportunity to listen to it -- I'd either go out and buy legit copies thereof or I'd dump the downloaded music and move on. I figured I'd done the "$13 for one CD for one good song" thing long enough, and since I rarely listen to the radio (I've got an iPod -- why would I?), checking what's new online is even better than having friends tell me "Dude, you NEED to check out this new album by The Weedyankers." And more importantly, even if I opted to check out the newest from The Weedyankers, if I decided it was crap -- which I usually do more often than not -- spending $13 for the privelege is far from what I consider an ideal musical endeavor. So I took a shareware approach to music: try before you buy has worked for software, for the PalmOS, and for every product stamped with the "As Seen On TV" logo.
Make a long story short: many, if not all of you, know that the RIAA and the MPAA has gone fast and furious after anyone sharing music. Kids, parents, grandparents and college students have all been targeted by these "e-raids," and while I won't even bother dipping a toe into the "who owns music" vs. copyright issues, I think there's a better, real-world explanation available via the New York Times; Damian Kulash Jr.'s article, "Buy, Play, Trade, Repeat" sums it up pretty damn nicely. You'll need to sign up at the Times, but it's worth it: and what kind of degenerate are you that you would read this space and not the New York Times?
In either case, getting back to the original problem of Sony's monumental fuck-up, it seems to me to be a bit ironic that those people who did the right thing -- ie, went out and purchased one or more of the CD's on the aforelinked list -- wound up getting screwed, whereas those of us who opted (initially, at least) to download before buying were safe. I gave Santana's "All That I Am" a listen, and while I respect Santana's musical talent and sensibilities, I find that by the fourth song on every album he's released in the last twenty years suffers from the same upper-fret malaise that take a decent song and make it boring. So I deleted it.
Conversely, those among us who plunked down $15 of their hard-earned dollars are now still trying to fight through ad-ware, spyware, crapware and the occasional back-door Sony's copy protection installed on their PC's. Can you imagine if you bought a CD, brought it to your office to listen at work, only to find you compromised your office network -- all because Sony wants to protect its profit margin? The very thought of that possibility must send shivers up and down the spines of network admins from Miami to Vancouver. And yet, somehow, somewhere, there are kids in basements, huddled over keyboards in dimly-lit rooms chuckling over that very possibility.
Needless to say, caveat emptor, which once applied to anything you download from unknown sources, should, and will hereafter, apply to anything you purchase and stick into your CD-Rom drive. It's nice to see that the MPAA and the RIAA, yet again, have shown us how high their standards are, and what happens to people whose principles get in the way of profit.
Honor among thieves? Are we talking about people downloading the music, or those -- in utter futility -- trying to prevent them from doing so?
Ed. Note: I've gotten a bunch of e-mails asking about those iPod-compatible ear-wraps: they aren't the prettiest but they are great -- and available here.