Licences on downloaded music are too restrictive

  nkosi 17:18 28 Nov 04

My son and I have a reasonably large music collection stored digitally on the hard disk of a desktop. We use Windows Media Player 10 to manage it and find the interface easy and pleasant to use. The music is a mixture of tracks ripped from CDs and legally purchased and downloaded files from MSN Music. My issue is with the licences which have to be acquired with the downloaded tracks. Typically they restrict you to three movements of the track to another storage place.

I recently had to replace my hard disk and although all the music and licences were backed up, the licence backup only contains the details and you have to download replacement licences to play the music. One life gone. Now I've set up a home network and want to play those tracks through another computer without moving them from their place on the original drive. I am not allowed to do so without downloading the licences yet again. Two lives gone. I'm planning to replace both computers within a year which means I've lost half my music collection.

I don't think this is very fair as if I had bought the CD for about the same price, I wouldn't have this silly issue with the licences and the music would be mine forever. With the legal download system, I am only renting it!

I have found a way round it and that is to burn the tracks on to CD and then back on to the hard disk and they lose all the licence info on the way and will play quite happily on the network. But it's a bit of a chore and well, is it legal?

I'm now having second thoughts about legal downloads as buying the CD will work out cheaper, if you want to keep your music, than the renting option. Any comments?

  Forum Editor 19:44 28 Nov 04

arising from the concept of buying digital music files instead of a recorded media copy. Technically your copyright licence - for that's what you pay for when you 'buy' music - entitles you to play the file as many times as you like, forever. You're not licenced to make copies, or even one copy, under the terms of the licence.

The problem of course is that a file you download to a hard drive is an ephemeral thing - it's digital data, and will last only as long as the data are saved on the drive. Format the drive and you lose the music for good, and the same thing happens if the drive fails, for instance. If you move the files you are in effect making a copy, and that's forbidden by the licence terms - at least after three moves it is.

This is yet anothere example of the music industry trying to grapple with a problem, and doing so ineffectually. We can all munderstand the industry's need to protect its copyright on the music - at least I hope we can - but it's this failure to understand the real world that concerns me. Of course you'll want to move the files - nobody's going to buy a whole new music collection after their third hard drive renewal - and the workaround of writing the files to CDs is the obvious one. Most people will do it, and the industry isn't going to take legal action against everyone who takes the sensible step of backing up their music to removeable media.

It's this refusal by the music industry to understand its customers' needs that is going to hamper the progress of legal downloading - and it will impact on the sale of the new wave of handheld devices which download and store your files on a hard drive........with no way of transferring them out.

  Nullgrad 22:05 28 Nov 04

It is possible to re-download the tracks you've bought from MSN Music as your account keeps details of all the tracks you've downloaded.
Like you say though buying the CD usually works out cheaper plus you get the artwork etc with it.

  nkosi 09:14 29 Nov 04

Thanks for your comments. I wasn't sure whether I was seeing the full picture, but you've confirmed that I probably am. I must have a serious rethink about where and how I acquire my digital music. What, with the licence problem on one side and CDs that won't play on PCs on the other - I agree that the music industry is badly out of touch with it's customer's needs and the technology they use. Despite the publicity, there are a great many of us who would prefer to be within the law. I'm sure the illegal downloaders are laughing at the difficulties and the cost that we are enduring!

Nullgrad. Yes, MSN Music do make all your downloads available to re-download, but not the licences. When they run out, you have to re-purchase.

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