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July 5, 2004
A Tale of Two Tethers
The New York Times had an article the other day about the quality of digital music and whether most people will ever notice the difference (From a High-Tech System, Low-Fi Music). Not directly IP related, but buried below the fold was an interesting discussion of the shift from owning music to renting music and the trade-off between that and committing to a medium:
Richard Wolpert, chief strategy officer of RealNetworks Inc., the parent of RealRhapsody, takes aim at Apple when he muses that customers will be unhappy when they decide that they want to own music encoded at 320, not at 128. Far better, he argued, to abandon the notion of "owning" songs, because the concept condemns users to endless purchases. "How many times do you want to own your music?" he asked. "I own my music as eight-tracks, I own my music as albums, I own my music as cassettes, I own my music as CD's."
With a subscription service like RealRhapsody, one saves personal tastes in the form of playlists that replace actual music collections, providing access to favorites no matter what storage format comes out "in the next 5 or 10 or 20 years," Mr. Wolpert said.
Buying the same music over and over is painful, but the same argument turns against subscription services: Who wants to lease instead of own music through endless monthly payments? Even if owning digital music confers restricted rights, it still meets the biological imperative to collect music.
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