Low Res

Is Copying a Crime? Well… - Los Angeles Times:

"'Me and my parents used to download music for free,' said Collins, who lives in Bloomington, Minn. 'But we decided it was like stealing from musicians. So I don't take stolen music from friends, either.'

But later that year, when Collins met a girl he liked, he made her a CD filled with songs by Linkin Park, Blue Man Group and Eiffel 65. Why was his CD OK, while his friends' were verboten? Because Collins paid for his music in the first place, he said.

'I think you're allowed to make, like, two or three copies of a CD you bought and give them to friends,' said Collins. 'It's only once you make five copies, or copy a CD of stolen music, that it's illegal.'

Actually, attorneys say, copying a purchased CD for even one friend violates the federal copyright code most of the time.

But Collins' attitude — that copying purchased CDs or DVDs is legal, while copying stolen music or movies is a crime — is pervasive among young people ages 12 to 24, according to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll."

Ah, the mix tape for a girlfriend. Wasn't there an entire movie about that? I think it was High Fidelity.

I've heard that copying CDs and DVDs is a far bigger problem than illegally downloaded music.

Of course, sharing (loaning) the actual CD or DVD is completely legal. (And if your friend makes a copy, that's illegal. But you can make an archive copy, which is legal. It's rather confusing, don't you think?)

I would think that Collins has the impression that he can make copies for friends because iTunes and other services allow you to make multiple CDs of the music you have purchased. Why else would you make lots of copies unless it was to share with your friends?

My view is that the RIAA and MPAA need to agree that sharing low-res music and video is fine. The definition of what constitutes low-res would be an issue, but what the RIAA and just about everyone needs is the "free sample" system that FM radio provides. FM was never as good as an album but it was terrific for spreading the word about artists.

Now, file sharing could be used the same way. This would be a cultural shift, for sure, for sure, but clearly iTunes has introduced a cultural shift in the way people purchase music. Some new format, a minor derivative of MP3 or WMA, would need to be created. The reason for that is people imply rights from the file extension. People, in my experience, "get" that a WMA or AAC file was probably bought online, and obeys different rules, whereas an MP3 file means "give away freely". It doesn't really mean that, but that's what people think.

So some new extension like "SHR", which contained a bit stream with a maximum bit rate of 48k or 64k, would mean, "Share with your friends." The internal tags could say where to buy the higher res version. Likewise a similar video version based on DivX but with some cap on the bit rate.

This would use the file sharing, email sharing, IM sharing, Internet Radio, and even CD sharing phenomena to spread cool music, while enforcing the idea that if you want to cool high-res version, you need to pay for it.

What do you think? Should the RIAA and MPAA encourage low-res file sharing?