What About My Digital Rights? (Part I)

Proprietary technology really has its disadvantages.

Last year I decided to do something a little different. Instead of buying the (physical) cds of some of my favourite music performers, I opted to purchase the (digital) albums from an online music store.

Why, you might ask?

Coming from T&T where a market for pirated goods thrives and crack-downs on persons involved in such illegal trade takes place occasionally (at best), I was amazed when I ended up in the States, that my grad school had launched a vibrant anti-music-piracy educational programme (The Copyright Organization of Trinidad & Tobago’s (COTT) local advertising appears to reach a climax at Carnival and is dormant for the rest of the year) and that administrators were willing to punish offenders.

  • Not wanting to be sent a letter from the authorities (thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), those persons found to be circumventing digital rights management (DRM) software can find themselves facing litigation from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)…

  • Wanting to preserve the Internet connection to my dorm room – a punitve measure that could possibly be imposed by the school (Oh I still long for the speed and reliability of that campus-wide ethernet!)…

  • Wanting to have something to put on my then newly-acquired non-proprietary MP3 player (i.e. not an I-pod)…

  • Desiring to boost the sales of my favourite artistes in my own little way

  • Loathing to lug cds all the way back to T&T when my period of study was up…

I naively tried URGE Music (that online music store whose software at the time had been bundled with Microsoft Media Player).

I selected seven of the albums that I most wanted and “bought” and downloaded them for a price of US$9.99 each. When you think about value for money, that is, when you consider what you would pay in T&T for those cds (we Trinis really become experts at price conversions when we travel) it seemed to be a really good deal.

All was well until a little over a year later.

I bought a new laptop and naturally wanted to transfer all of my files, music and all. Everything else but the music that I “bought” from URGE was able to run in Media Player. All seven albums were attached to an error message about not having the necessary media usage rights and I was directed to check with URGE. Surprise of surprises (I guess that I should really pay attention to mergers and acquisitions in the field of technology.)URGE had been taken over by Rhapsody (URGE did send me an e-mail about the Rhapsody take-over last October, but in my mind I had already bought my albums so what was there for me to lose?) and the former customers were “urged” to join the Rhapsody network. The site’s FAQs page (Visit: http://offer.rhapsody.com/urge/existing/) was even brazen enough to offer an answer to the following:

“I purchased tracks and albums through URGE. Can I play them in Rhapsody?

URGE-purchased tracks can be imported into and played on Rhapsody. For instructions on how to import tracks, click here.

If you are having trouble importing or playing your purchased tracks in Rhapsody, please contact Rhapsody Customer Support.”

So, of course, I downloaded the Rhapsody Real Player, but the tracks still wouldn’t play!


~ by mangoandmosquitoblog on April 27, 2008.

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