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Issue 2: Media Player 8
There has been a lot of talk about this updated player, not for what it can do, but more for what it can't. For some reason, people are really angry that it is being bundled with XP, but personally, I don't see the big deal. What worries me as well as others ties into the exclusivity mentioned earlier. By default, the release version is set to ship without any MP3 capability at all, instead supporting the Microsoft created WMA format. For good or bad, WMA is here to stay, and it is a format that offers a lot of value to the consumer and may offer some positives to the RIAA as well. There will be better cataloging features and hopefully faster encoding.
So why all the fuss? People are afraid that MP8 might lock out other codecs like MP3 and not allow them to make copies of their own music that they can play from their own hard drives. Federal laws have allowed for 'fair use' of personal music copies for years, so we have become used to being able to rip our CD collections to our hard drives, create play lists and in essence be our own Disc Jockey's. People don't want to lose that ability. They want to be able to encode music in the format they want, make their own custom CD-R's for their cars and walkmans, as Federal law does in fact provide for. I am as big a fan of music as you can get, and I love being able to rip the contents to my big 40 gig drive, make custom mixes on 50 cent CDs that I can put in my car and tuck the originals away safely at home. If my car gets broken into and the disks stolen, or if the disks become somehow damaged, I can just make another one from the original. This is just like it used to be in the old days of LP's and cassettes. Not only that, but many of us love putting together 'mood music' collections to listen to around the house and when all of your songs are copied to the hard drive, you can pick and choose without excessive programming, without any CD swapping, without all the hassles. It is a really great way to enjoy your music. Many of us don't want to steal music and hand it over to friends, we just want to enjoy what we already paid for in a way that is convenient for us. We don't see anything wrong with that, and either does the Federal laws governing fair use.
It's about Freedom
But what people are starting to worry about is how their freedoms are being limited. The RIAA is hated by many, many people for their heavy-handed tactics. They don't seem to realize that letting people listen to their music is how you get them to buy your music. But if you are demanding 15 dollars for a disk filled with only one or two good songs, you darn well better let people enjoy the experience as long as they don't try to steal the product. We hate that the RIAA does not let us buy only the good songs and shoves the bad ones down our throats. We would just as well buy individual songs online for .99 cents each and be totally legal. Just make a 56 bit mono copy for us to listen to first, or let us hear it on the radio so we know what we are getting and we will gladly pay you the money for the songs. But don't shove this copy protection down our throats, trying to limit our ability to copy and use songs that we already paid for and then force us to pay for the same song over and over again. It is just a completely unreasonable position.
Windows XP users fear that with the possibility of signed driver requirements, you may no longer be able to install the music encoding and CD-R burning products you want. If they force you to use software that is limited by the RIAA and Microsoft, you may not be able to make custom CD's of your own music. You may not be able to encode your music to the insecure MP3 format and freely copy it to your hard drive or Rio MP3 player. People fear that they may have their rights taken away from them because of the sheer monopoly that Microsoft enjoys. You don't think Microsoft is a monopoly? Argue with the courts - they are the ones that ruled it to be so.
The fact is, no matter how much Microsoft expands MP8 functionality, whether they do add DVD playback and other features, people will be very, very upset if they don't allow the installation and use of competing software from other vendors that may not include any sort of copy protection. We have been using our Music Match 5.x encoders and like having the flexibility it offers. We like being able to use PowerDVD and WinDVD and taking screen captures of individual frames for background wall paper. We like being able to use or Nero software to burn custom music mixes that we can let the kids goof around with and be able to recopy them if they get scratched or broken. The fear is not so much about what MP8 can do, it is about what it can prevent us from doing with music and video that we already paid for.