25 November 2008

What doesn't work in Iraq

Actually, the alternate title to this should be "Why you should pirate your music"* .

One of the must-have items for Iraq is an MP3 player. Really, it's become one of those must-have things for pretty much everyone anyway, as few people want to pay $15 for a CD when they could pay $.99 for the one or two tracks they want on that CD. The way to get those tracks (legally) is through a music program such as Napster or iTunes.

The problem is that, until recently, the big music programs added a little thing called DRM (Digital Rights Management) to the music files. It was a code inside the song that prevented the song from being copied from person to person. It also had the annoying feature of locking all access to the song if you didn't log in to the music program once a month. So basically, the $.99 you spent to purchase the track really didn't give you the rights to the track unless you paid an extra $10 a month. Make sense? It didn't to me either. Fortunately, the big music programs realized this didn't make sense (or they realized that people switched to simply pirating music instead), and allowed users to download DRM-free music.

One of the big issues comes about when you take your collection of music to another country. Napster and iTunes allow you to connect to their servers from foreign countries and update your music collection and download at will. Other music services don't offer the same features.

Enter Rhapsody, brought to you Real Media, the same people that brought you that disgrace to binary code, Real Player. If you Google search "Real Player Sucks", you will come up with nearly 850,000 results.

It's rare that a computer program will crash by just moving a mouse around on the screen, but the people at Real Media have done it with Rhapsody. For those of you who were lucky enough to be able to download music with Rhapsody in the first place, you'll be shocked to find that you can't download music from Iraq, nor can you log into Rhapsody to update your DRM files, thus making your entire music collection--that you paid for--obsolete.

Rhapsody's FAQ states that you can download music from a military base, provided that you're on the base. Unfortunately, for those of us in Iraq and Afghanistan, this isn't entirely true. The only internet services available to us run through servers in Germany and Italy, and Rhapsody blocks those ISPs because for some reason. Supposedly if you buy music in America, you aren't allowed to take it to Germany and Italy. Are we enemies with those countries again? I get confused...

With that said, I'd suggest that anyone going to Iraq or Afghanistan use Napster or iTunes for their music, so that they'll be able to keep listening to their music across borders. For those of you who subscribe to other services...well, try your luck. DRM in music files that you pay for makes about as much sense as those anti-piracy ads that play before DVDs. You know those ads that you can't fast forward through that tell you how bad piracy is, even though you obviously obeyed the law and bought the DVD legally? Yeah, and they wonder why people pirate DVDs...

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