My Name Is Prince, And My DRM Is Not Funky

Piracy is one of those topics that never goes away, although I've got to be honest and say that as a content creator, I'm not all for the entitled "I'll pay what I want" attitude anyway. Then again, there are counter-examples that just go way too far in the other direction.

The piracy argument is one that is undoubtedly multi-faceted, with a lot of hot air on both sides; the content creators, and especially the large vested interests tend to over-inflate some of the "value" of piracy, but then the pro-piracy advocates tend to take an entirely unsupportable "I'll pay what I like after the fact" position as well.

I've got to be honest here and say that as somebody who does make money out of creating something — in my case writing — the entitled attitude of many content pirates concerns me. Not so much in that the methodology of sale has to change — I think that's well underway — but simply because there's an unequal equation at play here. Content costs money to produce, and the most frequently pirated content is often that which costs the most in production terms. That's often countered with "I would pay if the prices were fair", but fair to whom? To an Australian average wage, higher than much of the rest of the world, or a third-world wage lower than the rest? There's no happy medium, but then I often suspect that if the price did drop, that would become the new "unfair" anyway.


The reaction to date from the larger vested interests has been ever more excruciating DRM control measures, most of which tend to fail rather quickly anyway. I'm no great fan of DRM either, but the other day I spotted one new DRM quirk that'll hopefully die on the vine.

I've been a long term fan of Prince — the man can play a mean funk guitar — but it's fair to say he's a bit… well, to avoid the wrath of his always-alert Internet-ready lawyers, I'll just say that he's eccentric and leave it at that.

This is a man who won a Webby award for being an Internet music pioneer while also decrying that "all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you" because the Internet is apparently "completely over".

Although that was back in 2010, so presumably he's decided to kickstart the Internet again with his latest online music venture, 3rdEyeGirl.

He's selling just a few tracks and videos for now, and at first glance the pricing appears pretty decent. A single track is $US0.88, with videos at $1.77, which seems reasonable. Reasonable, that is, until you read the "frequently asked questions" section.

There's this…

How long do I have to download my files? You have two (2) weeks from the time of purchase to download your files. If you don’t download them within that time period you will have to repurchase your files.

Then there's this:

How many times can I download my files? You can download your music files up to three (3) times in the first two weeks and your video files up to five (5) times.

Also this:

Mobile Devices and Tablets The downloads will not work on mobile devices and tablets. You need to download your files to a laptop or desktop computer. This is primarily due to the file size and structure.

The emphasis there is mine, but it's absolute rubbish in any case; a quick test with two files showed that both the MP3 and WAV files delivered will play just fine on a mobile device. Saying they won't work isn't a direct licence agreement to say you won't try, so I don't feel as though I've broken any rules applied by the original content creator in doing so. Indeed, putting such ridiculous and draconian licence limitations in this day and age is a direct insult to your customers and fans. I guess as a Prince fan I should probably be used to such things by now — it's not exactly news that Prince can be (once again dodging the lawyers here, I hope) "interesting" to deal with.

Still, in order for the kinds of entertainment we all enjoy to keep flourishing, there have to be models that support content creators. I'm no fan of saying "I'll pay if I like it", because that takes a huge level of entitlement and essentially rests on the idea that others can pay buy you, personally are entitled to set your own terms. This is the ugly flip side, where a content creator sets terms — ridiculous, unworkable terms that are in fact untrue anyway — but it's not better. Surely there has to be a decent middle ground?

Photo: Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

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