PC Pro, August 13 — It’s now four years since the iTunes store launched in the UK, and only now are we beginning to understand the full implications of buying music online. With vinyl or CD you knew where you stood: you bought the album or the single and, provided nobody lost, stole or scratched it, your music would still play in ten years’ time. In the digital download age, however, that can’t be taken for granted.
Digital rights management (DRM) has been a disaster. In December 2006, Bill Gates said “DRM was not where it should be”, admitting that it “causes too much pain for legitimate buyers”. By February 2007, Apple’s Steve Jobs was in agreement: “DRM hasn’t worked, and may never work to halt music piracy,” he noted.
Not all Internet radio is legitimate, however. Much like earth-bound, radio there are “pirate” stations that don’t pay fees to the content owners. Worse yet, thanks to recent legislation making web-based broadcasting more expensive, we’ll either see more of these pirates or less content in general.
Life isn’t much different in the world of books. A few well-known authors are releasing electronic copies of their books in hopes that fans will buy paper copies. Neal Gaiman did that with American Gods and it was a big success. TOR, the science fiction and fantasy publisher, gave away quite a few books with no strings attached, and the promo was very well received.
There are a couple of websites that are beginning to offer a wide scope of public domain books in electronic formats. and Project Gutenberg both have excellent selections of both fiction and non-fiction. Archive.org also has a text section, but as with audio they must keep the copyright holder in mind. So to get Tom Clancy’s latest thriller you’ll probably still need to drop fifteen or twenty bucks to get the whole thing, and you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting it from a major book seller.
Free video streaming is also rapidly becoming readily available thanks to sites like Hulu and the television networks. Those programs are ad-supported, generally speaking, though the ads are usually shorter or less frequent than in broadcast programs. Hulu offers movies and television shows, a smaller library of full-length shows and a much larger library of short clips.