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Pax Musicana

Over the years friends have asked what I have against music services like iTunes. A week or two ago the term Pax Musicana crept into my subconscious and it captures the issue perfectly. My general disdain for digital services like iTunes, Amazon Kindle, and the like is that I am locked into a service and should I decide to wander to the next big thing I would have to rebuild my collection from scratch. I would have to abandon all the value I stored in that service because they refuse to let me take my purchases with me.
The term Pax Musicana came to me as a concept of what these services should be. If I buy a song from one vendor my “license” to listen/download/stream that song should extend to all legitimate online services. even has an article advising ISPs to start music/media stores to lock customers in and reduce their churn rate. The dying copyright bastions like Sony, EMI, Warner, Vivendi, et al are laughing their collective asses off because consumers who wish to stay legal have to repurchase the same album from iTunes, Walmart, or wherever they go next instead of repurchasing when media formats change (cassette -> cd, etc). The article implies that disgruntled customers will stick around just so they don’t lose the value they invested into those songs.
Sure they could export those mp3s to their computers but what exactly is the point? As we all move into the cloud it would make more sense for users to have the ability to log in and stream their music from wherever they are in the world. And should they decide that the next big thing in music store surpasses their current one all their licenses should move with them.
The music industry has made a big deal about the sale of music being more a licensing agreement than a transfer of property. You don’t own the album you just paid for so much as have a right to listen to the music (privately). As we extend this metaphor to movies and books this concept becomes far more powerful.
When a friend of mine got a Barnes and Noble Nook for his birthday I had to hold my tongue as he showed it off. None of the titles he purchased on his Kindle would transfer over. I suppose pax mediacana would be more apt for this post’s title but it doesn’t have quite the same ring.
Interestingly the Wikipedia article on the original term “pax romana” says that the “Romans regarded peace not as an absence of war, but the rare situation that existed when all opponents had been beaten down beyond the ability to resist.” So perhaps we are there already. It seems that consumers today are so beaten that they will accept whatever terms are dictated to them. They buy media online without thought to the limitations of how far that media can travel with them. They sign (click) away all their rights to resell the media when it is no longer interesting to them (see First Sales Doctrine). I hope this changes soon. Until it does don’t expect a penny from me in terms of this disposable media. It simply isn’t worth it.

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