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Is this the end of an Era?

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With the advent of RIAA law suits and more along the way, is this the end of the Computer Home Entertainment Center as we now know it? More and more I hear the argument there is no excuse for people claiming innocence of wrongdoing on their computers. It seems to me at least part of the problem is in the marketing of computers. To fulfill Bill Gates’ vision of a computer in every household manufacturers have increasingly promoted their wares as a home entertainment system. Power users understand it is a work tool but to the vast majority of people out there it is only a home entertainment system, a convenience for online banking or a diary, and they do not understand its potential for criminal use. The fault rests with the industry for promoting it as a convenient fun station, and perhaps it will have to change its marketing strategy rather than rely on the RIAA’s thugs to educate the public. What do you think?

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  • Yes, that’s at least partly true. My flatrate has a transfer volume of 5GB a month. I remember when I signed up there was an explanation how much 5GB meant (for those people you can’t place this number…). There were several examples on how many songs, albums or films you could download with 5GB. And I bet these examples are still in the FAQ!

  • Taloran

    I use my computer both for work (I’m a ColdFusion developer, and trying to build a photography business) and for entertainment, but I keep the entertainment aspect almost completely legal. I downloaded a few (ten or so) hard-to-find songs or “only good songs on an album” through BearShare (which I’ve now removed through paranoia – anyone have John Hiatt’s Have A Little Faith in Me?), and a ton of free, legal songs from MP3.com. I never opened my computer up for others to download songs from it. I have a collection of about 500 or so cds which I like to play through my Klipsch 5.1 computer speaker system. Not to mention BlogCritics, Everquest, Baldur’s Gate, DragonRealms, etc. etc. as forms of entertainment at various points in time.

    I see no reason for the manufacturers and vendors of computers to change their Entertainment Center marketing stance – one can have a fabulous time on the computer without breaking any laws.

  • Sure, but even the industry doesn’t see it this way. I don’t know about the US, but in Germany the copyright company for written texts (whatever the name is) wants IBM to pay them a fee for every computer they sell, just because you can copy copyrighted texts with it. It’s paranoyed! And as one person pointed out: They should start having such fees on pencils – I mean, you could take notes from copyrighted texts and whatnot *gasp*!

  • Michelle, as you pointed out, that’s a matter of math. How long is the song and what bit-rate was it burned at will answer the question.

    Let’s say we are looking at about 4 MB per song average, which is probably somewhat low because songs, although the length has probably stayed about the same, are being burned at higher bit-rates these days. The actual size of the file is what is going to dictate, but let’s use 4MB as an example filesize for our computations:

    5 GB = 5,242,880 KB (5,120 MB)

    So if we divide 5,120MB by 4MB we come up with: 1,280 songs = 5GB. A 40 GB hard drive would hold 5,120 songs. A 100 GB hard drive would hold 25,600 songs. It would take approximately 1.5 TB (TeraBytes) of disk space to hold the entire Rhapsody music library (393,000+ tracks), assuming these numbers.

    1,280 songs is a lot of music downloads over the course of one month (and quite expensive if one is doing the downloading legally), but really not that much in the scheme of bandwith usage if one is running a 24 hour downloader and gulping down a big, big library of music, I suppose.

    As for what an individual user typically uses in bandwith on a daily basis? Programs like Download Meter will help show users actual bandwith usage per computer or network.

    I’m a pretty heavy user on a daily basis (business-use primarily) and my average for my target work machine weights in around 75-100 MB or so a day. And with that usage it should be pointed out that I don’t download much music and have never downloaded movies (which are the dinosaur of downloads), so even using my average usage I’d still be considerably under that 5GB threshold for a month that you cited.

    I don’t blame ISPs that cap bandwith with limits like this. There are plenty of ISPs that don’t cap bandwith, however, so it’s a matter of individual preference if that becomes an issue for someone.

  • The problem for me aren’t the 5GB. I know how much that is and how far I can go with it. What I wanted to point out was: When they write in their FAQ: “Hey, you can download this many songs and that many movies over the course of a month with your 5GB”, wouldn’t this suggest to a normal user that he is also ALLOWED to do this. Surely, you wouldn’t think your own provider wants you to break the law. Or would he?

  • BB

    I see this as something more insidious. Computers began as business machines that were supposed to create the paperless society. When that didn’t work they shifted their focus to household entertainment systems. Now I can foresee hardware or software security systems being mandated for consumer products so that big business (or big brother) can eavesdrop on us. Is that where we want to go?

  • Well, Michelle, there are legal download outlets for music (buymusic, rhapsody, iTunes) and for movies (cinemanow, movielink). mp3.com has been around awhile as a legal music download service, so maybe the ISP was just were leaving that important part out of the equation?

    Yeah, I know, that might be a stretch.

    Seriously, you do raise a good point that ISPs should update their FAQ to include choices for their customers to legally access music, movies and other high bandwith draining activities.

  • bb:

    Now I can foresee hardware or software security systems being mandated for consumer products so that big business (or big brother) can eavesdrop on us. Is that where we want to go

    Of course that isn’t where we want to go. Most reasonable people will tell you that they want the government staying out of their homes. Technology can go too far and in some respects (spyware for example) it already has.

    Some people see the ACLU as one gigantic pain in the ass, but the ACLU continues to fight for our rights that the government seemingly wants to strip away under the guise of making us feel more secure.

    No thanks, I can go buy a dog or a gun if I want to feel more secure, I don’t need the government for that. As far as digital goes, I don’t need them snooping through my computer to watch out for the badguys, I can become educated using the greatest library in the world: the internet and protect myself.

    Now global, terrestrial security is a whole other issue. Of course with third world crazies out there, a solid well-stocked and prepared military is important.

    Don’t even get me started on this 80 billion for the war effort, though. I can’t see how or why we need to give up that much money. Who balanced those books, the accountants from Enron?

  • BB

    So if we are in agreement we don’t need more big brother or business in our face, what then is the answer? More and more we see the Government, the Microsoft’s and the RIAA’s flexing its muscles for control of the internet. If we don’t find an answer soon they will certainly make the decisions for us.

  • Just my pessimistic view: Even if we (the consumers, the society) find an answer, I doubt they (the government, the industry) want to hear it.

  • Eric Olsen

    Sometimes government needs to broker between parties that would not come to the table otherwise – government isn’t always bad. Just passing through carry on.

  • BB

    I guess where I’m trying to go with this is:

    a) If we don’t do something now to put a stop to big brother and big biz, they will inevitably control the internet. The point of starting this post was to stimulate discussion or ideas in this regard;

    b) I wanted to tie this in with the RIAA scandal.

    We have all heard of the IBM and Microsoft takeover plans, and after 9-11 the government can now justify compromising our privacy.

    Isn’t there anything we can do? I don’t have all the answers. I was hoping some of you might.

  • I guess the US are in a worse situation than (for instance) Europe. As far as I see it the government can force every measure upon its citizens by linking it to terrorism. The war against terrorism has become a country-wide paranoia which lets people accept that they have to give up personal freedoms in order to live in a secure country. Perhaps first the vast majority of people needs to realize that not every step against “terrorism” needs to be taken and that the own government is not always wanting the best for you.

    That’s just my European two cents. Tell me, if I’m wrong (’cause making up your mind based on TV isn’t always the best thing…).

  • BB

    Michelle, you didn’t say what part of Europe you are from but I’m guessing it is France. I recall back in the 70’s France was a hotbed for terrorism – e.g. the Jackal, etc. How did France deal with this?

    My primary concern is I know from experience if we don’t deal with it, the powers that be will do it for us. I for one do not want to sit idly by and let greedy big business sue me into submission or partisan politicians make the decisions for me.

  • Ahhh, no. It’s Germany. I’ve said that in a few comments (to other articles) and I start feeling a bit strange always putting my country in front of me, so I left it out here;-) Furthermore it’s former GDR, so – no terrorism there. There was nothing to gain in our little country.

  • BB

    Sorry Michelle. I won’t make that mistake again, unless my alzheimer’s kicks in 😉