Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
In its seemingly futile quest to overcome the effects of piracy, the music
industry thinks that it's come up with a good idea --
charge ISPs a fee
for those users who download their products using P2P networks.
Naturally most people in the industry have expressed outrage at the very suggestion
that they might be forced to pay such a fee, even if they could pass it on to
Right now it's very unlikely that this proposal would fly -- after all, unless
it's mandated by law, how are they going to force ISPs to levy such charges?
Check Out The Aardvark PC-Based Digital
Entertainment Centre Project
Or will they really need the help of lawmakers?
Perhaps not. Perhaps they'll turn to someone even more powerful
than those lawmakers.
While I was writing this column I suddenly realised how this could well become
part of Microsoft's play for control of the digital media market.
Right now, the recording industry can't identify a Net user without the
help of that user's ISP.
Most ISPs are reluctant to hand out this sort of information, partly because
they don't want to be seen as stoolies and partly because there's a very
definite cost associated with turning an IP number and time/date into a
user's name and address.
So how else could the recording industry identify an internet user?
It's pretty hard to do much on the Net these days without banging into
a site or service that uses Microsoft's Passport service as a method of
authenticating a user's identity.
Given the huge push that Microsoft is making in this area I would wager
that sooner or later a "Passport" will be almost mandatory for all but
the most casual browsing.
So what would it be worth to a recording industry fighting
a bitter battle against online music piracy to be able to identify
virtually anyone online?
Okay, so when you signed up for your Passport you probably entered a whole
lot of bogus information right?
That might be okay now but what about when Passport becomes so ubiquitous that
you need it just to log onto your ISP's own service? You'll have to provide
valid information then because your ISP will demand it as part of their
terms of service.
Now Microsoft can go to the recording industry and offer them:
I think you'll see that it's going to be very hard to ignore Bill's boys
when they've got all those skittles lined up in a row eh?
- Digital rights management systems
- Copy protection for audio CDs
- The ability to identify almost every Net user while they're online
Once such a system was in place, it would then become trivial for the
recording industry to automatically charge an ISP when one of its users
were detected downloading music (legally or otherwise).
Of course *YOUR* ISP would never sign up to such a scheme would it?
Well don't forget that ISPs are in business to make money and it's a very
competitive market. If Microsoft sold them on prospect of earning a whole
heap of money by acting as a billing agent for the recording companies and
any other content providers, do you think they'd really say "no thanks, we'd
rather remain barely profitable"?
Then there's the spinmeisters at Microsoft who would doubtless pitch this
as a *feature* to Net users. "Use a Microsoft Accredited ISP and gain
immediate access to millions of extra products and services while online
without risking your credit card".
Trust me when I say that there are more than enough stupid people out there
that customers would start switching to MS-accredited ISPs because they
felt they must have the advertised benefits on offer.
To add icing to the cake, those ISPs who signed up to this unholy alliance
would likely feature prominently in new releases of Windows -- appearing
on a list of pre-configured services to which a user could sign up with
the click of a mouse button. Remember, Microsoft have never been slow to take
maximum advantage of their monopoly in this area.
It must be patently clear to everyone by now that Microsoft wants to be
an indispensable component of the movie and recording industries and it will
do whatever is necessary to position itself as such.
Resistance is futile...
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