I'm on a large listserv that is haunted by a wide range of professionals and artists that discuss many of the issues and opportunities that currently present themselves to the digital media market. I started a thread last week that simply posed the following hypothetical:
Someone pays a subscription music service for their "to-go" plan in perpetuity ($15/month for life) but instead of downloading any of the DRM'd content from that service they "acquire" DRMless MP3 versions of the same songs.
Is this deemed "illegal"? They are paying the labels their per month minimums which in turn are paid out to the rights holders (assuming the user is only acquiring content that is also licensed to the subscription provider they are paying) - and since they are paying in perpetuity then the issue of "owning" versus "renting" (and the 30-day licenses) is a non-issue.
The logic (albeit many see as flawed) being that if you pay the monthly subscription fees in perpetuity (basically "renting" it for life), than theoretically the artists and labels end up making far more than they do off a one-time sale of the track. Therefore, if someone pays Rhapsody their $15/month for the rest of their life for the right to listen to a track - but then go and "steal" those tracks from somewhere else - the net net is a positive for the labels and artists. This is the "music as a utility" (some say "tax") argument that the industry has yet to embrace, although their could be grassroots movement of consumers just paying these subscription services (using them as little more than a collection agency) then going off and "acquire" all the tracks they can find off of MP3 blogs, P2P networks, etc. with a clear conscience in knowing that the rights holders are still be remunerated.
The fact is, I know *many* people that discover and listen to new music from MP3 blogs and/or The Hype Machine that also happen to subscribe to services. They find the stuff on the blogs, they listen to it there. If they like it, their choice is to either:
A). Download it directly from there
B). Copy the artist/song info, go to the store of choice (potentially
launching a big heavy media player), log in and buy it. Perish the thought
that they find *lots* of songs they want to buy. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
The bottom line is that in the current digital music legal and business framework it is easier to steal than to buy legally.
This thread has been active for almost a week now and spun into a very lively debate that has started to cover much larger topics that I originally intended (which is great). But to boil it back down to the original question and the more relevant follow up of... Would you feel morally comfortable with this scenario?