Why Bruce Willis's top tracks die hard
The Hollywood hard man is angry that his daughters won't be able to inherit his digital music collection. It's a situation that's only going to get worse, warns Rhodri Marsden
Rhodri Marsden is the Technology Columnist for The Independent; he has also written about crumpets, Captain Beefheart, rude place names and string. He's also a musician who plays in the band Scritti Politti, and won the under-10 piano category at the 1980 Watford Music Festival by playing a piece called "Silver Trumpets" with verve and aplomb.
Tuesday 04 September 2012
My vinyl copy of Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica is a treasured thing – all four unlistenable sides of it – and it's there in my will as part of the motley collection of recordings I've amassed over the years. If I get hit by a bus today, my friend Jenny will get it, but the fate of the gigabytes of music I've bought online isn't so clear. Weirdly, they're not mine to bequeath; under the terms of license I merely have them on some kind of permanent loan.
Of course, it's possible that Jenny will play fast and loose with copyright law and play some of those MP3s at my wake. But legally she's not supposed to. It's anyone's guess as to why Bruce Willis has been considering his own mortality and copyright law of late, but he's reported to be taking Apple to court to protest against this very issue: the fact that he's not entitled to leave the thousands of dollars worth of music he's bought from them to his four daughters.
While Apple, Google, Amazon et al extol the virtues of buying digital media over their physical equivalents (Say goodbye to the frustration of losing your music! Access it across multiple devices!), the resulting decline in popularity of the CD, the DVD and books has also meant a decline in consumer power. With those objects, a "first-sale doctrine" applies; once we've bought them the copyright-holder can't stop us doing whatever we like with them. Digital activists have argued that the same doctrine should apply to digital downloads, but the screeds of licensing conditions we agree to prior to purchase appear to overrule this centuries-old concept.
As a result, you get situations like the one in 2009 where Amazon, realising that it had sold improperly licensed copies of George Orwell's 1984, remotely wiped them from all Kindles. Online media vendors retain that kind of power; spurning the first-sale doctrine is an essential part of their business model. After all, "second-hand" files are indistinguishable from the originals, so their availability affects the market for those originals in a way that a tatty vinyl copy of Trout Mask Replica certainly doesn't.
Recently, an ingenious service called Redigi attempted to call the industry out on this by inventing a second-hand marketplace for files bought from iTunes. Predictably, EMI immediately sued; that court case is due next month.
Over the next few years we'll start thinking more about our "digital estates" and how to pass them on. A British company, Cirrus Digital Legacy Services, already offers options to bequeath many online accounts including social media – but iTunes is notably absent, and it's hard to see how copyright law would change that in our favour.
If the US Copyright Office gets its way, it's unlikely that Rumer, Scout, Tallulah and Mabel Willis will ever get their hands on the sweet sounds sitting on their dad's iPod. Which they're probably not that bothered about, but that's hardly the point.
Life & Style blogs
Alexander McQueen at auction: What makes a really great piece of fashion?
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
No female ejaculation, please, we’re British: a history of porn and censorship
Stressed nurses are 'forced to choose between health of patients and their own'
Pornhub: Kim Kardashian's sex tape is the most-watched porn video of all-time
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£30 per hour: Ashdown Group: An industry leading and well established business...
£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...
£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...