An existing digital restriction comes back for a second attack. We have three ideas for action to take against the streaming media giants.
The idea of streaming media is not a new one. A look at the potted history of the web and public Internet in general shows that multimedia features were something that lots of people have tried to get right, and a lot of companies have gotten wrong. Very wrong in many cases. In fact, until MP3 took off in the late 90s, every other attempt at any form of streaming was a proprietary, intrusive mess. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, it looked like music on the Internet might forever be a mess. Then Napster happened.
The original Napster was a good example of the public deciding to exercise the freedom to copy instead of giving it up. Of course, the major labels didn't like it, and of course, they sued. Napster closed down, and while a few other services sought to replace it, they never achieved the same widespread usage that Napster did.
Take action! Boycott DRM-streaming services!
GrooveShark is the biggest of these services, with 22 million songs. Write to GrooveShark founder and CEO, Sam Tarantino -- firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him you want GrooveShark to drop DRM and stream music using DRM-free technologies.
Decentralized (Bad) Decision Making
We've been seeing the same Napster arguments and legal threats applied to BitTorrent sites. The key difference between BitTorrent and Napster is that Napster is centralized -- running servers with users logged into them. BitTorrent requires no such thing. While BitTorrent trackers and directories exist, they serve merely as a pointer -- the files are hosted on the computers of the users sharing the file. And while Napster was primarily for music, BitTorrent can be used for anything -- music, videos, software. We used it to distribute copies of a film we funded last year, many GNU/Linux distributions are distributed using BitTorrent, and FSF operations manager John Sullivan even shared a copy of gNewSense from a BitTorrent client running on his smartphone.
So with all this technical innovation in place, have the media companies embraced this new technology to make the world of music and movies available to all-comers? No.
No, the latest innovation from major record labels is streaming. Proprietary streaming music clients, to be exact. So while the amount of bandwidth has come a long way (though not far enough) in the last 15 years, the idea remains the same -- download our special, secret software and we'll let you listen to some music. Subject to advertising or a monthly fee, of course.
Even Steve Jobs has expressed his hatred for such services, making the case that you may pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to listen to your favorite song with these services. And while Steve would rather you just buy it from iTunes, his point still stands.
The few streaming services that don't subject you to proprietary crapware are either limited in their selection, or geographically locked down to only the most profitable countries for advertising purposes.
So, you like music, you want to listen to music you've purchased either digitally or on CD, and you have a computer. Without being subjected to DRM, what choices do you have? Thanks to the current leaders in streaming technology, not many.
- Use streaming services which are DRM-free.
A good example of such a service is Jamendo. Send your suggestions and tips for DRM-free streaming sites to email@example.com and we'll update this list.
- Out, out damn Spotify!
Spotify is part of an insidious group of streaming services which requires a proprietary client installed. Refuse to install Spotify and help others remove it!
In the vast realms of internet culture exists a phenomenon known as a screamer. A screamer is, put simply, a website that screams at you. Often using Flash -- though free software Flash alternatives, such as Gnash often work on such sites -- the website will show you an innocent looking photograph, often of a room, and ask you to spot the problem, or suggest there's something to see. You stare hard at the photo for a moment or two, before some creepy looking zombie face pops up and well, screams at you. This malevolent interference is harmless enough, but what if the intrusion exists in your own computer, and instead of a screaming zombie, there's the polished storefront of an internet giant. Enter the screaming music services, back from the dead and screaming music to you, one fright at a time...
This undead menagerie: GrooveShark, Zune Marketplace, Spotify, Napster (new Napster, that is), Pandora, MOG and Rhapsody.
Now, before you email us and tell us we're wrong on this -- we should say that Rhapsody and new Napster also offer music for purchase in the MP3 format. We're not arguing about that, but instead making the case against the screaming music services, with their use of Flash and their proprietary clients. Indeed, many streaming services link to download-services offering music in DRM-free formats as a way to buy the music.
Tell your friends on social networks and email to avoid screaming media services.
Are you already on Twitter and Facebook? (If not, please don't join on our account.) These companies all love to use these services. Sending them tweets and leaving messages on their Facebook page complaining about DRM will get their attention.
Below is a list of all the streaming media companies we can find: some DRM, some without... please let us know your experiences.