Apple DRM Antitrust Suite to Begin

A decade old lawsuit could be a huge problem for Apple…
image3014Back in the day – and I’m really referring to the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s – digital music was a total mess. There was no standardization in terms of file formats, desktop players or portable players. The only thing that WAS clear and pretty much standardized was that no matter where you turned, any digital music you didn’t rip yourself or pirate through tools like Napster, Limewire or some other torrent tool, were clogged with DRM. What that meant was that you couldn’t play it with the app or portable player you wanted to play it with…that is, without having to jump through some pretty nasty hoops.

If pirating wasn’t your thing – which in many cases turned out to be a good thing, because the RIAA is nothing but a group of money grubbing, ugly lawyers out to screw the American public… but I digress – then what you really had to do was buy your music, burn it to a CD and then rerip the songs. This worked with any and every digital music store you purchased digital music from, regardless of what your favorite or default store or app was; or what digital music player you carried. This effectively “stripped” the DRM out of the music, as the DRM didn’t transfer to the new CD you burned, and therefore, wasn’t on the songs you ripped from it. Life was a lot better for you AND the music you bought, as you set it free.

At that point, everyone DELETED the original digital music files they purchased and replaced them with the DRM free ones they just created. It was at THAT point that you copied or transferred them to your portable music player, because at that point…you could copy them to ANY player and play them with ANY desktop music app. Some people were really into WinAmp. Some really liked MusicMatch Jukebox. Some were into Windows Media Player or Apple’s iTunes.

That was a LOT to put on the consumer. It really made us jump through a LOT of hoops; and honestly, not everyone was happy doing it. I did it because it was easy enough for me to do. The only thing that anyone really needed was a blank CD and a bit of time to burn and rerip the music. The technical side of this whole story was wrapped up in the bit rate of the source music files vs. the bit rate of the files you ripped from the CD you burned – which was greater and offered the better quality? The big question for audiophiles here was, “did I just introduce distortion, his or other noise into the music I purchased in order to get around the playing limitations I feel I have?”

However, back in the day – and here I’m talking circa 2005 or so – a lawsuit was filed on behalf of many of the iPod owners, accusing Apple of violating both US Federal and California State antitrust laws by restricting music purchased via iTunes from being played on other digital music players or desktop apps. The suit also accused Apple of restricting iPods from playing music purchased from music services OTHER than iTunes.

Since the suit’s original filing in 2005, a number of changes have been made to the suit. Apple also removed DRM from all music sold via iTunes in 2009, effectively making the issue a moot one from that time forward. One of the major modifications of the suit was to restrict the case to iPods sold between September 2006 and March 2009.

The opening statements in the complaint reference the now defunct Tower Records,

“It would be egregious and unlawful for a major retailer such as Tower Records, for example, to require that all music CDs purchased by consumers at Tower Records be played only with CD players purchased at Tower Records, yet, this is precisely what Apple has done… Apple has rigged the hardware and software in its iPod such that the device will not directly play any music files originating from online music stores other than Apple’s iTunes music store.”

This largely came about because Apple was trying to protect its iPod and iTunes business from Real Networks and Real Player, MusicMatch, and others. Unfortunately for ALL involved, Apple’s iPod was a huge hit, bringing order from the chaos that was digital music at the time. NO ONE (really) wanted any other player, and so Apple did its best to protect their market, and they effectively created a monopoly as far as music and portable music players were concerned.

As I mentioned, the suit has been modified; and now, with its restrictions, is set to get underway on 2014-12-02. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with it. The plaintiffs are asking for $350M USD, though if found guilty and found to have willfully and purposefully violated the law, the award Apple could be required to put up could top $1B USD, according to current antitrust law penalties which specify triple the damage amount.

How does all of this make you feel? Did you buy an iPod between September 2006 and March 2009? Will you be joining this class? Do you feel you were inappropriately restricted in your choice of desktop music apps as well as portable music players? Did you put aside a desktop app or portable music player because it wasn’t Apple or iTunes compatible? Does this lawsuit, even with its modifications and restrictions have any real relevance? Does the burn and rerip option negate the whole suit because it provided for a reasonable work around? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts? I’d really like to hear what you have to say, as the right information to the right attorneys at this point, could make the difference between a simple settlement and triple the damages.

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What’s the Big Deal Around Streaming Services?

For artists, labels, and the service itself it’s about monetization. For consumer’s it’s about something else entirely…

Recently Taylor Swift announced that she was taking ALL of her music off of Spotify. To put it bluntly, she wasn’t happy about how she was getting paid for people listening to her music. With a new album coming out, I don’t blame her. She’s got a lot of work put into her music – a lot of feeling, blood, sweat, TEARS – and she’s not getting compensated for much of it. The labels usually take most of the money when it comes to album sales, and artists like Taylor, really only make pennies per play from a streaming service.

streaming

I was listening to MacBreak Weekly and they started talking about Beats Music and Apple, and of course, the whole issue with Taylor got brought up and NOBODY, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE on the show understands why streaming services are having such a hard time getting off the ground.

First they thought it was pricing… they chewed on that for a while and then touched on ownership of the actual songs or downloaded music… when that didn’t produce a definitive answer, well, unfortunately, I arrived at my appointment and had to turn the car radio off and didn’t get to finish the show, but no one gets why consumers are jumping all over this, and to me, it’s the easiest thing in the world.

Hello…?! Mobile broadband consumption.

The issue on the consumer side has nothing to do with the labels, has nothing to do with the artists and has absolutely nothing to do with the streaming service. Honestly, they’re just like any other content store. You can pretty much get the digital music you want and like there like you can on iTunes, Google Play or Amazon. In the end, it really doesn’t matter WHERE you get it.

The big problem isn’t even ubiquitous connectivity. No one cares if the Cloud evaporates or not in this case. When you combine mobile broadband and Wi-Fi together, you’re pretty much gonna have an internet connection, especially in urban areas like New York, Chicago, L.A., or any other big city. The problem is mobile bandwidth… It’s not free like (most) Wi-Fi is.

Yes, an OK, free Wi-Fi connection is likely available on nearly every street corner in a big city or other urban area. And you may be able to survive on free Wi-Fi between Starbucks, AT&T, Xfintiy free Wi-Fi access points; or any other store, or retail POS location that offers unsecured (or known, connectable) Wi-Fi access points. The problem is that THEY aren’t ubiquitous.

Which brings us back to the whole mobile broadband thing… Streaming services rely on an internet connection to provide you with music. It used to be, back in the day, that your place of work didn’t mind you playing a WinAmp station on your PC as long as you had a set of headphones. You could listen to music at your desk at work all day long. It was great! That is, until the IT department caught wind of how much bandwidth everyone was using up while listening to music all day; and then they blocked the service… No more music for you!

…and that pretty much killed it for every other music service you might want to listen to at the office since then, too. As soon as packet sniffers at the office alerted the network admin that someone was listening to streaming music or audio, it got cut off; but again, mobile broadband fixed that…and it was ok until the Cloud Computing trend started to get real popular and mobile carriers did the same thing that the office did – started sniffing packets to see what was eating up all of the bandwidth on their network.

Once they figured out that people were streaming audio, video and other consumer content through their networks, they didn’t cut us off like the office network admins did… No, no, no… Please! This is America…

No, they did what any good and greedy company would do – they decided to kill all of the unlimited data plans and started charging users based on bandwidth limits. Then when you reached that limit, they’d either cut you off, charged you overage fees or shuttled you to a different network that throttled your service speed and you couldn’t stream content as well.

See… the problem with streaming services isn’t that consumers don’t like the content, or that they don’t like paying for it. The problem is that mobile bandwidth is expensive and your monthly allotment is extremely limited.

For example, I have 15GB of mobile bandwidth; but that allotment is shared between three different numbers on my mobile, AT&T account. Mobile streaming services use a LOT of bandwidth and pump a great deal of data over the network. Any time someone starts pushing a lot of audio or video through their handset, I can tell. I usually get a text message that I’m running low; and then, I usually call my daughter and tell her to find a Wi-Fi network to connect to or to stop listening to iTunes Radio or to Spotify or whatever else she might be doing.

My wife usually doesn’t bother with streaming content, and neither do I… I’d rather use the bandwidth or FaceTime calls or for data intensive applications like Facebook (uploading and downloading pictures and videos of my granddaughter, for example…) or something else; and then, I’m going to do my best to find a usable Wi-Fi network with some decent through-put.

So, let’s get this into some real perspective – the reason why music streaming services are having problems – at the heart of it all… the lack of customers – isn’t an issue with the artist, labels, content or even the price of the service. It has everything to do with the fact that mobile broadband is expensive and that the mobile carriers are screwing the day lights out of their customers when it comes to paying for it.

If the RIAA, MPAA and any other annoying lobbying organization wants to do the consumer a favor (so that in the end, THEY (the lobbying orgs) make some real money), have them go after the mobile carriers. They could use some pressure to either lower the price of their data plans, or perhaps they can cut deals that would make streaming audio and video free on a mobile network… I can guarantee the American consumer won’t complain about that…

That is, until they realize that the amount of money flowing back and forth between the mobile carriers, the RIAA, the MPAA, etc. could resolve the National Debt inside of a couple of weeks…

So what do you think? Are music streaming services like iTunes Radio, Spotify, Beats Music, Tidal, or Google Play Music something that you’re interested in? Do you think they are the future of the music industry? Will the music industry be able to find a consumer pricing friendly model that allows labels, artists and the streaming service to make money without pissing off the consumer because of the amount of mobile data it uses? Will they be able to find a way to make the mobile carriers cooperate, or will everything revert back to playing music from a local copy on either a PC, Mac or mobile device?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below, and give me your thoughts. I know that there are a LOT of differing opinions out there, and I’d love to hear them. If you have a compelling question or point, I’d love to develop another article around it, so speak up and let me know what you have to say!

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AIMP 3 comes with its own sound engine

While others were starting to celebrate the New Year’s Eve, the team behind the AIMP project released the third stable version of this popular music player.

Starting back in 2006, AIMP became the Russian response to Winamp. Since then the player suffered three major changes, that brought the player to its actual stable state: a comprehensive music player that is 100% free and features a plethora of audio formats: CDA, .AAC, .AC3, .APE, .DTS, .FLAC, .IT, .MIDI, .MO3, .MOD, .M4A, .M4B, .MP1, .MP2, .MP3, .MPC, .MTM, .OFR, .OGG, .RMI, .S3M, .SPX, .TAK, .TTA, .UMX, .WAV, .WMA, .WV, .XM.

The most important think about AIMP 3 is the fact that the player comes with its own sound engine, which means that you can now control the audio output through ASIO, WASAPI or DirectSound. With its new engine, you can also take advantage of your surround system either 5.1 or 7.1. Let’s not forget to mention the redesigned Audio Library, the extended playlist functionality and dozens of bug fixes and tweaks.

Unfortunately, AIMP 3 inherited the same crowded interface with lots of buttons on each window. It may look like a demanding application to control, but I assure you that each button has its own role in the whole functionality of the system. But in order to learn it, you have to rely only on the tooltips, that are spread everywhere on the interface. Being a Russian product, lots of useful things about this product are not translated, and even if you can choose the English language on the homepage of aimp.ru you will still get a lot of info in Russian.

If you are into music, and want to try a free player, apart from Winamp, I encourage you to try out AIMP.

download AIMP 3

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Top 10 free apps to install after a fresh OS installation or on a new PC

A clean install of Windows 7 (or any other) is often the best way to install your Operating System. However, clean install means losing all your apps but hey, that’s not necessarily a problem because a few days ago, when I finally decided to make a clean install of my OS, I made a list of the essential free apps you may get in case you’re not sure what you should actually install after a clean OS installation or when you get a new PC. Each app has a download link so you won’t have to search for every single app. So, what did I install over my clean new Windows? Check this list…

avast! Free Antivirus is my top pick for the best free security option around and just a matter of fact, it has the same antivirus and anti-spyware scanning engine used in the paid products and it will definitely reduce the risk of your computer being attacked or infected by a virus – Download Avast! Free Antivirus

Mozilla Firefox is what I used exclusively for a long time, but I am beginning to grow into Google Chrome, as Firefox seems to be quite slower. However, Firefox remains my primary browser but you can consider getting Google Chrome as well, for speed and simplicity – Download Firefox | Download Chrome

Open Office is a free office-productivity suite that includes applications such as a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, and drawing program, with a user interface and feature set similar to Microsoft Office. Compatibility? No worries,  Open Office can open and save MS Office documents with a high degree of fidelity – Download Open Office

Notepad++ is a great source code editor, but it also performs great as a Windows Notepad replacement. The application supports several programming languages and its features make it my favorite editor – Download Notepad++

Mozilla Thunderbird is a fully-featured, free and secure mail client, which can also act as a RSS reader. It’s easy to set up (no need to know your IMAP, SMTP, and SSL/TLS settings, just your your name, email address, and password) and customize – and it’s loaded with great features – Download Mozilla Thunderbird

Gom Player is a a clean looking video player that I’m using and recommend to everyone. It’s lightweight and I love fact that it has embedded codec system so you won’t have to search for codecs every time you cannot play a video format. However, if it happens that you need an extra codec to play a multimedia file that the player didn’t come with, the software will automatically identify what you need and it will lead you to the download page – Download Gom Player

WinAmp is my true favorite for playing music files and I believe that almost everybody using a PC knows anything about Winamp so I guess it doesn’t need introduction. Well, just for the record, Winamp has a lot of cool features which make it an extremely valuable and versatile media. You can synchronize your Media Library with your portable media player and much more – Download WinAmp

PicPick is one of the best screen capturing software that is simple enough to be used by everyone. You can capture multiple sources such as: active windows, selected areas or window, entire desktop, irregular screen regions or any other on-screen activities with just a click of a button or keyboard shortcut. Moreover, the software includes a simple image editor – Download PicPick

CCleaner is a system excellent system cleaning utility designed to help you get rid of all unwanted, residual files and registry entries such as  Internet Explorer’s temporary files, cookies, history and so much more – Download CCleaner

IZArc is a great freeware archive utility that support a huge list of archive formats, as well as access to many powerful features and tools. Moreover, it allows you to drag and drop files from and to Windows Explorer, create and extract archives directly in Windows Explorer – Download IZArc

I still have quite a few more in the pipeline but I’ll include those in a future article so check back later please.

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Winamp on Android

Winamp (1.0) & Android = love; looks like a match made in heaven. There is also a little bonus for you fans out there – some free music.

Some of the key features include :

  • Wirelessly sync with your Desktop
  • Move your iTunes library to Android™
  • Supports 2.1 Android™ OS and above
  • Playlist & play queue management
  • SHOUTcast Radio

More info about everything HERE.

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Melomania is the complete music organizer software

If your music collection has grown too big, it’s time to keep record of your CD’s, tapes, vinyls, or LP’s using Melomania, a complete music organizer with lots of features. With Melomania you can catalog you music collection, automatically scan your CD’s or local disks for further audio files, manually enter info regarding new LP’s from tapes or vinyl collections. You can also search for new music info on the internet.

read full review download Melomania

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Top 5 Most Downloaded Programs on the Internet

Top 5 most downloaded programs on the internet (in the past 10 years)
1. ICQ – most popular instant messenger since its first launch in 1997
2. Winamp – one of the most popular free audio player with huge popularity
3. Napster – the first peer-to-peer file-sharing software
4. Firefox – the first browser that kicked IE’s bu…tt 🙂
5. WinZip – compression tool; lost popularity due to the Win XP built-in ZIP support

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