Thursday, 24 September 2009

Possibly the greatest spam item ever

'We Apologize for the delay of your payment and all the Inconveniences and hiccups that we might have caused you. However, we were having some minor problems with our payment system, which is Inexplicable, and have held us stranded and Indolent, not having the Prerequisite to devote our 100% endowment in accrediting foreign payments.'

'stranded and Indolent' sounds like something out of Tristram Shandy.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

What's so terrible about charging for content?

There's again been a lot of discussion in the media recently about charging for digital content.

Many otherwise law-abiding people clearly think it's perfectly acceptable to obtain a free copy of chargeable content.

The issue gets mixed up with perennial (and often justified) moans about the ridiculous prices charged by the recording industry for CDs.

But it seems pretty simple to me. publishes some content. B wants to access it. is entitled to charge whatever it likes. If B doesn't like the charge, tough, they don't get to access the content. If overcharges, its revenues will be affected. If charges a reasonable amount for a good product, its bank manager is happy, and so is B.

I am, admittedly, rather biased. I work in the software industry. I come from a family of publishers and am married to a sheet music publisher. I spent many years acting as librarian for a choir, and being aware that if we were caught photocopying music it would be the librarian who got the rap.

When people purchase choral music as downloads from my husband's website, they almost invariably buy only one copy - the exceptions shine out. So are these purchasers of single copies sharing a single score? I think not. For some reason they think printing multiple copies acceptable, despite the clear indication on the website that one purchase equals one print. If they bought a printed copy of a score from Barenreiter or Oxford, would they think it acceptable to photocopy it for 30 choir members? Almost certainly not.

I don't want to sound holier than thou. In my early youth I did copy LPs to tape, because I couldn't afford to buy them, and I did photocopy music, for the same reason. But now, if I want to listen to a CD but I don't want to buy it, I can look it up on Spotify and listen legally and free of charge; I just have to put up with extraordinarily banal advertisements. If I want to listen to something right away and it's not on Spotify, I do have to pay, but I can download it on demand - I don't have to wait for the record shop to open. If I want a piece of choral sheet music but I don't want to buy it, I try the Choral Public Domain Library; I may not get such a good edition; tough.

Publishers are not, generally, in the business of diddling people. They are in the business of preparing content that people want, presenting it in a high quality way, and expecting a reasonable return. What justification can people possibly have for bypassing this? No more than they would have for walking into Waitrose and stealing a banana.