All entries for Tuesday 04 April 2006

April 04, 2006

File sharing redux

Follow-up to File sharing psychology from Autology: John Dale's blog

What seems like a long time ago, I wrote about the psychology of file sharing - why people do it and how they rationalise it. Today there's an article on the BBC web site about yet another legal onslaught on file sharers; which is, you know, not exactly a big story. But there are a couple of interesting snippets in there:-

Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 41% of file-sharers said that the risk of legal action would make them consider using file-sharing software less.

This kind of chimes in with my theory that the combination of small moral issue and low risk is what makes file sharing acceptable. No surprises there (although what's the thought process for the other 59%? I'd carry on even if I knew I was going to get caught? Who did they survey, Arkham Aslyum?).

The second quote is much more interesting:-

According to XTN Data, legal downloads are up by five per cent since last September. The most popular legal download site is iTunes with 44% of the market. This is followed by Moscow-based, which accounts for 14% of legal downloads, according to the report.

The reason that this is striking is that it contains the words "legal" and "AllofMP3" in the same sentence. When mainstream media outlets like the Beeb mention AllofMP3, it's normally described as "quasi-legal" or "its legal status is uncertain" or "controversial service". The BPI would like everyone to believe that using AllofMP3 is flat-out illegal, but in this article in the Observer they reproduce a BPI quote whilst simultaneously casting doubt on it:-

There has been a lot of coverage of AllofMP3 in the international press, which has largely concluded that UK consumers can legally download the music until the dispute is resolved. However, the BPI is adamant that this is not the case. 'Anyone who is downloading from any Russian website is doing so illegally,' says [the BPI's] Mat Phillips…

But the BBC article dispenses with any such nuance. If I were reading the article and didn't already know about AllofMP3, I might be tempted to go and take a look. If I did, I'd be pleasantly surprised to find a wide range of file formats and encoding rates supported, and none of that pesky DRM so I'd be able to play my music on any and every PC, Mac or portable player I own. I'd be a bit stunned at the price; under 10 pence a song seems almost too cheap. Surely this can't be legal. But then, those nice people at the BBC say that it is, so how could it not be? I wonder how many people will read the BBC's article, follow the link it contains and like what they see enough to defect from iTunes or to try online MP3 purchasing for the first time?

On an only slightly related note, it's not hard to see why services like AllofMP3 do well when services like this downloadable movie one are announced; Windows-only downloads which can't be played on a TV, only a PC running IE6, and which cost twenty dollars for a new release - more than it would cost to buy the DVD! Just insane. I'm not quite sure about the morality of AllofMP3 - it almost seems too cheap – but as long as competing services are offered in such an utterly braindead way (and even iTunes suffers somewhat from this, I think; I'd buy (grudgingly) from iTunes at 79p a go were it not for the DRM), who can be surprised when better services rise up to fill the gap? How long before there's an AllofMPEG4?

Flashy SUVs

Writing about web page

It seems that Chevrolet are looking for new ways to promote the Tahoe, their big SUV. One idea they've hit upon is inviting viewers of their web site to create their own advert. This is technically quite brilliant; it's a little timeline editor which lets you choose snippets of footage, add your own captions and choose a soundtrack, all in a Flash applet inside your browser.

But the best bit about it is this: it's abundantly clear that they're not moderating the adverts which their users are creating. Take a look, for example, at this. (If anyone can work out how I can save a local copy of that advert, please tell me how; I'm sure it won't be there forever. ;-)

Update: Thanks to Tom for pointing out this montage hosted by which I guess has more chance of sticking around for a while. Still can't save it, though; curse these parameterised playback widgets!

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