Friday, December 16, 2005

My Morning Jacket Tackle Copy-Protection Software Problems — By Burning CDs For Fans

(From My Morning Jacket released their fourth album, Z, back in October, they probably weren't aware that it would thrust them to the forefront of a complex and contentious legal battle between a multinational corporation (Sony BMG Music Entertainment), a forward-thinking civil-liberties organization (the Electronic Frontier Foundation), attorneys general (in Texas and New York) and unsuspecting music fans (i.e. you).

It wasn't the musical content on Z that got everyone up in arms — but rather the inclusion of a copy-protection software called MediaMax, included on more than 100 Sony BMG titles. The software not only prevents an album from being played on computer, it also installs programs on those computers that spy on music usage and report copyright violations to the company without the users' knowledge. If the MediaMax software is removed from a computer (via an uninstall program created by Suncomm, the company that created MediaMax), it leaves the machine vulnerable to whole host of problems, including viruses and data loss.

(Sony BMG has had similar problems with another type of copy-protection software called XCP, but it was not included on My Morning Jacket's LP.)

Sony BMG initially downplayed the maliciousness of the software, but in mid-November issued an apology and pledged to pull all CDs containing MediaMax and XCP from stores. However, that didn't stop it from being hit with a barrage of lawsuits.

Like several of their labelmates, the guys in My Morning Jacket, who were unaware that their album would contain the software, according to their manager, Mike Martinovich, decided to act in a very personal and unconventional manner.

After answering many e-mails about the debacle, MMJ posted a link on their official site detailing how fans can bypass the MediaMax software, thereby allowing Z to play in most computers. And if that didn't work, the band members said they will happily burn fans a CD of the album, completely free of copy-protection software.

"As our fans have been experiencing varying degrees of difficulty with the copy-protection mechanism employed by Sony BMG, we have responded to each e-mail with an apology ... assuring them that My Morning Jacket was not responsible for the decision," Martinovich wrote in a statement to MTV News (My Morning Jacket refused to comment on the matter). "If that didn't work, we offered to burn a copy of the album and send it to the fan who already purchased a copy of Z. To date, we have sent out over 100 copies of [the album] to friends and fans who have purchased the album and have not been able to enjoy the music."

MMJ are by no means the first act under the Song BMG umbrella to express their displeasure over the corporation's attempts to curb piracy via copy-protection software: the Foo Fighters, the Dave Matthews Band and Switchfoot have also done so, but they're likely the first act to publicly offer to burn individual copies of their album for fans.

Sony BMG had no comment on MediaMax issue or My Morning Jacket's response to it.

If you haven't heard My Morning Jacket, it's about time you did. They have really outdone themselves with the new record, Z. I have absolutely hated the way new Sony/BMG CDs operate. The aforementioned MediaMax software sucks, and I have had to deal with this on a number of new CDs I like: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Foo Fighters, MMJ, and a couple of others.

I find it infuriating that I am only allowed to extract the tracks from a CD that I just purchased only three stinkin' times! And not only that, it is impossible to play or import the tracks through iTunes. I don't use an iPod, my mp3 player is from Creative Labs. But, when listening to music on my computer, I like the iTunes player better than, say Real or Windows Media Player. MediaMax only allows the extraction to be in the form of a .wma file. OK, those play on my mp3 player, but they will not open in iTunes. The "license" granted to me through MediaMax does not allow iTunes to play the file! Fuckers!

I'm totally against music file sharing, and I do think it is stealing. However, I don't think the solution to the problem is to restrict the usage of music for people who legally purchase the music. If I want to play my CD in my car, on my computer, through my DVD player, in my stereo, or through my mp3 player, why should I somehow be prohibited from doing so? I shouldn't. And, thankfully, Sony/BMG has stopped doing this. Let that be an example to other companies that might similair ideas. Punish offenders, not music purchasers!

Here is an mp3 of the band's newest single, "Off the Record." It is offered as a free download at Insound, but I posted it here, too. Enjoy.

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