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AOL adopts pay-for-content standard

By Dacta in News
Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 04:10:01 AM EST
Tags: Music (all tags)

The Standard is carrying a story about how AOL has adopted technology that will allow it's users to download music and have it billed to them on their AOL bill.

The technology, by a company called InterTrust will first be implemented in a WinAmp plugin, and later distributed (seemingly as standalone client software) on AOL promotion CDs.

Another possibility raised is that of incentive schemes:

Warner, EMI or any other owner of music, video or other content could release it for free, wrapped in protective code, which could report back who downloads the music or video and provide rights-holders with valuable information about consumers.

The system also could be set up to make the consumers themselves distributors of content, by offering incentives. A fan of Brittany Spears, for example, could download a song, pay for it and pass it on to 50 friends. If those 50 also pay for the song, the fan could get free passes to the next Brittany Spears concert. The same deal could be extended to the 50 friends and beyond.

This development raises a number of issues. Firstly, I think it is great that there will be a way to leagally buy single songs (I know a lot of you will disagree with that). I do have a problem with market power AOL/Time Warner will gain from this. How can non-AOL subscribers use this service for instance?

Also, what are the odds this technology is going to be closed-standard and windows only? What chances are there of a DOJ intervention, especially in light of the way AOL seems to have been forced into opening up their instant messaging standards?


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AOL adopts pay-for-content standard | 12 comments (12 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Non-AOL users (none / 0) (#1)
by Imperator on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 12:58:50 AM EST

Also, what are the odd this technology is going to be closed-standard and windows only?
Of course it will. And what of it? If it goes to the speakers, it can be ripped. Those that do not wish to use this service will not be inconvenienced despite AOL/Time Warner's best efforts.

(2.00 / 1) (#2)
by eries on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 01:02:06 AM EST

I think it's fabulous. We've been calling for the big megaCorps to produce a legal alternative to Napster.
Promoting open-source OO code reuse on the web: the Enzyme open-source project
I agree (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by rusty on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 01:08:01 AM EST

Also, the most important thing this does is show a way for digital distribution to be viable. It doesn't matter if this particular software is closed, if the distribution scheme is viable as a way of making a living. Guess who else can run services like this? How about actual artists? Maybe this is the first step in giving artists a means of actually supporting themselves, not just making record executives rich(er).

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: other os's (none / 0) (#8)
by ramses0 on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 09:34:37 AM EST

I agree- it's good that corp's are realizing that providing information/data online that people want is a Good Thing(tm) ... I highly doubt that this software will run under Linux, though, which really limits the usefulness.

I don't want to sound like a linux nut, but the world does not exist on AOL and Windows alone. If future e-commerce specifically excludes marginal operating systems isn't that discriminatory? Does that change the MS/DOJ stuff... MS had no choice but to be a monopoly because AOL just made it too easy?

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[ Parent ]

This is a step in the right direction... (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by meldroc on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 01:46:16 AM EST

There needs to be more legal ways to get music online, though I'm not sure a pay-per-download scheme is something I'd pay for. Most people (including me) tend to curb their web-surfing or downloading behavior when they feel the meter's running.

I'd rather see a subscription model for online music. I pay twenty dollars per month to AOL/Time Warner, or one of the other record labels, or a middleman, then I get to download all the music I want.) It's convenient, the copyright holders get paid, everyone's happy (except possibly the artists - see Courtney Love's rant for details...)


subscription music (none / 0) (#6)
by feline on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 02:20:55 AM EST

'I'd rather see a subscription model for online music. I pay twenty dollars per month to AOL/Time Warner, or one of the other record labels, or a middleman, then I get to download all the music I want.)

The only way a subscription service could really work is if you paid 20 dollars to listen to any songs you want for a month, not download and keep and play whenever you want, or perhaps it could just delete itself. If we did it your way, where you get to dl and listen to it for an infinite amount of time, you'd have to be paying somewhere around a hundred bucks for the copyright holders and the content medium provider to get they're stake.

And besides, take note of your 'limit-yourself-when-meter's-running' statement. Think of how aol took off when it got that unlimited access for 19 bucks a month.

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Re: subscription music (2.00 / 1) (#9)
by meldroc on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 02:36:46 PM EST

You have a point here. I can see AOL doing a similar scheme to cellular phone plans - a fixed $20.00/mo. for up to 20 songs a month, after that, $1.50/song. Prices and plans may vary of course.


[ Parent ]

Re: This is a step in the right direction... (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 07:37:33 PM EST

How about conceptualizing it, not as a subscription, but as a modernization of the Renaissance-style system of patronage?

Say I like a band, I'll use Black 47 as my example here, and I want to support them and have access to their music. I pay them (these are example numbers here) $25 to join the "patrons" group and pay $25/year for my membership. This gets me:

   online access to all their recorded music
   discounts on all their "official" merchandise
   if they produce an album that year, a free CD of it

Now, this costs me a bit more than just buying one CD/year by Black 47, but they've got a big back catalogue to which I now have access for less than the price of 2 CDs. Plus I get discounts on their stuff and online access to their archive of MP3s off all their old stuff.

So it's better for me, but does the band benefit? Consider what Courtney's speech said about bands and distributors: the band can expect to see $1 to $2/disk for retail sales. So the band is getting a _lot_ more from me than they would selling to me through WB or whatever. They've also got a guaranteed minimum income for the year, since their "patrons" are tossing in these buck. So they can focus on the music, which is what we want them to do, and not have to worry that they can't pay the rent.

(this reveals the fact that almost everything I listen to is from the smaller regional bands, not the MTV crowd, but what they heck)

I wish they'd actually do this.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.

[ Parent ]
right... (none / 0) (#5)
by feline on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 02:07:14 AM EST

I'm sure this'll take off.

Think about it. We're talking about people paying _real_ money for bits transferred over copper, the average american is going to be a bit mistrustful of this, and the average american is the aol user. And those people want to be able to hold the plastic in their hands and then scratch it unusable and then go out happily and hand their money over to a wal-mart cashier.

Sure, there'll be the people that'd happily try this out, but those people are already happy with napster and don't want to make the switch from free to not.

Of course there are people that are going to try it once and _maybe_ like it and do it a few more times, but I don't expect many.

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'

Re: right... (none / 0) (#11)
by bobsquatch on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 11:48:51 PM EST

Think about it. We're talking about people paying _real_ money [i.e. bits in a bank's computer] for [other] bits transferred over copper...

Intellectual Property and Legal Tender are both consensus hallucinations.

[ Parent ]

Re: right... (none / 0) (#12)
by feline on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 12:14:23 AM EST

the thing is, those bits in the banks computer can be exchanged for the legal tender, but mp3s and other media that sits around on your hard drive can't be.

Yes, I know it's silly to think you should be able to hand over real paper for real plastic, but joe smelly aol user isn't going to think that.

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Oh great... (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by Dust Puppy on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 07:36:04 AM EST

I run a website which has some free software for download. Occasionally, I get some AOLer asking "Will I be charged for this?" I explain to them that it doesn't work like that - that you have to give a website operator a credit card number before you can be charged. Now that's no longer true it makes my life that much more difficult. I just hope AOL makes it *very* clear to its customers exactly when they're about to pay extra.

AOL adopts pay-for-content standard | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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