iTunes Match and making Prof. Lessig’s case

Recap: Prof. Lessig’s argument.

You will remember that Michael Speck from Music Industry Piracy Investigations was outraged by Apple’s pending iTunes Match service and, in particular, the part where the service would in your iCloud account copies of music on your hard drive which had not been bought through iTunes.

At the time, it wasn’t clear (at least to me) whether Apple was going all gung-ho and just offering this unilaterally or had the agreement of the record companies to this.

Of course, if the record companies had agreed to this, it would be rather hard for them, or their representative, to complain about the pirate’s charter.

Jonathon Bailey, at Plagiarism Today, reports here that Apple is in fact offering the service in the USA with the agreement of the record companies. He also goes on to discuss indications that this is all part of a clever new strategy by the record companies to combat piracy – one of the indications he identifies includes recent reports that the music industry in Australia is not pursuing a 3 strikes policy (at least as strongly) as the movie industry.

Swerving to another aspect: the iTunes Match service Steve Jobs announced was for the USA only. Media reports suggest it will take up to 12 months for the service to be extended to the UK and speculate other countries will have similar delays.

Copyright is, of course, a territorial right and there are often different owners and licensees for different territories (i.e., countries). Thus, just because you have consent from the (or a) copyright owner in one country does not give you rights to do the same thing with the corresponding copyright in another country. No doubt, therefore, a large part of any delay will be attributable to the need to negotiate separate arrangements with the owners of copyright in different territories.

So the delay reported in the media should come as no surprise. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to those in Australia who monitored, for example, how long it took for the iBookstore to get any “in copyright” content. Perhaps, if Mr Speck’s view is representative of the views of the copyright owners in Australia, the wait would be even longer – what an economist might describe as “infinitely long”.

All of which goes to highlight, as representatives around the world assemble in Geneva to debate extending copyright and introducing limitations for visually impaired readers, why are we still dealing in the 21st century with territorial rights for electronic rights which can be accessed virtually instantaneously from virtually anywhere in the world?

Oh, perhaps it’s not just an electronic “problem”. This product is advertised for sale in the USA for US$399. You can buy it here for AUD$699 or (depending on exchange rate fluctuations) approximately US$736. (By the way, I am certainly not recommending that you do buy the product from either source, I have no experience with it.) Almost makes you wonder where’s Prof. Fels?