No more C.D.s?

When was the last time you actually bought a CD? No, I don’t mean downloading the CD off iTunes, that’s cheating. And I definitely don’t mean downloading the entire album off the likes of Mininova, Limewire, or the now defunct The Pirate Bay; that’s really cheating. But it’s generally common knowledge among today’s youth that no one buys music anymore. We polled several skyline students in order to get a picture of how people on the campus get their media, and the vast majority of them don’t buy physical CD’s anymore. The typical student gets their music of digital distribution services such as iTunes or through other, less than legal services.

The ramifications of this have already been spouted from the record label’s rooftops. The RIAA although not nearly as fierce as it was several years ago, still insists that those who download illegal music will be made to pay for their crimes. Their newest attack is likely to be seen as the most outrageous thus far. “A federal jury Thursday found a 32-year-old Minnesota woman guilty of illegally downloading music from the Internet and fined her $80,000 each — a total of $1.9 million — for 24 songs.”  Now tell me, considering that crimes such as child abduction and starting a dog fighting ring carry fines for the low price of $25,000 and $50,000 respectively, do you think that the charge of $1,900,000 for illegally downloading music is justified? Ignore the fact that the actual price of stealing a compact disc form would be somewhere around $2500.  Even with these occurrences, the RIAA and similar companies media interests seem utterly powerless to quell the thunderous stream of illegal downloads happening as you read this.

Now consider again that we’ve only considered one medium thus far: music. The transition from store bought goods to downloadable goods is happening with every form of media available. Video games are being pirated more than ever; pressuring game companies add future releases with DRM. Some book publishers are instituting similar provisions to prevent the sharing of digitized literature, much to the ire of Amazon Kindle users. How fair is this, considering that in America, we have this thing called a public library system where you can borrow books for almost free?

These days, instead of renting DVD’s the old fashioned way, you can have movies streamed straight to your PC or game console for either a rental period or permanent ownership. Some DVD’s include a ‘Digital Copy’, which allows users to use the movie that they purchased in any of their electronic devices, such as iPods. Mircosoft has just recently implemented a service that offers Xbox 360 owners a method to purchase and download full versions of Xbox 360 games straight to their hard drive (This adding on to the 360’s already extensive library of downloadable games). Sony has been rumored to be implementing a similar service for the PS3. All three current generation consoles (Wii, PS3, 360) offer a large variety of downloadable games.

One of the criticisms of downloadable media is the lack of long term insurance. For example, if you purchase the rights to download and play a certain game over Steam, what will happen if Steam’s parent company Valve goes out of business and can no longer offer the service to you? Would you still be able to access the game? What rights would you be entitled to? These kinds of concerns don’t exist if you have a physical copy of the game; it will generally workout without the use of any external network. For Steam on the other hand, you need to be signed into the network for certain programs to work to their fullest extent. If downloadable games are to completely overtake physical media, these concerns will have to be addressed in full.

Is it possible that our grandchildren will grow up not knowing what a CD is? Is it a real possibility that in the future, all media will be downloaded directly to the user, rather than inscribed on a disk, cassette, or similar type of medium? Or will some new kind of storage medium come along that will make physical media more viable in the future? What are your thoughts about physical media being phased out in favor of downloadable media? Leave a comment with your thoughts and add to the discussion.