Copy protection circa 1987
There have been a number of threads on the forum over the past year about the recording industry's drive to develop a copy protection method that will prevent consumers from making copies of CD's. I was going through some of my LP's the other day, and happened to look inside the album cover of James Newton's jazz LP, "African Flower". I found the following "Open Letter", signed by various Blue Note recording artists, including James Newton, George Adams, Bennie Wallace, Stanley Turrentine, Don Pullen, Tony Williams, Bobby McFerrin, Michel Petrucciani, Dexter Gordon, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, George Russell, and others. I found the letter interesting, although I wonder how many of the artists signed this "Open Letter" under coercion from the recording company.
I offer the letter solely for discussion purposes and without further editorial comment.
(Body of letter, dated February 1987):
We musicians thank you -- for buying this album, for supporting our music and our careers. But we have a problem, a serious one, that we can do little to cure without your understanding and your help.
Very simply put, the growing practice of unauthorized home-taping of our albums is doing each one of us great damage. Yet most people don't give it a second thought. It's no big thing, it might seem, to let one of your friends make just one copy of this album. After all, just one copy can't hurt too much. Or can it?
Look at it from our point of view. Home-taping is now so common-place, so unrestrained, it has put a sizeable dent in our incomes, is jeopardizing our recording and "live appearance" careers and is already causing record companies to limit the number of new artists and new albums they invest in and promote. The plain fact that your friends ask to make their own copy of this album means they are fans. Obviously they must like our music. That's great -- for us as artists and great for our futures.
But we need more -- more understanding and appreciation of the bind we're in. Jazz is not a mass market phenomenon. We wish it were. Our art form is not for everyone. It's appeal is to a select, sophisticated audience -- a 1-to-1 kind of music. We rarely reach anywhere near "Gold" or "Platinum" certifications for sales. The truth is that even big-time bootleggers ignore our product because they've learned to ignore our product because they've learned even our biggest "hits" add up to too-small numbers. They figure it hardly pays them to rip us off.
So you don't have to be a computer expert to realize that just one single, unauthorized home-taping copy may represent a significant percentage of our total volume, and shouldn't be dismissed as merely a meaningless free-for-all. It's more than just a numbers game to us.
If the practice doesn't stop, we're all losers. You are losers too -- what with record shops cutting down on the number of jazz albums they normally carry, your ability to choose from the widest possible selection is shrinking every day.
Some people may not want to hear this. But the only way we and other jazz artists know how to stop the practice of home-taping and other forms of copying is to appeal to you and your sense of fair play. We welcome any thoughts, suggestiions, comments, questions or answers (pro or con) about this letter or about our music. Of course we'll reply to as many as we can.
We need your support. It's not charity we're asking for -- just your helping hand. We can only suggest that this album be limited to one to a customer."