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):

"Dear Friend,

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."
Great idea to post this Sdcampbell. For what it is worth, I have never copied or traded an album to anyone, nor do I download MP3 files.

I at one time copied LP's that were my own, to cassette for my car. Now that there is CD in every car, I simply drop by the used music store and purchase that second piece of software at a discount from the used bin.
My heart goes out to the starving artists that so enrich my life. However, if you connect the dots, you will find that they view purchasing used material as the moral equivelant of copying music. Does anyone remember the firestorm Garth Brooks created by saying buying used CD's should be illegal?

All the radio stations where I live are owned by large holding companies with very narrow programming parameters. Our local Boise State University radio station that had as part of it's programming a lot of jazz has since caved into the pressure and seriously cut back on the format.

Every CD I own is in my computer in MP3 format so that I may listen while I work or burn a copy for my truck. I feel no guilt for copying what I already own.

I have purchased quite a lot of new music by being exposed to a loaner batch of CD's from friends. I suppose this practice of test driving a CD is a real gray area but again, I feel no guilt. I simply purchased what I thought worthy of owning.

This is a difficult problem to wrap my mind around and come to the "right" answer. MP3's are a real threat to the music industry with so many people being accutomed to lo-fi. Then again, exposure to music is what sells it.

Guilt free listening,
I think it is a pertinent posting from Sd-whilst it's clear that copying material has always been a problem,I think now in the UK at least it is becoming a very major problem-the advances in technology and availability of material is reaching new heights-I live in on of the largest cities in the country,in an area where there are many specialised and independant record shops-these retailers are really struggling due to pirates and I'm sure the big boys are doing even worse due to the material they sell.
There will always be collectors like many on this list however I do wonder about the generation(s) coming up that are either used to getting music for free i.e MP3's or who can go to their local market and get the month's new releases or the entire Beatles back catalogue for £10.
The record industry has of course been making a fuss about copying for a long time however we are now looking at wide spread sophisticated pirating that offers tons of music at a very cheap price.
This is a problem on a scale I don't think that has been seen before and I would also guess we are looking at a massive generational change on attitudes to buying music,the markets may just about be holding up but will they to continue to?
This letter mirrors my own feelings and I'm quite vocal about it, if you think stealing music is okay you may as well wander into an art gallery and help yourself to whatever is hanging on the walls.

I've heard all the arguements for swapping music.."pretty much none of the money goes to the artist anyway, it's the record companies filling their coffers" or "the band releases a CD and there's only one song worth listening to, why should I pay for the entire CD for one song, it's a rip-off" or "this has been going on forever, recordable CD's have simply replaced cassettes. The industry didn't die because people made cassette copies, what's the difference?" or my favourite "everyone is doing it, the music industry will have to come to grips with it and change their ways"

My answer is always the same. Keep it up, file swap to your heart's content and one day very soon you'll wonder why there's no new music to listen to. There won't be any new music cuz the talented musician who should be in a recording studio is flipping burgers to pay the rent.
I am a strong proponent of non-swapping copied cds. If someone wants to make a complilation or copy for their own use, I can live with that.

The way to solve this is to lower the price of cds so it won't make sense for someone to make copies to pass on to others. Copies don't come with the front and back inserts which people like to have. The record labels can even provide a service to put compilations together at a reasonable rate, say a $1.00 per song of less. Currently, they charge between $2-3 pur song. Many major and indie jazz labels used to sell samplers for $5-7 now they charge $16-19 for a sampler.

When GRP decided to downsize their list of artist, they dumped their stock into the cut-out bins. I purchased dozens of dupicate cds I had, so I could pass them along to friends and familly. They cost $3-4 each.

In Jazz, there are many artist who can not get signed by a label so they have to either sell through their website or sell through,,,, or ???????.com. As a consumer, the current state of the recording industry has made it very difficult to find and purchase new music from established artist as well as new artist.

IMHO, lowering the price will make it less inviting to spend the extra time and money to make your own copies. I'm sure there will be those who will still do it but the numbers will decline over time. I also agree that if things don't change then the music scenery will change for the worse.