I go on a lot about media and software freedom, but what do I actually do about it?
Realising that talk without action achieves nothing, I decided to put some of my hard-earned money behind some of my principles.
In recent times I’ve become quite disheartened by the record industry’s protection racket. Their business model is failing and, since they are big bureaucratic monoliths, they are struggling to adapt. Their approach has been to stick DRM on everything, which basically restricts your ability to do what you want with something that you paid for, and should technically belong to you.
They say all these measures are to protect their artists, but they really only protect the company profits (and seem to be failing at that anyway). This draconian nonsense caused me to boycott music. I just don’t buy it any longer.
That is, until I looked around on the internet a little and found a vast resource of independent “record labels.” A few examples are:
I purchased two albums from Magnatune, and 50% of what I paid goes directly to the artist.
But Magnatune doesn’t stop there. They tell you to share the album with three friends. They figure that if people are going to be dishonest, then that’ll happen anyway — regardless of whether record companies try to do something about it or not. Might as well encourage sharing — cheap marketing.
Another bonus is that you, as the consumer, get to choose what you think the music is worth. The price isn’t set you decide — but the more you pay the more the artist gets.
The albums I bought are
Take a listen. If you like them, let me know and I’ll give you the url and password to download them (or you can just come over to my house and copy the files — geography and familiarity permitting).
The other music sites have varying business models and they all work differently. Throughout though, the music is DRM-free, and that’s what really matters to me.
I haven’t stopped at music. I’ve extended my approach to software
I’m a big advocate of open source software, but I’ve never given anything back to the community. I use the software. I tell people about it. I lord its merits.
But if everyone only did that, there wouldn’t be any software to promote.
The logical way to contribute to open source software is to write some code and submit it to a software project. I suck at writing code — so there goes that one.
I’m not too bad at writing deciphered words, so I tried contributing to the Ubuntu documentation team. That didn’t last very long. Writing documentation quickly became tedious and mundane. Perhaps I’ll look back into it sometime.
No, the easiest thing to do is contribute money to a project. It minimises your time investment and optimises the value of the contribution because that money can be used to pay an expert to do what you would have done poorly.
I sent the team that develops the Firefox add-on, DownThemAll, a donation. It was really a sort of experiment. They sent me an email thanking me for the contribution. Now I intend to send donations to other open source projects which I find to be particularly useful, and well implemented.
It’s interesting to me that I was inspired to make these donation because my brother had registered a shareware application called Total Commander. It’s not open source, and it only works on Windows. Still, he spoke about how he was so impressed with it that he figured the developer deserved the money.
That sentiment seems to have had a lasting impression on me.