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Whether You Like It Or Not

The following exchange is available for your further perusal in the most recent issue of Harpers.


From an October email exchange between Holger Turck and EMI Music in Germany. Translated from the German by Ben Ewing.


Dear Sir or Madam,

Yesterday I purchased the copy-protected TOTO CD “Through the Looking Glass.” The reverse side reads: “It is designed to be compatible with audioplayers, DVD players and PC-OS, MS Windows 95, Pentium II 233 MHz 64MB RAM or higher.” This statement is definitely false.

– In reality, only tracks 1-8 are playable in my DVD player. I don’t own an ordinary CD player anymore, making this CD worthless.

– In reality, my Macintosh plays only tracks 1-7. Result: the CD is worthless.

– In reality, my PC would play the CD only if I were to use the software found on the CD itself. I am very careful when selecting the software that I install on my computer, and I refuse to be coerced into using proprietary software. As a result, this CD is worthless.

This is all the more regrettable, as I am a dedicated fan of the group TOTO and own–among other items–all of their albums. It’s a pity that YOU have prevented me from being able to add their most recent work to my collection.

You altogether ignore the simple fact that every purchaser is–by law–allowed to make a copy of his purchased CD. Your behavior is altogether illegal. As a result, I will not purchase another CD that is outfitted with copy-protection from your firm or from any other.

How do you plan to win me back as a customer in the future?


Holger Turck


Dear Mr. Turck,

We will spare ourselves the trouble of addressing those observations in your email which are obviously uninformed. Simply realize: more than 250 million blank, recordable discs and tapes were sold and used this year, in comparison to 213 million prerecorded albums. Even without formal study in economics, it should be clear to anyone reading this that the music industry cannot continue to exist if the trend holds. The widespread copying of prerecorded audio material via the burning of CD-Rs can only be countered one way: namely, copy protection. We fear, however, that all these facts will not interest you in the slightest, as these measures will herald the end of free music, which surely won’t please you at all.

Should you legitimately have a playback problem with the CD that you complained about, we would ask that you specify the exact CD player model for us. The scenario you put forth–multiple players failing to play the CD–can only be the stuff of fairy tales, given our experiences.

In the event that you plan to protest future releases of copy-protected CDs, we can assure you that it is only a matter of months until more or less every CD released worldwide will include copy protection. To that end, we will do everything in our power, whether you like it or not.


Your EMI Team

Had this been online, I’d have linked instead of reprinting. I had a brief attack of scruples over this potential violation of copyright, blah blah blah, but it occurs to me that such anxieties about what amounts to fair use (moreover, in this case involving a magazine clearly in opposition to the alarmingly Germanic tactics of EMI) is precisely why fair use has eroded so disastrously in this country. So fight the power, man. Happily, this came to me today via e-mail, so I’m already redistributing a redistribution.

To top it off, I’d be thrilled to get a cease and desist letter — it would mean someone was still reading.


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