Music piracy, thanks to mobiles
That is what the recording firms fear. Many
top-grade phones have enormous music storage and
transfer capability built into them
BY OUR TECHNOLOGY EDITOR
31st October 2005
As music and video take the prime
spot in high-end mobile phones, the recording
industry is worried - last time, it was the wave
of Net pirates which threatened their bottomlines,
this time, it is the ordinary cell user.
Music firms have been battling piracy ever since
fans started uploading their collections into web
servers for free downloads. As more and more music
became easily available online, the recording
firms' bottomlines eroded proportionately. There
have been several cases in the west where music
firms and recording companies were pitted against
each other. Now, with the arrival of high-end
mobile phones, is time for next-generation music
Music piracy spread its tentacles with the arrival
of tiny MP3 players, which could store far more
music than any conventional disc player. The
industry shuddered with the entry of the iPod
Godzilla, some of which could store several
thousands of songs. Despite all good intentions
and the best efforts by Apple, the cute iPods are
still used by thousands for playing illegally
downloaded and stored music.
To be fair to Apple Computer, the iPod came with
some security checks which, to some extent,
prevented music piracy. However, geeks soon came
up with techniques to override the iPod defences.
This time, however, the threat is far more
menacing: more and more cellphone companies are
building music storage facilities into their
latest handsets, in an effort at value-addition.
If 100 pounds brought you an ordinary cellphone a
few years back, now the same amount gets you a
phone which can play music and video. Temptation
soon proved to be the mother of invention.
Some of the ordinary cellphones now available can
store hundreds of music files in compressed file
formats like MP3 and WMA. Nokia is currently
developing the N91 music phone, which can store
about 3000 music files. The phone will be
available in December. It's going to be a cold
Christmas for the recording industry and the album
Many cellphones come with the facility to add
memory with a memory stick or card. This jacks up
the mobile phone's potential to store even more
for voracious music fans.
What has been even more threatening is the ease
with which music files can be transferred between
mobile phones. Unlike the iPod or the early music
players which needed a computer interface, music
can be shared between mobiles via Bluetooth or an
ordinary cell network. The music files can also be
instantly transferred to a memory stick, which can
then be downloaded to a computer.
Bluetooth, a nascent technology for portable
wireless communication has been a boon for mobile
users, but promises disaster for the music
industry. Bluetooth enabled-phones can easily and
quickly transfer files between themselves without
the hassles of a computer interface or the expense
of cell network usage. This, the music industry
fears, can be very handy for music pirates.
However, it would not be fair to blame the mobile
phone makers alone - Bluetooth and high memory
storage have been technological advancements,
which like many others, are used for illegal
file-sharing and storing.
Mobile phone makers themselves have been hemmed in
by the expansion of the iPod range. The iPod has
consistently extended its range, building photo
and video capabilities into a tiny package. With
the Apple-Motorola alliance in the background, the
cellphone industry fears that it will only be a
matter of time before an iPod emerges with telecom
capability. Before that happens, the mobile
industry will have to scale up so that their
phones become the ultimate music-telecom
All of which have left the music industry gasping.
Unlike conventional computer-to-computer or
mobile-to-mobile file transfers, it is next to
impossible to pin down Bluetooth file transfers.
This is because the phones themselves act as tiny
file transmitters and receivers without any
external network travel. Due to the portable
nature of cellphone music and the gargantuan
memories being built into mobile phones, it will
only be matter of time before the mobile phones
start spooking the music industry. And that day
may not be far off.
BY OUR TECHNOLOGY EDITOR