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"Freedom of Music Choice" Campaign Strikes a Sour Note

"Freedom of Music Choice" Campaign Strikes a Sour Note

by , 10:00 AM EDT, August 20th, 2004

[Update: I received the following note from the Webmaster of Public Knowledge, the site hosting Real's petition, after this editorial was published:

The problem with commenting on our site was just a bug, and it's fixed now. PK didn't intend to not allow comments on our Real press release--we are always happy to receive comments. You can direct your readers to [this press release].

Sorry about that,

Sarah Brown
Webmaster
Public Knowledge]

Three Strikes and You're Out - Why Real's Harmony "Freedom of Music Choice" Campaign Strikes a Sour Note

On the surface, the launch of the Freedom of Music Choice campaign sounds like a Good Thing. Residents of the good ol' United States, as well as other countries, are used to many freedoms, such as Freedom of Speech, so who could argue that Freedom of Music Choice is a bad thing? Unfortunately, once you look beneath the surface of this campaign, you may start to realize that it is about anything but Freedom of Choice. Instead, one may conclude that this campaign is an obvious money grab by Real, attempting to ride the wave of success that Apple has enjoyed by offering a superior, cross-platform solution for music purchase and playback. Let's take a look.

First, there's the Freedom of Music Choice site itself. There's a pretty graphic of an iPod being unlocked, no doubt meant to demonstrate how poor iPod users are being shackled by evil Apple. There are also many links to those supporting the campaign, but as you start to surf around the site, you may notice that there is no opportunity to exercise another basic freedom that many are used to, and that's Freedom of Speech.

Well, there is a link where one is given the opportunity to sign an online petition, the purpose being to express one's desire to have Apple allow content from other online music stores to be placed on the iPod. Oddly, the petition that is currently linked only allows one to submit their signature; there's no ability to view the signers, nor an ability to submit any information like a comment, which petitiononline.com allows. If one views what may or may not have been the original petition, once can see that the opinion of the vast majority of signers is definitely against Real. Strike one.

[UPDATE: It seems that the "Freedom of Music Choice" site now allows user comments since the original creation of this article. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the vast majority of comments are against Real. Looks like waving the "Freedom" flag may have backfired.]

So the "new improved" Freedom of Choice petition doesn't seem to allow anything except the collection of (possibly bogus) signatures. Lets move on to the group endorsing the campaign, Public Knowledge. Going to their site and examining the press release supporting Real's campaign, there's a button titled "Log in to add comments." After registering with the site, one would expect to be able to submit their opinion on the matter. Unfortunately, at this point, there doesn't seem to be any opportunity to submit a comment to a public forum. Looks like this Freedom of Music Choice campaign has a common thread; they have the freedom to tell you the way they think things should be, don't bother us with your views. This hardly embraces the Freedom of Speech many of us are used to. Strike two.

The count is now two strikes against this campaign, but maybe there's some hope. When touting Freedom, one would expect that those who support this concept would certainly allow one to choose the platform they'd like to use to exercise this so-called freedom. Clicking on the Freedom of Music Choice icon on the Freedom of Music Choice site leads one to a Real press release that includes a link where "consumers can take advantage of this offer" to check out Real's Harmony software, which allows music purchased at the Real Music Store to be placed on an iPod. Alas, if you're using a Mac browser and click on the link, you're presented with a message stating that "We're sorry. This service is currently not available for Mac." Seems that Real only considers Windows users worthy of this Freedom of Music Choice. Strike three.

How do you feel about Real's campaign? Are they truly fighting for "Freedom of Choice," or is this simply an attempt to ride the wave of success that is iTunes, iTMS and iPod, without taking the initial risk, investment and negotiation to make the system a success? Your comments (which, unlike those other guys, TMO definitely allows) are welcome.

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