Unlimited Free Music? Too Good to be True?

I was assigned to write about Ruckus.com, which allegedly allows anyone with a .edu e-mail address to download unlimited music, which then plays in the Ruckus Music Player.I say allegedly because the Ruckus Music Player, after installation, crashes every time it launches.Ruckus.com – which hosts all of the downloads – is worse than a sandpaper massage. I’m convinced that if you were to spell out “stupid” in binary code, you would see the source code for this program. Yes, it’s that bad.Yet idiotic programs are ubiquitous on the Internet. What distinguishes this one? Ruckus was a smart idea. In theory, it could have bridged the gap between the piracy-happy college student and the record company executive who needs to support a fourth mistress.In practice, the program should just make a large flatulent noise right as it crashes, trying in vain to open the file downloaded by my browser. To be fair, it’s not as bad as Apple calling their Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme (techie-speak for Satan incarnate) “FairPlay.”Speaking of which, Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently made a pretty cool argument regarding DRM (or 666…) in his mac.com op-ed, “Thoughts on Music.”In case you don’t know, DRM is the code attached to your iTunes downloads that renders them unplayable on any other device. It’s used on all media throughout the industry. Ever wonder why you can’t copy your DVDs? DRM.Anyway, Jobs’ argument was twofold: On one hand he dismissed the calls for Apple to open its DRM scheme to other companies, accurately stating that the technology would leak to the public, who would then be allowed unencumbered free music.More importantly, according to iTunes sales and surveys, 97 percent of the music on the average iPod is not bought through the iTunes Music Store, usually in the form of an ordinary non-DRM mp3.Thus, releasing the FairPlay code would not loosen Apple’s chokehold on the online music industry – a cause Europe has marshaled – as most people are getting there music elsewhere.The other argument proposed that DRM be eliminated altogether. Why should it be eliminated? Well, no DRM scheme has ever worked because, according to Jobs, “even if one uses the most sophisticated cryptographic locks to protect the actual music, one must still ‘hide’ the keys [with] which unlock the music on the user’s computer or portable music player … [and] there are many smart people in the world, some with a lot of time on their hands, who love to discover such secrets and publish a way for everyone to get free – and stolen – music.” Moreover, record companies sell 90 percent of their songs on CDs with no copy protection whatsoever; so why place restriction on a vital, emerging part of their business? This is the most cogent argument I have seen against DRM, and if implemented, would drastically reshape the way many consumers – including those piracy- happy college students – get their music.What does any of this have to do with Ruckus.com? Maybe if the industry listenedto reason and the fans, like Jobs does, we would not have to deal with technologicalabominations like Ruckus.com masquerading as a solution to piracy on college campuses.