Every iPod owner goes through the same troubles and strife – not in the actual technical performance of the gadget, but in the process of sharing music with a friend.
What’s the music sharing process?
Apple has never been known to play nicely with others; they tend to dish out lawsuits left and right (the latest of which is the slide-to-unlock dispute with Google). Syncing one’s iPod to another person’s iTunes library is simple – at the loss of all the music you’d already put on the iPod.
You either get your music or their music – there is no middle ground. This manner of thinking has made sharing music with a friend from iPod to iPod nearly impossible. By ‘nearly’, I mean that the only way to do it is illegal. Sharing music from one person to another is definitely frowned upon in international (and local) copyright laws. This doesn’t stop most people from simply taking the music files from their friend (and fellow conspirator), importing them into their own iTunes, and then putting the music on their iPod. Illegal, and fairly simple. Simple, but it could be far simpler.
The older-generation iPods did it – your friend’s music was your music, provided you had the space for it. No messages came up warning you that you would forever be wiping the iPod clean – selling its soul in exchange for a different one.
Sharing music is illegal. It is, it really is. Most people either don’t know or don’t care about the implications of having their door knocked upon by the FBI (“don’t they have better things to do?” is a common response).
The quandary lies in this: Is it more illegal to A) be able to plug your iPod into another person’s computer and take their music – without being able to then put it onto your computer’s hard drive from there – or to B) pull out a flash drive, copy the music directly from your friend’s hard drive and then put it on your iPod via your own computer?
If A) were possible, people would be able to listen to their own music AND that of a friend’s with minimum hassle. They would be safe in the knowledge that while they WERE breaking the law by getting the music, they could not distribute or sell it because it existed nowhere but on their iPod.
Obviously this is in Apple’s hands, but if they were to change one thing to greatly simplify the music-sharing experience, it would be to allow iPods to sync to multiple iTunes libraries. They would lose nothing by doing so – iTunes is Apple, and the average person is unwilling to buy something on iTunes that their friends could give them free of charge.
The secret to initiating this change would lie in some very clever marketing.
Emphasis would have to be put on the fact that people would not have physical possession of the shared music – with it on their iPod and not their computer, they are merely participating in limited-access file sharing or music listening. This is much the same as what you would do on SoundCloud or Pandora, but with the option of taking that music with you anywhere. The inability to share or distribute this music is a boon in Apple’s pocket – they could play it to their advantage, and market the new “unlocked” iPods as a leading light in music sharing as well as in the prevention of piracy.
Either they could release a new iPod entirely – adding a tiny premium for the cost of its “unlocked” capabilities or allow users to make the change themselves – by choosing whether or not they simply download a patch and upgrade their existing iPods with new capabilities. It would mean a small bit of marketing, and a giant leap in consumer satisfaction.
Image by Wolf Gang
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About Roan Song
Roan is a multi-instrumentalist and bathroom vocalist, as well as a part-time philanthropist. A great lover of music, he is on the UNISA Honour Roll for his achievements in musical theory. Roan Song is fanatical in his worship of Grammar as an unofficial religion -- particularly the demigoddess "Semi-Colon" - and knows the true meaning of irony. On wireframe, he covers audio technology.