• United States

Music download frustrations

Sep 30, 20033 mins
Data Center

A colleague creating a PowerPoint presentation for a department meeting wanted to add Pink Floyd’s “Money” to one of the slides for some added punch. The colleague downloaded the song from their account on, but restrictions allowed it to only be used on one machine. Unfortunately, the presentation was ultimately going to be shown from a different PC, rendering the downloaded song file useless, unless it was paid for again. Sure, $.99 is not much money, but still, they should be able to use the song how they’d like when the pay for it.

I am no legal expert, but my understanding of “Fair Use” laws allows for this song to be used legally in the presentation. It’s not for a public event and we’re not directly making money (no pun intended) by using the song. My colleague should have been able to use it on a second machine. I was ready to rip for its dumb policy. Turns out it’s the record labels I should be angry with (what a shock!)

Elizabeth Brooks, senior vice president of business development at, says a song or album’s digital rights are defined by the label. On average, songs on can be copied to three PCs, unlimited portable devices (as long as the support Windows Media) and burned to five CDs. MusicMatch’s new download offering provides a consistent policy for copying all of its songs at three PCs. Brooks says some labels are more restrictive, while others, particularly independent labels, can be more liberal. In this case, Pink Floyd or its label decided one PC was enough.

[One side note: I asked Brooks what prevents a user from burning a song to a CD, then using another tool to rip the burned song into an MP3 or another format and doing what ever they please with it. Her response: Nothing. So there’s one way around the restrictions, but it could result in degraded audio quality and more effort that its worth.]

Brooks hopes as more services come online, some of the more strict labels will become a little more liberal. She would like to see the ability to copy a song to 5 CDs. As a business, Brooks says, services such as need to make paying for music easier than stealing it. I’d have to agree. In the case of “Money”, it was easier to go an “alternate” route to getting an easily copied version of the song.