The Right Coast

November 21, 2005
The solution to the DRM copyright problem
By Tom Smith

It is a big, deep problem that try as they might, the music industry does not seem able to come up with a way to defeat the unauthorized copying of digitally recorded music.

With all due modesty, I would like to announce that I have a solution. First, one must just accept that a technological solution is impossible. I don't really know this, but it sounds profound, and as a law professor, I sometimes say things not because I know them to be true, but because they sound profound. Also, for all I know it may be true.

Second, this means there must be a non-technological solution. If we look at old-fashioned TV we see how freely available programming, which open access music would be, dealt with the problem. Advertising. You watched I Love Lucy, but then you also watched, at least sometimes, the ad for Ivory soap.

You see where this is going. You put ads on the music CDs. But, you say, this will not work because consumers will simply skip the ads with the FF button, or worse, make recordings that leave the ads out. This does seem likely. But this is where my solution becomes brilliant and elegant, if I say so myself. I call it "Artistically Integrated Product Placement" or AIPP for short. Like product placement in movies, where James Bond, for example, wears an Omega watch, the lyrics of the popular music would feature the advertized product. Thus, the lyrics of a recent hit by the LA Armenian influenced rock band System of a Down could go

Why don't Presidents fight the wars
Why do we always send the poor
I drive a Toyota and so should you
I drive a Toyota and so should you

The first two lines are in the original; the second two are an example of AIPP. Or consider a "gangsta rap" effort:

I shot the cop and he bled out in the street
Then I kicked my ho in the head
Then I ate a Certs and felt so fresh
Felt so fresh, etc.

I just made up those lyrics, but you get the idea. Artistically integrated product placement.

Some might argue that AIPP would compromise the artistic integrity of contemporary popular music. And they would be right. But would the music actually be any worse? That is a much more difficult question.