Technology nothing to be afraid of

By Kevin Wilson

And so the conversation went on my phone one evening, as I spoke with a friend I hadn’t talked to for about two months.
“So,” she queried, “do you have a girlfriend right now?”
I answered, “No, I have something better.”
“Fiancee?” she blurted out, with a combination of happiness and anger that I never told her sooner.
I soon squelched both emotions as I told her, “Nope, I got an mp3 player.”
You can argue all you want about priorities, but nobody can deny the impact of those two letters and one number combined together.
It’s been years since I first heard the term “mp3” and people are still trying to understand it, and how we now have the ability to fit thousands of them onto a device the size of a cell phone.
The term is a shortcut for “mpeg 1 audio layer 3,” and mpeg is a shortcut for “Moving Picture Experts Group.” What this all basically means is that you can take a compact disc, and convert the songs into mp3 files, which are about one-tenth the file size of CD tracks.
The files are still a little too big for most e-mail servers to handle — a four-minute song takes up about four megabytes, and most e-mail programs don’t accept e-mails which have attachments larger than one megabyte. However, they’re easy to trade via file sharing programs.
That leads us to the biggest issue about the mp3 — its ease in transferring to strangers. It’s not something the recording industry likes thinking about. The belief is that if you’re receiving music off the Internet for free, then somebody isn’t getting their royalty fees.
The alternative right now is a site that allows you to purchase songs individually, or a subscription-based site that allows you unlimited downloads. If sites like iTunes, Napster or Rhapsody sound familiar, then the concept of online music is nothing new to you.
Still, the recording industry has had its concerns throughout, because it attacks their bottom line when you can buy one song for less than a dollar instead of paying $13 for an entire CD with three or four songs worth hearing.
At first, the record labels basically cracked down on downloaders — I’m sure you heard about the 13-year-old who was fined $1,000 for downloading music a few years ago — and sites that allowed for royalty-free transfers.
Now, it seems record labels are doing what they should have done before anybody even heard of an mp3. They’re adding value to their products, long overdue considering the minimal costs in making a compact disc. Some artists are releasing DualDiscs, with DVD content on one side of the disc and the normal album on the other.
Things like an mp3 shouldn’t be the death of an entire industry — they should instead be embraced as a challenge to make the industry better. This isn’t a new process by any means. The video cassette recorder was originally believed to be the worst enemy of the film industry, but VHS sales turned out to be a significant income source for many movie studios.
It’s a battle that will take place when the general public starts buying DVD recorders. Technology’s always changing, and the right approach is to work with it so our citizens don’t feel like criminals for properly using such technology.

Kevin Wilson is the managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 33, or by e-mail:
Kevin_Wilson@link.freedom.com