Universal Calls MP3 Users Thieves

by Janet Meyer Nov 14, 2006

On Friday Chris Seibold wrote about a deal between Universal and Microsoft. He reported that Microsoft agreed to pay Universal a portion of the proceeds from every Zune player they sell.

But wait, there’s more. You might be interested in knowing what Universal’s chairman/CEO has to say about it. According to Billboard.com, Doug Morris doesn’t think much of people who use mp3 players.

“These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it,” UMG chairman/CEO Doug Morris says. “So it’s time to get paid for it.”

Maybe he needs to read the Jupiter research better. Mac Daily News does a good job reporting the research. To sum it up, only 7% of iPod users and 25% of those using other mp3 players download music illegally. That leaves an awful lot of people either downloading music legally or filling their iPods with music ripped from CDs.

Doug Morris is risking alienating a lot of past and potential customers. Even those who use illegal download sites probably purchase some music, whether online or in the form of CDs. If Morris had read the Jupiter research, he might realize that people who use iPod and other mp3 players are much more likely to purchase CDs than those who don’t own such a device. That only makes sense. If you purchase an mp3 player, you’re probably already a music lover.

The comments on Mac Daily News show a strong reaction by mp3 purchasers. Several readers sent letters to Universal which they copied at the Mac Daily News site. Some are suggesting boycotts. Quite a few of them talked about the total number of songs they have on their iPods and stated that they had paid for every one of them. Others said they had stopped listening to and purchasing music altogether until iTMS and iPods breathed new life into their music listening habits.

Mr. Morris might also do well to remember that iTMS has sold over one billion songs. That’s a lot of music, every bit of it legal. While I don’t have any statistics proving that much of it was from Universal’s artists, I know this has to be true just because of Universal’s sheer size.

How much money did Universal make from those one billion downloads? How many customers did it take to download these songs? Compound that by downloads at other legal sites. Mr. Morris, I think a lot of people wonder why you insulted them that way.

People are already angry at Microsoft for making this deal. It’s a dream come true for Universal. According to American Public Media, Microsoft plans to enter into similar deals with other labels. Hopefully their CEOs will just be happy with the situation and realize that it’s not the best move to insult their customers.

When the contract renewal comes up between Universal and Apple, I hope Apple stands their ground. If Zune is successful, labels will feel they have an option and might try to hold out for the same deal with Apple that they get from Microsoft. I hate the idea of Apple doing business with a company whose CEO calls me a thief.

By the way, Mr. Morris, my MP3 is full. In fact, we have three in our family, most of them full. Every song on them is ripped from purchased CDs. Not one is an illegal download.

Apple, please take note of the Jupiter research report. Even with one billion songs sold on iTMS, most of the music on iPods comes from CDs. Don’t make a Microsoft deal with Universal. They still need you more than you need them.

***Last minute update: I was reading the article by James R. Stoup on the Zune pricing scheme. Following a link left by reader Ben Hall (thanks, Ben) I discovered why it is that Microsoft and Universal work so well together.

Microsoft has long believed iPod users are thieves.

Check out this quote dated October 4, 2004. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in talking about iPods, states “The most common format of music on an iPod is stolen.” He blames a lot of it on the difficulty of using Apple’s DRM.

Are any of you being tired of being called thieves? I know I am.







  • I’m fairly sure he wasn’t insulting you specifically raspberry

    He does have a point however. While profesionals who can afford to buy music no doubt purchase alot of ipods, students purchase many aswell. And as a student i can tell you that the music on most of my friends MP3 players is in fact “stolen”, whether it has been downloaded illegally, or simply ripped from a borrowed CD. I for one take the survey with a grain of salt, since few people will readily admit to illegal activity, even in an anonymous survey.

    simo66 had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 78
  • Thats one of the reasons I went with Apple.  I felt like Ms was treating me with little respect.  I’d buy their software and just like clockwork it would be buggy and generally sucked.  So I tried Apple products and haven’t looked back.  I wouldn’t buy anything MS anyway but this deal with the music label guys is pure microsoftian.  Buy your way into an area and in the process hurt the very people who buy their products.  Giving these guys anything but the boot is draconian at best.  They have a dying business because they don’t give the customer what they want..a reasonable price for the product.  Just my opinion

    fuzfire had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 2
  • Maybe he does have a point that some music on people’s iPods has been downloaded on the internet. But I’d like to point out that

    a) it is not (yet) illegal to do so in my country, Germany (only uploading is), that

    b) it was the iPod that got me interested in listening to music again after years of not caring about it anymore and as a result buying music on iTunes and CDs and

    c) that I’ve stopped buying CDs again a year ago when the DRM on the CDs prohibited me from making a simple copy to listen to in the car.

    Steve Jobs is right - a fair price is essential for people to get out of the habit of downloading and start buying music instead. The prices for new CDs is actually quite reasonable in large outlets. But if the product does not let me handle it like I used to do for 20 years I refuse to pay for it. It’s a ridiculous philosophy by the record companies since I get the songs on the Internet anyway.

    Micha had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I have over 5000 songs and several T.V. shows on my iPod, most of it came from my own CD collection and the iTMS. About 1% was foreign music downloaded illegally, but only because I couldn’t find this particular music easily, and I would’ve gladly paid for it if there was a charge. I resent being called a thief. The other thing is that I love my iPod for listening & watching FREE educational podcasts available on the iTMS. We’ve lived in the dark ages with a microsoft monopoly and it’s time they stop trying to decide what’s best for us…

    purplerodriguez had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Regarding Sim066 comments on surveys, research has come a long way. It’s generally accurate to within a few percentage points.

    They probably didn’t ask people if they downloaded music illegally. Asking where users download from or asking of they use free sites would get different answers than asking about illegal downloads.

    Here’s another interesting quote by Ballmer in the same article linked above: “My 12-year-old at home doesn’t want to hear that he can’t put all the music that he wants in all of the places that he would like it,” he joked. He said that while criticizing iPod’s DRM.

    I wonder how satisfied his son is with MS DRM.

    Janet Meyer had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 36
  • Is no one aware of the fact that Apple HAS in fact capitulated to the music industry by installing restrictive DRM?  In fact, the usual gang of Apple apologists has defended Apple’s DRM precisely for the reason that they had “no choice.”

    MS has gone one step further by paying a kickback, but it is only one step.  They are ALL culpable in this.  To exonerate Apple is to ignore reality and help prop up the very cartel you’re supposedly railing against.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • I don’t think it’s legal in the UK to rip your own CDs onto your own iPod. I think the law thinks you have a CD at the discretion of the record company/artist. Whilst you’ve paid for it, they can still say what you are and aren’t allowed to do with it.

    And what on earth is ‘restrictive’ about Apple’s DRM? Buy from iTunes, copy to CD, put back in computer, hello mp3s that’ll play on just about anything.

    And if Apple was ‘propping them up’, why would the record companies be trying to shoot themselves in the foot by squealing about wanting a better deal from iTunes? Apple has brought them kicking and screaming into the 21st C, and they still think it’s the mid ‘70’s.

    Species 8472 had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 5
  • Whether they like it or not, these big music companies are eventually going to have to realize that they’re either going to have to change to meet market demands or they’re going to be out of business in another few years.

    The market demand is what is going to drive the future of this business, not their pathetic attempts to control technology.

    I don’t resent being called a thief, I just think these guys are either stupid or so blind to reality that they make these asinine comments. I own over 800 CD’s, most of which are loaded on my iPod. I’ve bought music through iTMS and it’s on my iPod.

    The only thieves here seem to be Microsoft and Universal - they’re stealing from the legitimate users. Like so many others have said, this just gives Zune users justification to go and steal Universal music - after all, they’ve already paid to do so.

    If Apple sticks to its guns, the day may come when I won’t buy anything from any other company. Let’s see, so far Microsoft, Universal and Sony are on my blacklist… who’s next?

    blastfurnace had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 2
  • And what on earth is ‘restrictive’ about Apple’s DRM?

    I guess it’s so dark up there up Steve Jobs’s ass, that you guys can’t see how hypocritical and absurd it is to attack MS for DRM but defend Apple.

    If forcing you to burn a CD to remove the DRM is SOOOOOOOO easy and unrestrictive, then why the bitching and moaning over Microsoft?  They are virtually identical in terms of use and price.

    And if the DRM serves no purpose, then why do you suppose it’s there in the first place?

    The ONLY difference here (and only with the Zune) is that MS is paying Universal a kickback, a fee that does not directly affect consumers in any way.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • The only thieves here seem to be Microsoft and Universal - they’re stealing from the legitimate users.

    Speaking of asinine comments. 

    Universal is stealing from MS, not legitimate users (in the sense that MS has agreed to pay them a fee they don’t deserves).  MS is not stealing from legitimate users at all.  The Zune would cost $249 regardless.  So MS is in essence stealing from its own bottom line by capitulating.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Beeblebrox,
    You can choose not to use the iTunes DRM by not purchasing tracks from Apple.

    You can not choose to not pay the Universal “Zune tax”, even if you don’t buy a single Universal track or don’t pirate a single song.

    There is a big difference and the point is not asinine. But then, you’ve never been about to refute a debate point without hurling insults.

    It may mean Apple is pressured to rework its own deals. MS is pulling exactly the type of anti-consumer crap you constantly rail against, and yet you are defending them.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 243
  • You can not choose to not pay the Universal “Zune tax”, even if you don’t buy a single Universal track or don’t pirate a single song.

    Again, YOU are not paying the Zune tax.  MS pays it.  The argument that MS is stealing from consumers in this case is retarded.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Two things:
    1 - I download both legally and illegally. However, the “illegal” music I download is a sort of copy of the music I buy on vinyl. Yes, vinyl is my choice of audio format and as far as I know, it’s legal to have back-up copies of your music.

    2 - Apple’s DRM seems only to be in place to please the Music companies as we all see just how bloody easy it is to get around their DRM.
    M$... their story is up for debate. I don’t want to get into it. Yet, their Zune Marketplace pricing and Zune Points system… is fucking retarded.

    Dudeguy had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 20
  • Apple’s DRM seems only to be in place to please the Music companies

    Wouldn’t that be the very definition of capitulation? 

    Of course, they also gain from it in that they have refused to license it to others, which the music industry does not require them to do.

    M$... their story is up for debate.

    Why?  In terms of DRM, they are exactly the same as Apple, no better or worse - although they do offer the option of a subscription service which Apple does not.  And with PFS, you could choose from more than one store or player.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Here’s a theory, and I have nothing to back it up:

    Microsoft is giving Universal and other music companies this kick back on a per unit basis so that they can get a larger percentage of the subscription fee to themselves.  I mean, think about it here: you pay however much a month and are able to legally download and listen to whatever music you want.  On a 30 GB mp3 player. 

    You might say that this is too similar to the relaunched Napster and is thus doomed to fail, but we’re talking about Microsoft here, a company willing to spend millions of dollars to buy their way into a marketplace.  Obviously they’re in it for the long haul.

    While this isn’t enough to truly interest me, if they included television shows into that subscription fee so that I can download all of those NBC Universal hit tv shows legally at no extra cost, then I’d be very interested indeed. 

    That is, if I had money.

    Chicken2nite had this to say on Nov 15, 2006 Posts: 79
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