We’ve been pretty hard on Zune here, noting several issues before it has even launched.. Nevertheless, I had still toyed with buying one, just to review it. It only seemed fair to maybe give it a try. I mean, after surviving the Prism DuroSport 6000, how bad could it be? But forget all of that, because I read something last night that ensures that I will never ever buy one. Microsoft is giving a percentage of the money from sales of Zune to Universal Music.
Ah yes, the latest representation of an an incredibly anti-consumer trend: the Sin Tax on a consumer device.
Don’t believe me? Check out this quote from Universal Music Group Chairman and CEO Doug Morris:
“The only factor was that we feel that there’s a great deal of music that’s (stored) on these devices that was never legitimately obtained, and we wanted to get some sort of compensation for what we thought we’re losing,” Morris said. “I want our artists to be paid for the music that makes these devices popular.”
These days, when a record company cries about “The Artists!” it just reminds me of those right-wing censorship groups like Focus on the Family who always scream “The Children! What About The Children!?!” It’s the dishonest use of an above reproach third-party in order to advance their own cause.
Let’s ignore the decades of artificially high LP and CD prices, and let’s forget the fact that the percentage that the artists are supposedly going to get paid will be miniscule at best, and look at the unbelieveably arrogant logic behind this statement. Basically, what Mr. Morris is saying is this:
- Every single person who buys a portable media player is a thief and a pirate.
- All music comes from Universal.
- Therefore, you should pay extra for any device you use to store music, you fracking thief.
It’s a Sin Tax, pure and simple. Since Microsoft has no doubt baked this fee into the list price of the Zune, you the consumer are paying more for the Zune because you might — MIGHT! — use it for a purpose that Universal feels is piracy. Which might even include ripping and storing music that you’d previously purchased from them. Over and over again. Like that Complete U2 that I downloaded from iTunes and immediately burned to disc and ripped into mp3z.
What’s next? TiVo paying NBC because I might fast-forward through the commercials on The Office? Sirus paying the record companies because some little kid might record something from one of their portable players? Oh wait, that one already happened. Because some people think that kids recording songs off of the radio is piracy, and needs to be guarded against at all costs.
As a consumer, I’m going to think twice about purchasing any product where I’m paying extra for it just because some content provider thinks I might use it in a way that will deprive them of a revenue stream.
In the case of Zune, the only way that it is fair for the consumer is if all Zune users get free Universal Music forever from the Microsoft music store.
Otherwise, it’s essentially extortion. Apparently Microsoft caved to the extortion because otherwise they would have been missing Universal content when Zune launched, but it’s a bad precedent. Boo to Microsoft for bowing down to the extortion instead of fighting it. Shame on Universal Music for hating on us consumers — who have been buying your overpriced products for our entire lives — so much once again.
I may never have bought a Zune anyway, but this is the tipping point, now I know for absolutely sure why I will never buy one. Period.