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Computer Musician


The ins and outs of copyright protection.

The Four Digital Commandments:
Thou shalt not commit adultery with other people's software.
Thou shalt not covet thy American neighbour's machine code routines.
Thou shalt not bear false witness to copyright details.
Thou shalt not raise false effigies in place of the real McCoy.

So, just where does CM stand with regard to the vexed question of piracy on the micro seas? In the past, I've made no bones of my support for the cheap Apple lookalikes that occasionally make it through Apple UK's picket line, but that surely makes me something of a hypocrite if I do the about turn and tear a company that's ripping off software to shreds. Well, yes and no. The point about the Apple II is that its age hasn't mellowed its price or Apple's stance on licensing their software, and that's a little galling when you consider that Apple went on to bigger and better micros many moons ago.

Bearing in mind that the Apple II is now obsolete (replaced, as far as Apple are concerned, by the IIe), but still enjoying the largest amount of software for any home computer, the time is ripe for making cheap versions of the most popular micro ever. Unfortunately, Apple Inc. don't see it that way. That's a touch ironical because, in this case, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and these lookalikes are bought for the simple reason that they're Apples in all but name.

There's no pretence here about producing a machine that's new and original - these are copies and everyone knows it. And if people get on with these machines, then that's to Apple's benefit in the long term, because the same people will doubtless be inclined to look fairly favourably on Apple's products in the future and purchase vast amounts of software that ultimately puts yet more dollars back in Apple's Cupertino coffers.

The problem with software is that it's a lot easier to disguise the original parentage of the routines required for getting Hobbits into holes than it is to put an Apple lookalike motherboard in a 100% convincing disguise. As a result, a state of paranoia over copy protection now exists in the software industry, such that some companies are attempting to limit what you can do with software in the privacy of your own home.

My own stand on the software that I write and sell is to sell it for as little as is commercially feasible and leave off copy protection if I possibly can. The argument for this approach is much akin to that being voiced in the record industry: make the items cheap enough and people will be quite happy to forego illicit copying for the sake of having an original that can always be sold in the future.

Unfortunately, aside from a very small number of companies both here and in the States, the general attitude is 'copy-protection or bust', so that companies are wasting vast amounts of time and money on developing dongle devices, and individuals are being obliged to fork out for the latest and best copying programs.

What makes a right mockery of all this is that Acorn wax lyrical in their manual for the BBC Micro 2nd Processor about how the extra RAM can be used like sideways RAM for copying programs from ROM to disk. A question of the leg not knowing quite what the arm's doing, I'd say.

Curiously, amidst all this software copyright hoohah, there's still one rather small area that's remained untouched: the question of what happens to copyright when you encode a musical score into a digital format. As things stand, neither the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) nor the Performing Rights Society (PRS) know quite what to do here. Putting the data through a digital-to-analogue converter certainly wouldn't re-create the sound of the score, so this definitely doesn't fit into the territory occupied by compact discs et al.

On the other hand, encoding a score could be classed as an act of arrangement or recomposition, so it's hardly clear who's going to benefit in this direction, either.

What all this boils down to is that there's nothing to stop any Tom, Dick, or Harry from making arrangements of any tune, in or out of copyright, encoding all the pitch and duration bytes onto disk or cassette, and then flogging them to any other Tom, Dick, or Harry to play on his MIDI-equipped micro and synthesiser set-up.

That's what you call food for thought!

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Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Electronics & Music Maker - Jul 1984

Computer Musician



Editorial by David Ellis

Previous article in this issue:

> Patchwork

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> Rumblings

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