Douwe Osinga's Blog: Copying CDs and open standards

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Copying CDs and open standards

Somebody throwing a party had asked us whether we couldn't put some of our music on CDs to play at the party. Should be legal, right? As long as I own the songs and take the CDs back home. We agreed and used Easy CD to create a number of CDs, at least we tried. The actual burning failed. The song blabla is less than four seconds long the program kept saying.

So, there we had 5 CDs worth of songs in an undocumented format. Copying the stuff to a laptop and trying somewhere else wouldn't have worked, unless the absolute paths of the songs would remain the same. Getting a different burning program (if that was the problem) wouldn't help either, because of lacking import features.

You could hack around with a python program, extracting the data and while this would not have been that hard, in the end we settled for copying the mp3s to a laptop and taking a cable to connect to the parties stereo. Worked like a charm and maybe this should have been our primary choice to begin with, but if Easy CD would have stored their playlists in some kind of widely used XML format, this would never have happened.

And that's the thing. Markets take a long time to settle on true standards and if they do, often somekind of cartels are the cause. For things like office documents on the long run the importance of standards might convince companies like Microsoft to settle for a standard, just because the need of the customers is so big (though MS won't go willing). But for the smaller apps, I don't see this happening. Maybe a new version of Easy CD will store playlists as XML, but only because it sounds cool.

What we need is an institute that approves of standards being used in a specific situation, saying, for this application the chosen standard is the best, acceptable or bad and then some widely recognized symbol: Standard approved. Maybe the EU could play a part here.