Why Can't Today's Media Be as Easy to Play as a CD?

Want to stop people from pirating music, movies and TV shows? Make them as easy to play as a compact disc

My Verizon iPhone 4 is a dream.

Transferring my old content to it, however, is a nightmare.

The phone won't synch with an old Intel-based Mac that has a bunch of my music. My old PC doesn't even know the iPhone is attached and its internet connection is shot, so I'm laboriously transferring my MP3s with a thumb drive to my new laptop.

Let's not even talk about transferring the AAC tracks (Apple's preferred codec); every time I try, iTunes threatens to wipe away everything I've transferred so far.

When I considered using an illegal file sharing program to download songs I had already bought, I had an epiphany. No wonder people rip this stuff off.

Remember CDs? Their biggest selling point is how easy they are. Stick them in a CD player — any CD player — and press a button.

That's about how easy it is when you illegally download something. Until we get to that point with music, films and other content, people won't change their ways.

What's annoying is that we already have a solution. It's called the Cloud.

I read the same books on my computer, my Kindle and my phone because Amazon synchs it all for me — and if my Kindle goes dead, I still own the content.

Netflix lets me pause a show on TV, pick it up on my computer and finish it on my iPhone.

Last I checked, Amazon and Netflix were doing a hell of a lot better than the labels.

And the studios, which are already watching their DVD sales plummet, are about to relive the music industry's pain.

The best solution, it seems to me, is to allow users to pay a single price to synch their music and movies across multiple devices. Some consumers will want to own the content; others will be content to subscribe.

But as long as people hold on to the tired idea that you protect content by restricting it to a piece of hardware or media, only a minority of people are going to use legal outlets.

Apple has long tried to get that idea through Hollywood's collective head, and perhaps it's finally making headway.

Bloomberg reported last week that Apple is negotiating with music giants like Universal, Sony and  Warner Bros. to provide a permanent backup of their music in case the original is lost or damaged, and the ability to download music across multiple devices.

Here's hoping Hollywood finally gets the message.

(For Apple's possible plans to move to Cloud iTunes, please see my previous blog, "All Hail iPhone 5.")