I bought a CD, not a licensing agreement

Below is a letter from the Sydney Morning Herald that raises an interesting argument about the gray area that the products of the music industry occupy:

It is sad but predictable to see John Prior trotting out the old fallacy about music that we buy a product encumbered with a licence.

Let us walk through my most recent purchase. I strolled into the store, located the CD I was after, paid for it in cash and left. At no stage was I asked to sign a licensing agreement like those for software. It was a simple transaction of cash for a physical product.

"No," cries the music industry, "you are bound by the licensing agreement that you did not sign and that we cannot produce for inspection."

Fine -- let's suppose I now have a license for personal use applying to all the CDs I own. I should be able to take advantage of that. A CD I bought 10 years ago now has a scratch down the middle so that five of the 10 songs refuse to play. Luckily for me, this problem is solely with the physical medium. After all, my licence for personal use should allow me to reacquire "my" content, especially since it is digital data and can be reproduced an unlimited number of times at virtually no cost.

"No," cries the music industry, "you bought a product, not a licence. You are not entitled to a free replacement, you need to buy it all over again. And when you do, you will be covered by another identical licence. Until something happens to this new physical medium."

David Jack, Leichhardt