Record companies will probably get the current standard CD to disappear over the next decade in favor of a new format that makes digital copying impossible without much hassle/hacking by the end user. But that won’t stop the trade of MP3s, or whatever successor format consumers choose. The ability to copy music once it reaches the analog stage in your stereo or PC will always exist. And that output can be stored digitally. At its most rudimentary this can involve connecting your stereo’s AUX or headphone jack to your PC’s microphone port. More sophisticated is software like TotalRecorder, which captures music on your PC from CDs, Internet radio or just about any other source, intercepting the signal as it heads out of your sound card and to your speakers.
The songs will lose a little something (and I do mean little; so small that most of us won’t notice) in this process. But those tunes can then be emailed, downloaded or physically swapped. And heck, I’ve heard MP3s that were recorded off the radio that were still plenty good to enjoy.
Conclusion: Consumers don’t need to freak out. And neither should the RIAA. If people want the best fidelity, they’ll have to shell out money for a genuine disc. If they’re willing to put up with nearly-digital quality, they can still file swap, and there’s not a thing anyone can do about it.