Q: In your recent discussion of Sony's ham-fisted copy-protection scheme (Q&A, Nov. 19), you made it sound like artists might have some...

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Q: In your recent discussion of Sony’s ham-fisted copy-protection scheme (Q&A, Nov. 19), you made it sound like artists might have some responsibility for the copy-protection schemes record companies are experimenting with.

As I understand it, the artists do not control what form of copy protection (if any) is applied to their CDs. Most are horrified at this, and are in fact losing badly on the sales front. Sony is not doing this to protect the artists; it is doing this to protect its profits. The fact that Sony has put such Draconian software on any customer’s computer has nothing to do with artists’ interests. It has to do with corporate arrogance, greed and stupidity.

The bottom line for artists is that I will be buying a lot fewer CDs in the future, knowing that any I put in my computer may cost me two days to reformat and restore my hard drive. I don’t have time to study every CD before purchase to understand its potential for creating havoc of one kind or another on my system.

— Jeff Buttel

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A: I certainly didn’t mean to imply that artists have anything directly to do with the copy-protection scheme. But they do stand to lose from unauthorized copying of their works.

I guess what it comes down to is this: We all make agreements. The artists agree to certain things when they sign with the record company. The record company, likewise, agrees to certain things with the artist.

There’s also an agreement between the consumer and the record company when a CD is purchased. The CD is covered by U.S. copyright laws. Those laws are currently interpreted as allowing consumers to make copies of copyright works for their personal use.

The snag, of course, is that if you can copy a CD to your computer for personal use you can also distribute it to others, which is a violation of the copyright laws. You’re absolutely right, I believe, that Sony is trying to implement copy protection to protect its profits, which also protects the artists’ profits. That’s implicit in the deal between the artist and the record company.

The copy-protection schemes are an attempt by the companies to force consumers to obey the law. Do the companies have the right to prevent their copyright products from being copied? Yes. Do consumers have the right to decline to buy those products? Sure.

The issue you raise about how this might play out in the market is a good one. You and others may leave the market by declining to buy CDs. Do the recording companies relent in the face of that? Or do they decide they can’t make enough profits with widespread copying and abandon the market?

The bottom line is that two very uncool behaviors have been going on. First, it’s definitely uncool — and illegal — for a consumer to agree to the deal and then cheat on it.

Second, it’s uncool — and possibly illegal — for recording companies to surreptitiously implant files on your computer that can make your computer more vulnerable to hackers.

Q: It appears that I did something recently to cause all my JPG files to automatically use QuickTime Player to display the pictures. I really prefer to use Windows Fax & Picture Viewer or to have a choice. Can you tell me how to reset my default viewer?

— George Wipperfurth

A: Assuming you’re using a recent version of Windows, go to Windows Explorer and click on the Tools menu, then select Folder Options. In the dialog box that pops up, click on the File Types tab. Next, scroll down until you see the JPG file entry. The dialog box will show you what program is associated with that file type and if you click the Change button you can select a different program. The next time you double-click on a JPG file it will automatically be loaded in the program you selected.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.