Feb 7 2007

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Jeffrey Larson

I recently read (Apple CEO) Steve Job’s writing “Thoughts on Music”. (http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/)

DRM is killing music

Now, I’ve had conversations about this kind of stuff with people before. If you were one of the people that I’ve talked to about this, you’ll know that I don’t like the idea nor the current industry implementations of DRM. I’m actually a little proud that I have not bought any music that has DRM attached to it.

Big debate out there on this, but my thought is that DRM does not do what it was created to do.

To quote about.com: “The purpose of DRM is to offer legal downloads to consumers while protecting the rights of the copyright owner. The controls placed on digital music by DRM is intended to prevent the free distribution of a file over the internet without compensation to the artist.”

But the purpose of today’s implementations of DRM as Ken Fisher says here does not match the originial purpose of DRM: “DRM’s sole purpose is to maximize revenues by minimizing your rights so that they can sell them back to you.”

I will continue to purchase music that is distributed on CDs, so that I don’t have to buy back my rights that have been minimized to maximize revenues. At least then I can play my music on any player I want, whenever I want, and for how ever long I want. After all, I did buy the CD.

I’d also like to say that I like most of what Steve Job’s had to say in this article. I really like how he suggests the removal of the requirement for DRM on music from the major labels, would be a benefit for all. However, I think he is wrong when he talks about the argument of being locked into a specific company by DRM.

“Some have argued that once a consumer purchases a body of music from one of the proprietary music stores, they are forever locked into only using music players from that one company. Or, if they buy a specific player, they are locked into buying music only from that company’s music store. Is this true?”

It is true.
If I buy music from the iTunes online store, it WILL NOT play on any other player but iPods.
If I buy music from Sony’s online store, it WILL NOT play on an iPod.
The argument that the majority of the average persons music library is free of DRM fails to address this “locked in” issue. He is implying that when a purchaser goes and buys an iPod or other device, they start their music collection/library at that moment. They fill their iPod with only newly purchased music… no! All people (well most) who buy iPods already own a music library, whether that be mp3s on a computer from ripped CDs or otherwise. So, buying an iPod, or a PDA that has a digital music player, or another device, does not lock you in. It’s purchasing music with DRM on it, that locks you in.

There is obviously a lot to say here, but I’ll leave it at that for now.