DRM Going Away? Don't Hold Your Breath

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on May 17, 2007

Amazon’s announcement of a digital rights management-free music store is another step in the demise of DRM. Still, the crumbling of content protection is looking more like the long, slow decline of the roman empire than the abrupt collapse of communism.

Since EMI and Apple announced in early April that the iTunes music store would give customers the option of downloading EMI’s digital catalog without DRM, none of the other three major studios has given any indication that it would go along. No major movie studio—including Disney, where Apple CEO Steve Jobs is the largest shareholder—has indicated any inclination to ease up on DRM. And the Justice Dept. has teamed up with the Recording Industry Assn. of America in support of legislation that would impose drastic new penalties on efforts to defeat DRM.

Should sales of DRM-free music prove wildly popular at iTunes and Amazon, the pressure would mount on other record companies and studios to follow EMI’s lead. But I’m not betting on it. Don’t look for DRM to go gently.

Reader Comments

dg

May 17, 2007 2:19 PM

It's interesting the way the whole model eventually will have to change in some way. Seems like the loudest voices are the extremes though - big bad record companies looking to squeeze consumers dry and the very vocal who think music should be free.

I would not mind seeing the end of ultra rich record execs and rock stars, but I do think they still deserve to eat.

Steve S

May 17, 2007 6:09 PM

However, there are a growing number of legal business' springing up that are gearing up to offer DRM Free music. Take Grooveshark or We7 for example. Both of these businesses are selling DRM free music, compensating the labels and aggregating a lot of content.

Claude Gelinas

May 17, 2007 6:36 PM

The DRM rules and the spirit behing those burdensome "content protection" measures has enough nasty legal verbiage to scare anybody, even those who actually follow the rules.

I was one of them, going to HMV to buy my favorite CDs until the day I couldn't copy them freely into my computer (so I could easily listen to my music when working).

Needless to say I've decided to vote with my wallet by ending my CDs purchases altogether.

Now, I only send money through PayPal to indie artists who, amazingly, produce awesome music I wouldn't have discovered if it wasn't for the DRM, in the first place.

These low-budget indie artists use no DRM-like protection for their content so I can easily listen to their songs on my computer, no more "transfer" problems for me!

Marcos

May 19, 2007 8:32 PM

Claude's experience points out the direction this is all going. The Entertainment Business (the Biz) is mortally wounded by digital technology. The no longer control the artist, the production, the marketing, or the distribution of cultural products. The internets and cheap computer based creative tools has negated the need for people in the Biz to be cultural gatekeepers collecting tolls, if any such need ever existed. At any rate, the ability for a corporate oligarchy enforce the gate has been destroyed.

It's an exciting time to be a creator of culture, whether one's creations are music, movies, writing, visual art, etc. Because of the internet (and because of the relative cheapness of content creation), any of us can be artists and potentially reach millions. Granted, most of us don't have that sort of talent, but if one in a thousand of us does, we will have (and do have) an amazing amount of cultural products to which we can look forward.

Todd

May 19, 2007 10:16 PM

There's no question that if the "illegal" formats are easier to use than the "legal" alternative, people will prefer the "illegal" format. Especially if the "illegal" version is free.

Some articles make me think the RIAA is finally starting to get it, articles like this one show that maybe they aren't.

broodlinger

May 20, 2007 12:44 AM

Even if DRM doesn't go easily, this battle has happened before. In the 1980's, software companies tried to protect games and applications with "copy protection." Not only was it easily hacked, but courts ruled that users had a right to backup their own disks.

Thus, the current DRM controversy seems like more of the same. No customer likes to pay $$$ for a crippled product.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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