Monday, January 22, 2007

Life should have a soundtrack, preferably without the DRM

While DRM is generally held in contempt, people get most upset about DRM protected music. Luckily, it looks like things might be changing on that front.

Michael Arrington of Techcrunch recently suggested that Digital Rights Management (DRM) is on death's door. His post only discusses the demise of DRM for songs, but points to larger DRM trends. Arrington asserts that the dominance of Apple's Itunes service (with its Fairplay DRM) and consumer resistance to other forms of DRM will spell the demise of copy protection as we know it. While Arrington's objections to DRM are mild compared to Cory Doctorow's more fundamental objection that DRM is inherently unworkable, his comments illustrate that DRM is at a crossroads.

This recent article suggests that in the next year or two that the recording industry may abandon its model of DRM protected music and move towards a new marketing model. It's about time.

Frank Pasquale has described the stupidity of the music industry's recent rigidness on re-thinking its economic model as the music industry cutting off its own nose despite its face. While I don't support the music tax model that Pasquale supports, the music industry obviously needs to reassess its marketing model and stop suing file-sharers, this does not endear them to anyone except their counsel. |Concurring Opinions|

At the recent International Consumer Electronics Show (ICES), a panel debated the future of DRM and the role different stakeholders should play.

Pundits on various sides of the [DRM] debate weighed in on where the future of DRM is headed, agreeing that the issue that has plagued music downloads will get even more complicated now that digital downloads have moved beyond music to television and films, both of which have their own set of complexities.

The two companies setting the tone for DRM are those who have been most successful at selling and marketing multimedia digital content--Microsoft and Apple Computer....[Apple] may have to revise [its DRM] policy if it wants to be successful in the digital home, where it will likely have to interact with Microsoft-compatible consumer products such as the Xbox 360 game console, IPTV services and Windows Media Center PCs, said Jim Ramo, chief executive officer of movie download service Movielink....

Apple and Microsoft may have to shake hands over DRM and allow their devices to interoperate. But it's not something the two can do without the blessing of content providers, who are ultimately steering DRM's direction, said Blake Krikorian, chief executive officer of Sling Media. "Part of the responsibility of content holders when they’re [in] negotiation with companies like Apple [is] to focus them to be more open," he said.|CPI|
DRM Watch suggests that copy protection for compact discs may well die out due to the litigation surrounding the Sony rootkit fiasco and continued consumer resistance. The expansion of exceptions to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) for circumventing DRM and legislation passed by the French government last year (Loi sur le Droit d'Auteur et les Droits Voisins dans la Société de l'Information or simply DADVSI) |Francais| are pressuring media companies to make their DRM standards interoperable with third party software and hardware.

There is some evidence that Apple will change course in the face of these recent developments and license its Fairplay DRM to partners which will increase the interoperability of third party software with Itunes content and ultimately advance the interests of consumers.

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