The DRM-Free bandwagon

Nowadays in the media industry, it is hip to be DRM Free. Witness the iTunes agreement and the Amazon announcement. What’s not to like – its a very “rising up against the man” thing to do and you get a lot of adoration from the masses to be sure…

Well as a consumer I think this is great but I also don’t think it’s the future and here is why I think that –
Mp3 as a format in my opinion is showing its age. To get lossless quality audio, mp3 files have to get pretty darn big. There are plenty of new and better formats out there both with and without DRM that do a better job compression and have better audio characteristics. Right now, this may matter only to audiophiles but they are still a proportion of the market which typically buy a lot of music. Based on this I believe that physical media is still going to be around for awhile but I also believe they need to undergo a price and quality adjustment.

Content itself is morphing – its no longer just music – its music videos, podcasts, video blogs, games, HD-DVD. All these content formats are typically longer and bigger than 5 – 10 minutes (the average length of a song) . They also have features that are not supported by mp3, so you are going to have to use new formats anyway. Downloading these files directly over the browser is going to suck for everyone except for those that have big broadband connections.

Both the iTunes and the Amazon announcements have talked about making unencumbered music available for sale. They have however not mentioned anything about the fact that this music is going to be bought and then shared over the internet. I might have missed the portion where they talk about using digital watermarking and if I did – someone please correct me. This does not address the fact that with todays technology it is really easy for someone to share a file indiscriminately with anyone and everyone on the internet.

I for one think digital watermarking should be used and advertised if nothing else as a deterrent. A digital watermark may not prevent me from sharing some of the songs I buy with my friend so he can hear a new artist but it would make me think before I shared it over a P2P network to the rest of the world since the file could be traced back to me. Of course the argument could be made that my friend could share it but if everyone knew the risk then they would share it only to friends they trusted not to do that :-)

References :-
Techcrunch http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/05/16/another-break-in-the-wall-amazoncom-to-sell-drm-free-music/

Download Squad http://www.downloadsquad.com/2007/05/16/amazon-announce-drm-free-digital-music-store/

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One comment on “The DRM-Free bandwagon

  1. MP3 is indeed showing its age, but that’s unrelated to DRM vs. no DRM — I believe that Apple is offering the non-DRM files in AAC still (though I could be wrong on that), which is a superior format to MP3. This would also make sense because iPods are the only portable players that support even DRM-free AAC files; offering in MP3 format would be shooting themselves in the foot.

    As to download sizes, I think that as the content people wants becomes bigger and bigger, so will the bandwidth pipes.

    I’m a big fan of watermarking over DRM. Either can be removed, but DRM tends to be a pain to deal with as a consumer — is my player PlaysForSure certified? If I want to look at my DRM-encrypted PDF file on my laptop, I’ve got to sign online and authorize that computer to be able to load the file first; and so forth. Watermarking, when done properly, is unobtrusive, and still discourages file sharing. Some people actually like that we watermark their PDFs on DriveThruRPG.com with their names, and have likened it to writing your name in an RPG so that you know that copy is yours.

    Ideally, if there could be some form of DRM that seamlessly allowed for all forms of fair use (freely swapping files between your own computers, listening to music on any of your devices, backing up your movies, etc.), that was also uncrackable and prevented people from breaking copyright laws, then I’d be all for it. But I don’t see that happening any time in the next 10 years at least.

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