There seems to be a lot of talk about the “death of DRM” or digital rights. You know, that technology that only lets you play songs bought from certain stores on certain devices? Over the past couple of weeks, technology sites are writing articles talking about the possible removal of digital rights management software and how the major record labels are looking at selling non-DRMed music tracks. The reason for this line of thinking, has a lot to do with an essay written by Appleâ€™s own Steve Jobs.
The article by Mr. Jobs, takes a serious look at the digital media download business. Steve looks at where they have been, where we are at now, and what the future should be. He makes two major points that people have been focusing on a great deal and those points are:
DRM greatly prohibits widespread adoption of digital media downloads
Only through the death of DRM will these industries see growth in consumer purchases of digital downloads
How true are those points? Probably very. The problem is that the industries in question do not wish to see DRM disappear. The companies involved simply look at these purchases as secondary income. This is a way for them to sell another version of a product you might have already purchased. Think about it. Have you heard of music CDs coming with a data side on the disc that includes digital versions of the songs on the album you just bought? Or how about purchasing a DVD that comes with another DVD that includes digital versions of the movie. You have not seen this because, if the companies did that, you are forced to purchase a digital version from iTunes or even Wal-Mart that you can place on your portable media device. This is all about income. The recording industry is working very hard to make sure that ripping your purchased CDs to your Mp3 player is viewed as an illegal, finable activity. The movie industry has already had a win, when a court ruling said that ripping DVDs for personal use is a violation of the DMCA.
Will the removal of DRM greatly increase the digital downloads market? If reading the comments on websites like Slashdot or Digg are any kind of gauge, then most definitely. The geeks hate DRM and go out of their way to avoid it. They will purposefully download their CDs and movies rather than go buy the product in a digital download store. Fair use is king in these peopleâ€™s court and they will do whatever it takes to exercise that right. So, when a top geek like Steve Jobs announces that he wishes for the music industry to move away from DRM and towards open tracks that can be played on any player or computer, some see this as the beginning of the end for DRM.
Will Steveâ€™s essay truly single the end of DRM? Probably not, the music industry has put so much time and money into these kinds of technology, that to just flat out abandon them is a waste of time and money to them. Plus to have DRM-free songs just floating on peopleâ€™s computers is, to them, an invitation to piracy. While I think that Steve Jobâ€™s essay is going to make some people stop and think, I do not see it drastically changing the direction we are headed with digital downloads.
Steve might have the right idea but I really do not foresee much coming to fruition from it.