A couple of weeks back I talked about the advantages of iTunes going DRM-Free and why this was important for the whole realm of online media distribution. It has been brought to our attention that these DRM-Free files that you purchase from the iTunes store have your personal information in them, thus watermarking them to know who they were sold to.
There is much debate over on Slashdot about whether or not this is "okay" or not. I have discussed the idea of watermarking digital files on this blog in the past, but for those that missed it, I’ll quickly rehash my basic thoughts here. I’m for watermarking digitally purchased files with the username and/or email address of the purchaser if it means that content creators will move towards more DRM-Free solutions for consumers.
While most of the more intelligent people on Slashdot are also in favor of this line of thinking you’ll find others that are not so receptive. And I have to ask, why? If you want to purchase content electronically, especially digital media like music and movies, you are going to have to make concessions. Previously it was having to deal with digital rights management on music files. With this idea pretty much gone, there has to be another concession. The content makers do not want their stuff to be easily made available on peer-to-peer sites (ie BitTorrent sites). And with the removal of digital rights it becomes much easier to put those songs up on the internet to share, so there has to be some form of deterrents to stop you from doing so.
This is the tradeoff. If you want to be able to do what you want with the files, then they need to be marked as you having purchased them so that should they show up on the net, the appropriate rights holders can sue the proper offenders. This also cuts back on the random litigation that the RIAA likes so much and instead forces them to go after people that have actually done something wrong as opposed to people the think might have done something wrong.
So, just to reiterate. Digital rights management is bad, watermarking is okay. Sharing files online is bad, period (it’s theft), using proper deterrents to discourage participating is said behavior is okay.