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The half truths about Digital Rights Management (DRM) and your iPod

March 6th, 2007 · 2 Comments ·

The purpose of DRM supposedly is to protect the property rights held by artists and others (e.g., music or movie industry). DRM refers to a group of technological measures designed to prevent certain types of content uses.

Because Steve Jobs (Apple) blogged about DRM, it started a whole stream of news regarding the technology and its effects upon business

Below we list some halft truths and complete lies about DRM and how it benefits consumers.

1- DRM is about letting people do things.

DRM does not grant people any rights they would not otherwise have. However, it is about preventing people from doing things the property rights’ owner does not want them to do.

2 – DRM is a good solution, it works just fine.

According to the recording and motion picture industries, they are losing money to unpaid distribution at a higher rate than ever before.

Either DRM is not working or its proponents are maybe lying or do not want to know that the technology is failing them?

3 – DRM helps prevent the illegal sharing of content_

The Internet facilitates ready sharing of content, often at no cost. According to the content industries, this is a direct cause of reduced record sales.

Name one song, movie or software title that is DRM infected that has not found it’s way onto the internet within a few days after having been released. There are none or maybe one?

While DRM may have prevented some ready sharing, it has far from stopped it. Hence, it is an ajbect and total failure and will continue to be.

4 – DRM will help subscription services take off in Europe

European consumers have only shown significant interest in AGGREGATED subscription services (e.g., cable TV). Single entertainment services have historically only been able to achieve niche penetration levels — generally only single digit penetration.

DRM is unlikely to move the single digit penetration of subscription services, such as Rapsody up into double digits.

5 – DRM will increase electronic distribution of content

The company that makes DRM systems thgat stop you from hooking up your VCR and your DVD player in series, etc., Macrovision, sent an open letter to Steve Jobs claiming that DRM ‘will increase electronic distribution’

We are unclear how this could work considering that the majority of digitally distributed works online were distributed in spite of DRM, or from works with no DRM — scanned books, ripped music, digitized vinyl and film, and so on.

6 – DRM will become interoperable making sharing between different formats (e.g., MP3 and others) easier

An interoperable DRM would be a bad idea because it would destroy the large players’ eco-system. Be making it hard to share content between an iPod and other devices, the user stays locked in, in turn, allowing Apple to make a cent or two more in revenues.

Hence, manufacturer A can prevent B and C from invading one’s garden thereby forcing A to do things that might benefit the user. An example would be in making it easier to share music titles across devices using various formats


DRM has little if anything to do with protecting content. It simply protects the rights of the copyright holder. Unfortunately, while it fails to protect it surely is making some content and its use less user-friendly for all of us.

Copyright infringement becomes theft, the latter becomes piracy. Accordingly, some have suggested that what is a petty nuisance, becomes transformed into an impending social catastrophe. However, unless content owners can proove that digital piracy in fact means that they are suffering tremendously from the phenomenon, it remains a claim. And no, just stating that thousands of people have downloaded copies illegally does not substantiate the claim.

People have been ‘downloading’ books without paying copyright fees for quite some time. Remember when you visited your local library checking out another set of novels to read over the weekend. Every time we lend or borrow a book from a friend or purchased a used copy of a book, no copyright fees changed hands beyond the original payment when the library or your friend bought the book.

Until now we have considered this fair use and authors and publishers managed to make a living despite all of this activity. It also helped spread the word about their ‘product’ and, in turn, encouraged others to read the book…. increasing demand…

But DRM is trying to change all that. It probably will fail, the sooner everybody agrees and we move on the better.


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