Is DRM doomed?

“The debate over digital rights management (DRM) is coming to a head. On the one hand, efforts to implement technology to prevent the copying of consumer-oriented entertainment is increasingly viewed as ineffective. Indeed, no less an industry figure than Apple CEO Steve Jobs has called for the elimination of DRM. At the same time, content providers continue to search for a magic technical elixir that’ll protect their revenue streams against unauthorized copying,” Thomas Claburn writes for InformationWeek.

Claburn writes, “Still, what with industry leaders such as former Yahoo Music head David Goldberg joining the chorus in support of Jobs’s stance, it’s apparent that the industry may be nearing some kind of inflection point, which could lead to a new approach toward DRM. Clearly, the current tack isn’t working.”

“DRM is supposed to protect revenue streams for content and software companies, but with the exception of Apple, it looks a lot more like a business risk. Ill-conceived DRM has injured or killed plenty of promising technologies and damaged many a corporate reputation,” Claburn writes.

Full article here.

Related articles:
How Apple’s FairPlay DRM works – February 26, 2007
Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ posts rare open letter: ‘Thoughts on Music’ – calls for DRM-free music – February 06, 2007


  1. And this just when Micro$oft has added very significant — a extremely restrictive — DRM to Vista.

    As usual, great timing by the Ballmer and Gates.

    MDN MW: “sound” as in, if you have a high-defn audio CD, no sound comes out of Vista because of M$ DRM disabling the sound out. ROTFLMAO!

  2. Why is it so hard for the music publishers to understand that 90% of the music they sell (namely, CD’s) is already unprotected, already DRM-free? What are they so f**king afraid of?

  3. Can a DRM be developed that is unassailable and uncrackable without being so obnoxiously intrusive that it makes consumers avoid the “defended” product like the plague? Based on past and recent history, no.

  4. alansky: “What are they so f**king afraid of?”

    1) Media companies have full control of CD sales.
    2) CD = Album sales (higher profit for Media companies)
    3) Download business is out of their control. They must depend on third party (Apple, MS or Real).

    Media companies want to minimize the download sales. They know they must appear to support download, but they will be perfectly happy if download business disappear tomorrow. Why Media companies insists on DRM? DRM = less download, more CD sales.

  5. Have to disagree with the sentiment that the media companies want to minimise sales. The fact is that the digital only media world is coming, they know it, they just want it on their terms. Even at the current rate of growth (arguable being restricted by DRM) how long will it until digital sales are greater than physical sales, 2-3 years perhaps?

    People who believe that DRM is likely to be dropped are dreaming. DRM is at the heart of the media companies vision of the future. DRM has never been about piracy, it is about rights management, i.e. licenses to control where and when you can use downloaded content. It is primarily an incremental revenue issue.

    Let’s have a look at what the music companies idea of a future digital purchase is

    Library New release
    Single device download 0.79 1.49
    Double-device download 0.99 1.79
    Unlimited device download 1.29 1.99

    Obviously the figures are made up, but illustrate key principles that media companies are on record supporting, such as multiple price points, and fighting the “fair-use” principle which implies that you can use your purchased content on any of your devices. One could also envisage other more exotic variations, such as limited play downloads, to further segment the market, and possibly requiring the purchase of other tracks tacked onto the most popular tracks. Therefore fundamentally DRM is about the extraction of more revenue from existing users through market segmentation.

    So I repeat, anyone who believes that media companies will drop DRM is dreaming. I don’t believe that Steve thinks this will happen, his statement is merely to deflect the issue away from Apple.

  6. For all those Gullible in believing that the record companies are going want multi-pricing so that they lower pricing on the old and slow sellers:
    WAKE UP!

    Its a lie.
    The music companies have implied but not come out defining what they will do if they get this multiple pricing plan.

    They let the public assume they will reduce pricing. They won’t and those that think they will are fools.

    Go to your local music store to see that they are reducing to the below 17.99 CD price.
    It not everything a reasonable person would think.
    Its just ‘LIMITED’ CD’s. Even old, one hit wonders are at the $19.99 and up prices.
    Even at Walmart (the low price retailer).

    Wake up and smell the coffe, the music companies want to raise not lower pricing.

    Thats why they want consumers to rent their music and not buy/own.

  7. I agree with s and matrix3. The media companies could care less about online purchases of music – they would just prefer that it die and force music purchasers back to the brick and mortar stores to buy those $20 CDs.

    The sure don’t really want you to be able to buy individual songs. If they can’t stop that, they want to either force consumers to buy those songs at the same price as the whole CD. Or they want consumers to rent DRM-laden music files for a monthly fee.

    Once you buy that actual CD, I don’t think they really care what you do with it except make money on digital copies. Their whole business model is focused purely on the “album” or CD and they can’t figure out another business model that will make them the same amount of profit.

  8. Who says “that the digital only media world is coming”?

    I’ve been around long enough to see all kinds of people predicting all kinds of things that the future in my lifetime was going to bring, whether anyone wanted them or not.

    Even when I was half my current age, I’d seen and heard enough to know that the future seldom arrives as predicted. Particularly where absolute predictions are involved.

    The only person I’m aware of, that can verifiably be shown to have predicted anything significant, was General “Billy” Mitchell.

    IMHO, The only certain thing that can be said about the future is that it is uncertain.

  9. … but it is open to conjecture

    I think the problem is that too many decisions are made in committee, and there is not enough entreprenurial (sp?) visualisation from leaders. ie people are too safe. Just ask SJ. They are happy to hide behind mediocrity and security, and this is a black hole.

    The record companies are an excellent example

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