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Its not just copy
Creators Get Paid
Thats OK !
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Why DRM is Great !
Sure, there are lots of arguments as to Why DRM Sucks.
More than any other commercial development, iTunes showed both content owners and consumers that content distribution using DRM can, indeed, be a win-win situation. Sure, everybody wants more - consumer want more flexibility with the content, content owners want more money, and Apple could use a larger cut; they are widely rumored to be making all their profits selling iPods and none selling songs. But that's just business.
Speaking as a Canadian consumer with an iPod Mini, it's brilliant. I haven't bought a CD in a while - why would I when I can get the tracks I want for 99 cents (Canadian !) each and skip the filler material ?
To be fair, Microsoft and a host of CE manufacturers and online music stores now have quite a capable offering. Microsoft was a bit late, and just as problematic, couldn't initially compete with the ease-of-use enabled by Apple's totally proprietary system. But Microsoft and its allies are gunning for the iPod and iTunes, and are bound to reclaim market share in 2005.
DRM Is Not Just Copy Protection
In and of itself, consumers rightly dislike copy protection. And some content owners - especially music labels - have alienated consumers by devoting a lot of their energy to copy protection. As a result, many people think DRM and copy protection are one and the same. However, a good DRM system might control use, rather than copying, of content. It might offer offsetting business advantages. It can make it easy to use superdistribution. Or it might not control the content at all, but only record the fact that the content had been used and, perhaps, by who.
As time goes by, DRM systems which emphasize values above and beyond copy protection will become the norm.
Just because major content owners have harped on this point to the virtual exclusion of all others, doesn't mean it is wrong.
DRM opponents have three main classes of response to this point:
All the evidence is, that you have to control at least some of the content some of the time, or piracy rates get so high that content owners cannot stay in business. In the absence of any DRM, there is every reason to believe that global piracy rates would move towards, say, the 90% plus levels for software piracy in China at the turn of the millennium. The point is not that the DRM has to be uncrackable, but rather that it operates as part of an on-line offering which, on balance, is worth paying for.
DRM Enables New Business MethodsHaving content in digital on-line form, in conjunction with ubiquitous Internet access, creates many opportunities for creative content businesses.
This has been true for some time, but only in a few cases, like iTunes above, has it been taken proper advantage of.
Software Publishers have long used "Try Before You Buy" systems to provide potential customers with limited use of their products, in the hope that they will purchase the full unlimited product. There are DRM systems which effectively marry this concept to the Internet, providing effective security and a pleasant user experience as well, such as those from Trymedia and Softwrap. Because the business rules are server-based, there are virtually unlimited business models available - buy, rent, rent-to-own, free promotions, controlled betas, Web launch parties, etc. By and large, these systems make it hard to enough to steal content that few people will do so, do not ask for unreasonable concessions from the consumer, and, given a smart content owner, offer a pleasant experience all around that consumers will come back to.
DRM can be crackable and still work
Every DRM system seen in the consumer world can be cracked in principle. Worse yet, only one person has to be smart enough to produce a crack, which the rest of the world can use. Some argue, therefore, that DRM systems fail to protect revenues and so should be scrapped. But the mere existence of a crack doesn't mean that most consumers will use it. In fact, when the "legitimate" path is reasonably priced and supported by desirable features such as technical support, cheap single-song sales, upgrades, or portable formats, many consumers choose the legitimate path. The Internet underground (see Darknet) is simply not a very pleasant place to be in the long run. The pornographic advertising, juvenile diatribes, shifting identities, lack of support, spam, pop-ups, trojans and viruses that come with that world get old pretty quick.
Consider iTunes. I can make a Red Book audio CD from any playlist in iTunes.. and once I do, that content is back "in the wild". It's easy, cheap, and interoperable. All the DRM is really doing is presenting a bit of friction so that the user actually has to go to a little bit of effort to make copies.
Indeed, one can make the mirror argument: that uncrackable DRM will not work, because consumers will not accept it. It's already beginning to look like that for SACD and DVD_Audio.
Digital goods are fragile and consumer technology has fleeting lifetimes. Files are lost, hard drives crash, media becomes obsolete, Operating Systems change, peripherals can't be bought any more. Copy protection, in and of itself, just makes this worse. It's one more way to lose the use of content. But DRM is not just copy protection - it is digital rights management, after all. If I have truly acquired a RIGHT to content, as opposed to a physical medium containing the content, then there is the potential for me to get that content anywhere, anytime, in any format required by evolving technologies. Some emerging DRM technologies, such as those from
Of course, not every on-line content business sees it that way. If I only pay a one-time fee for content, I can't expect a lifetime of associated free on-line service. However, there is value in acquiring permanent, portable rights, which consumers understand. Thus, business models are emerging which extend the life of digital media rather than shortening it.
On-line content businesses can implement DRM and still satisfy consumers. The wise ones stay away from the "Big brother" solutions, in favor of carefully-chosen technologies which simultaneously protect content, and help make the content more appealing and accessible.