Sunday, July 02, 2006

March of the DRM Folly

DRM is an ill conceived protection measure for digital goods. I presume it arose from the myth that DRM can actually prevent music from being pirated and that punishing consumers who buy digital downloads with annoying restrictions on their freedoms leads to more sales.

This is nonsense. DRM'd music will always be pirated just as much as non-DRM'd music, and punishing your consumers by giving them a handicapped product can only hurt sales.

This knowledge came to my mind without having spent $120,000 for a MBA from a top school. It's called common sense.

Not to be outdone for its ignorance in both technology and business, the French government has decided to do its part in the DRM fiasco and commit its own folly by passing a law forcing businesses that sell DRM'd products to make them interoperable with their competitors' products.

The intention is good, but the act is overreaching. If DRM is so bad for consumers, consumers will figure this out and stay away from it.

A much better law would be one that mandates all sellers of DRM'd content to place a prominent mention on their site explaining that they sell handicapped products with restrictions on customers' freedoms to copy them and play them on competitors' players.

Thankfully, there are excellent alternatives to DRM'd music. First, consumers can buy non-copy protected CDs (which is what I do), which have better quality and include the physical cover and the liner notes. Second, they can buy digital downloads from enlightened stores such as emusic, which sell non-DRM'd music. emusic doesn't sell music from major record labels, but that's probably better for consumers anyway given the quality of major label music these days.

The same trend that happened with evil P2P software will happen with DRM. The first wave of P2P users were enticed by the promise of free music but then they got burned by Kazaa, Bearshare and other spyware laden software that destroyed their machines. The collective realization that you should be careful when installing such programs is now quite strong, even among people who aren't computer savvy.

DRM will share a similar fate. A few million people will naively buy this garbage, but when they realize they can't play their music on a different player, they will learn to avoid DRM'd music like a plague.

About 3 years ago, a friend bought me a $10 gift certificate for iTunes. I have never used it. A DRM'd song will never land on my hard drive. I prefer to let Apple keep the money.

If you think I'm fanatical about this, you ain't seen nothin yet :)


node-0 » Blog Archiv » Warum DRM nicht funktionieren kann … said...

[...] Ein sehr guter Blogpost von Yariv befasst sich mit den Gründen, weshalb DRM nicht funktionieren kann . Und er sieht das ganz richtig: [...]

Herr Pfarrer said...

Don't get wrong, the French law has been crippled so that interoperability nearly doesn't exist any more...
Only a corporated company can ask a college of experts to suggest that a DRM protected system may become interoperable with an other... that said, the consummer just has to shut up and buy... I'm not quite sure he will...