Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Is DRM really dead?

Since everyone and their mother has posted their mostly jubilant reactions to the EMI-Apple announcement yesterday - Web 2.0 sage Michael Arrington of TechCrunch called it "The Day DRM Died" - I feel it my pessimist's duty to bring a little sobriety to the party.

So my question is this: how much impact will this have on DRM as concept? In other words, I worry that this move, while significant, will not change the notion amongst media companies that DRM is good for business. Ideally EMI digital sales will see a boost, thus inciting the other companies to follow suit. But what if sales don't rise? Would this reinforce the false notions of the media companies? Or what if sales do rise, but other companies don't respond in kind? This would create an even more fragmented and segmented marketplace, with multiple formats, levels of DRM, and now pricing across multiple stores.

Furthermore, is this development only really relevant to the digital music world, mainly for the reason that, with CD's already sold in non-DRM format, the argument against copy protection is stronger with music. Will this motivate a change in the Draconian DRM schemes we see in digital movie services like Amazon's Unbox? For me, this is the key: can this step be the seed that eventually blooms into a non-DRM world, or will this be a small step with little impact?

As a digital citizen I sincerely hope for the former; with a look at the sorry track record of the media conglomerates, I sadly expect the latter.


steve said...

At 79p (English money) per track, its unlikely that sales will rise on anything other than the latest must have track. Whilst I can buy back catalogue and reissue CDs at £3.99 or less for 20 or even, in some cases, 40 tracks, why would I bother paying up to 8 times as much for a download. For on-line music sales to move in serious volume they not only have to be DRM free but also have to be a reasonable market price, not a cartel price.

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