Tuesday, January 23, 2007

DRM Wishes

The old saying goes "be careful what you wish for, lest it come true". The music industry wished for DRM to protect their content. They found their "white knight" in Steve Jobs who built the iTunes music store to deliver their content safely to iPod users everywhere. The problem is that the music industry now finds itself completely beholden to Apple as their only viable channel for digital music sales.

Apple controls the channel and dictates the terms for music sales, particularly the $.99 price which record executives want to vary. Also, the DRM is now seen to do more good for Apple then the music industry because it locks the music purchaser into Apple products. The more music bought, the more locked in the purchaser becomes. No wonder the music industry is now talking about selling music without DRM. Funnily enough Apple is against selling music on iTunes without DRM!

The only cloud on the horizon is that several European countries are trying to force Apple to open up their DRM for others to use. If these countries succeed, they take away the pressure on the music industry to sell music unencumbered. I view these countries efforts as totally misguided and I wish that they would just stop meddling.

On another front, the Jury is still out on whether the Microsoft Vista operating system is going to be so wrapped up in DRM that it is unusable. (I posted on this a couple of years ago.) There is a great discussion of Vista DRM on the Security Now podcast (episodes 73, 74 and 75).

Many people are surprised that Microsoft has yielded without a whimper to the content industry. If Microsoft had been willing to take a stand they could have negotiated a much better position for themselves and their products. It seems like Ballmer has been too willing to BOGU for the content providers. We will just have to stand back and see if he gets shafted.

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