The beginning to the end of DRM?
For the first time ever, a major recording label has signed a deal with Apple iTunes Store to sell DRM-free digital music, although at a higher price. EMI holds the rights to many top recording artists including The Beatles. This is the first time a major recording label has agreed to sell digital music without digital rights management and it so happens to be a deal with the largest digital music store.
DRM and fair-use
There is a huge controversy over DRM, which limits the transfer and copying of digital multimedia files. In most situations, DRM limits what many consider “fair-use” of copyrighted materials.
For instance, most digital audiobooks have DRM technology to lock down the use of the audio file. The initial purchaser has no ability to share that book with others and often can only put it on one computer/audio device. In the “real world” of books however, the purchaser has the option of lending the book to a friend or family member after they have completed the book. And if they no longer want it, they also have the option of selling it to someone else or to a second-hand bookstore.
With DRM, those “fair-uses” are not possible. If they are possible, you have to jump through several hoops in order to accomplish it. For example, if one really wants to transfer some music from an iTunes purchase to another computer or audio device, they can always burn a CD and then rip that CD on another computer.
A step in the right direction?
So the announcement by EMI and Apple is revolutionary, but is it a step in the right direction? If you ask Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, it is. He recently sent an open letter to the major music labels criticizing their requirements for iTunes to use DRM. But if you ask Orrin Hatch, it’s the wrong way.
But copyright is an important concept. Laws provide protection to the authors and creators of artwork, literature, etc. But what is the real intent of copyright? Is it to protect the author’s creation or is it to make an immense amount of money for the music labels and recording industry? I believe it is the former and the recording industry has morphed it into something through which they can become very wealthy.
There are many who are very much against copyright. They call it copyleft and implies that nothing should have protection and everything should be open for use to everyone as they wish. I’m not sure I agree with that, but there needs to be something in between.
A DRM new solution
In reality, the concept of DRM is a good one, but there needs to be better technology to enforce it. It needs to be something that is more consumer friendly and will meet both the needs of the consumer and the needs of the artist (I couldn’t care less about the RIAA and recording label executives).
So speak up. What do you think? How do you feel about DRM?