Results tagged “DRM” from kwc blog

DRM (for music) is dead

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Sony is finally dropping DRM from its music. Considering that Sony has been the worst offender for consumer DRM format lock-in -- ATRAC, MagicGATE memory sticks, UMD, Sony Connect music store, and infamous rootkits -- this is truly a historic occasion. It comes on the heels of Warner's announcement of DRM-free music, which means that 2008 may be the year for toppling the iTunes Music Store crown (physical sales plummeted 15% in 2007). The Amazon MP3 store already offers cheaper, DRM-free albums than iTunes: Radiohead's In Rainbows is $7.99 vs. $9.99 on iTunes. Now the selection can truly be competitive.

Even with the rise of the Amazon MP3 store, it doesn't look like the NIN/Saul Williams/Radiohead experiments will move forward. Radiohead has followed their "pay what you want" experiment with a CD release and official release on iTunes + Amazon. I imagine others feel a bit ripped off because I do -- the tracks are much higher higher quality (256KBps MP3) on Amazon than what Radiohead offered in the "pay what you want" model. For bit snobs like me, it means that Radiohead effectively gets to charge double because I went and bought the CD anyways. I guess this counts as a success for Radiohead, but I think people might be more wary in the future.

Meanwhile, Trent Reznor of NIN seems down on the success of Saul Williams' release, citing the fact that only 28,322 out of 154,449 downloaders chose to pay $5 for the album; the rest chose the free download. Only 33,897 people bought Williams' 2004 album, but Reznor is focused on the 71.7% that didn't pay. It seems the natural comparison he's drawing is to someone walking into a CD store and buying/taking your album. The comparison I would make is to the radio -- what percentage of people that hear your music on the radio, for free, actually end up purchasing it? I ended up buying it, partly because I couldn't resist the pirate cat on the cover.

Both Reznor and This American Life cited bandwidth costs -- the latter $152,000 -- as a detractor for the online model. They could have lowered their bandwidth costs by uploading to BitTorrent or asking fans to mirror the content. Instead, even though Reznor used BitTorrent for his free GarageBand tracks, he paid Musicane for 150,000 free downloads of Saul's album. Strangely we'd rather pay money to own the mechanism, even when giving something away. I'm sure this speaks something about human psychology, but I'm not sure what.

Well-played Mr. Jobs

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With Apple under threat of litigation in Europe for its closed DRM for iTunes/iPod, Steve Jobs counters with a call for the record companies to end all DRM:

Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free. For Europeans, two and a half of the big four music companies are located right in their backyard. The largest, Universal, is 100% owned by Vivendi, a French company. EMI is a British company, and Sony BMG is 50% owned by Bertelsmann, a German company. Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.

Perhaps a bit disingenuous, but it's hard not to rally behind the right call.

Silver lining

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Time Warner Cable in Raleigh is apparently refusing in install CableCards in Series 3 TiVos. Their argument is that they offer their own DVR service, so they shouldn't be forced to support their competition. By similar argument, they could sell their own TVs, and refuse to offer cable on yours.

The silver lining? I don't live in Raleigh, nor do I have Time Warner, so I'm not affected, but more importantly, Time Warner has provided another real world example of why DRM and DRM-like technologies aren't about protecting copyright, they are about protecting business models and technologically barring competition.

Update: Time Warner has changed their policy and will support the Series 3 TiVo.

Book: The Future of Ideas

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I've always been interested in Lawrence Lessig's writings on the web as well as his work with the Creative Commons, but I hadn't actually taken the time to read his books. Also, I forgetfully missed his PARC forum, but one of these days I will get around to watching the video. At long last, though, I've read The Future of Ideas, just in time for me to read Free Culture, which he has made available freely.

If you've been following the battles over DRM, open source, DMCA, etc... you've probably already heard many of the arguments that are presented by this book, but I appreciated the manner in which Lessig so clearly breaks apart issues, categorizing and framing them so that see them each more clearly. Also, much like introductory economics courses, he provides terminology (like "rivalrous" and "imperfectly excludable") for common sense notions, which aides in discussion.