Tuesday, August 14, 2007

To DRM or not to DRM? That is the question

Its a trade-off - Will have to see if it squares off - "DRM free" music (aka higher price) x lower downloads (due to sharing) = DRM protected music (aka lower price) x higher downloads (as cant be shared)

To DRM or not to DRM? That is the question
02/08/2007 08:24:00 - by Andrew Beutmueller

Whether 'tis nobler of carriers to protect copyright or suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous lawsuits?. That is the question. Or maybe it isn't. Perhaps it's, "How do we squeeze the most dosh out of punters in any given situation and still avoid a sea of troubles?" Thanks to good old-fashioned American ingenuity, Digital Rights Management (DRM) has somehow gone from a technology designed to thwart piracy and protect copyright to an e-ticket premium product conspicuously labeled "DRM-free" that actually costs users more per unit than DRM restricted content does.

That's a clever, if particularly cynical, commercial ploy. There is reportedly just as much DRM-free content on the market now as there is DRM-protected material - even copies of the same programming in both formats at different prices. First dubbing it "premium" content back in April, Apple and EMI announced jointly that the UK record company's entire catalogue would be available on iTunes - DRM-free. Hoorah! At last a blow struck to aid the digital freedom rights movement!

Well, actually, it was nothing of the sort. In this case "premium" is a marketing euphemism for stinging Brit users into paying the price of US$1.29 per track for "DRM free" rather than 99 cents for "DRM-Protected."Users are also being offered "the opportunity" to spend even more on upgrading their 99 cent-per-track music libraries to premium (DRM-free) for "just" 30 cents a song. If punters are foolish enough to fall for the pitch, it tots up to $300 for the smaller, 4GB, iPod model, that holds about 1000 tracks, Talk about cut and come again."

We are going to give iTunes customers a choice – the current versions of our songs for the same 99 cent price, or new DRM-free versions of the same songs with even higher audio quality and the security of interoperability for just 30 cents more", says that nice Mr. Jobs . "We think our customers are going to love this." Or not.

On Tuesday this week AT&T and eMusic announced they are collaborating on a new wireless music download service comprising the 2.7 million songs in the eMusic catalogue. According to a joint statement, users will, via their mobile handsets, be able to buy tracks that can also be downloaded and used on computers or any MP3 player.

The service is not cheap. It costs $7.49 for five tracks. "When AT&T chose to work with us, it was because they wanted to provide their subscribers with access to our service. AT&T also works with other digital music services, such as Napster and Rhapsody, which do use DRM", says eMusic's vp of corporate communications, Cathy Halgas Nevins. She also says, "eMusic provides all of its tracks on the web in DRM-free, MP3 format and on the phone in DRM-free AAC++ format. We have agreements with 20,000 independent labels which allow us to distribute their material DRM-free."

Jerry Rocha. director of Mobile Media at research group Telephia says that DRM-free tracks are not offered in the interest of supporting the notion of digital freedom, but are rather "a promotional element, from the standpoint of record labels for example."The same thing goes for AT&T. The caompany says the fact that DRM-free music can be readily shared amongst AT&T customers, whether on their mobiles or online, promotes web 2.0 style social networking. Quite incidentally, natch, that means more lucrative data revenues for the carrier as well as the fact that AT&T's brand image gets burnished as the carrier is peceived as a cool, footloose digital freedom flag-waver by the 18- to 34-year old demographic that AT&T so wants to corral.

So, could this be the beginning of the end for DRM? Will it cease upon the midnight with no pain? Au contraire, says In-Stat analyst Mike Paxton. "The amount of digital content flowing over telecommunications networks is enormous and growing. Much of this content is already protected by some type of DRM or content protection scheme. As the creation of digital content expands, it is, in turn, fueling demand for more DRM solutions and content protection technologies." So there.

No comments: