Is Copyright Protection a Losing Proposition?

Is Copyright Protection a Losing Proposition?

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No, it’s not just a losing proposition which consumers and analyst have long said it is, but for all practical purposes, is dead.  Eversince DRM first got implemented in 2002 with BMG, Arista and RCA installing it in their audio CD products, the draconian copy protection scheme has not lacked outspoken criticism.

As late as 2007, RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol declared that DRM “serves all sorts of pro-consumer purposes.”  But we all know consumers showed a decidedly opposite opinion after being treated like thieves out to steal from record companies.

Consumers not Interested in Copyright Protection

Music lovers continue to miss the ease with which they can copy LPs into blank cassette or open reels.  Same goes with the ease copying CDs into cassettes in the 80s and 90s.  For most music listening enthusiasts, copying is a fair-use activity that can range from merely having a back-up copy, preserving their LPs from getting frequently played, to giving friends copies of their favorite music.  It had nothing to do with any intent to steal from recording studios.

That was until the age of the digital downloading era of the late 90s when record studios realized that a digital copy was actually an identical copy of their releases. And then all sorts of copyright technologies cropped up like the DRM.   But the consumer has made its dislike on it well known.  Copyright protection has no place in the enjoyment of a private hobby like music listening.

Even the popular iTunes store was not immune to its customer angst against DRM.  A research on iPod devices as early as 2006 show that only 3% to 5% of all digital MP3 files in an iPod drive have DRM.  The remaining balance was DRM-free and can be played on any player. It was clear that contrary to most market impressions that using iPods would lock you to Apple’s iTunes, just about all iPod users have found a way to use DRM free content as their iTunes client software which could now upload any MP3 file to their iPods or iPhones.

Since then, the growing demand for DRM-free music has become so overwhelmingly clear that online companies mushroomed to meet this demand and the RIAA is now singing a different tune.   “DRM is dead.”

That’s what the chief spokesperson for the RIAA Jonathan Lamy said back in late 2009 for SC magazine.  He was, of course, referring to the DRM-free music content anyone can download from iTunes which accounts for about 70% of all music content downloaded and 25% of all music both.  And it remains dead today.

It would not be long before Lamy denied every saying that DRM is dead claiming he was taken out of context.  What Lamy did saw was “There is virtually no DRM on music anymore, at least on download services, including iTunes.” He did further elaborate to say that MP3s today get sold online without any DRM anyway, supporting consumer interest to play MP3 tracks on any gadget.

Lamy may not have explicitly stated that DRM is dead.  But his words point to the same thing. And free MP3 music downloads are here to stay.

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