Why Digital Rights Management is Falling Apart (DRM-free Music)

Why Digital Rights Management is Falling Apart (DRM-free Music)

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In the old days, one can record musical content from a vinyl LP album directly onto an open reel or cassette recorder tape without making a big fuss about it.  Today, there’s a lot of fuss attending the proliferation of digital content in CDs as well as digital downloads because studios are so afraid they would lose their rights to their intellectual properties.

Hence, you have what is called Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection that won’t allow digital content to be ripped from CDs or, if downloaded, to be played in other media players or be copied, transcoded or modified.

The use of DRM has raised the blood pressures of music lovers around the world and has been scornfully called Digital Restrictions Managements that have infected CDs from Sony and other record studios.

It is also used by Apple’s iTunes, Napster and other digital music online stores. Unfortunately for these recording studios, consumers have elected to snub their DRMs, while tech savvy hackers threw out the window those DRMs that achieved nothing but encumber the enjoyment of musical content.

  • Firstly, DRM is more self-limiting than regulating.  It restricts the buyer on what equipment the purchased music can be played on and are often not interoperable across different media devices.  Once downloaded to a PC, you can’t play it on another PC.  Should anything happen to your PC, your next new PC won’t be able to play it.
  • Secondly, DRM restricts you from making copies beyond a certain number and disallows editing or transcoding to smaller files playable on mobile gadgets.
  • Lastly, DRM impinges on the rights of the buyer for fair use of the purchased digital content.  Worst, it makes the customer suffer as if he was a thief out to deprive studios of their rightful income.  This is the biggest mistake of recording studios.  In attempting to protect its property, it has assumed that all its customers are thieves and designed their products accordingly.

Recognizing this, Apple offered its higher quality higher priced DRM-free iTunes Plus which eventually became mainstream at the same $0.99 price per song.  Finally, in January 2009, all its downloadable songs became DRM-free.

Sony-BMG’s embarrassing rootkit fiasco when its copy restriction DRM on CDs installed malicious software on customer PCs playing them for the sole purpose of restricting even fair play copies. It got sued on many fronts prompting it withdraw the offending CDs and refrain from implementing it in future CD products.

For all intents and purposes, DRM is a dead duck for digital music distribution as all the Big Four record labels Warner Music, EMI, Universal Music and Sony-BMG have jettisoned it.  Watermarking is all that is left for some semblance of copyright protection allowing studios to tracks their properties odyssey into piracy.

But not to worry, as long as customers have no illegal intentions about music content other than to enjoy them, online digital music resumes its unencumbered presence that everyone can enjoy, paid to own, paid by subscription or entirely free.

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