DRM ON THE DECLINE?

Greetings,

The bandwagon has gotten a little more crowded today when it comes to Digital Rights Management (DRM) and music labels; Yahoo’s Dave Goldberg came out today regarding the futility of having DRM embedded in music files. This in the wake of Steve Jobs’ interesting (yet ultimately self-serving) statements on why record labels should stop insisting on DRM for their music downloads.

Funny thing about DRM: I own an iPod and have downloaded some tracks from iTunes, which effectively binds me to Apple (God, Apple marketing is such a clusterf**k sometimes) now. Hey, I made the choice. No big deal. But it is a real pain to have .AAC files that are useless beyond iPods.

DRM is symptomatic of more than just record label paranoia over illegal copying. It’s an old school response to an economic model that simply doesn’t work anymore. The record labels still don’t get it (although some labels are doing better at recognizing the lunacy of DRM than others).

First off, let’s go on the assumption that record labels view intellectual property as an immutable legal and conceptual axiom. Let’s also assume that record labels use this argument as a morally and financially convenient excuse to garner more control over legally purchased music by consumers. Finally, let’s make a guess that labels do want more interoperability between music players (hey, who wouldn’t want a slice of the iPod market?) but have a serious issue with abandoning DRM (i.e. wanting it both ways).

It’s not exactly news that entertainment industries take way too long to evolve with the times, but come on guys. The genie has been out of the bottle for years now. First the music industry resists the Internet and goes on a legal Battle Royale against its own consumers. Then it finally wraps it head around providing high quality legal downloads as opposed to the plethora of so-so illegal music downloads out there, and what do the labels do? Insist on restrictive DRM that serves no purpose but to maintain control over what consumers do with their media. Again, what gives? The endless distrust over your own market is just plain nuts in the Web 2.0 era. It bucks every single notion of “audience is king” and just drives people into the arms of pirates.

I know this is largely a reactionary move on part of the record industry to hold onto whatever vestige of control they still have (and in a few years when CD buying effectively stops stone cold dead, they’ll have no influence at all aside from being marketing companies) but the only way they’ll survive into this century is to play to the give-and-take approach: don’t stop selling a high-quality product, as getting paid for a product is all cool, but assume that your audience has control and won’t be handing it back.

I mean, if Vanity Fair is making this argument now, it’s time to pay attention to this idea. Seriously.

NEWSPAPERS: Mark Evans is reporting that the World Association of Newspapers has data that supports the idea newspapers are actually growing in demand, not declining. Evans rightly points out that these statistics are somewhat deceptive; paid broadsheet circulation has undoubtedly declined, but free commuter dailies are exploding in growth (Web 2.0 in the offline world, what a concept). Personally, the newspaper organizations that are going to survive into this century are evolving into more multimedia organizations that use a trusted brand name to get written news out there; The Globe, the New York Times, the Star all do this very well.

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