Over at Salon.com, Cory Doctorow, who has written some of the best articles and papers on DRM, has written a piece in response to the Steve Jobs Thoughts on Music open letter. Generally, I agree with Cory’s stance on the impacts of DRM on consumers. In fact, I agree with the general thesis of this article–that Apple is using DRM protected iTunes content to prevent iPod owners from switching to competing MP3 players. However, as Steve Jobs pointed out in his letter, the average iPod owner has only 3% iTunes DRM protected music. 97% of the music on iPods is DRM free. So while this amounts to a “switching” tax, the average iPod owner is accustomed to paying more than 3% in sales tax.
Cory’s article really is just a collection of anti-DRM arguments, and while many of them are great arguments against DRM, they don’t succeed in refuting the Jobs letter. I think he misses the spot.
While I dislike DRM, even the so called FairPlay, I believe it was a necessary evolutionary step for the music industry. Of course it is easy to break. That wasn’t the point, the point was to prove to the music industry that easy of use and good design could once again get people to buy and download music rather than copy off a P2P network. iTunes is a superior experience to P2P. It is easier to find and download from iTunes than from P2P, with better results for most users. But DRM won’t go away in a day, however the record lables must remove it from all of their libraries simulaneously.
Now that the first step has been taken, let’s hope that Steve Jobs is sincere and will actually remove DRM from music when the record labels come to their senses. Link
Recently, I joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Some might equate the EFF the ACLU of the digital world. So, those of you that know my political leanings might ask, why? Let me try to explain.
Regular readers of this blog know that I work in the telecommunications industry. Specifically, for the last 10 years, I have been working to create products that allow telecommunications service providers (specifically telcos) to deliver broadcast quality video over Internet Protocol (IP) over their networks. Our customers, the service providers, demand we create innovations in IPTV which give them competitive differentiation over the incumbent video service providers–typically the MSO (Multiple Service Operator) the cable company, or the Direct to Home (DTH) satellite company. Our ability to deliver these innovations is constantly under threat from traditional media sources which continuously fight new technology. The EFF, is working to protect the rights of consumers to fair use which I believe protects our ability to innovate.
Does the EFF sometimes come into conflict with technology companies, yes. In many cases, the same companies that lead the innovation charge are also working with traditional media companies on schemes to “protect” digital content. Where this “protection” limits consumer freedom, the EFF steps in to fight for consumer rights. Interestingly, it appears to me, that wherein the EFF and technology companies are in conflict, such conflict is limited to the short-term interests (some would say shortsighted) of that company. Protection of consumer rights, is to the long-term benefit of all technology companies–whether they recognize this in their frenzy to generate quarterly results, depends on their ability to look beyond the numbers.
The EFF is fighting to protect consumer rights to fair use of content, whether it be in analog or digital formats.
Check out the Intellectual Property section of the EFF website. Two areas of particular interest are Digital Rights Management (DRM) and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). I encourage you to read the EFF information on both topics DRM and DMCA. For those of you who have PVRs or are contemplating a new HDTV purchase, the Digital Video Restrictions information is eye-opening.
InfoWorld article which discusses technologies which straddle the divide between harebrained and brilliant as they promise to shake the pillars of tomorrow’s enterprise. I love number 8, Project Blackbox from Sun Microsystems. Imagine the possibilities of a portable datacenter. You can read more about Project Blackbox on Jonathan’s blog. There are also photos and usage scenarios for Project Blackbox.
Fred Amoroso, CEO and President of Macrovision, responded to Steve Jobs’ open letter on Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. Amoroso published his comments on his company’s Web site, as an open letter. In it, Amoroso suggests, that Macrovision take over stewardship of Apple’s own DRM technology.
Amoroso’s letter addresses what he considers to be four key points: That DRM has a broad impact across many types of content, not just music; that DRM “increases not decreases consumer value;” that it will increase electronic distribution; and that DRM needs to be interoperable and open.