Friday, May 11, 2007

Fix DRM By Changing its Name?

If this blog goes dormant after this post, it's because I laughed so hard I passed out, hit my head on something during the fall and am laying in the hospital or worse, dead.

Of course I'm joking (I'm lazy and blog from my couch, not standing up), but not by much when I read an article on Ars which notes that HBO's CTO Bob Zitter thinks that DRM's biggest problem is the name (and not the fact that it strips away consumer rights of course).

His proposal? To change the name to Digital Consumer Enablement! The reason? It "would more accurately communicate the concept that DRM helps consumers enjoy content in ways previously not possible."

Talk about living in a separate reality. Consumers don't like DRM not because of its name, but because it places artificial restrictions on what they can do with the content they legally acquire, while doing absolutely nothing to prevent piracy.

Take music for instance. The vast majority of music is still sold in an unprotected format in the form of CDs, yet the RIAA sees the need to slap restrictive DRM on legal digital music downloads. Please explain to me the logic in that? People that want to place music onto P2P networks are simply going to rip the music from the unprotected CDs, while consumers that, for example, want to play their old iTunes purchases on their new Creative Zen they got for their birthday are unable to. This is proven by the fact that the vast majority of music that is sold with DRM restrictions online is still available in unprotected formats through P2P networks, most of which has likely been ripped from CDs. Removing DRM would increase digital sales, have no effect on the availability of pirated music and decrease customer dissatisfaction. The same can be said for movies, which, while sold in protected format on DVDs, are protected by CSS, something my Grandma could crack with relative ease using easily found software tools.

Now repeat after me Mr. Zitter, DRM doesn't enable anything for consumers. Media companies' overblown fears regarding piracy, which is going to happen with or without DRM, is disabling consumer options, and DRM merely re-enables some of those options while stripping consumers' other rights in the process.

Mr. Zitter mentions watching TV Shows on your iPod as something that DRM enables. If he would kindly pull his head out of the sand, he would realize that those very same TV shows are still available on most bittorrent tracker sites. Again, removing DRM would not affect the availability of pirated TV shows one iota, but would open up consumer options by, for instance, enabling iTunes TV show downloads to be played on iRivers, PSPs and other currently unsupported platforms.

I like Ars final statement in their article:

"no name change will be able to disguise the true intent of DRM: limiting our ability to consume content at the time, place, and on the device of our choosing. Change the name if you like, but the rotten smell won't go anywhere."


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