Finally, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) might be starting to realize that their attempts to control and reduce piracy might actually be having the opposite effect, and are driving honest consumers to piracy.
The music industry could break Apple's grip of steel on digital music sales by selling DRM-free musicSpeaking last week at the Digital Home Developers Conference, Brad Hunt, the executive vice president and chief technology officer for the MPAA, conceded that many people are frustrated at having to buy multiple copies of the same content to use on different devices and that this is driving them to piracy.
"I understand that if we frustrate the consumer, they will simply pirate the content," he said. "The issue we face today is that consumers are buying content that uses specific DRM and that, in turn, is gradually creating a world of separate DRM systems."
Wow! Finally a glimmer of hope. Many people (myself included) have been saying this for years, yet the MPAA are only now starting to accept it. The fact is that DRM is ineffective and that piracy is too easy. It doesn't take too much energy to push an honest, law-abiding citizen from consumer to pirate. By pirate, I don't mean someone who sells counterfeit goods or who illegally distributes copyrighted material. I mean an ordinary guy or gal who just wants to use what they bought and in doing so is forced to bypass DRM.
The catalyst that's needed to get this reaction going is an annoyed or frustrated user who feels that a big, faceless corporation took their money and ripped them off. Often the consumer feels cheated because the restrictions weren't made clear enough early on. I've watched the process in action several times and it's quite interesting. Someone buys some digital content (say a DVD) and they want to copy it to their laptop so that they can watch it while on the road without having to take the disc with them. They discover that there's more to the process than just copying the disc to the hard drive. This is frustrating and so they start typing a few keywords into a search engine and within minutes they have a DVD copy tool downloaded and working. That act didn't cost the movie industry anything, but it did take a consumer, who was previously happy to pay for a product, and introduced them to a community who make movies available for free.
I've seen the same thing happen with games. Someone buys a game and becomes mildly annoyed at having to have the disc in the drive each time the want to play it (even though all the game content is stored on their hard drive). They do a little research and discover a world of cracks and patches. All that it takes is someone being "mildly annoyed". That, and the satisfaction of sticking it to the man and defeating a copy protection technology which cost the company a small fortune in a few seconds using free tools. That crack didn't cost the games industry anything, but again it introduced a legitimate consumer to methods of acquiring games for nothing. That hurts the games industry.
Also, DRM could be an Achilles' heel for media companies. For example, one simple way that the music industry could break Apple's grip of steel on digital music sales would be to sell DRM-free music. It's simple and would be a very effective way to counterattack iTunes - all it needs is for the industry to have the vision and see this as a road to profits.