[Note: At the end of this post I'll be asking for your support so stay tuned.]
What's wrong with this picture?
If you said Digital Rights Management (DRM), you'd be correct.
In the Web 2.0 world everything makes or breaks on interoperability...or sharing. Sharing of thoughts, ideas, media, code, and work. If any point that openness is constricted, the whole system breaks down. Without this environment there would be no mashups, and many of the online services we rely on today would not exist.
Just imagine if all that open interoperability went away and we were back to the old days of closed APIs and closed systems. That's what DRM does.
When the iTunes store originally launched I owned an iPod and a Mac. DRM had no real affect on me personally, and I felt it was a Faustian deal that was necessary at the time to get music sold online. Then I got this remarkable and revolutionary music system, the Sonos, and the ugly truth of DRM raised its even uglier head. I couldn't play the music that I had purchased on iTunes on my Sonos.
Do I blame Apple for this? Not really, as they aren't the original source of this whole issue...the labels are.
However, I think everyone here is pointing a finger. Steve Jobs says it is the labels fault for requiring DRM, and the labels and RIAA want Jobs to license the DRM to other companies. I don't believe that it is impossible for Apple to license the DRM, but there are more important issues that arise from that situation that I'll talk about later.
What really angers me is when I see someone like Warner Music's Edgar Bronfman (via Infectious Greed) make a statement like this:
... let me discuss a couple of issues that have been in the news recently, interoperability and digital rights management, or DRM. Let me be clear. We advocate the continued use of DRM in the protection of our and of our artists' intellectual property.The notion that music does not deserve the same protections as software, television, films, video games, or other intellectual property simply because there is an unprotected legacy product available in the physical world, is completely without logic or merit.But let's not lose sight of the core issue. By far the larger issue for consumers in the music industry is interoperability. As a content company, we, of course, want consumers to seamlessly access our music and to use the music they have purchased on any platform and with any service, physical or digital.The issue is obscured by asserting that DRM and interoperability is the same thing. They are not. To suggest that they cannot coexist is simply incorrect.
Let's dissect what Bronfman is actually saying:
"We advocate the continued use of DRM in the protection of our and of our artists' intellectual property."
The first problem with this statement is that what Bronfman and other executives in the entertainment business think...is that all this stuff they own, the stuff that people slave over and work hard to create...isn't art...it is PROPERTY. Semantics cannot be put aside here because it shows you the difference between someone who creates art, and one who does not.
I hardly believe that Mozart or Beethoven or Picasso thought for one second that what they were creating was...intellectual property.
"The notion that music does not deserve the same protections as software, television, films, video games, or other intellectual property simply because there is an unprotected legacy product available in the physical world, is completely without logic or merit."
In the Web 1.0 world, a lot of companies believed that their intellectual property was more valuable as an asset they kept to themselves, than shared with the world. If you want it...pay for it. Google proved this axiom was wrong. By opening up their technology to the world and sharing their "art," they brought a rebirth to an industry that had been crushed by it's own hubris.
Music is no different.
The thing "without logic or merit," Mr. Bronfman, is the idea that everything produced has a value that can only be equated with a dollar sign. You elude to the fact that because LPs, Cassettes, and CDs, (or as you call it the "legacy product") have no piracy protection technology on them, that doesn't mean that their counterpart...the digital file...shouldn't have them.
I would like to point out to you that in the past 30 years, with all the Chicken Little antics from your industry over people being able to copy the music they purchased, and share that music with others...your industry did not fail or falter as you predicted. In fact, you've thrived. In 30 years, despite real piracy issues, you've made money hand over fist...and you've been wrong about every single prediction you've ever made. You have no credibility on this subject. And you simply can't blame every slump in music sales on piracy. We don't believe you anymore. While you continue to fight your own customers, your customers continue to create the innovation that keeps you in business.
"But let's not lose sight of the core issue. By far the larger issue for consumers in the music industry is interoperability. As a content company, we, of course, want consumers to seamlessly access our music and to use the music they have purchased on any platform and with any service, physical or digital."
Well then...how about removing DRM? If you want consumers to seamlessly access their music...just remove the DRM and that would take care of that. Your call for more DRM only makes the seamless interoperability between devices more difficult.
But wait...there's a more important semantic point to make here. We are not consumers, we...are patrons...of art. No artist that you represent thinks of their fans as "consumers," and it is your constant view that everything is about consumption and money that creates your contempt for the people you actually serve...the artists and the patrons.
"The issue is obscured by asserting that DRM and interoperability is the same thing. They are not. To suggest that they cannot coexist is simply incorrect."
What is completely incorrect is that entire statement. As someone who doesn't know anything about developing technology, it is not surprising that you have no idea what you are talking about. DRM hampers innovation. It closes doors and limits choice. But let's humor you. Let's go to magical pixie land where Apple licenses their DRM, and Unicorn rides are free all day long. That leaves one giant company that controls the whole ball of wax. Microsoft would likely want to license the Apple DRM, and seeing as they currently are the other giant in this game...you are then left with two companies who control the entire industry.
Where's the choice? Where's the innovation?
Steve Jobs claims he wants to eliminate DRM. The music executives claim to want what's best for the consumer and their bottom line. These two things are not mutually exclusive. How about trusting your customers instead of assuming that every one of us is a criminal?
Call to action
So I'm calling here for some action. I'm asking the RIAA, the MPAA, the Labels, and Apple...drop the DRM...open the doors...and do the right thing for everyone. Here's where the reader can help. If we take Steve Jobs at his word, then we only have one mentality to shift and that is the music executive. The tide seems to be turning and we seem to have momentum on our side, so we need to keep putting pressure on the industry. This isn't just for patrons...artists out there can pressure their labels to do the right thing and strip the DRM from their music.
So what I'm asking is that people treat the comments section of this post as a petition. Post your support for dropping DRM, and if we get enough, I'll collect those posts and snail mail them to Apple, Bronfman, and other top music execs. If we keep this thread alive in the world of 2.0, we can force them (albeit kicking and screaming) to do the right thing.