Why do consumers accept DRM?

Summary:My colleague, David Berlind, has railed on for months now about the evils of DRM and, in particular, the 'anti-competitive' practices of Apple regarding their flavor of DRM, which they currently seem to be unwilling to cross-license. (Never mind that if Apple were not in the game, Most consumers are used to paying for the same content over and over again as the format changes.

My colleague, David Berlind, has railed on for months now about the evils of DRM and, in particular, the 'anti-competitive' practices of Apple regarding their flavor of DRM, which they currently seem to be unwilling to cross-license. (Never mind that if Apple were not in the game, Most consumers are used to paying for the same content over and over again as the format changes. Microsoft would be the 'big bad wolf' by forcing their own DRM technology on everyone!)

I can see David's point but I have yet to see any thoughts about WHY consumers don't care. David seems to think 'they just don't get it' but maybe they understand all too well that in the long run, it just doesn't matter.

David, and many of us who read his articles, feel strongly that copyrighted material purchased from one vendor ought to be usable on another vendor's product. Makes sense, right? Well, in truth, this is not a new problem. It is just a lot more apparent in a digital world than it was in the analog world of yesteryear.

It only takes a few minutes of perusing through the iTunes store to recognize that a great deal of the music sold on iTunes was first recorded before the invention of CDs. That means that the great bulk of that music will be purchased by those who first purchased it on cassette, 8-track (shudder), or LPs. Before that, it was 45s or 78s.

Similarly, a lot of video purchased on DVD today was originally purchased on BetaMax, VHS, or even the ill-fated Laserdisc.  Today, it's all protected by DVD codec (a video DRM of sorts) -- but that doesn't seem to bother David.

So what's my point? Simply this ...

Many, if not most, consumers are used to paying for the same content over and over again as the format changes. And each time there has been a format change, there has been a lag between the time the new format appears and the wide availability of that format from a number of OEMs.

This is because OEMs had to first license the use of the new format in their products. Is DRM any different? Not really -- and more likely than not, when the dust settles, there will be a small number of co-existing DRM schemes which will be interoperable across vendors.

Will Apple's DRM prevail? Microsoft's?  Or some as-yet-unreleased and less intrusive DRM?  Time will tell.

Topics: Legal

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