Why most customers shrug off DRM

Why most customers shrug off DRM

Summary: I agree with David Berlind (Are anti-DRM declarations falling on deaf ears?) -- up to a point.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Apple
30

I agree with David Berlind (Are anti-DRM declarations falling on deaf ears?) -- up to a point. Mainly, we differ in that I don't think that "The Sky is Falling." What I do think is that their isn't yet enough pain for David's readers (and the music-buying public in general) to get the message. But, there will be enough pain -- soon enough.

Why is Apple so overwhelmingly successful in selling its DRM wares compared to the competition -- including Microsoft? It will take an act of Congress to put this DRM genie back into the bottle. First and foremost, Apple has enjoyed a reputation (deserved or not) for 30 years of being one of the most consumer-friendly companies in the industry. Perhaps in any industry.

Why might this perception of Apple be so widespread? It's not because Apple offers competitive pricing -- because they don't. To be sure, Apple products are always 'sexy' -- using the latest in technology to catch the user's attention. Each and every marketing campaign is well-honed and begrudgingly appealing to even the most ardent of Apple's detractors. Above all, Apple has created a trust relationship with its intensely loyal following.

A closer look at the iTunes model reveals its strengths:

  • Entry costs are zero. One can download iTunes for free and run it on a PC or Macintosh. (Yes, the absence of a Linux solution is a shortfall but a minor one from a market share perspective.) Each new iTunes release brings new features and, unlike many of it's competitors, Apple's free software is not crippled. Nor is it encumbered with unwanted advertising. Sure, their are other free music players out there but most are not as feature-rich as iTunes.
  • It costs nothing to use. Anyone who owns (or can borrow) a CD can use iTunes to port that music to their PC or Macintosh. Want to record your own music? Listen to Audio Books? You can use iTunes to manipulate any audio source.
  • Free access to their store. Apple has provided music choices for everyone, from baby boomers and their computer-literate parents to today's teens -- by providing a place where one can buy a song for 99 cents or a whole album for $9.99. Compared to the price of a CD, even on sale, this is very attractive -- especially for those of us who don't want to buy an entire album for one or two songs.

 

No it's not CD-quality (not yet, anyway) but neither were cassettes particularly high-quality when the choice was cassette or vinyl records. Today, the choice is CD or downloaded MP3 or ACC (MP4). From the standpoint of the casual listener, the difference in quality is indistinguishable. (As David has suggested, CD's may go away but not until CD-quality downloads are widely available for those with "golden ears".)

The competition often charges a monthly fee -- and if you decide to stop paying, you lose access to your music. Others subject you to endless advertising campaigns or charge different prices for different songs.

As David is fond of pointing out, if you buy DRM-protected music, you cannot play it just anywhere. It has to be on specific devices or under specific conditions. (You accept our advertising, you pay us a monthly fee.)

Well, Apple is no exception. If you want to play their DRM-protected music, you must play it on your registered PC or Macintosh. (They allow you up to five registered devices -- sufficient for most families.) This means that you cannot buy music and then give it to someone outside of your household. This seems to be a small price to pay for those of us who pretty much live online anyway.

Want to leave your iTunes-purchased music to your survivors? Just make sure to record your iTunes registered e-mail address and password somewhere your loved ones can find it and they are in business.

Apple's DRM catch? (There is always a catch.) To take the music you purchased from Apple with you (but leave your computer at home), you must buy an iPod for $99 or more. Want more flexibility? Apple will sell you bells and whistles (from third parties, as well as from Apple) to permit you to deliver your iTunes purchased music from an iPod to most any audio source (including a number of automobile music systems).

Apple has not made their DRM technology available outside of Apple -- except for the new Motorola Rokr E1 cell phone, said by many to be unnecessarily crippled. So, like all those other online music vendors using DRM technology, Apple makes you buy something to get anything more than its basic service (listening to 99 cents songs on your computer).

Unlike many of the others, however, Apple doesn't force you to continue to buy in order to keep the music you've already bought. Could Apple change that tomorrow? Sure they could.

David wonders why few seem concerned about DRM. Well, in part, it's because the biggest DRM player out there -- Apple -- has the luxury of a loyal customer base who trusts them. As long as Apple keeps that trust, their customers will accept DRM, no questions asked.

Enough said about Apple. What about the other guys? What about David's prediction -- that "The Sky is Falling?" Certainly, if Microsoft were to suddenly corner the DRM market, changes could come -- and fast. Do I expect it to happen? No. WMA is not ACC (or even MP3) and with memory prices dropping through the floor, the value of its space-saving characteristics is limited.

What about Microsoft's PlaysForSure DRM technology? At first glance, their willingness to license this technology to player manufacturers as well as online music sellers opens the door for complete dominance of the online music/video marketplace -- a scary thought indeed. But, what happens to that dominance when marketing forces drive some of their licensees out of business -- and thousands, perhaps millions, of customers are stranded with music they have purchased (or bought through subscription) that they can no longer play -- even with PlaysForSure? (Sure, Apple could also go out of business too, but--for a variety of reasons-- Apple's future in their selected markets seems secure for the foreseeable future.)

To be sure, the downside of DRM is not widely known and may not be for some time to come. How long will it take before our legislatures, responding to the complaints of their teenage kids, suddenly realize that the DRM provisions of the DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) have restricted their own choices?

To be sure, it will take (quite literally) an act of Congress to put this DRM genie back into the bottle -- but it will happen. In the mean time, those vendors who recognize the value of customer good will (such as Apple) will continue to provide their customers the choice they deserve at fair prices. As customers start running into roadblocks to legitimate use of their music, they will abandon those vendors who do not address those roadblocks.

All the while, the pirates-for-profit will continue on their merry way and those caught in the crossfire (by unwittingly using illegitimate peer-to-peer music-sharing products) will continue to put themselves at risk.

Topic: Apple

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

30 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Easy answer - buy the CD. Wow, that was hard...

    Stop your whining. Jeez, most of you Anti-DRM folks sound like spoiled children. Every message against DRM that I have read on this web site is written as if someone is going to be cheated out of their music. The easy solution is to stop being so cheap, buy the CD and rip it yourself. You can play a CD on your stereo, in your car, in your boom box, play a ripped image in your MP3 player and even loan the CD to your friend without paying a subscription fee or tolerating some bogus advertising. A CD will survive the hypothetical demise of Apple/MS or any other DRM vendor and you don't even need Stallman's Marxist help for that to happen.

    The real bottom line is that those people that are complaining just want something for nothing. Artists deserve to be compensated for their talents and if you listen to it and don't want to pay for it then you are stealing. Who is the criminal in this situation, Apple, MS, Sony or those of you that don't want to compensate artists for their efforts? Grow up.
    balsover
    • CDs have DRM today

      Ever heard of the Sony rootkit?
      Roger Ramjet
      • Not all of them do

        and sony is getting a pretty big nose bleed from it.

        I have Sony CD's and I have no installed root kits. How did that happen? Just ripping your CD is not going to get any root kit installed. If you prevent software on the CD from running, just how much luck do you think that any vendor is going to have installing root kits?
        balsover
        • Whiners?

          Every new major label CD has some form of DRM. Some are more malicious/invasive than others. Some can be broken easily, others take a little work.

          Don't be foolish.

          Most consumers had no idea there was software on the CD until they put the CD in. Knowing requires reading, and most music consumers pop in music CDs without thought.

          Lastly, you shouldn't have to worry about a music vendor installing rootkits on your computer. You should be able to pop in a music CD without thought or hesitation. Sony and DRM has forever tainted the music industry.
          theillmunkeys
          • Worse yet ...

            The very act of bypassing the DRM on your CD automatically make syou a felon onde the DCMA -- regardless of whether you intend to distribute the copyrights material or not!
            M Wagner
    • Most People Aren't Against Anti-piracy

      Not everyone who is against DRM is against anti-piracy measures. Most people object to DRM because its anti-piracy methods trample on the freedoms and rights of consumers. There are other anti-piracy measures out there including watermarking and other methods of making digital media traceable. These alternative anti-piracy measures are much more palatable to consumers.

      DRM can seem reasonable in situations where vendors rent large media libraries to consumers. Therefore vendors who have invested in DRM solutions, don?t have abandon their investments in the technology. Most consumers simply would like if vendors sell them a license to use their content, that these vendors don?t use technology to actively snoop and regulate how consumers use that content.
      P. Douglas
    • "By the CD" is draconian approach

      CDs are simply a reincarnation of the LP33 vinyl record business model. For 90 percent of the units sold, it's a great way to charge consumers $15 for one or two decent songs. The problem is that you shouldn't have to pay the overhead for music you'll never listen to (and thus be allowed a la carte music pricing). To the extent that DRM'd music can't interoperate with non-compliant devices, this is simply another measn to the same end. Eventually, you end up paying a premium for one or two songs.
      dberlind
    • You're contradicting yourself.

      I am against DRM because it is a solution that throws ou tht ebaby with the bathwater. The DCMA (the legislation that made DRM possible) makes you a felon by simply ripping a song from CD, of sharing a CD with a friend. Regardless of how that CD or MP3 is used.

      Sure you can buy the CD and rip it yourself but as soon as you make that song you ripped from your own CD available via a peer-to-peer file-sharing program like Kazaa, or if you give it to someone else, you are stealing from those very artists on whose behalf you argue. Loaning your CD to a friend has exactly the same effect on a smaller scale.

      The recording industry needs to leverage the technology to make up for those lost CD sales. DRM is the WRONG way to do it (mainly because it precludes legitimate use of the music) but it is the only answer anyone has come up with so far.

      BTW, buying the CD doesn't solve the problem as vendors are starting to put DRM onto CDs to make it impossible for you to RIP the music to your PC.
      M Wagner
  • Invalid reasons for Apple success

    The reasons cited for Apple's success are not valid:

    [quote]
    * Entry costs are zero. One can download iTunes for free and run it on a PC or Macintosh.
    [/quote]

    So? WMP is also free on Windows. And I don't even have to download it...it's already there.

    [quote]...unlike many of it's competitors, Apple's free software is not crippled.
    [/quote]

    Your definition of crippled is *alot* different from anyone else's then. If I can't easily convert digital music that I own into MP3s in order to play on *any* device I own, it's crippled. iTunes works with iPod...and that's all. Very crippled. In contrast, I can use WMP plus an extension from M$ to rip my CDs to MP3 format. No, M$ doesn't advertise it, but yes, the extension is available.

    [quote]
    * It costs nothing to use. Anyone who owns (or can borrow) a CD can use iTunes to port that music to their PC or Macintosh. Want to record your own music? Listen to Audio Books? You can use iTunes to manipulate any audio source.
    [/quote]

    Yeah? And WMP costs nothing to use either.

    [quote]
    * Free access to their store. Apple has provided music choices for everyone, from baby boomers and their computer-literate parents to today's teens ? by providing a place where one can buy a song for 99 cents or a whole album for $9.99. Compared to the price of a CD, even on sale, this is very attractive ? especially for those of us who don't want to buy an entire album for one or two songs.
    [/quote]

    How is this different from WalMart's online Music Store? Or others? There are at least several other major online music stores that don't have subscription models, and you pay only for the tracks you want. WalMart is 0.88 per track...that's 0.11/track cheaper...which adds up over time.

    To summarize, the reasons you provide have nothing to do with iTunes success, since they are not exclusive to Apple, nor even best in class. The reason, IMO, is simply that iPod is the most-recognized brand name of MP3 player on the market at this point...due in part to its design and in part to shrewd advertising. None of these DRMed music providers provide sufficient usability and accomodation for users' "fair use" rights.
    Techboy_z
    • You are no Apple Fanboy

      [Your definition of crippled is *alot* different from anyone else's then. If I can't easily convert digital music that I own into MP3s in order to play on *any* device I own, it's crippled.]

      Most Apple Mac owners trust Apple and will buy iPods for their music. Why mess with something else? Price? Hey, these guys ALREADY overpayed for mac - why not for music players?

      [Yeah? And WMP costs nothing to use either.]

      REally, what about that configuration page that pops up the first time you runs it? Does "Automatically obtain licenses for protected content" sound familiar? I will ASSUME that it costs money for licenses . . .

      [How is this different from WalMart's online Music Store? Or others? There are at least several other major online music stores that don't have subscription models, and you pay only for the tracks you want. WalMart is 0.88 per track...that's 0.11/track cheaper...which adds up over time]

      Once again you are not looking at it from the apple customers viewpoint. If I am willing to overpay for a computer - to get a percieved "no problem" environment, then I WILL overpay to get an iPod, and I WILL overpay to get music - as long as Apple continues to have a seamless, always works, reputation.
      Roger Ramjet
      • WalMart's music store.

        [b][i][How is this different from WalMart's online Music Store? Or others? There are at least several other major online music stores that don't have subscription models, and you pay only for the tracks you want. WalMart is 0.88 per track...that's 0.11/track cheaper...which adds up over time] [/i]

        Once again you are not looking at it from the apple customers viewpoint. If I am willing to overpay for a computer - to get a percieved "no problem" environment, then I WILL overpay to get an iPod, and I WILL overpay to get music - as long as Apple continues to have a seamless, always works, reputation.[/b]

        And you're BOTH overlooking at the overall perception of WalMart itself. It's been demonized as the ultimate in evil store chains. Why, they destroy entire neighborhoods when they decide to drop a store on the 'hood. They destroy local business when they move in. Hundreds of jobs are lost - never mind that THOUSANDS of jobs are created... Of course, those thousands of jobs are sub-standard, offer no benefits, etc..., et al, ad nauseum.

        Don't get me wrong, I like Walmart. Love their prices.

        But their name has a taint in many circles. When you can get Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to fly all the way across the country just to drop by your protest of a proposed WalMart store, you just KNOW you've got serious issues with your reputation regardless of whether or not that reputation is grounded in fact or delusion.
        Wolfie2K3
    • Mostly agree

      >>In contrast, I can use WMP plus an extension from M$ to rip my CDs to MP3 format.<<

      iTunes rips CDs into MP3 format without an extension... You have to change your settings.

      Other than that fact, I agree.
      theillmunkeys
    • Your correct ... up to a point.

      Last point first...

      User's have no "fair use" rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Once DRM is in place, any attempt to circumvent it for any reason is a felony.

      No DRM-based solution is sufficient but currently Apple's solution is the most complete.

      I am not aware of all the possibilities among the various on-line music options but iTunes offers a very attractive set of options at a fair price. Wal-Mart only promises for you to be able to play your songs on your PC (after they download management software to your PC.) Whether it complies with PlaysForSure DRM they do not say.

      Apparetly, you are not very familiar with iTunes. It converts any non-DRM format into any other non-DRM format for delivery on any digital medium available today. Its only shortcoming in that regard is that those 99 cent songs you buy from Apple can only be played on your PC/Mac or on the iPod. The fact that Apple offers a wide range of accessories for delivering iPod produced music to a wide variety of systems mitigates (to a limited extent) it's ties to DRM. You don't have that choice with any PlaysForSure licensed system of which I am aware.

      Differences between iTunes and WMP? None, really -- EXCEPT:

      1) Apple's music formats are based upon MPEG-4 standards.

      2) Apple's formats are of higher quality than Microsoft's proprietary WMA format. Independent reviews have found WMA and its 64K bit-rate to produce poor results compared to MP3, let alone ACC. It's strength is that is makes very small music files -- but memory is cheap.

      3) iTunes is more feature-rich. I suppose this is a matter of taste but I abandoned WMP when I discovered WinAmp and I abandoned WinAmp when I discovered iTunes.
      M Wagner
  • I just don't get it...

    I think most consumers shrug off DRM because they just don't get it, much like they don't get most of the ideas behind a computer.

    Another problem is that compatibility hasn't yet been a huge issue: most downloaders use iTunes and most MP3 players are iPods. Once another MP3 player (or download service) gains momentum, there will be many more compatibility issues.
    theillmunkeys
    • You Hit The Nail On The Head

      With the exception of some CD's being locked down so much , that in order to prevent what the RIAA calls "Casual Piracy" but what consumers call making a copy to put on a iPod/MP3 player, mix CD, or backup- the user can't do those things. The user, assuming they are using Windows or MAC OS, hasn't had to deal with incompatbility issues with the iTunes format as long as they are playing the songs on their computer or iPod. The reverse is not true of any user trying to use the WMF.

      Also the iTunes DRM scheme allows you to burn as MP3. The WIndows version it is up to the content holder whether you can do that or even back up your songs.

      The problem here is that it lulls the consumer though. Apple can change the terms of it's iTunes DRM at anytime, either through a Whim of Apple or through demands made by the RIAA. What garuntees does the consumer have that the iTunes service terms will not change? That you will always be able to convert to Mp3? The EULA/TOS says that it can change at anytime- and did when the number of playlists burns dropped.

      The same compatbility is not true for MS's Play's for Sure CRAP though, as some store do not allow the files to be converted or even backed up. The MS CRAP allows each store to set their own terms.

      That and many people are dumb sheep.
      Edward Meyers
      • That's the point ...

        ... with DRM, the content provider calls all of the shots. The ONLY thing that keeps Apple any more honest than anyone else is their reputation -- as evidenced by the loyalty of their customers. If Steve Jobs got hit by a truck tomorrow, nothing would prevent Apple from locking down its DRM. Will they? Their customers don't think so -- and that's why its customers do not care. If Apple ever betrays that customer trust, then consumer outrage will surface.
        M Wagner
        • Slow Errosion

          If put under enough pressure Apple will slowly errode those rights. They have already done so by reducing the number of play list burns you can make.

          It will be a slow errosion of rights until the rights you have under the Play's for Suren't and Apple's Fair Play CRAP systems are the same.
          Edward Meyers
  • Reason most customer shrug

    Most customers don't mind the DRM because up till now it's been very easy to circumvent it. It's just a smal inconvenience.

    Let me provide you with an example. I'm an itunes user on my windows machine and i run it as well on my linux boxes under codeweavers cross over software. It now happens that my ADSL provider gives me 1000 points on their eshop (for these 1000 points you can buy one CD approximately). This shop is based upon MS technology so i had to install some activex component to download songs and there is some license transferred to my pc the first time i want to play the song in mediaplayer.
    (compared to the itunes experience, it actually really sucks but as i get the CD for free every month who cares).

    After download, i burn the CD and I load it into iTunes as that is my preferred music player ( i could also use my linux box to rip the CD) By default CD's are ripped to mp3. A small inconvenience up to now, and if i want to have songs from itunes on my mp3 player for running, i put it on a CD and then rip it on my linux box)

    If i would go to the shop, i would probably have one step less, assuming that the CD will run on my linux box :).

    As long as i can do this, i just don't care about any DRM restrictions they put in there.

    (actually in europe we pay a tax on blank cd's because we all copy music :) )

    In the end it all comes down to trust, i could walk into a shop, buy a cd and make millions of copies of the CD, but the shop owner assumes that i won't do that. If for one or the other reason they start to get rid of this trust relationship by putting very restrictive DRM on content, i guess i will not buy the music and just put on the radio or listen to the music i like via pandora or another service on the net.

    So i guess customers will get upset when DRM is implemented in such a manner that it actually prevents fair use ( my definition of fair use is that i can listen to it on any device owned by me without to much effort)

    They should know that there exists no uncrackable DRM, so why bother, just trust the user as they've always done and hunt for the big fishes which mass produce CD's.
    tombalablomba
    • In The US We Also Pay That Tax

      Although it is only charged on CDs marked as Audio CD's and there is also a Tax on Digital Audio Tape (Still Around as DAT doesn't degrade like CDs do). This is what the AHRA is- In Exchange for a royalty on every recorder and audio media the consumer can make copies and not get charged with copyright infringement.

      This is one of the reasons why DRM is so upsetting- it breaks prior compromises in copyright law in favor of the studios.
      Edward Meyers
      • have you ever checked

        How they actually than give this money back to the artists and studio's which are the copyright owners?

        Here in the Netherlands they haven't been able to do so, because they also wanted to impose it on mp3 players and even hard drives (how idiot can you get ;) ).
        tombalablomba