When it comes to media, the medium defines the DRM

When it comes to media, the medium defines the DRM

Summary: I was over at CNET on Tuesday being interviewed on video, about mobile video. I spoke about the trends, digital rights management (DRM), the role of wireless carriers, media producers, and content owners.

TOPICS: Hardware

I was over at CNET on Tuesday being interviewed on video, about mobile video. I spoke about the trends, digital rights management (DRM), the role of wireless carriers, media producers, and content owners.

DRM is pivotal in the digital media world, it protects content.  Whoever owns the dominant DRM will rule the world because DRM is the gatekeeper, it protects and collects. It protects the content and it is how the content is monetised, transformed into individually targeted media services.

Because of the strategic importance of the DRM, lots of companies want to own it. Yet no content owner wants one company to establish a dominant DRM because they could lose substantial controls.

That's why we face a future DRM hell as these things battle themselves to a conclusion, imho.

After the interview, I started thinking about our old analog media technologies, and their marvelously effective DRM features, all built into the physics of the medium. Analog protected against piracy and enabled profitable media business models--a perfect DRM. In media, the medium defines the DRM.

Consider conventional TV broadcast signals. Analog TV technology could be described as a very effective streaming video technology. It transmits massive amounts of video information through hundreds of channels simultaneously and wirelessly.

Each analog TV channel represents a wireless broadband system that can support any number of users, from ten to ten million--with no loss of performance from increased user load.

Analog TV has a broadcast range of more than a hundred miles. Try doing that with digital distribution technologies such as cellular networks, or WiMAX, all of which seem terribly constrained in range and capacity.

Despite the ease of distribution, and the lack of controls over who could access video content, piracy was never much of an issue in the analog TV world. TV content could be copied through video tapes but it was not feasible to distribute it much beyond individual or family circles. The DRM was built into the physical nature of the medium.

Digital DRM gets hacked all the time. Digital media can be pirated and distributed widely in a click or two.

The nature of digital technology has no inherent DRM capabilities. It is used in the media industry precisely because content owners want an easy way to produce perfect copies of their content. Exactly what they don't want their customers doing with the same content and technology.

Topic: Hardware

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  • You forgot ebooks

    For DRM on ebooks, how do you make them "loanable" (like hardcopy)?
  • Wrong wrong wrong

    Sigh. When will people stop buying into this lie:
    "DRM is pivotal in the digital media world, it protects content."

    DRM is not, in any way, meant to "protect content" or stop piracy. Nor is it necessary in a digital media world. DRM is about opening up new revenue streams, about ways to make you pay for the things you currently get for free. Here's the best explanation I've ever read on the real point of DRM:
    I once attended a DRM negotiation where an MPAA vice-president said, "Watching a show that's being received in one room while you're sitting in another room has value, and if it has value, we should be able to charge money for it." Siva Vaidhyanathan calls this the "if value, then right" theory -- if something has value, someone must have a right to sell it. So while you might be accustomed to extracting unexpected value from your old media -- ripping a CD to play it on your iPod, copying a cartoon and sticking it on your fridge, taking your books with you when you move overseas -- forget about it from now on.

    Every conceivable source of value for DRM digital movies is now potentially for sale. I've heard proposals for "discounted" movies that you can't fast-forward ("discounted" in the sense that products you buy with a store loyalty card are "discounted" -- they raise the price unless you use the card). Prepare for the future where every button on your remote has a price-tag on it.
    tic swayback
    • Some truth.

      The content companies are protecting content. Not from piracy, but from their customers.

      I prefer "file-sharing" or even "theft" to "piracy", by the way.
      There are real pirates, who make a great deal of money on illegal copies. That's much different from what 25%+ of the US population (and maybe higher percentages elsewhere) are doing online.
      Anton Philidor
      • Customers bear the burden of DRM

        I totally agree, DRM works against customers rather than pirates. Customers have already paid for the content yet they are treated as if they are pirates. DRMs make life difficult for the wrong people, pirates can get the digital content anyway.

        Why can't I view my DVD bought in London in North America? I paid for the content.

        Sometimes Yahoo Music won't let me play my own MP3s because it can't verify ownership due to a corrupt DRM look-up file that requires a lengthy multi-step procedure to fix.

        If DRMs are to control every aspect of my PC experience, and are able block me from daily, normal useage, then that is no longer a "personal" computer, it is theirs. Then give it to me as a media+hardware service, I shouldn't have to pay for it twice.
  • Broadly Agree

    I think on the whole I must agree with this article. Last weekend I had the opportunity to interview an IP attorny, actually the purpose was to do a book review of his new novel. At the end of the interview I broached the subject of RIAA, DRM and all of the other things we love to hate.

    That discussion I used to create another article, you can find it at http://www.bloggernews.net/12963

  • False Assumption

    [B]Whoever owns the dominant DRM will rule the world...[/B]

    Not my world and not the world of many millions more. The number of people who will be screwed over by DRM is an ever diminishing pool of people. You generally only get to rip people off once or twice with buggy DRM.

    If video is available only through DRM sources, then I won't watch it, and could literally care less.

    The assumption that is always implied is that 'They DON'T need us, we need them". [B]We don't need them, they need us.[/B]

    I see a few more monumental failures in DRM from various sources before the consumer revolts and the suddenly realize that they do need us.

    1) Sony rootkit.
    2) MaybePlays
    3) FairUseForWM and pyMistique (yeah, they'll stay ahead of these guys)
    4) Unbox - No value and probably the worst EULA in the history of the world.
    5) WGA hastles in XP for millions, probably nightmare for millions more in Vista.

    They can keep pumping millions and possibly billions worldwide on the farce they call DRM, and continue to scratch their heads at why they aren't making much money, I just laugh at them.

    • Absolutely 100% Correct

      I might add also, if mommy's and daddy's started teaching their off-spring the truth about the nightmare there would soon be a drastic reduction in sale and use of DRM'ed crap.
      Right now their attitude (the cartel's) is, if you don't buy it someone else will. There's a sucker born every minute, and that's what they depend on. The suckers need educating before they fall for the scam.
      Forget the proponents of DRM. They are either making money from it or allready got more money than brains. Otherwise they don't have enough sense to know the difference.
      Ole Man