Bye Bye, DRM – Hello Manageable Music!
Since the legitimate sales of digital music downloads began, record labels and recording artists have been looking for ways to protect their intellectual (ha, if you can call it that) property. Copyright law alone was not enough to enforce rights protection, so before many would let their music be sold online, they required a system to prevent copying and distribution.
That’s where Digital Rights Management (or DRM) came in to play. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (or DMCA) was passed in the United States, making the circumvention of any digital or electronic system designed to prevent copy or distribution of works illegal and prosecutable with huge fines. These DRM systems qualified under the DMCA, and that made the RIAA and MPAA very, very happy.
Unfortunately, there was no standard on DRM, and so each online retailer of digital media invented their own proprietary system. This lead to issues with media not being accessible on all PC platforms, mobile devices, or other arguably Fair Use methods of enjoying your purchased content.
As a result, more people turned to illegally downloading content to get higher-quality, DRM-free media that could be played (or at least converted to play) virtually anywhere. Also, the delivery times from Peer2Peer networks was faster, and often lead to movies and music being leaked before their official release.
From a marketing perspective, what was the community at large saying about how it wanted its media? Free is obviously nice, but people know free either means advertising or lack of legality. Some labels and artists and film studios started to realize that customers want media fast, in high-quality, early releases, and they want to be able to enjoy that media on anything that will play it.
iTunes led the way towards the DRM-Free movement with higher-quality iTunes Plus music unencumbered by DRM or other restrictions. They have by no means released the entire iTunes Store in this format, but offer many artists already. Amazon followed up next by making their entire store DRM-Free mp3 format downloads. And just recently, Rhapsody joined the pack by offering DRM-Free downloads on a per-track basis.
Also, Verizon Wireless is jumping on the bandwagon by partnering with Rhapsody, and will soon allow VCast customers to download music from Rhapsody DRM-Free, by way of a $15 / month subscription for the music rental, or a per-track purchase just as you would from Rhapsody’s program on the PC.
Will DRM-Free music turn more “pirates” into legitimate customers? Will you purchase music, video, etc. that you’ve previously downloaded from Peer2Peer networks? What devices do you use to play your media besides your computer? Let me know in the comments.
-The Raging Tech