Friday, March 09, 2007

DRM blues

Steve Jobs has added his voice to the "get rid of DRM" crowd. Of course, lots of people are pointing out that he's holding out with an all or nothing stand. There are plenty of small labels that want their music DRM free.

We deal with this issue all the time with NetLibrary and OverDrive. Both of these are shackled to Windows Media DRM 2.0. Those files won't play on Mac OS or iPods. and just to keep things annoying, Microsoft opened their new store exclusively for their new Zune player. Guess what files from the Zune store won't play on Creative, iRivier, or SanDisk. They might manage NetLibrary and OverDrive but not Zune.

Actually there are quite a few music stores that don't work with many portable players. Some are for streaming only, though at least most of those are free. It's facinating that the iPod has such a large market share but it can only accept DRM-Free MP3's, ripped from CD, and iTunes Music. According to the Steve Jobs letter mentioned earlier 90% of the content on iPods comes from ripped Cd's. If you don't already know, ripped music is music that has been converted to MP3 some other digital format froma CD. Record Labels really don't like to hear this and have threatened to put DRM on CD's so If you plan to use the music on a portable you have to buy another copy for the portable device. What this will mean is that if you have an iPod, your son has a Sandisk MP3, your daughter has a CD player, and your husband has a PocketPC, you might have to buy 4 copies of the music for each player. Actually the son and husband might be able to share but not anyone else. What is the standard today is to get the CD, make a copy for the daughter to use and rip it to mp3 for everyone else. Then the CD may just sit on the shelf somewhere. Now the copy under current law is legal, that is considered FairUse. though multiple copies wouldn't be. Ripping to MP3 is a bit questionable and Windows Media Player is now applying DRM in that process so you can't share the MP3 with many players, I'm not sure of the limit but I think it's 5. Each time you move the file you must connect to the web to get the license for the new player. So far I don't think iTunes does that but it could be just a matter of time.

Although, I agree that all this would be simpler with only one DRM scheme, I suspect the record labels love it. They now have an excuse to make people buy multiple copies of music for each player they own. I suspect they would love tying even CD's to just one player. So if you and your whole family love a particular CD, you can't share it unless you trade CD players too.

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