Bearing the DRM cross

Slate magazine has an interesting article covering the use of DRM in iTunes in the past and how the removal of Fairplay will affect the way that we play music in the future.

They argue that DRM has never been a potent force against piracy (an argument I entirely agree with) and that it’s been used mainly to try to control market position – ironically, recently,  by allowing Amazon to sell DRM-free tracks in direct competition with Apple:

[…]the industry tried another strategy to reduce Apple’s power—record companies gave up one of their most prized demands, copy protection, in order to let Amazon set up a DRM-free online music store. Because it carries no restrictions, music from Amazon’s store could work on Apple’s devices—and, thus, Amazon looked like it might pose a threat to the iTunes Store’s dominance. The labels, finally seizing the upper hand, declined to offer the same DRM-free deal to Apple until it agreed to institute flexible prices.

Last week, Apple gave in. The labels agreed to give up DRM on all songs sold on iTunes—within a few months, you’ll be able to copy every song in the store to an unlimited number of computers, and you’ll be able to play any song on any device, Apple or non-Apple. In return, Apple will let the industry sell songs at three different prices—69 cents, 99 cents, or $1.29, rather than today’s universal 99-cent price.

Apple may soon be selling DRM-free music on iTunes but movies remain encumbered by DRM. If you buy a film from iTunes you can only play it on an Apple device. You’d be better off buying it from a store; or, somewhat temptingly, download it for free from the internet where you can get yourself a copy that would work on any player you may have.

Slate come to an unsurprising conclusion – the entertainment industry is still trying to find ways to screw us over using DRM-like restrictions:

[…]studios announced last week that they’re going ahead with something called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, which promises to let people easily move shows and films between a bunch of approved devices. There’s one problem: Apple’s devices aren’t on that list. So movies you buy for your iPhone wouldn’t work on your DECE device, and movies you buy for your DECE devices wouldn’t work on your iPhone—nor on any other new product that isn’t approved by the industry. In other words, you’re better off on the dark side.

Why pay for crippled content? Most people that use DVDs, or iTunes even, aren’t even aware that their legally-purchased music is restricted. It just works with whatever devices they have. However, many people have been stung over the last couple of years when they’ve tried to move media from one device to another, or maybe use their Fairplay-riddled tunes on something other than an iPod.

The music industry might look like they’re starting to reduce the amount of DRM that they use but they’re still trying to create fake market forces to “encourage” us to pay over the odds for entertainment.

Piracy has never looked so good.

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