I got a bit enthused over recent Slashdot post on DRM and its comments. Slashdot also had some very good discussion on it. I thought I would blog about my thoughts on the same.
The motivation for DRM is pretty simple. Media content companies are afraid that the internet and the digital revolution make it very easy to replicate content. Given the relatively little price for such illegal copies of content (movies, music), these companies will go out of business if they don’t try to restrict this copying. Its debatable whether their business really suffers from piracy or not. However, content piracy is becoming a big problem for these companies as is evident from loads of content on P2P networks, IRC networks and BitTorrent.
One should also note that there are many other legitimate consumers who actually pay up and want the freedom to copy what they bought over as many types of devices as they want and share it with their near and dear ones. Without this freedom, these people (and I) really don’t see a reason to actually buy content. Let’s say that its because the cost of music and movies is anyways pretty high and the quality has been going downhill for some time now. DRM frustrates these customers. You end up paying the same (or perhaps even more; there has to be quite some engineering effort to get the DRM thing working smoothly) for content which you cannot share with people and which you cannot use with all your devices. This is really sad. Its pretty appalling that the content companies are forgetting this simple business principle: “keep your regular customers happy”.
The obvious question that comes up is – if not DRM then what? I would like to ask the content creation companies: Why do you think it is so unrealistic to manage the piracy crime using the techniques traditionally used for stopping crime; the police? Do you think that encumbering all media playback technologies with DRM is less costly than monitoring piracy and killing the real culprits? Why to you sing along with technology monopolies like Apple, Microsoft, Sony et.al. knowing the fact that they will never like to make DRM seamless and interoperable because of the simple fact that content creation is not their business? Given the proliferation of so many technologies to playback content (let’s count: Protected AAC, MP3, Protected WMA, flash players, mini hard drive players, so many third party programs to load music on devices, different DRM policies for each kind of device, Format wars, Codec Wars, Media Center wars… ) don’t you think that the average customer will be confused and will hold back shelling out money for stuff? Apple is a company which gets this “simplicity requirement” quite correctly and look at what it has made it in terms of brand and customer satisfaction. I ask you content creation companies, do you really think technology hype will sell your content? What’s in for you in all this mess?
I really love music. I buy CDs because I know that its a hell of a standard. *Any* device plays it. You can rip it and play it on your computer. Make playlists of your favourite songs. Sometimes I even do a salesmanship act by actually trying to convince my friends that some music I heard is great. Some of my friends take pains to even write reviews about recent movies and music. Don’t you content companies think that all of this will be lost the moment confusing technology comes home? Do you really think that my friend would actually buy another album of an artist if I didn’t hook him up with a favourite song from my library?
Why would you do this to yourself?