We've discussed the pitfalls of DRM and copy protection many times, generally from the angle of the problems it creates for businesses, and how it does nothing to stop piracy, but just creates hassles for users and ultimately harms content companies by holding down sales. Many of these issues are easily lost on a lot of consumers, who tend to not really care, as long as their stuff works. However, the mainstream media is starting to pay closer attention to these issues, and the New York Times today uses the launch of the Microsoft Zune to explain to the average person what DRM means to them: that music they've bought from one service that works with one device may not work if they get a different brand of device. This sort of lock-in ultimately holds back the market by distorting competition: if users can't switch brands of music players without losing access to music they've purchased, they're much less likely to switch. This is why iTunes as a loss leader works for Apple -- every song a user buys from the iTunes Music Store is another reason for them not to switch away from the iPod. This really isn't good for anybody other than Apple. It certainly doesn't do anything to help users, and it does little for record labels, either. Their continued insistence on using pointless, ineffective copy protection and DRM continues to shoot themselves in the foot by holding back the market. Perhaps as more members of the general public understand how copy protection impacts them, they'll begin voting with their wallets and affecting some change.
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