It was quite predictable that as the recording industry finally realized that DRM was a bad idea that it would move on to digital watermarking
. The idea sounds appealing. It doesn't have the feature that people hate about DRM: preventing you from doing what you want with the music you've purchased -- but it does have a number of other downsides. First, it tends to degrade the quality of the audio. Second, it's often relatively easy to remove
the watermark, making it effectively useless. Third, if watermarks are used to link a specific file to a specific user (which the industry insists it isn't doing... yet), it suddenly becomes a huge liability just to have those music files. Imagine if you lose your iPod full of watermarked tracks, and all of those tracks find their way onto file sharing sites? Even more importantly, the whole concept of watermarking is counterproductive to what music files should be about. If the industry were smart and understood the basic economics of what was happening, they'd want
people to be sharing music. They should want
people to be their biggest (free!) promoters of music. They should want
people to be spreading the music of their musicians as a way to get the word out. The whole concept of watermarking goes against that very idea. It's more backwards thinking from an industry that is more focused on protecting an old way of doing business, rather than recognizing the opportunities of a new way of doing business.