Does Copy Protection Increase Or Decrease Unauthorized Use?

from the let's-think-this-through... dept

There’s a story over at TheRegister, written by some sort of analyst firm talking about a new copy protection DRM standard that appears to have widespread backing across this industry. This isn’t particularly newsworthy, as there have been plenty of attempts at similar things. They all fail. This one will fail too. What’s worrying, though, is the following sentence: “Make no mistake, without the interoperable DRM systems that Coral promises, there will be no consent from the content industries to put film and music content out to widespread digital distribution, which in turn will drive up piracy and undermine all existing content players.” That does seem like a pretty big mistake, actually. If content providers show they can make money without copy protection, then plenty of others will start offering it as well. If the customer makes it clear that it’s what they want, the content providers will have to follow. All DRM does is make the content less valuable to users — which doesn’t seem very compelling from a producer’s standpoint. The second point, that a lack of DRM will drive up unauthorized copying seems strange as well. I recently bought a new MP3 player, and have finally been converting some old CDs over to MP3 so I can listen to this music — all of which I’ve purchased legally. I don’t use any P2P file sharing apps for music, so all of the content is clearly mine. However, I’m running into problems with a few CDs in converting them to MP3. I’m not sure if it’s copy protection or something else, but I’ve never been as tempted as now to just go online and download copies of these MP3s. I won’t do it, because I won’t engage in unauthorized copying, but these CDs are much less valuable to me now, and it’s unlikely I’ll be listening to them again. Still, it seems that those who are less concerned about unauthorized copying are likely to jump online in a quick second to download the tracks they can’t convert legally. So, does copy protection really decrease the incentive to get unauthorized files? In my case, it certainly seems the opposite is true.

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Comments on “Does Copy Protection Increase Or Decrease Unauthorized Use?”

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Jeff R says:

Unauthorized Copying?

[I] have finally been converting some old CDs over to MP3 […] I’ve never been as tempted as now to just go online and download copies of these MP3s. I won’t do it, because I won’t engage in unauthorized copying…

If you own the CDs, is it really any less legal for you to download an MP3 version of those songs than it is to rip and encode them into MP3 yourself? It would seem to me that you either have the right to possess and listen to an MP3 version of those songs or you don’t — where they came from shouldn’t matter if you own the CD.

Hersh says:


Its true that from a customer perspective, the only thing that DRM does is reduce the value of content. However seeing how there are only a few proven business models that work with free-to-copy content today, some content providers may instinctively feel DRM is the only way to protect their investment.
That isn’t necessarily a productive/smart reaction on their part, but in the absence of some business model that allows them to generate revenue _reliably_ from the content they have today, with the organizations they have today, what other choice do they have?
I think we can all agree that media companies need some major structural changes–in the way they produce content and market it, as well as in the way they sell it–in order to remain profitable as broadband coverage increases. However since these media companies seem to still be making a healthy profit today using their old models, I don’t think they are going to make the painful changes necessary anytime soon.
When have we ever seen a corporation restructure itself when still making good bank. It just doesnt happen. Organizations always seem to lack the will to slash and burn the redundant, to restructure, until they are forced to it by desperation.
So I think we are going to continue to see various DRM efforts tried up until the point they can’t sell us content anymore because everything is so easily available at some dropsite.
That day may never come though. If people get so tied up using their iPods with their iTunes on their iMacs then maybe content companies will never need to change. They can just sell their stuff into these captive networks that have every link in the chain locked tight with DRM.
– Hersh

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