EU Commissioner Makes Veiled Threat About Forcing Music Stores To Drop DRM

from the upon-deeper-inspection dept

Over the past year or so, some European countries have been taking a closer look at digital music and different stores' copy-protection schemes, with a view towards forcing compatibility, which would basically render DRM useless. Norway's consumer ombudsman saying that the iTunes Music Store's DRM is illegal, while French politicians flirted with mandating interoperability (before relenting and making things worse for consumers). Now, the EU's consumer protection commissioner is jumping on the bandwagon, criticizing Apple because songs purchased from iTMS only play on iPods and saying "something has to change." While she doesn't propose anything specific, this sounds a lot like the veiled threats so many EU regulators are fond of -- in essence, it's a "fix this, or we will" sort of statement. That's fine, but there's a pretty strong argument against government interference here, even if it would (theoretically) achieve the much-desired result of interoperability or the downfall of music with DRM. The switch away from DRM needs to be made as a business decision, not a regulatory one. By taking the regulatory or political route, content providers that are so insistent on DRM will simply become more resolute that they must use it, and will make the switch begrudgingly (and after a long legal fight, to be sure), rather than embracing DRM-free music on its own merits. A government mandate makes dropping DRM a political or legal issue, and it will be fought as such. This means that record labels will devote their resources to fighting the law, not figuring out the new business models that dropping DRM would enable.

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  1. identicon
    Nicolas Jondet, 12 Mar 2007 @ 10:30am

    French system may be an option

    I think that the regulatory approach adopted by France offers flexibility in order to achieve interoperability whether record labels choose to drop DRMs or not. If they do, as a number of independent labels in France have already done, then interoperability will be promoted by the content industry.

    However, if the content industry decides not to drop DRMs, the French law imposes an interoperability requirement for such DRMs. This requirement will be implemented by a body to implement this requirement (the body will probably be set up after the presidential election in May).

    The French law does not dictate what the content producers should decide about DRMs, just that in whatever their choice, there should be interoperability between media files, software, hardware and platforms.

    I think that the mere existence of such a mechanism has been one of the main reason (with other initiatives in Europe and a court case in the US) of Apple's pledge to push for DRM-free music. The threat of regulation might be the best way to push all players in the "right direction".

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