Sleight Of Hand: If We Don't Call It DRM, We Can Pretend That DRM Is Gone

from the poof dept

I was upset that I had to miss the FTC's workshop on DRM earlier this week. I had been invited to speak at the event, but had already committed to speaking at the Leadership Music Digital Summit in Nashville, so had to decline. But, from the writeups about the event, it's quite clear that many in the content industry still believe DRM is a good idea (or, rather a "necessary" idea), despite the fact that it doesn't work. DRM, despite what they might say, does not "enable new business models" at all. It simply gives the content holders the illusion that they can somehow control the content. But, it never stops any copying at all. So, it actually tends to just annoy those who are trying to legitimately purchase and/or access the content. Because those who are going to access it in an unauthorized manner will do so separately.

That said, a bunch of folks have sent in a series of stories this week that are somewhat amusing. Basically, it seems that video game companies have decided to stop calling DRM "DRM." This follows a series of horrific PR nightmares, where firms made use of DRM in ways that significantly limited the value of certain games, and players (or potential customers) of those games struck back in trashing those gaming companies for treating them as criminals. So, now, we have stories about Valve launching a new DRM that "makes DRM obsolete" even though it's still DRM. Then there's EA -- who received the biggest brunt of consumer backlash for its DRM choices. It's releasing the new Sims "without DRM methods that feel overly invasive." But, of course, it will still have DRM.

It's really difficult to understand what these execs think they're doing that benefits them in any way. It's not about enabling new business models. Any business model they're talking about can work just fine without DRM. It's not about "keeping honest people honest," because you don't have to keep honest people honest -- that's why they're honest. It's not about stopping unauthorized file sharing or "piracy," because no DRM has yet been shown to do that at all. It's not about "slowing down" unauthorized file sharing, because once an unauthorized copy is out there, it gets pretty quickly copied everywhere. One copy is all it takes and then nothing is "slowed down" at all. The only thing DRM serves to do is get in the way of legitimate customers trying to do what they want with content they thought they had legally purchased. In other words, it destroys value for legitimate customers -- and it's difficult to see any business rationale where that's an intelligent move.

Filed Under: business models, drm
Companies: ea, ftc


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  1. identicon
    R. Miles, 30 Mar 2009 @ 7:24am

    Doesn't DRM circumvent legal copying?

    Someone feel free to educate me on this, but I'm pretty sure I'm allowed to make as many copies of software I want so long as one, and only one, instance of the software is running at a time.

    In addition, I'm also allowed to create one backup copy of the software I've purchased.

    So how does DRM not constitute an illegal attempt at my rights as a consumer?

    Not that it matters, as I no longer purchase software with DRM on it. I simply find an open source version of it or do without.

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