DRM Doesn't Enable Business Models; Blind Fear Disables Business Models

from the get-over-it dept

A bunch of folks have asked if I had any comment on analyst Michael Gartenberg post over at Engadget claiming that DRM has been demonized too far, and for all the "bad" things about DRM, most people really don't mind it, and we should be happy that it "enables new business models." I've discussed this before, but not in a while, so it seems worth revisiting.

First, it's a lie that DRM "enables new business models." Gartenberg doesn't realize it, but he admits it in his post, when he suggests that DRM made all-you-can-eat subscription models possible, while immediately countering that point by admitting the real factors are elsewhere:
Take subscription services for example. Sure, I'd love a service that would allow me to download unlimited content in high bitrate MP3 format for a reasonable fee every month. Except economics and greed will never let that happen.
Notice what he says here. The DRM isn't what enabled the business model. It's fear of how people will use such a service that does. It's fear that people will actually use what's been given to them -- leading to the claim of "economics and greed" stopping such a service from ever coming about. But, that makes no sense. People already have access to pretty much every song ever recorded with no DRM at all. Claiming that they need DRM to enable such a service makes no sense. It's already there -- just not legally. So what does the DRM stop in such a service? Absolutely nothing. If the fear is that someone takes a song and shares it online... too late. It's already happened. The only thing that DRM does in that situation is put up a restriction on a legitimate, paying customer. That makes no economic sense at all.

And that's my real problem with DRM. It cannot enable a new business model economically. That's because it's only purpose is to limit behavior. There are no business models that are based solely on limiting behavior. It may be the case that some companies may be too afraid to implement a business model without this faux "protection," but that's entirely different than saying DRM enables the business model. DRM takes an economic resource and artificially restricts it. It takes away options, it does not enable them. DRM hasn't been "demonized." It's a pointless solution that prevents no unauthorized sharing and only serves to hinder the activities of legitimate customers.

Filed Under: business models, drm, economics, subscriptions

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  1. icon
    GJ (profile), 26 Sep 2009 @ 9:55pm


    "there is a reason myself and many of the rest of you havent bought a CD in years."
    Indeed. And that reason is...drum roll...because you're freeloaders.

    Um, no. First of all, Anonymous Coward, the main reason that I hardly ever buy CDs is that there's very little music produced that is worth "having".

    I will buy classical CDs, because I enjoy different renditions of good music, and it's easier to buy than to look for it online.

    Meanwhile, there is a lot of music that appeals to me, that I cannot find commercially. Most of this is stuff that's 30 years old, and I can find it shared from people who have digitized their records. Am I a freeloader because of that? Perhaps I am, but it is not by choice. I would purchase if it were commercially available.

    I am also eagerly awaiting a commercially produced DVD of spamalot, which I will be buying the moment it comes out, and until that time, I will revive my memory of attending this musical with the poor quality recordings that I can find online.

    So far, new copyright laws do not extend to administering electro shock on your way out of theatre (yet), so I am of the opinion that what I am doing is not particularly damaging to anyone: I would love to attend another performance, but am unable to do so for financial reasons (air fare to cross three time zones seems somewhat excessive).

    I also break the law in other ways, because I need to remove the region codes off the DVDs that I've bought abroad. Sometimes it's just easier to download AVIs (or whatever), so I can easily burn a copy.

    Not being able to play the legal DVDs that I have legally bought is extremely annoying, and region DVDs are an extremely mild form of DRM; easily circumvented with a chinese DVD player (which costs more than your North American bought DVD player), but not with the DVD player in my laptop, or with the one in the car (minivan: I don't watch movies when I'm driving. I'm too busy looking out for red light cameras).

    I would never have felt the need to research how to rip a DVD if I could easily play (different language) DVDs in the car for my kid and if I could easily create a backup of it to protect the original from scratches.

    I would never have felt the need to go online and search for music that I grew up with, if I had been able to purchase this music in a store.

    I'm not sure how you define "freeloader", or where you get the idea that I am using circular reasoning for what I do. Nor do I have the idea that I am ethically stealing anything. I am well aware of the fact that I am breaking the law. But I stand firm in my conviction that I am not stealing anything.

    The law, in this case, is an ass.


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