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. identicon
    LoL, 28 Sep 2009 @ 2:52am

    DRM and digital picket fences

    A digital picket fence is called DDOS(Distribute Denial of Service)

    And it could be done just informing people in forums. Everyone can participate and anger will be the fuel. On the technical side all major browser have the ability to reload a webpage in certain intervals Opera have it embedded directly, Firefox has a plugin and IE to have plugins to do it people don't even need to use the "ping" command.

    How long will it take to people to figure that out and start using it when:

    - Like in the recent Amazon case people who purchased a legal copy of a book had that book deleted from their e-readers.
    - Servers for authentication let people out in the cold for things they paid for like music streams, online playlist with play music that they paid money for or movies.

    As business put up online stores getting people angry is not a good idea at all and it will open up new forms of interpretation for behavior. Right now people think DDOS is only for hackers and it is a bad thing, but that could change and people will start to think why it is that bad when people can protest in real life but not on the digital, another question would be if networks would be allowed to throttle such a behavior. It does open a lot of interesting questions. Would people doing it be target like it did happen in the beginning when people fought for the right to protest? How it would be regulated? How people would converge to a number of acceptable rules? Would it lead to an arms race between business and society? would unions use it to enforce their own real pickets on the digital arena?

    This is gold for those who like puzzles LoL

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