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
    Ess, 28 Sep 2009 @ 5:14am

    To the get over it department

    It is rare that we find anyone now-a-days who is as insightful and articulate as Mr. Masnick. This is one of the best written pieces I've ever read on the subject of DRM. I especially liked how you did not elaborate on the "faux protection". I have always been a fan of staying mute on the subject of DRM because the protection is so easily foiled (and there are many legitimate reasons to foil it). We wouldn't want the technology to advance any, but if one were to speak of it, you said what should be said. Somehow even with DRM free content I've managed to avoid the temptation to become a super-node, hard as it was with a laptop.

    In realty, the personal computer and the world wide web is the ultimate expression of freedom, and DRM is the antithesis of it, and by virtue of that the modern world. It's a transitory concession of the lumbering dinosaur who hasn't fully realized they have only two choices, adapt or die; there is no monopoly on creativity. However the lovely part about competition is that we now see people giving away so many of their legal rights, if not actual product, and making money doing so. We get more content, from more people, on a more diverse set of subjects, more regularly then at any point ever in all of human history, and each one of them may get a smaller piece of the pie sometimes but some of them wouldn't have had any piece before. It's certainly not the artists who loose out anyway as with the reduced costs of personal computer production, internet advertising, and virtually free distribution they no longer need to make tens of millions of dollars off of a three minute track to break even. I can't speak for everyone but I've purchased more downloadable content in the last 5 years then I could ever conceive of buying in another form. Where would I even keep a physical copy?

    If you really want to make the big bucks design non-orwellian software to filter out the noise; harder than it sounds being that noise is purely subjective. And God said, in the techie bible somewhere, "Go forth my children and create!"

    Tick tock.

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