Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Bizzare Tales of DRM

Over at Big Picture there's an excellent story of how DRM is killing the world of consumer media.

This tale is part of a larger struggle within the recording and digital download industry -- not of P2P or piracy -- but one of innovation and competition. As you follow this odd story (broken into 4 increasingly strange parts), you will note that as it gets weirder, Artists and Consumers are the collateral damage. It makes one wonder just what the hell the Recording Industry is thinking about these days.

I can see the distributor's position, they have a huge infrastructure and industry surrounding the current model of music, video and television distribution and want to protect that. Frankly they have an obligation to their shareholders to do just that, however this is one of those situations where badly applied Capitalism can fly in the face of what's good for society.

The only real problem, though, is consumer education, after all one of the tenets of a free market system is that consumers have access to all the information they need to make a purchase decision. When a consumer has access to complete information, the idea is that they make an informed decision to purchase one product over another. Unfortunately consumers aren't getting to make informed decisions as few people can clearly explain why DRM'd music is a fundamentally different beast than what they've been used to.

DRM systems, unfortunately, are in the realm of bleeding edge technology and social issues. Making analogies out of Gutenberg and his press is becoming passe but consider the major social upsets caused by the easy distribution of information. No longer was the Church responsible for interpreting and presenting the Bible, instead people could access it directly for themselves as well as all sorts of related knowledge. This sort of techology plus social change does not come lightly at any time.

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