I remember when I got my first MP3. It was 1999, and I was pulling it from a P2P site that doesn’t exist anymore. That, well, and the entire collection of photo shopped Brittany Spears pictures. Back then, rights were being trampled and we did it because we didn’t know better.
Nowadays, we have people right and left telling us that downloading music is not legal. Some people have turned to legal methods of music acquisition – 99 cents per song, or through a subscription service like Napster or Rhapsody. Others decided to take their chances and continue downloading and trading music. And because of this, companies have begun the attempt to curb the illegal download of such music. But as they did that, both artists and consumers rights were getting trampled, which lead us to ask the question: Does DRM actually work?
There are two terms in electronic music that always make the general public shutter. Those terms are RIAA and DRM. While the RIAA is attacking downloading of music, DRM is a process that allows people to listen if they have properly acquired rights. Some rights could be set to listen free for a certain timeframe; others can be to pay for the right to listen.
DRM stands for “Digital Rights Management” and in one way or another has been around for a long time, we just didn’t know anything about it. Pre-computer, the rights were whether you could copy the songs from tape or album to another source. In terms nowadays, it means whether you can copy your MP3’s to other devices like an iPod. The concern is that you make copies for your other devices, and then you have 5 copies, so you give one to a friend.
Of course, DRM is more than just music. Movies, books on tape, coverage of an event, printing of a flyer or even a recording of any sound can be covered in DRM. Original work should have reciprocation to the creator. Think of it like this – You go to a nightclub and there is a cover charge. Some find a back way in to avoid paying, others will try to stay past bar time to continue partying. Yet the Bouncer is there to stop those who don’t abide by the rules.
In theory, DRM is a good concept. However, in practice is where things get a little cloudy. For instance, if a consumer purchases a song, they might want to listen to it on other forms of media. Therefore they download the song to an MP3 player, or burn a CD of the music. With DRM controlling the license, the consumer might not be able to move the item from one device to another. Where this gets problematic is when the user wants to back up their data to another source. If they can’t, then their primary source breaks down, they might end up losing the original and have to repurchase the same item again.
These issues have changed some distributor’s views. Steve Jobs requested in 2007 for the recording industry to discontinue the current practice of DRM control. ITunes had begun selling non-DRM music for a slightly larger price. Just recently, Sony had announced its intention of pulling all DRM music off their site with a “Platinum MusicPass” subscription.
So is DRM in the music realm dead and why isn’t it dead for movies as well?
For movies, the answer is (at least right now) simpler; there isn’t that many transferring data around. As people start learning how to copy movies to home servers and portable devices, this will once again be an issue. And production companies are working with top tech to allow flexibility of movies without losing the rights.
As for DRM in music, it’s not totally dead. There are still a lot of companies out there that use DRM. And eventually through understanding, the technology will get better where the question of DRM is not so much in the forefront. You will be able to download to your other sources without issue.
It’s a far cry from back when I downloaded music from that P2P. Today, I have a Rhapsody account. I can listen to any type of music at any time and there are only a couple instances where an artists’ music is not on the site. We do need to be concerned on artists’ rights though. If you build something, you would want to get paid for it – the artist should also get that same right.