Depends on the Meaning of “DRM”

When I first read that Sony was going to give up their DRM ways I was skeptical… after all this is the company that brought us a rootkit. After learning more about how their system works, well it makes perfect sense (for Sony, it doesn’t make sense for anyone else).

Kid #2: So to recap, what you’ve got here is a system that makes people leave their house in order to download music at their house, and makes them go to a store to get music that they could get at the store, somewhere else [From Why It Won’t Work]

This system will fail as all DRM systems have failed. Apple’s FairPlay has been the most successful in terms of market adoption, but it’s not difficult to strip out FairPlay from tracks you download from iTunes, in fact it is ridiculously easy. Apple was successful with FairPlay because their customers were getting something out of iTunes beyond music, they were getting convenience. It was a “truth between two parties” that as long as iTunes continued to give me easy access and hassle free downloading of reasonably priced music, well I’d put up with their DRM as long as it didn’t get in the way.

To support my argument that all DRM fails, I submit into evidence the fact that despite an abundance of DRM in commercial music for several years now there is no shortage of free downloadable illegal music. Of the 37 albums that Sony puts up on their “DRM free” scheme, I would bet that by the end of the day I could download all 37 albums and not pay one cent for any track. The vast majority of consumers will pay for their downloaded music if you give them a reasonably convenient mechanism for doing so.

As usual, Sony misses the boat on this concept and continues to insist that I come to them on their terms. This will fail and Sony will continue to fail in portable media players, online distribution, and customer satisfaction.