Back in January 2004, Robert Scoble wrote about the problem of DRM lock-in, and more specific about Apple’s FairPlay. Scoble:
Let’s say it’s 2006. You have 500 songs you’ve bought on iTunes for your iPod. But, you are about to buy a car with a digital music player built into it. Oh, but wait, Apple doesn’t make a system that plays its AAC format in a car stereo. So, now you can’t buy a real digital music player in your car. Why’s that? Because if you buy songs off of Apple’s iTunes system, they are protected by the AAC/Fairtunes DRM system [sic], and can’t be moved to other devices that don’t recognize AAC/Fairtunes [sic]. Apple has you locked into their system and their devices.
Scoble then went on explaining why Microsoft’s Windows Media DRM is a safer bet than FairPlay, mentioning the possibility for third-party licensing and the PlaysForSure initiative, resulting in a wide ecosystem of compatible devices. Sounds reasonable? Imagine you followed Scoble’s advice — it’s 2006 now, and you’re drooling over Microsoft’s latest, the Zune… A rewrite of the quote above illustrates why you’re 0wned:
Let’s say it’s 2006. You have 500 songs you’ve bought on MSN Music/Urge/Napster/… for your PlaysForSure labeled music player. But, you are about to buy a Zune. Oh, but wait, Microsoft made the Zune so that it is not compatible with Microsoft’s own Windows Media DRM format. So, now you can’t buy a Zune. Why’s that? Because if you buy songs off of MSN Music/Urge/Napster/…, they are protected by the Windows Media DRM system, and can’t be moved to other devices that don’t recognize Windows Media DRM. Microsoft has you locked into the (who knows, maybe soon defunct?) DRM system they developed and the devices they approved as part of their PlaysForSure program.
The one and only solution? Do what Cory Doctorow says: “Protect your investment. Vote with your wallet. Buy open.”