chosaq

How (not) to invest in music

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.”

Comments on “How (not) to invest in music” (feed)

Comments and pings are closed.

  1. Additional thoughts on DRM that should be discussed

    1. The company goes out of business. You are screwed.
    2. The company decides to unilaterally change the terms of service. You are screwed. See the review of M$ Zune player by David Pogue in the New York Times.
    3. The company releases a new version and immediately disables your copy. Your are screwed.
    4. The copyright expires, which means that the product is now in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. Will you be able to get a DRM free version???????
    5. DRM is really about locking the consumer into a company product catalog. The obvious implication is that you will need a DRM “player” for each company. Instead of having ONE player, you could have hundreds (figuratively). Having all these different players will be a nightmare. The “piracy” mantra is a red herring to justify laws that legally lock the consumer to a corporate product catalog.
    6. Content providers are (will be) using DRM to disable hardware equipment that you paid $$$$$ from working. Upgrading is one thing, put purposely disabling hardware from working is plain wrong.
    7. Dirty tricks anyone??? I can imagine companies “disabling” a competitors program from working on your computer. Of course companies won’t admit to these unfortunate “bugs”. The obvious implication is that your computer could become unusable because of competing formats and code.

    » Steve R. on November 10th, 2006 at 03:19