Archive for August 24th, 2006

30 Days of DRM – Day 06: Interoperability (Public Protection and Markets)

The interoperability problems associated with DRM have emerged over the past year as a focal point for debate with legislators and regulators in Europe beginning to intervene to address the issue.  The interoperability concerns arise from the fact that DRM'd content is frequently linked to specific hardware, leaving consumers unable to transfer the content from device to device.  For example, Apple iTunes uses a technology known as FairPlay to limit consumers ability to transfer songs that they have purchased to devices other than the iPod (as well as limit the number of copies and uses of the download), while services such as Napster and Puretracks use a Microsoft-supported DRM system that will not play on an iPod.  The end result is lock-in (literally) as consumers find themselves tied to a specific hardware device with the cost of switching now including the loss of their investment in new content.

Even the industry has begun to acknowledge the problem.  It was much discussed at an OECD conference in Rome earlier this year and Yahoo! has expressed its frustration with DRM.  Of course, those rejecting the DRM-based approach are finding great success – witness the Canadian music industry, where the large independent labels have left CRIA and largely avoid DRM, as well as eMusic, which offers "clean" MP3s, and has grown into the world's second biggest music download service.

Regulators have also become involved as concern over consumer fairness and marketplace competition mounts.  France toyed with legislation earlier this year that would have mandated that Apple reveal technological specifications to its competitors so that they could design compatible devices.  As a result, songs bought on iTunes would theoretically play on any digital music device.  Officials in several Scandanavian countries are now examining similar concerns.

It is important to understand that this interoperability problem is not solely a product of DRM.  Rather, it is the result of combining DRM with anti-circumvention legislation.

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August 24, 2006 6 comments News

European Music Study on Industry Decline

Screencast, a UK consulting firm, concludes: It is easy to point the finger at piracy but factors like the gradual erosion of music dedicated shelf space in big retailers like HMV and Virgin and its replacement with DVD's, book, games and mobile phones cannot be ignored. Seen in this light […]

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August 24, 2006 Comments are Disabled Must Reads