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.
How to address the problem? One possibility is the early French approach of mandating disclosures of technological specifications. That might help address the issue, but arguably interjects government regulation too far into mandating technical requirements. A better approach would be to establish a legal framework that guarantees the "freedom to tinker" such that competitors would be free to develop interoperable products without fear of legal liability. This would require an explicit exception to the anti-circumvention rules and conceivably a provision within the Competition Act to bolster that freedom by preventing abusive practices designed to establish unfair hurdles to interoperability.