Music DRM is dead; movie DRM will die

Warner Music is to sell non-DRM’ed MP3 files:

Warner Music has announced that it will begin to sell non-DRM’ed MP3 music files on Amazon, making it the third (of four) major labels to sign up for DRM-free distribution of their music, Universal and EMI being the other two. Only Sony BMG have held out — and that’s the same label that gave us the infamous Sony Rootkit, a dangerous hacker-tool that Sony infected millions of PCs with in a failed bid to prevent copying of its music.

Sony is now the only holdout, and it’s likely they will move to non-DRM’ed music during 2008. Thus the battle over whether music will be delivered in an open format, or whether the music corporations will control us while we listen to it, is essentially over.

The moral of this story? That selling your customers deliberately substandard products and treating them like criminals is not, in general, a good business strategy.

Moving on to the motion picture industry, both it and the music industry have struggled to cope with the new world where copying information and transmitting it around the world is quick, cheap, and effortless. The music industry has felt the pressure earlier, because music has less information that movies and is thus encoded as smaller files — 4 MB for a song, 1 GB for a film are typical. But the underlying pressures are the same.

Expect movie producers to start giving up on DRM by 2010, as it becomes apparent that (1) it doesn’t prevent people making and distributing unauthorised copies, and (2) it pisses off would-be customers. Instead movies will tend to be financed by cinema audiences and merchandising, and also state funding such as with the BBC in Britain or its equivalents in other countries. Movies might get less revenue, but this won’t reduce the number made since they will be cheaper to produce due to advances in computer graphics and machinima.

UPDATE 2007-Dec-31: according to Ed Felten, earlier this year, Warner’s CEO Edgar Bronfman said that selling MP3s would be “completely without logic or merit”.

This entry was posted in computers, digital rights, DRM, filesharing, MPAA, RIAA, technology. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Music DRM is dead; movie DRM will die

  1. George Carty says:

    Won’t a fair number of people still buy films on disc – especially in high definition formats – because pirated downloads are of inferior quality (due to the need to keep the file size down for internet use)?

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