Some DRM analogies that popped out of my poor brain a while back and never got properly elaborated. These are still mostly in the ‘thinking out loud’ stage, so thoughts/comments/constructive criticisms appreciated, and don’t take them too seriously.
Model T:’any color you want as long as it is black’::ipod:FairPlay
Hypothesis: this works fine now, but people will eventually tire of it and demand more/better. We’re still realistically very early in the digital media game. Alternately, 100 years into the automative age we’re still pretty mediocre at buying on actual quality v. perceived quality.
ipod:DRM skeptics::car:American fans of mass transit
Hypothesis: DRM skeptics, despite being ‘right’ in some senses, are maybe doomed to be ignored by 99% of their compatriots, because utility trumps all other considerations. Possible flaw in the analogy: cars enhance personal autonomy, which overrides their social disutility; ipods diminish personal autonomy, which may at some point override their personal utility.
jobs letter:EU DRM antitrust concerns::MS + Novell agreement:EU patent/format antitrust concerns
Like Microsoft’s agreement with Novell, Jobs’s open letter on DRM was largely about urging European antitrust regulators to look elsewhere, not about actually helping customers. Just as MS tried to make Red Hat and the rest of free software look unreasonable by licensing with Novell, knowing that Novell is not a serious threat to their business, so here is Apple primarily urging the EU to place the blame for DRM’s anti-competitive nature at the feet of the labels, rather than on Apple, knowing that the labels are very unlikely to actually let go of DRM anytime soon.
9 thoughts on “apple DRM by analogy”
I’d suggest s/iPod/iTunes store/. The iPod plays back lots of DRM-free audio formats (what I would consider “alternative colors” per your analogy). The iTunes store, on the other hand, only offers files in one filetype, with one type of DRM. (As does the Zune store, except instead of black it’s brown. But you can squirt the brown.)
The DRM-situation is pretty complex. Of course the perfect solution would be total elimination of DRM (What Apple is advocating, and that’s a good thing). But barring that, we need to look at the two primary DRM-schemes out there: FairPlay and PlaysForSure.
Now, each of them has their benefits and drawback. PlaysForSure works with several services and devices, whereas FairPlay only works with iTunes and iPods. Advantage: PlaysForSure.
But on the other hand, PlaysForSure is quite draconian form of DRM, whereas FairPlays is quite lenient. The content can be shared, and the DRM can be removed (legally) quite easily. Advantage: FairPlay.
Which of those is better? Well, it’s up to the individual. But I would go with FairPlay, for the reason of easy DRM-removal and less draconian usage-terms. But that’s just me, others might disagree.
We do have the Zune-DRM, but it seems to take the worst of PlaysForSure (draconian DRM) and combine it with worst of FairPlay (limited device/service-support).
“knowing that the labels are very unlikely to actually let go of DRM anytime soon.”
Well, EMI has been seriously considering of selling their content DRM-free, so it might not be such a far-fetched idea after all. And the root-cause of all DRM IS the labels and their demands.
If you read the letter closely, he isn’t really advocating abolishing DRM; he is mostly saying ‘well, we’d happily get rid of DRM, but since the labels won’t let us, lets look at the realistic options’ and then discussing between them. Again, like MS: ‘we’d happily license to everyone, if only they weren’t so unreasonably opposed to our patent rights. But hey, Novell is reasonable!’
As far as the differences between specific DRMs- I don’t think the important thing is how good they are for the consumer, in this analysis, but rather how effective they are at maintaining the provider’s quasi-monopoly. In this, fairplay has been fairly effective.
Well, EMI has been seriously considering of selling their content DRM-free, so it might not be such a far-fetched idea after all.
(1) I’ll believe it when I see it ;)
(2) that is a risk Jobs had to take, I think; he obviously couldn’t say he was pro-DRM (which is a good sign, I think!) without incurring the wraths of both his elite customers and of the EU antitrust folks. So given the choice of definitely pissing off the EU, or gambling on the labels, I’m sure he felt fairly good (if not perfectly safe) gambling on the labels.
clee: yeah, fair point on itms/ipod, though I think Apple knows that it is ipod that it is the appealing product here- itms is just a loss-leader for them.
While I know it is small and may in the long run be insignificant, Rockbox (the open source firmware) detaches the iPod (and other players) from DRM. The unfortunate thing is that purchasing an iPod for the hardware is ultimately supporting iTunes/DRM etc because there is no option for the customer to say “I’m buying this iPod only for the hardware.”
The Rockbox + iPod hardware + Amarok combination is really tough to beat
The unfortunate thing is that purchasing an iPod for the hardware is ultimately supporting iTunes/DRM etc because there is no option for the customer to say “I’m buying this iPod only for the hardware.”
Which is why I refuse to buy one. The only vote we have is with our dollars, so we should do that.
Fair point, but I feel like its a bit unsettling. Really, its not buying DRM music from iTunes that is “voting with our dollars,” right? DRM is about the content which is provided by the record companies in this case. None of the RIAA members see a cent when anyone purchases an iPod (at least as far as I’m aware, since they still complain that they should see a percentage of iPod profits). Its only when we use the iTunes music store (which you don’t have to be an iPod owner to use). I understand Job’s Letter is very self-serving, but he’s right… DRM is attached to the content and to change their minds about DRM is to not buy DRM music (from iTunes or any other store front) irregardless of iPod hardware.
I don’t know… I mean, sure, some of the money from the iPod sale probably went into running the iTunes store, but realistically, the iPod is a very well-designed and capable device that supports plenty of non-DRM-encumbered formats. It doesn’t do Ogg Vorbis, but if you really let that dictate your hardware purchases, you’ve already lost the war.
The problem that I have is that the way your logic seems to work, iPod customers are “locked in” to the iTunes Store for their music needs, and that’s simply not the case. I don’t have *any* content from the iTunes Store on my iPod, at all; my entire collection is from CDs that I own that I ripped myself.
Realistically, the problem here, as Norway seems to have figured out, is that the iTunes Store customers are locked into the iPod – they don’t have any other choice for portable players, unless they jump through some hoops to transcode their music from one lossy format to another. However, I don’t really have an issue with this, either; Apple doesn’t pretend anywhere that their “protected” files will play on anything except iTunes and iPods, so it’s not like they’re misleading their customers, which means that the customer makes the choice to buy the music from them knowing the limitations. I have no problem with this, just like I have no problem with people choosing to kill themselves.
The Model T analogy doesn’t really work… Apple is limiting the kinds of music you can listen to, but Ford didn’t limit the kinds of places you could drive to.
More importantly, you can repaint your Model T after you buy it, but you can never get rid of Fairplay.
The Novell analogy is irrelevant, because everyone who thinks the Novell/MS deal is bad already thinks that DRM is bad too. :-)
You need something with book burning or Nazis or something. Well, not Nazis I guess, per Godwin. Fascists? “DRM:listening to music::making the trains run on time:pursuit of happiness”? Hm…
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