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Stirring Up A Hornets Nest

By: Dan Morrill

If Steve Jobs had not said "DRM needs to go away", and the latest P2P research shows that there is little if any statistical relevance to piracy, and if EMI was not pondering doing away with DRM and selling strait MP3's...

it would not have been the fun week that it has been.

This week the open battle in the press is taking place over the future of DRM systems, and the relevance of DRM systems worldwide. The sides are being formed by companies like Apple, EMI and others against RIAA, Macrovision, and those that make DRM systems.

The interesting part is that not only has academic research chimed in, but large research firms like Jupiter Media have also jumped into the argument by stating:
    The lead analyst of last week's Jupiter Research report showing a majority of music industry executives in the EU agreeing that a world without digital rights management would be a world with greater revenues, told Beta News in an exclusive interview this afternoon that his firm believes the interim solution supported by 70% of executives polled - a single, open, interoperable, standard DRM scheme - would still be rejected by consumers in a market where Apple's iTunes continues to reign supreme. Source: Beta News
So far the customer has not chimed in, customers are happy buying systems that are not interoperable, and in many cases do not do what they are supposed to do. The problems with phone MP3 players and the poor downloads, and interoperability of the systems leads to problems when synching back to the home PC, and into ITunes or Zune or a host of other systems or devices that might be on a person's PC.

DRM is a large part of non-interoperability because DRM is a business with major and minor players that are interested in keeping their stake in the system. Artists and their representatives also have a huge stake in the current business as is, unfortunately as with all human nature, we find a path around the hurdles that are thrown in our way. We develop P2P systems like Bittorrent; we develop search engines and blogs, and other content delivery systems like Democracy player. All without worrying if the content is DRM protected or not.

Nothing annoys the Bittorrent community more than a DRM file that they spent the last day downloading. Nothing annoys a person more than not being able to move that file they bought at Apple, MSN, or Zune to another system or player.

The consumer is making choices, but it is from a limited selection of material, places to go, and systems to purchase. We as consumers accept this process as part of a nascent digital music delivery and fulfillment industry. Consumers need to take a wider voice in the debate happening in boardrooms around the world and vote with their beliefs. If we as consumers really want interoperability, then we will start finding and purchasing open systems, and not support systems that are locked into a particular DRM format that is not interoperable.

As the Coral Organization mentioned this week, they would welcome Apple into the organization to develop an industry wide DRM solution. Macrovision offered to take over the support and maintained of FairPlay DRM so that there would be only one real DRM system that is interoperable amongst all systems. It will be interesting to see how Apple takes this on, and if it will really happen.


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About the Author:
Dan Morrill has been in the information security field for 18 years, both civilian and military, and is currently working on his Doctor of Management. Dan shares his insights on the important security issues of today through his blog, Managing Intellectual Property & IT Security, and is an active participant in the ITtoolbox blogging community.

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