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Feb19
Digital Rights Management: Sony v Apple
Tim O'Reilly blogged about this today, and it's worth rementioning because it's an object lesson for every company who's in the information business.

Sony does it all. They create movies, music and the devices that allow users to enjoy them both. They should be at the pinnacle of success. Instead, Apple snatched that success from their grasp, thanks to their own fears about DRM, or Digital Rights Management.

From last week's Wall Street Journal article on the subject:

"Sony's "DRM implementation killed their own players and created an environment where Apple could flourish," says Rob Enderle, a technology analyst with Enderle Group, a consulting firm in San Jose, California."

And from the same article, here's Sony's response:

"The general idea is that there is a need to create more open...digital-rights management technologies," says Ron Hawkins, Sony's vice president of portable reader systems in the U.S. The company has been coming to this realization over the past few years, and it is being reinforced by Sony's new chief executive, Howard Stringer. In the keynote address at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Mr. Stringer argued that content and technology companies must work together to deliver entertainment in a way that is more palatable to consumers."

No kidding, Howard!

My take on this is that the entire DRM debate is based on fear, just like the Google vs. Authors Guild struggle. Fear that easy access means piracy, and that's just not right. Content will always seek it's broadest audience, and companies that try to restrict access to it will always fail. That has never been truer than in today's global web-based communications environment.

The key to protecting rights and getting paid is as simple as the difference in how dogs and cats are handled at the veterinarian. When trying to control a dog, you tighten your hold. When trying to control a cat, you loosen your hold. DRM, properly executed, is a cat. Find ways to protect rights through a light touch on the content, like Apple does with iTunes: $0.99 per download and everyone's happy.

7 Comments/Trackbacks




Find ways to protect rights through a light touch on the content, like Apple does with iTunes: $0.99 per download and everyone's happy.

Just Say No To DRM. Anyone who buys high priced, low quality encoded tracks in a format that only plays on one player and with DRM is just plain stupid. 1 Billion tunes seems to say that there's an awful lot of stupid people out there.

Thanks Julian,

I'm sure that I, and an awful lot of other people appreciate that we have been given the benefit of your wisdom and now realise how stupid we have been. On the other hand, maybe we just think that you are a theif, who wouldn't pay for any music, no matter how cheap or high quality it was. The number of illegal downloads out there suggests that there are a lot of theives out there, but that still doesn't make it right.
Maybe you should go into politics.
Baz

Wow, first poster, you must be pretty damned smart to call a BILLION people stupid.

Or arrogant.

I agree with the first poster to some extent. Too bad he was so rude.

Apple's FairPlay DRM system is not so lose when you try to use a player other than the iPod. The price obviously is the right one, but does not have anything to do with light vs. tight DRM.

There really is no way to say what I said without being rude so you'll just have to take it with a pinch of salt and a big IMHO.

Are iTMS tracks low quality? Yes. It's generally accepted that 192Kb VBR is the minimum to be essentially the same as a CD. It's not hard to tell 128Kb from a CD.

Are iTMS tracks high priced? Well a full set of tracks off a CD ends up being about the same price as the CD. But you don't get the CD, case, cover, or the ability to rip to MP3 yourself.

Do iTMS tracks play on more than one platform or more than one player from more than one vendor? No. Not without writing to a CD and then re-ripping to MP3 involving lots of hassle and 2 more encodings and consequent loss of quality.

Is iTMS riddled with DRM? Well they do use DRM and it does bite people in ways they weren't expecting. And will continue to do so in the future as Apple change the rules after you've bought it. CDs don't last forever, but they'll likely last longer than your iTMS tracks by the time you've switched PCs a few times, Apple have changed the rules on you and you're on your 3rd iPod.

Does that make the people who buy them stupid? Well you get a lot less than if you bought the CDs and ripped them yourself to MP3. So, yes, that's how it looks to me. And I'm saying all that in an environment where there are fully legal ways of downloading music such as eMusic, Bleep and Magnatunes that give you non-DRM 192KVBR MP3s at approximately the same price. And questionably legal services like AllOfMp3 that do the same at a much lower price.

And to make the point I haven't needed to say anything about thieves or piracy or P2P downloading. Neither have I been particularly arrogant, I'm just telling it the way I see it. There, that was easy, wasn't it?

Julian - thanks for posting the alternatives to Apples' iTunes, as well as the reasons for it. You've made some excellent points. I want to be clear that I'm not defending Apple, and would love to see a more open system in place in the future.

My point was that the market supports a light touch - relatively speaking - and not a heavy-handed one. Hopefully, time and technology will continue to improve the consumer's choice in media downloads.

One significant advantage for Sony with the Reader: It is entering a largely untapped market where it doesn't face a competitor whose popularity is entrenched. Other companies have tried e-book readers in the past, with little success.

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