updated 04:50 pm EDT, Thu May 8, 2008
RIAA on DRM Revival
Regardless of the movement towards permanent unprotected downloads in online music, digital rights management (DRM) is likely to persist and may also thrive in the near future, the Recording Industry Association of America said today at a Los Angeles media conference. The music organization's technology head David Hughes observes that nearly all strategies for offering paid music still require some form of copy protection to enforce the license agreements, which are often dependent on set times or play counts.
"Any form of subscription service or limited play-per-view or advertising offer still requires DRM," he says. "So DRM is not dead."
Hughes also asserts that users are more likely to skew towards subscription services in the near future and will therefore need some kind of DRM to function. This will nonetheless need a less intrusive form of DRM than what's offered today, he says, as customers are allegedly more concerned about accessibility of their tracks than the presence of anti-copying locks.
The RIAA executive has noted the perceived shift just days after the expansion of Nokia's Comes With Music service strategy, which will charge a one-time premium for the purchase of certain Nokia phones in exchange for a one-year subscription to unlimited downloads that remain intact but copy-protected after the subscription ends. Nokia has yet to launch the service and so hasn't gauged the reaction of users.
Simultaneously, other companies are running or experimenting with unprotected subscription services. The second-largest store offering DRM-free music in the US, eMusic, asks customers to pay a flat rate in return for a certain number of guaranteed MP3 downloads that can be copied an infinite amount of times and play on most any portable media player.
Critics of DRM at the conference and elsewhere have also complained that DRM is frequently ineffective against determined users, who often either create or use code-stripping tools that remove the DRM limits and allow free playback, possibly allowing them to cut short subscriptions after a set amount of time.