N91 with iTunes plugin, but bad DRM

By the way, in case you didn't know: N91, the Nokia music phone with a 4 Gigabyte hard drive also has a Mac plugin for iTunes synchronization...

Of course, music bought from the iTunes Music Store is not compatible with it, but then again, they're not compatible with anyone. Or, to be exact, the file format is, as N91 plays AAC, but Apple is using "Digital Rights Management" to make sure nobody else than Apple devices can play the music.

Anyhoo. I've come to realize why DRM bugs me so much: it's because it removes choice. Once you pay money for something, you would expect to be able to treat it as something you've just bought. Like sell it onwards, or put it on multiple computers. The idea of "leasing music" is alien to most of us.

However, a Korean company may have just found the answer: They charge two different prices - a cheap price for "limited" songs with DRM on them, and a more expensive price for the open format file, with no use restrictions (aside from the normal ones imposed by copyright law). To me this makes a lot of sense: it's like the difference between buying a normal version or a professional version of software - the other one just has functionalities disabled.

You see, in a lot of use cases it really does not matter whether the file is DRM'd or not: I'd happily buy DRM'd video files, say, on a subscription basis, to see new TV series. And then, if I really liked it, I would buy the open versions (like DVDs, which for all intents and purposes are open these days) so that they would be mine without the additional burden of whether the company who issued them is going to go bust and all my media would suddenly become unusable overnight.

The big rub is that all I ever hear from the big money-making organizations is that "DRM is a must, and everybody who says otherwise is a pirate". This is not so, as many people keep pointing out. The content is going to get on the internet anyway, regardless of the restrictions and protections based on the files, and the real pirates, the ones who make money, just simply don't care about this stuff. To them, it's a non-issue - they just duplicate the copy protections, too.

I like what last.fm is doing. I pay a certain amount of money to them, and it's just like having my own music on the web. They play stuff that I actually do like, and they do it well. But for all intents and purposes, the music from last.fm is copy-protected. I'd have to run through a bunch of hoops to get it somehow archived on my hard drive - but I don't simply care. I can't "order" a certain piece of music to be played either, probably because of legal reasons. However, I'm paying a monthly fee to get access to my music library (or something similar anyway) to get good music - but the music that I really do care about, the one I want to pay for, that I want in a format which is unencumbered by artificial usage restrictions. Like CD, but I'm not picky.

There are more choices than slamming heavy DRM on top of everything that moves. The Korean example is a good one, and one that I have no problem with: I have the freedom to get the unencumbered version if I want - I may have to pay a bit more, but that's just normal business. My problem is with the idea that somehow this freedom to choose would be bad, and that everything must have mandatory copy protection and rights management. This is the view of the companies who own the patents on DRM systems, not companies who wish to serve consumers better. As Cory Doctorow says, "nobody woke up in the morning wishing they could do less with their music."

To me, that's just load of bull. DRM does not work for the purpose it is advertised, i.e. to stop people from copying copyrighted information. The only real use for DRM is market lockdown - which is what Apple is doing. You can't switch away from an iPod once you start buying music from the iTMS (unless you're smart enough to burn and rip all the music you bought, but even then you take a big hit in the quality). This has nothing to do with piracy. The internet is already full of songs that should not be there, and the laws are already telling you not to upload and download. Why would you need DRM then for?

And, while I defend the right of people to be stupid about this matter, I will also exercise my right to call them stupid. This dichotomy is something that seems to unnerve lots of people. It tends to bake my noodle at night, too. But maybe if I keep talking about this, it'll some day become clear to me and others...


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"Main_blogentry_080406_1" last changed on 08-Apr-2006 01:44:44 EEST by JanneJalkanen.
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