DRM is a stupid idea

DRM Defeating Kit for iTunes
My article on music and marketing sparked a little debate about digital rights management (DRM). I am in the opinion that DRM is in general a bad idea. It doesn’t work. It’s not user friendly. And the only people it serves are the owners of the DRM systems that can lock people into their particular playback devices.

Like Oyvind point out in the comments here it’s not the end of the world. It’s not global warming or bird flu. But it’s annoying and limiting for the development of good distribution platforms and user friendly systems on digital media.

And because there are people out there that’s way smarter than me I’ll point you to three resources that goes a bit more into detail about why DRM is a bad idea and why it hopefully will disappear:

Gerd Leonhard
The end of DRM is near

Yes, indeed, we are just about there: DRM is on its way out, and I needed to tell you about it, in this podcast. The Music Industry’s equivalent of the Berlin Wall is indeed coming down…. soon.

Cory Doctorow
DRM doesn’t work, it’s bad for society, business and the artists

It used to be illegal to plug anything that didn’t come from AT&T into your phone-jack. They claimed that this was for the safety of the network, but really it was about propping up this little penny-ante racket that AT&T had in charging you a rental fee for your phone until you’d paid for it a thousand times over.

When that ban was struck down, it created the market for third-party phone equipment, from talking novelty phones to answering machines to cordless handsets to headsets — billions of dollars of economic activity that had been supressed by the closed interface. Note that AT&T was one of the big beneficiaries of this: they also got into the business of making phone-kit.

DRM is the software equivalent of these closed hardware interfaces.

A Copyfighter’s Musings
Microsoft’s Zune Won’t Play Protected Windows Media

May this be a lesson to those who mistakenly laud certain DRM as “open” and offering customers “freedom of choice” simply because it is widely-licensed. With DRM under the DMCA, nothing truly plays for sure, regardless of whether you’re purchasing from Apple, Microsoft, or anyone else.

DRM is a stupid idea

6 thoughts on “DRM is a stupid idea

  1. We hate DRM, it is a stupid idea.

    That’s why we added our “Fuck DRM” line over at Offensively Binary. Now you can walk around telling the world what you think about how suckass DRM is… without anyone actually knowing it. We call it geek smug.


    We also have “Fuck the DMCA”, “Fuck the RIAA”, “Fuck the TSA”, “Fuck Karl Rove”, and even “I am a Terrorist”. Don’t walk onto a plane wearing that or our “Bomb” shirt, we can’t guarantee your safety against getting thrown in Guantanamo if you did something stupid like that.

    Fight the power!

  2. Some cool and extremely geeky stuff over there. I like this one. For most people it would be geeky enough to have a bag reading “wtf”. But, if you’re a true geek you’ll of course choose this one with the binary version of wtf.

  3. “Annoying and limiting for the development of good distribution platforms and user friendly systems on digital media”. I agree on that. I just tried to say that people are NOT idiots or suckers if they buy media with DRM. “I hate DRM”… Ok, your choice. I think DRM is annoying, but hating it… Not even close. I HATE that the polar ice is melting.

    I have bought more music without DRM than with DRM the last years, like some brilliant Simple Minds concert tracks at TuneTribe, which both sells music with and without DRM.


    Voting with your wallet helps, so if I have a chance, I buy the non-DRM alternative, not the one with DRM. So I really hope the EMI experiment with no DRM is a huge success!

  4. That’s more of a cultural and linguistic discussion… 🙂

    I am the first to admit that my writing makes use of words like hate, stupid and suckers more often than some language professors would recommend.

    Comments are open on all posts, so if you feel offended speak out!

    And yes, I have bought music on iTunes and MSN Music, so I am an idiot as well. The songs from MSN play on my media center and not on my iPod. The music I bought on iTunes won’t play anymore at all. My iPod simply skips the tracks with no error message.

    Of course I ripped the DRM when I bought it but I have kept the original tracks in my system to see how it works. For an advanced user with several devices and computers it sucks big time.

    Yes, voting with your wallet helps. So, don’t buy music with DRM.

  5. iPhone, my new book shelf?…

    1) The new Apple iPhone has a 160 ppi screen, when you flip it 90 degrees, the screen flips too, it can show pdfs… And you have it with you all the time…
    2) The iTunes store has sold two billion tracks or so, has a system that works, and h…

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