Could the future be DRMless?

Posted in DRM, Music, Tech by Tony C on February 7, 2007

Music downloading on first appearance seems cracking idea, no more shelves full of CDs and your collection instantly portable but there has always been one almighty problem with it…Digital Rights Management.  It sucks, it truely does because anyway you cut it the user experience is shocking, you can’t move contect from device to device and why bother when you can buy the same stuff on a shiny disk and use it unhindered by DRM.  And the figures speak for themselves, take iPod users for example, it’s estimated that 97% of all music played on them is ‘side loaded’ not purchased from iTunes and this doesn’t seem like changing anytime soon despite the price premium you pay per track for CD.

So it comes as no real surprise that certain corners of the tech industry are now talking about a future without DRM, after all consumers will avoid it when possible and technically you can’t make DRM friendly enough for them to see it as anything but an annoyance.  The most noteworthy of these voices is none other than Steve Jobs who I guess would like to see iTunes sell DRM free music to iPod users rather than have then spend their hardearned at HWV, Virgin or Amazon because Apple isn’t making a bundle from selling DRM based music.

However don’t expect the music industry to pay attention anytime soon because as soon as you mention the internet to a music executive they instantly see thousands of teenagers pirating music and giving it to their mates or worse still loading it on to some file sharing site instantly copying it to the world.  But the reality is this nightmare scenario has never happened despite the fact CDs have no DRM even when Napster was at it’s most prolific, infact CD sales went up as people used it as a try before you buy system.  CD sales are now slowly falling and the predictions are for this to continue but you have to wonder if the music publishers has noticed the reasons why.