Monday, April 2, 2007

A Crack In the DRM Wall?

...More like a gaping hole. 

To date there has been a unified face put on major digital media assets.  Whether TV, Movies, or Music, Hollywood et al have not released them without DRM.  Sure, there have been some independent labels and even artists who sold their music without DRM, but none of the big boys have done it.  The reason was that piracy would be too high.  Today we see a tectonic shift taking place.  EMI--one of the big four RIAA members--just announced that it will be selling non-DRM'd music.  Not only that, but the quality of the DRM-free music will be superior to the music it sells in DRM'd form.  The cost:  about 30% higher.  The report says that this will include "all of its digital repertoire."  Amazing.  That's a pretty big change in position.  Perhaps the recent drop in CD sales has them scared.

I've long held that the labels could sell a lot of music if they just made it cheap and easy to get ahold of.  Why risk the lawsuits, viruses, and slow links of KaZaa and company if for $1.29 you can buy the song without DRM from a reputable source?  Purchased digital music has never excited me because of the DRM.  I've never bought any digital music because I'm unconvinced that the mechanisms to play it will last very long.  I always buy on CD and rip.  Now that the music is unemcumbered, I may have to rethink that policy.  It will be interesting to watch how sales go now that this change has taken place.  How many others like me are out there?

The other aspect I'll be intently watching is how the other labels react.  Do they jump into the water too?  It seems like they would have to.  If I am torn between an EMI and a Sony artist, I'll buy EMI because it's higher quality and unencumbered.

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