Thursday, February 08, 2007

Economist on Jobs: Self-serving, but right

The Economist has published its response to Steve Job's call for an end to DRM. They're convinced:

Having seen which way the wind is blowing, Mr Jobs now wants to be seen not as DRM’s defender, but as a consumer champion who helped in its downfall. Wouldn’t it lead to a surge in piracy? No, because most music is still sold unprotected on CDs, people wishing to steal music already can do so. Indeed, scrapping DRM would probably increase online-music sales by reducing confusion and incompatibility. With the leading online store, Apple would benefit most. Mr Jobs’s argument, in short, is transparently self-serving. It also happens to be right.

Of course, it won't be as simple convincing the labels.

Indeed, Warners have already sniffed and turned their back. Breaking into the company's announcement of disappointing results, Edgar Bronfman insisted on business as usual:
"We advocate the continued use of DRM," Bronfman said, adding that music deserves the same anti-piracy protections as software, TV broadcasts, video games and other forms of intellectual property.

"We will not abandon DRM nor services that are successfully implementing DRM for both content and consumers," he said.

But Edgar, as you well know, TV broadcasts don't have DRM on them - at least, not analogue and much digital terrestrial are broadcast in the clear. And yet ITV isn't going bust, is it? Likewise, many other forms of intellectual property are DRM free - books, newspapers, posters - even CDs and cassingles.
"The issue is obscured by asserting the DRM and interoperability is the same thing," Bronfman said. "They are not. To suggest that they cannot coexist is simply incorrect."

To an extent, you're right, Bronfman - asserting DRM and interoperability "is the same thing" is wrong, because, erm, they're not. And, of course you're right, DRM and interoperability can coexist - they do right now.

For example, an iTunes music store track has DRM; an eMusic track is interoperable.

But, assuming you're not a big fat liar, Edgar, you must be totally ignorant if you believe that it's possible for an individual file to both contain DRM and be interoperable. Because, to guarantee the file can be played on any equipment, its DRM would have to be opensource. And if it was open to all, it wouldn't be any good as DRM, would it?