thoughts on Digital Rights Management

This isn’t actually news, but I happened to have a discussion about whether DRM is good for you so I’m sharing some of my thoughts. First of all, DRM is bad, and that’s already all what most people heard and know about it if they heard about it at all. So why is that, what makes it bad, evil or defective by design like slashdotters like to call it.

It depends on your point of view, if you’re the industry this stuff is like magical pixie dust, it makes you greediest dreams come true. And If you’re the customer? Well, then you should be angry because you get screwed, not that this would be something never happened before but this time they got away with it and news about DRM-free music isn’t something too many people will be happy about, or at least shouldn’t be.

DRM usually works like this. Let’s say you just bought a piece of music, online. This information is getting stored in your account data, and on the general DRM server. The DRM server keeps track of what you do and what you’re allowed to do with your music, like burning it on CD three times, putting it on five of your PCs and carry it around on one two of your portable music players. OK, fine you can live with that. At least that’s what they make you believe. Your music, isn’t actually your music, you just bought a license that allows you to play the music. This license has to be renewed every now and then so you can still listen to the music, if the license is revoked or gets invalid for whatever reason, you can’t play ‘your’ songs any more.

On of the reasons licenses may get invalid is because the company where you bought your music might decide to shut down their DRM server. Maybe because they switched to DRM free music, maybe because they went out of business or maybe because of the Thermonuclear Holocaust. Just imagine, you’re standing where the Trafalgar Square used to be, talking with you zombie friends and suddenly you music stops playing because Apple decided that survivors, zombies and mutants don’t need to listen to their music.

The only thing you can do to remain in control of your music is to not buy DRM-infected music in the first place, if you already bought some, they’ll become useless at some point when you’re LPs and CDs are still working. My conclusion, don’t buy DRM, period.

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