I've been reading about Steve Jobs complaints about DRM and the fact that the big, bad music companies are to blame.
I don't like DRM any better than anyone else, but let's face it, without it, the digital revolution would stall.
Jobs makes his money selling iPods, not music. Or video. Or movies. So removing DRM would make it easier for users to swap media for free, leading to more iPod sells.
There's no love loss here for the record industy -- like all good corporations, they're in if for the green. No, I'm worried about the creators.
And I think there's reason to worry.
In an era where it's EASY to e-mail a song, post an entire album on your FTP site/Web site, or burn a copy (old school, I know), there's reason to believe that sales figures are and will continue to be impacted.
My favorite performer by a mile is indie righteous babe Annie DiFranco. On the back of all her self-published (Righteous Babe Records) CDs, in the copyright section, is a passage that says something like: "While copying music is sometimes necessary, it's never as good as the real thing."
If that were only true.
As more and more media gets compromised, the Britneys and Beyonces and the Snoop Dogs will still be able to afford their Benz payments, but the little guys, like Jill Sobule or Andrew Bird or Annie, who are not mainstream mega sellers, will likely cease to exist. That is, if we remove DRM and make it easier to distribute copies.
So are we to blame? I dunno. It's natural to want to share the latest CD by your favorite artist with a friend who you just know will love it. I've done it many times. I'm not sure I've created new fans for the artist, but that was the hope. And strangely, if I were to say "Artist X is the bomb, man, you gotta listen to his new CD. Go out and buy it." Well, that just seems odd when I can simply burn a copy for said friend. And in the end, I don't think that's so bad. Desireable even. It's when I post it to my Web site, for the totality of the Internet to grab, that it becomes a problem. At least in my mind...
So it's our tendency to share that's the culprit. In the old days of inexact replication, the recipient would sometimes then go out and buy the CD...but that was then and this is now and it's time to move on. For now, the solution seems to be DRM. With DRM, if I purchase a collection, I can burn it to CD and then rip it back to the hard drive in minutes, creating a DRM-free version of the collection (CD). I can then burn as many copies as I want (most DRM systems only allow you to burn a set number (3) of CD copies of a collection -- you can burn as many mix collections as you want, but only a set number of copies of the CD title -- i.e., Prince's Purple Rain for instance) and give them away to friends if I want.
I believe the same applies to downloaded movies, but don't quote me on this.
Where DRM doesn't work? eBooks. There's no way to "lend" an eBook to a friend. There's no way to strip out the DRM. There's no way to make it feel like it's "yours" to share or resell when you're through with it. And that, as I see it, is the real sticking point with eBook DRM, a point that has doomed the system to failure. Yeah, I'm an eBook lover, but I worry about my small but growing collection...there are way too many ifs, ands, and buts, when it comes to eBooks.
Of course, there may be a solution to even that conundrum. There's an eBook system that's available to libraries that allows them to lend copies of DRM protected books. If a library buys one copy of the protected book, they only have one copy to lend. When that copy is checked out, the book shows up on the library's site as checked out and no one else can check it out. The book "expires" after 30 days, so the person who checked it out can no longer open it or read it, and the copy on the library's site becomes available to check out again. Nifty, huh? I figure they should be able to replicate that on the consumer eBook side, so that I can "check out" a book to a friend for a limited time...
Let's be honest here -- DRM is necessary to protect the little guy. The creator. Digital media and the Internet has made people more and more likely to expect content to be free. That's all good and dandy, on an advetising supported site, but when the creator of the work is cut out of the loop, well, that's messed up.
Which brings me to my final point. Google. It seems they're going ahead with their project to make the world's libraries free and searchable on their site. Copyrights be damned, they're going full steam ahead and scanning entire university libraries into their reader. Now, I'm not sure how this will all play out -- a number of publishers have brought suit against them -- so maybe right will win out in the end. I think they must be able to sidestep the law, by serving up portions of the work instead of the whole book...you only get the stuff you're interested in, not the entire work. So if you want to find out everything there is to know about Munchkin cats, rather than buying a handfull of books, you can use Google and pull up the sections from those books, print em out and tada, FREE info!
I need to research this more. But that's my understanding of what's going on. If my understanding is correct, and this is what they're doing, then I IMPLORE you to join me in boycotting Google. I swear, I'll never, ever google another topic if they are indeed violating copyrights and stealing author's works. Remember, they're making money off of these searches, it's just the publishers and the authors who are getting stiffed. Microsoft has begun a "me too" version of this service, but they've decided to only copy public domain works. Which is fine. Cool even. As long as they don't stray into copyright territory, it's a decent service.
It may be time to start a intenet campaign: Authors Against Google!