Fight for your (digital) rights

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

I love it. Stave Ballmer, Microsoft’s head honcho these days, is desperately trying to persuade us that Digital Rights Management is, in fact, good for the consumer. This is, of course, nonsense but a simply marvellous read:

Consumers gain the most from the efforts of these pioneering entertainment companies. Online distribution offers a convenient way for people to access their favorite content wherever they are, at any time. But digital piracy is against consumers’ long-term interests; it undermines the economic incentives for artists and producers to continue creating and distributing the work we all enjoy. With rights-managed licensing, consumers can help sustain the flow of fresh creative work, confident that they have legitimately acquired rights to content that is authentic, of highest quality, and virus-free.

The point he misses, of course, is that DRM tends to assume that you’re going to commit a crime. The systems he’s advocating are roughly equivalent to a full body search every time you leave a record store. It’s not an attractive idea.
This brings me, in a roundabout way, to Apple’s new online music store. Bruce Baugh has written some very sensible comments on the matter and I do find myself agreeing with him. I’d rather not have DRM at all, but the solution set out in the store is far more akin to the security tagging and warning gates found in shops than the full body search being promoted elsewhere: unobtrusive and fair.

Now, if only Apple would make the store available in the UK…


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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.