The DRM Debate
Contemporary music and film distribution technology relies heavily on Digital Rights Management schemes to protect both content and revenue generation. It’s probably the central cog in the online universe, which both the Recoding Industries Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rely on for protection and enforcement. DRM is also central to the consumer electronics devices ecosystem, not only for the protection of music and film but also as a platform for devices such as the iPod and Zune media players.
An interesting contrast though is the online universe of user-generated content, in everything from blogs to independent music to movies and short clips. With the rise of inexpensive software and cheap capture devices, such as video-enabled mobile phones, users have been able to create terabytes of content and distribute it over the Internet. The bulk of this content is DRM-free, available for free and largely free from usage restrictions. Whether for pure pleasure and entertainment, or for those in search of exposure and looking for a career break, DRM-free content has taken on a life of its own and is starting to compete with the established media elites.
What is beginning to take shape are two very different philosophies and business models surrounding the same issue: One group has a vested interest in protecting their members’ content and maintaining some form of revenue stream, while the other has a greater interest in exposure and broad distribution of free content. To be clear, dichotomies and contradictions exist in both models. So what then are we to make of recent news surrounding both Apple and Microsoft and their attitudes to the DRM model?