Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tales of DRM

The struggle to find a balance between the rights of artists and the rights of their customers seems to be ongoing.  Each new medium seems to go through a struggle before the balance is found.  Music seems to have settled, or at least to be quiescent.  Video and books are still a little more turbulent.

Rewarding artists for their efforts is important, but in my own experiences, DRM-free content has been a great tool for making me aware of new content and getting me to part with my hard-earned dollars.  On the other hand, content locked down has driven me away from some purchases.  Some examples:
  • first introduced me to a huge variety of independent music.  Through that site, I developed a taste for Celtic music and ordered albums from a dozen artists that I would never have come across otherwise.  In one particular case, I discovered a band that was playing at a bar three blocks from my apartment.  I went to their show and bought all three of their albums at the show.  (I wept when was destroyed).
  • On another front, I have stopped buying videos from iTunes due to issues with DRM.  My previous apartment complex provided pathetically slow download speeds, so streaming videos were not a realistic option.  But when I purchased an HD version of "Downton Abbey" through iTunes, I discovered that I was unable to play it on my screen.  Emailing support, they nicely informed me that I would have to buy an Apple monitor.  In the meantime, I could watch the content I had purchased on my iPhone...
  • While I have paid for locked-down content on my Kindle, my purchase of tech books has skyrocketed since I discovered several sites that sell their content DRM-free.  The Kindle works great, but for technical books I like to read them and mark them up using iAnnotate on my iPad.
The internet provides a wonderful way for consumers to find new content, but the freedom for customers to use that content on the devices of their choosing can be an important selling point.  DRM too often restricts many important use cases.

Of course, lack of DRM on a product can lead to an increase in casual piracy.  I came across a PDF of Programming in Lua by Roberto Ierusalimschy.  After reading through it for a bit, I noticed "Prepared for [name redacted]" written across the bottom of each page.  With a pang of conscience, I deleted the PDF.