DRM dead?

IP 360” published an article, headed “DRM Technology For Music May Be Dead: Experts”, saying:

“The recording industry pushed digital rights management, or DRM, technology to protect its copyrighted music from piracy and maintain revenue streams, but under pressure from consumers, record companies have waved the white flag on encoding all of their music with DRM — a decision experts say forecasts the end of such technology in the music industry (…)”

The article is pretty much correct as far as it goes. But like much of these commentaries, it ignores the subscription model, wherein you pay something like 10-15 dollars/Euros per month for unlimited access to a library of millions of tracks. Services like Rhapsody (RealNetworks), Zune Marketplace (Microsoft), and Napster offer this. Such services use DRM and no one is talking about removing DRM from them – otherwise you would have a scenario where someone could sign up for one of these services, get a very fast broadband connection, download every track in the entire library (which would take maybe a few months), then cancel the service. Voila – 5-6 million music tracks for $50-100.

The aggregate subscribership of these services is maybe 4-5 million people worldwide, which is probably less than 1/10 the number of people who have downloaded tracks from iTunes, but it is growing at 100% per year. The generally accepted wisdom is that clunkiness of transferring tracks from PCs to portable devices is holding back further growth of this business model, so when cheap portable devices with wireless broadband come out (say 2010), the subscription model is expected to take off more rapidly.

Bill Rosenblatt, GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies (http://www.giantstepsmts.com/index.htm)

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