DRM is the acronymn for “Digital Rights Management”, but as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, it’s just a pretty way of saying “copy protection“. (Sort of like calling a tax increase “revenue enhancement”.) And as I’ve stated before, the landscape is littered with failed attempts at making copy protection stick. I believe that in the long run, it is counterproductive and is an impediment to sales and earnings for the owners of copyrighted material.
DRM is an important factor in current digital electronic entertainment media, including music tracks and movies. And we’ve started to see evidence that the wall of copy protection is beginning to crumble. Steve Jobs has spoken out against copy protection, and some download services have started to offer tracks for sale without DRM restrictions.
Now, we’re seeing more movement toward the sale of unlocked media. On Friday, Universal Music Group announced that they will be releasing thousands of albums and tracks from their catalog without copy protection. Titles include work from major artists including Amy Winehouse, Fall Out Boy, 50 Cent, Black Eyed Peas, Daddy Yankee, Mika, The Pussycat Dolls, Gwen Stefani, Maroon 5, Dr. Dre, Don Omar, Sting, Sugarland, Diana Krall, Paulina Rubio, Shania Twain, Nelly and Prince, Bing Crosby, Elvis Costello, Reba McEntire, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline. (Okay, I admit that I cut and pasted that list from the press release; it’s too good a list not to include everyone.)
Who will be carrying these tracks? Major outlets include Google, Wal-Mart, Best Buy Digital Music Store, Rhapsody, Transworld, Passalong Networks, Amazon.com, and Puretracks. (Another cut and paste list.) So we’re talking about major distribution here.
I’m convinced that people who want to steal music and movies will do so, and there’s little that can be done to stop them. The majority of people want to do the right thing — if it doesn’t cost too much — and we’ve seen this demonstrated by the 3 billion songs that iTunes alone has sold. The removal of copy protection makes it easier to play your purchases on different devices, where and when you want. That’s a good thing, and I believe ultimately will make more money for everyone involved in the creation and distribution of digital entertainment.