Engadget recently had a post about French law and DRM. I wrote a seriously long comment about DRM whoch I posted here. For those of you who don't know, DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It means that when you buy (most) music online you cannot play it on an incompatable player. Here's my post:
OK, you buy a legal DVD of some film. You play it in your living room, then get tired and finish watching it in your bedroom on your DVD player up there. This is perfectly legal in (hopefully) just about any country in the world. If you think this isn't fair use then I think you may have a problem.Update: Mike has put a post about DRM on his blog. Add a comment to it saying why DRM is bad for the consumer!
What if you're listening to an album you bought from Yahoo music, iTunes or whatever on your computer. You then realise you have to go out for a bit so you put the music on your MP3 player. With DRM'd music you cannot do this (unless you choose to let 1 company rule your life until you never want to listen to that album again).
Here DRM is stopping fair use. It is pretty good at it too. I could break the DRM, which isn't difficult to do but does take time. The legality of breaking DRM isn't too great under the DMCA or EUCD either.
I choose not to buy DRM'd music, burn to a (virtual) CD (which some DRM doesn't let you do anyway), then rip back.
Instead of buying the DRM'd music I have 4 options. Firstly I can buy the CD. This means going into town and paying for some of the tracks on the album I don't want. I do this sometimes but not very much.
Secondly I can choose not to listen to music at all. I don't like that option.
Another option is only buying music online in MP3 from sites like magnatune or emusic, or listening to free CC music. This is what I would do but it is not possible for me to listen to many popular artists this way (even if I want to pay). This would become very popular if DRM didn't exist. I'd definitely buy a lot more music.
The only way I can get MP3s of the music I want without having to encode a CD (bought or burnt from DRM) is currently illegally. That means piracy. That means they lost a sale. That means artists like Britney Spears and Eminem get no money and starve. To be honest (no offence to you Britney or Eminem if you're reading this) I don't care.
I have quick searches in Firefox for the pirate bay and isohunt. I can get virtually any album I want in a few minutes.
DRM has stopped me from paying many artists. I do sometimes buy CDs of music I've downloaded if I want to support the artist.
What I'd like to see is artists offering MP3s for sale. They could also have a donate button on their websites for people who got the MP3s illegally but want to support the artist.
To summarise: DRM doesn't stop piracy, it just stops fair use. It is a tool used by distributors to deny ownership to the consumer after they have paid for a product.