How To Avoid The (Anti-DRM) Revolution

October 7th, 2006 · No Comments
by Booksquare

impentrable bank vaultAs most of you know, a little Book Fair is happening right now in Frankfurt. What happens there will likely stay there, and much of the news trickling out of the event seems to indicate that the conference has a bit of a “same time, next year” feel to it. Especially when it comes to digital rights management. DRM. It’s a term you need to understand.

Publisher’s Weekly reports that an entire session, thrillingly (and we do mean that sincerely) called “Publishers and Search Engines: Facing the Challenge” discussed an approach called Automated Content Access Protocol, or ACAP for short. Basically, it will be a way of standardizing content publishing across platforms and devices.

This is really, really important if the publishing industry wants to see any modicum of online success. We cannot say how critical it is that publishers understand that a rash of competing standards will turn off consumers. ‘Round about Christmas of this year, a whole bunch of consumers — again, they are the people who spend the money on products — will be discovering the joys of DRM. Some will learn this when they open little boxes containing a product made by Microsoft called “Zune”.

And they will be discovering that you can only buy songs for the Zune at the MS Zune store. If someone in their household previously bought that same song at, oh, the iTunes store, the two devices are not compatible. Please, for a moment, recall the unprecedented success of the iTunes store and iPod device. The market saturation is stunning, and there’s a chance that an iPod already lives in a household where a Zune is being adopted.

Zune/iPod families will not be happy to learn that they’ll need to purchase the same song multiple times in order to play on different pieces of hardware. Factor in the sad reality of other hardware manufacturers deciding that competing standards can only be a good thing, and you’re looking at a consumer revolution. Because those who purchase content want to be able to access content.

People will be online in a New York minute to find ways to break the DRM. Not because they are bad people, but because they have already purchased the content. Fast forward a year or two to the promise of the digital home. Already devices allow consumers to access their music and, theoretically, film libraries wirelessly. But recall that iTunes only works on the Apple devices, Zune is a Microsoft product, Unboxed from Amazon uses another format. And so it goes. Content providers who lock into exclusive deals with select service providers are killing the audience.

Likewise, publishers who go off and sign up for proprietary DRM are only hurting themselves. There comes a point where protecting content might as well mean locking it in a vault and throwing away the key. Consumers don’t mind paying for content (most of them, anyway), but they do mind roadblocks that limit access to the content they’ve purchased. Publishers — a group that includes those people with big corporations behind them as well as those sit down at write for fine publications like Booksquare — who do not understand this will find themselves on the losing end of the new media revolution.

And, yeah, we’re gonna be saying “We told you so.” Frequently.

[tags]digital rights management, drm, zune, ipod, itunes, publishing, content[/tags]

File Under: The Future of Publishing