Is The Consumer Backlash Against DRM Starting To Make Them Sweat?

Consumers don’t like DRM and neither do we, but quite honestly—we thought no one cared what we liked and disliked.

Now Ars Technica seems to think that DRM producers are starting to sweat from the heat of the anti-DRM consumer backlash.

You all know the slogan: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” At the Digital Rights Strategies conference in New York City, a similar message could be heard: “DRM doesn’t anger consumers, content owners abusing DRM anger consumers.”

And then there’s this little nugget of hilarity:

At a conference convened by the overlords of DRM, Sony vice president Scott Smyers admits that he circumvents the copy protection on DVDs (CSS) in order to make backups for personal use. Apparently Mr. Smyers doesn’t agree with Hollywood or the Register of Copyrights, both of which argue that “backups” can readily be had in the form of new copies you can buy at the store. The corporate hypocrisy is obvious: what the corporate parent demands (DRM that prevents DVD copying), even its own employee disregards. We can’t blame him.

DRM advocates getting nervous about consumer backlash [Ars Technica]
(Photo:Getty)

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  1. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    There already is a digital video “juke box” – it’s called Kaleidescape and it’s really pricey. We had this idea about ten years ago, and didn’t think to patent it (we had it all laid out, just no $$$)…
    DRM circumvents ‘fair use’ so it should be technically illegal. But since it’s implemented by the side with the money for to buy the lobbyists, the gubbamint thinks it’s just peachy.

  2. magic8ball says:

    I can only assume that the Sony VP will be receiving a subpoena from the corporate lawyers in the near future regarding his unlawful circumvention of Sony’s DRM.

  3. DRM’s days are numbered, I tells ya.

    Either they slash album prices or prepare to stop making profits at all.

    Technically, downloadable content should be dirt cheap, since the company doesn’t have to physically make it.

  4. yahonza says:

    Record companies have to face the fact the the records business must change dramatically. The entire market was based on the ability to package recordings and sell the physical package. Technology has eliminated the need for the package. For better or worse, recordings are going the way of Warner Brothers cartoons in the sixties. No longer profitable to make new ones, but the old ones are profitable as a free giveaway to sell something else. Music’s not quite there yet, but it will be, and DRM won’t stop it.

  5. Leiterfluid says:

    I think some of you might be overstating the cost of the physical media in the music industry. Historically speaking, many record companies spend the bulk of their money on production and advertising.

    If you read Hammer of the Gods, the Led Zeppelin biopic, you learn that traditionally the artist would pay for all the packaging costs. Peter Grant, however, “negotiated” for the label (Altantic) to abosorb the cost of packaging. This allowed Led Zeppelin to create gatefold sleeves for most of their albums, as well as the rotating image disc for Led Zeppelin III.

    The record industry would much rather have you purchase the CD and the MP3 (and the video, and the ringtone).

  6. pureobscure says:

    I bought several baseball games from mlb.com in DRM’d Windows Media format a few years ago. A couple of them played, and a couple of them didn’t. Numerous emails to mlb.com, which has notoriously poor customer service, were totally ignored. So, the first and only DRM-protected files I ever bought were unplayable, and the content provider wasn’t going to help me. So I don’t care what it is, or how badly I want it, I will NEVER, EVER shell out so much as a penny for protected media again.

  7. lestat730 says:

    Down with the DRM!

  8. TMurphy says:

    While I agree changes will be made in the recording industry, I have to say I kind of like having the CD itself. While I certainly want to use my mp3 player rather than carry a CD case and walkman, it just isn’t the same to not have the CD. Perhaps I’ll get used to having the art, lyrics, etc come with the download, but regardless I don’t want to see the album die and be replaced by nothing but singles.

    …Makes me think of the Kodak “where are the pictures” ad campaign.

  9. notebook says:

    Ahhh, some wonderful news to mull about. Oh, and DOWN WITH DRM! D

  10. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @Leiterfluid: In truth, the record companies are still charging bands for packaging even for sales through iTunes and other electronic-only formats where there is no physical product being sold!!

  11. bohemian says:

    It is not just DRM but all of the various ways they hobble technology that people are fed up with. Cell phones that are hobbled to favor the carrier. Software that you don’t really “own”.
    Things like DVD regions for players and discs.
    There are ways around all of this if your geeky enough.

  12. davebg5 says:

    @TMurphy: You know what else you might find yourself getting used to? Not having to pay for an entire CD of crap for the one or two tracks that are actually worth paying for.

  13. harshmellow says:

    I’d be perfectly happy paying $10 (and no more) for a new CD (without any rootkits–thanks anyway Sony). I also have no problem buying non-DRM tracks, but I will never buy tracks (or movies, or TV shows) with DRM. We’re all waiting record companies!

    It’s no longer amazing that the record companies are so “behind the times,” but what is amazing is how long we have been saying they are behind the times.

  14. axiomatic says:

    Yeah, I am even going so far as to make sure what kind of DRM is present for any of the music or PC games I buy. For example, I will never buy anything from Sony or use any product with SecureROM DRM on it. Those guys just go too far with the DRM.

    Vote with your wallet people.

  15. aphexbr says:

    @Axiomatic:

    Exactly, vote with your wallet. I still buy a lot of music, video and games, but I refuse to buy anything DRMed. The result is that I buy music from only certain sources such as eMusic and Beatport (I move a round a lot so CDs are very inconvenient). Those stores don’t carry major label content, so the RIAA doesn’t get my money.

    I do buy DVDs, but have so far shunned both download services and HD formats due to the DRM, and also buy a lot of second-hand as many new releases are just too expensive or waiting to be double-dipped. In other words, I pay for all my entertainment, but I don’t give my money to sources that try to screw me. There are alternatives out there, spend you money there instead and hope the RIAA/MPAA get the message.

  16. Perhaps I’ll get used to having the art, lyrics, etc come with the download…TMurphy

    Does any download service actually give you the lyrics? Last time I got something from iTunes they weren’t doing that (it was a LONG time ago though). That pissed me off actually: if the CD comes with the lyrics shouldn’t the download? There’s even a tab for it when you look at the info for the song, so why is it empty?

  17. theycallmetak says:

    The article is pretty much right on. I hate DRM, not because I pirate, or because I don’t respect an IP owner’s right to financial recompense. I hate DRM because it enables the company to dictate how and when I choose to utilize the license I purchased. The only reason it doesn’t affect my day to day is that in the case of music I:

    Buy used.

    Rip with EAC + accuraterip to FLAC.

    Transcode to LAME (use the encoder of your choice here, OGG, AAC, WMA, etc.)

    Copy to my device(s).

    Are you telling me that Feist, The Postal Service, OKGO, and Mike Doughty really want me to pay for multiple licences to use on the 3 different MP3 players I own? I currently have a Rockboxed iPod, a Zen Sleek, and a Sansa Express. If that’s the case, I think someone should start compiling a list of artists who think that way so we can all start boycotting their music.

  18. S-the-K says:

    Is there a company ANYWHERE where the senior executives practice what they preach? Doesn’t matter if it is public policy or internal corporate policy, they want to be exempted from it.

    Us in the techie world know that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. That makes many of our users LETHAL to their computers. We do not let people be administrators on their computer because people will click on any old darn thing and click “yes” to any prompt without any thought about what they are clicking on.

    Unfortuantely, senior management and “friends of senior management” think that because they have a fancy degree from a fancy school that they are smarter then us dumb techies and know themselves and their computer better than we do. With the possible exception of us techies, almost every time we have been forced to let someone be an administrator of their computer, they’ve installed viruses, trojans, really graphic pr0n, etc.

    So, a honcho at Sony, who says DRM is swell for the the rest of us, uses tools to defeat DRM. I hope his lawyers sue his pants off like they do to all the grandmas and little kids. In fact, that would make a good defence in court. After all, if Sony executives can “violate” DRM, then “violating” DRM must be acceptable to Sony.