Print 25 comment(s) - last by loomis2.. on Nov 5 at 1:33 PM

The DRM-free debate continues

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a very active topic of interest to DailyTech readers.  Some feel that the technology is necessary to protect users against piracy.  Others feel that the technology does little to stop piracy, and feel that DRM efforts only hurt the consumer who pays legally for content.

DailyTech recently covered the launch of two music download services, which represent how this dichotomy of opinion is shared by the online industry.  SpiralFrog, which provides advertising subsidized content, feels it can win customers by offering DRM content for free.  Amazon MP3, however, believes that customers will pay for DRM-free tracks.

Jumping into the debate is Simply Audiobooks Digital, the world's second largest online audiobooks retailer.  Despite its inventory of DRM and DRM-free publications, Simply Audiobooks Digital urges publishers to do away with DRM.  The company feels that DRM is simply a burden on the paying customer, which causes inconvenience to the customer and the retailer, at no benefit.

Simply Audiobooks Digital's main rival in the online audiobooks market,, still uses DRM exclusively for its audiobooks.  Simply Audiobooks magnanimously encourages its competitors, including, to join it in the push to do away with DRM.

Simply Audiobooks Digital director Vitaly Petritchkovitch graciously provided exclusive interview with DailyTech about why his company chose to go DRM free and about their efforts to push the online media industry to turn away from DRM.

Petritchkovitch offers an intriguing online retail industry perspective on the state of DRM.  While some publishers still feel that DRM is the only way to protect their content and are willing to place the burden of it on their paying customers, many retailers seem to be turning away from the technology. 

The pinnacle reasons for embracing DRM-free titles, according to Petritchkovitch,  is the lack of ubiquitous DRM services.  Rather than support separate rights management for AAC, Audible, PlaysForSure and Real, a single DRM-free MP3 track can provide interoperability between virtually every player.

"Our member services Department handles all of our technical support andthey are constantly flooded with calls from customers having DRMrelated issues," claims Petritchkovitch.

He closes with the following advice for other audio outlets, "DRM only hurts the people who pay for content. Pirates will still pirate. You will never stop piracy."

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It's about time
By Egglick on 11/4/2007 1:05:48 PM , Rating: 5
He closes with the following advice for other audio outlets, "DRM only hurts the people who pay for content. Pirates will still pirate. You will never stop piracy."

Finally, someone uses some common sense and sees the big picture. I think the same can be said for all DRM, not just Audiobooks.

RE: It's about time
By James Holden on 11/4/07, Rating: -1
RE: It's about time
By Lifted on 11/4/2007 4:11:19 PM , Rating: 2
(Russia is still the piracy capital of the world for movies and music I believe)

Are you sure about that?

Population of Russia ~140M
Population of China ~1,300M

RE: It's about time
By Gul Westfale on 11/4/2007 5:39:28 PM , Rating: 2
yes but is the number of people in china who have access to a computer or DVD player greater than the number of people in russia?

RE: It's about time
By Lifted on 11/4/2007 6:12:00 PM , Rating: 2
A quick search mentioned 54% of households had VCD as of 2001, so I would have to say yes to access, but not specifically DVD or computer which is irrelevant.

RE: It's about time
By Ryanman on 11/4/07, Rating: 0
RE: It's about time
By Lifted on 11/4/2007 6:34:32 PM , Rating: 5
It's merely an assumption of yours that I assumed anything. I live in Asia and know first hand how prevelant VCD's and piracy are. I spent 30 seconds trying to find specific numbers only to help answer the posters question.

And yes, his mention of computers was irrelevant since the post was about piracy of music and movies.

RE: It's about time
By Gul Westfale on 11/5/07, Rating: -1
RE: It's about time
By Lifted on 11/5/2007 5:46:31 AM , Rating: 2
How is my post irrelevant if I specifically answered you question? You could have spent 30 seconds getting the answer on your own instead of coming back to complain about the format of my answer.

I know what you meant, yet most piracy in Asia is on VCD, making the specific penetration rates of DVD players and computers not relevant to the posters claims of piracy of music and movies. I wasn't saying your post was irrelevant, just the choice of medium.

Cheers :)

RE: It's about time
By Aarnando on 11/5/2007 10:14:37 AM , Rating: 2
I detest this debate over irrelevancy. Clearly my post is the most irrelevant of the lot. Let the debate end, and my irrelevant ramblings reign!

RE: It's about time
By jak3676 on 11/4/2007 6:42:02 PM , Rating: 2

RE: It's about time
By mmntech on 11/4/2007 1:19:20 PM , Rating: 5
DRM is the digital scourge of our time. Far worse than spam and such since DRM limits what people can do with products they've legally paid for. Some execs have even admitted all DRM is used for is to force people to buy multiple copies of the same item to play on different media devices. They survived before it existed, they can survive now. It was easier to pirate items in the past than it is today with DRM, yet their sales didn't suffer back then. Perhaps the real reason for slow sales is bad content, not piracy.

Some feel that the technology is necessary to protect users against piracy.

Protects record labels, not users.

RE: It's about time
By kaddar on 11/4/2007 1:35:26 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that that is the way it should be worded, but it's even possible to construct an argument that supports the statement:

(And explains their view, albeit wrong as it is)

The dreamcast was partially killed by piracy, you could direct rip CDs to play on it with no modding. Because of this, it hurt the users who were using the dreamcast legally, as fewer developers were willing to produce games for it.

Unfortunately, the assumes the absence of piracy is equivalent to the existence of DRM. you can construct a counter argument pretty easily:

The n64 used cartridges as "hardware drm". The problem with the n64 was that it was too expensive to produce games for it in cartridge form. Because of that, less developers were willing to produce games for it, and less games were produced, so therefore DRM hurts the users, and piracy hurts the users.

But of course this is a case by case basis as piracy won't kill all products (if it's harder to pirate but not impossible), and DRM won't make all products less desirable to be consumed by users (if they minimize additions to cost for the user, feature loss, etc).

RE: It's about time
By sweetsauce on 11/4/2007 1:52:37 PM , Rating: 2
You can try to make that argument about the Dreamcast, but everyone knows Sony killed the Dreamcast by giving incentives to publishers not to support the Dreamcast. Want an early development kit to get your games out by launch and piggyback the success we had on the ps1, then don't produce for the Dreamcast and its yours. Piracy was a very small reason for their failure. You had to be somewhat pc literate back then to be able to burn a Dreamcast game, so it was a very small percentage doing it.

RE: It's about time
By nismotigerwvu on 11/4/2007 2:13:04 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly....and don't forget most of the Dreamcast's life was BEFORE the age of widespread broadband (outside of major cities) so even if you were PC savvy enough to get your hands on a copy of Sonic Adventure you still had to download all 700 megabytes through a 56K (at best) dialup connection. Considering this was also well before bittorrent, most of these file images came from IRC chats, there is no way you can say that there was enough of the general public pirating games to be the primary reason for the fall of the DC. I still get teary eyed when I think of that magical little white box ;(

RE: It's about time
By SavagePotato on 11/4/2007 2:38:41 PM , Rating: 2
Sega was on a very negative roll for years at the time of the Dreamcast as well. Sony only had to put a couple nails in the coffin. The saturn and the 32x preceeding it were both total faliures of their own. It's a sad thing nonetheless, I was a sega fan back since the days of the Nintendo / Sega wars.

From what I had heard EA totaly shunned the Dreamcast at the leverage of Sony. It's kind of interesting to see the tables turned again with Nintendo rocketing back to number one in the console world and Sony reaping a few rewards for their arrogance. I have a ps3 but it's undenyable that their heads got a little too big thinking people would rush to buy a S600 console.

Of course, Nintendo is not innocent of the same tactics. They muscled the turbografx console out of existance in the same way.

By Hare on 11/4/2007 2:54:11 PM , Rating: 5
Some feel that the technology is necessary to protect users against piracy.

Audio Books and Text
By Shadowself on 11/5/2007 12:41:56 AM , Rating: 2
Audio books and text have, by far, the lowest theft rate of any digital media -- lower than music, lower than DVDs, lower than TV, much lower than any other media.

Thus DRM is not as high a priority simply because it is not being pirated at any where near the rate of any of the other forms of media.

It's like saying "I don't need locks on my corn crib and thus you don't need locks on your gas station either."

They just don't equate.

RE: Audio Books and Text
By rdeegvainl on 11/5/2007 4:16:28 AM , Rating: 2
But aren't they taking the larger risk by not locking their content. They don't sell many and so it takes a couple orders of magnitude less of pirating to hurt their profits. So even if they get pirated less, they sell less to begin with.
Like a large corporate business, can absorb losses more than a mom and pop shop for example. Not saying they should have to take that hit, but still the little guy has a better chance of going under.

broken links
By lufoxe on 11/4/2007 6:50:53 PM , Rating: 2
the links to the amazon story and the spiralfrog story are broken

By thecoolnessrune on 11/5/2007 10:44:20 AM , Rating: 2
I'll admit I've pirated before. I've pirated games and never bought them, and I've pirated music and never bought them. But if genuinely good products were produced, I would buy them in a heartbeat.

Take HL2 for example. At the time I had a little GeForce 4 MX420 graphics card. I thought to myself "No sense in buying it sense I probably don't even make minumum specs.

So yes, I pirated it. And you know what? It was a blast! I played through the entire game and it was playble framerates and fun!

So now Episode 1 comes out. I don't pirate it. I spend $50 and buy their entire Holiday Pack! Now everyday I play the HL2 Synergy mod (now with transparent water with my new laptop O.O I didn't know the game had that.. Really pretty.. DX9 is sweet!! :P)

I intend on getting Portal, Team Fortress, and HL2:Ep2 when better deals come out like a new Holiday Pack.

On the music side, I must have 12 Linkin Park tracks that I pirated. Now I own every album, though that will now change because Minutes to Midnight was a dissapointment and now I'm cautious of buying again.

Nelly will get my money automatically at least one more time because I've always enjoyed his albums.

The Bioshock developers already lost $50 from me cause there is no way I'm installing that rootkit crap only to limit myself to 5 installs. Though I admit, I might download a cracked version.

I pirated Quake 4 and played through it and now own it.

I played a cracked Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising and now own it, and the expansion pack.

I'm not trying to justify what I did, I'm only saying that if the company's would produce high quality media I would have no problem paying for it.

By loomis2 on 11/5/2007 1:33:48 PM , Rating: 2
Spiralfrog is a perfect example of a site that really hurts itself by using drm since it is entirely ad-supported. By limiting the use of their product to plays-for-sure devices only, it limits the number of potential visitors which goes against the purpose of ads to begin with! Sure there are ways around the pfs drm for use with an ipod or Zune (insert lame Zune joke here), but that falls right into the anti-drm argument anyway.

All that being said, I use Spiralfrog on an almost daily basis and really think (or rather hope) that they are on to something by providing free mp3's. If only they would be able to convince the record companies, who I fault for the drm and not Spiralfrog, to ditch the drm they could really take off.

By sj420 on 11/4/07, Rating: 0
RE: hah
By HaZaRd2K6 on 11/4/07, Rating: 0
RE: hah
By JKflipflop98 on 11/5/2007 3:14:18 AM , Rating: 1
In fact, the only CD I've ever run into trouble with was one that was actually working fine, but disagreed with my intent to rip the songs to my iPod. Fine, I won't do it the easy way, but I'm still going to get them there one way or another.

You just killed your own BS arguement right there. THAT is everyone's issue with DRM. You are restricted on when and where you can listen to your music that you paid for.
You know why they don't want you to be able to simply copy your songs to your iPod? Because people like you that take DRM's meat deep into your mouth will buy the same track over again so you can have it on your portable player. They make twice the money off doing absoloutly nothing.

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
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