Monday, May 13, 2013

From a recent Ars Technica article:

With plugins and apps, there's no meaningful transition to a DRM-free world. There's no good way for distributors to test the waters and see if unprotected distribution is viable. With EME, there is. EME will keep content out of apps and on the Web, and it creates a stepping stone to a DRM-free world. That's not hurting the open Web—it's working to ensure its continued usefulness and relevance.

That's the hope.

Actually I see two problems.

DRM is popular not because it works, [b]but because it doesn't work[/b]. Anti-DRM proponents like to spout that it doesn't work, which is unfortunately true. Its so easy to circumvent, that patch authors/pirates are constantly circumventing it. Which compounds the problem as now studios feel like they need to protect their work from these pirates while still maintaining profits; profits which likely accrue [b]thanks[/b] to the piracy which their DRM encourages.

If DRM really worked, I suspect Hollywoods profits would actually plunge. No one would buy it, and those few who did would be very reluctant to share with friends etc. Marketing would go through the floor, not to mention the cheap thrill of picking up pirated goods would disappear (who doesn't like a good pirate? - Hollywood has four films illustrating its popularity *wink* ).

So the first real problem is pirates. Its not circumvention, its networks of people whom for whatever reason have decided they want to spend all day cracking, ripping, and re-distributing stuff for free (and I don't think they are altruistic ends *cough* viruses *cough*).

The second problem is that for all the anti-DRM speech, I hear very little about the alternatives. How do you sell videos to the masses, online and for a small fee? Netflix yeah, but that uses DRM. I do think it is possible, but I don't know that anyone champions DRM-free solutions very well, or has setup any frameworks for this.

One alternative which I think could work is a system that puts responsibility on the shoulders of the sharer. Think youtube sharing, but on a lower level. You can sell a small locked file that can be sold with a key, but the goal is not to key the file locked up. Instead, the goal is to ensure that anyone can easily open the file, wherever/whoever they are, provided they have a key, but that then it is unmistakeable whom has done so. So yeah, they can share with their friends, put it on a flashdrive, but if they start widescale uploading to warez sites they are relatively easy to track down and put out of business.

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