Thursday, May 29, 2003

Reflections on DRM

Article on the restrictions imposed by the DRM inherent in Apple's AAC file format.

From my perspective, $1 per song is way too expensive, especially when the product you get is inferior to a track of a physical CD. A short list of the problems:

  1. It is in a lossy format. For most people this is not an issue from a quality perspective, but converting to another format is very likely to be necessary in the future and would either not be possible or would be suboptimal without the original. That is supposed to be the beauty of digital music--you can keep migrating it to the latest technology without having to pay for the "license" to listen again.
  2. It does not include liner notes or artwork. I point this out because from a value perspective, you are not getting the same deal as it is made out to be (you cannot simply divide the total CD cost by the average number of tracks to come up with the value of a single digital music file).
  3. It is encumbered by DRM. It is said that the real meaning of DRM is Digital Restriction Management. DRM-encumbered songs are surely not valued in the resale marketplace because many (these AAC files seem to be no exception) won't even let you resell them because of the platform restrictions. You can resell your CD just fine however.

None of these disadvantages appear to be reflected in the cost of much online music that I see.

I would think that the true value of a single digital, lossless-encoded, non-DRM-encumbered track to be more like $0.50/track. You do not have to pay for distribution costs or manufacturing costs or artwork costs, etc. The value of these new digital distribution models should lead to savings for the consumer, not less value for more money.

And don't get me started on how absurd paying $1-2 for monotonic ringtones is. Why don't labels give those away for free as a promotional tool, ala radio? They just don't get it.

TidBITS: Apple Changes the Face of Digital Music

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