On the heels of the long post I made the other day in response to Wired’s Editor-in-Chief own blog-post on Digital Rights Management, lots of people have commented on the debate. Generally the comments are very good, but there’s this pack of straw-man arguments that keeps popping up: “The companies are just trying to do what’s best for their shareholders by making as much money as possible. If the DRM isn’t too restrictive, then the market will accept it. Just wait and see how successful a DRM is in the market, that will tell you how good it is.”
They’re straw-men, and I decided after reading them re-stated in this post, that it was worth setting them ablaze. Here goes:
For starters, any market-correction for DRM will surely involve informed customers making good purchase decisions about the DRM in their devices. That’s what this debate is all about. The implicit, “Stop complaining and let the market sort it out” in these comments ignores the fact that complaints about DRM are vital to the market sorting it out.
“I noticed last month that Chris A (as befits an ex-Economist writer) is keen to encourage commercial companies to sueeze every last penny of value out of their intellectual property”
This is a straw-man. Neither Chris nor I question Disney, Fox, et al’s desire to suck the consumer electronics companies’ customers dry with DRM. The argument we’re having is over whether it’s in the CE companies’ best interests to be accomplices to this.
To have a functional market, you need companies and individuals who act in their own best interests. Traditionally, the entertainment companies have wanted fewer devices of less capability in the market — which is why they strongly opposed the phonogram, radio, jukebox, cable TV, VCR and Internet.
Traditionally, the CE companies have perceived a market opportunity to give their customers more devices and more capable devices, because customers want to get more for less.
This has resulted in a tension that yielded a balance to everyone’s benefit. The CE companies built devices that were capable, customers got more freedom, and entertainment companies discovered new opportunities to expand their revenue.