Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is about as popular as venereal disease. DRM is a combination of software and hardware that tries to prevent unauthorized copying of material. This doesn’t sound so bad on the surface, unless you are a black market pirate in China, as the goal is to protect the rights of creative folks that have tons of time on a project and would like to get paid for their work. The problem is that the system becomes a problem in itself.
A good example is iTunes. If you buy a song from the iTunes store, you can download it to an iPod, burn it to a disc, but you cannot transfer it to another computer. You bought it but you can’t do what you want with it. If you have both a desktop and laptop, DRM says never the twain shall meet.
DRM is more than inconvenient, it restricts creativity. How can you remix a tune if you cannot copy it? It can also stop the music. I have seen DRM encoded discs refuse to play on older CD players.
While I am a full supporter of intellectual rights, there needs to be a better way to deal with the issue. The DRM Blog has a nice summary and commentary on the problem. The original source for his diatribe is a recent Wall Street Journal article. Both agree that we need an update.
In the meantime, there have been some changes in the music industry. A trend toward DRM free music has been growing. If you like to download the occasional song and use it as you like, check out Amazon.com’s music store. The collection is good, the DRM is gone and all the files are compressed at 256k. While 256k is not lossless, it is a much more palatable compression rate than iTunes usual 128k. Unchained music is a good thing.