DRM vs Piracy

Posted August 2, 2011 by Meoskop in Opinion / 0 Comments

In many ways publishing has refused to learn the lessons of the recording industry. DRM is being used to combat piracy, while we all know DRM does nothing to combat piracy and even encourages it. Which is why we’re talking about music today. I love music more than books. If I had to choose between losing the publishing industry or the music industry, publishing would have to go. I seek out b-sides, live tracks, Edison cylinders, field recordings, talent shows. I love music. Books I just like. I used to read a few books a day, now I read at least one. Music I might not listen to for weeks, then gorge on for days. It doesn’t make logical sense, but there it is. I tell you all of this so you will understand that when I say I have over 30,000 legally purchased tracks I am not kidding. I’m going to Lollapalooza this weekend, so I will probably come back with a dozen or so additional albums. I buy music. I buy books. I pay for things all the time.

When mp3s went legal they decided to combat piracy by putting DRM on everything. I have a few hundred DRM laden tracks in my iTunes that I never bothered to strip. This week I set up Amazon Cloud and Spotify to do a comparison of the services. Both offer unlimited music storage, one offers new music discovery, one offers a much lower fee. I can’t upload those DRM laden tracks to Amazon or Spotify. I’m going all caps here to make a point. IF I HAD STOLEN MY MUSIC I WOULD BE ABLE TO UPLOAD IT.  Although the interface to upload is criminally slow, Amazon will let me listen to anything via their cloud player that I can listen to on my iThings, unless it has DRM. If I stole the music, I could load it. Because I legally paid for it, I cannot. Spotify goes one better – it loads the tracks then highlights them to tell you that you can’t play them.

One more time, for the cheap seats. With DRM, paying for a product is actively discouraged. Right now, Publishing is relearning that lesson. I can buy a book to use only on Adobe, to use only on Kindle, to use only for myself for as long as I can remember my passwords and get my computer permissions to agree, but I cannot pay more for an ebook than a paperback and expect to be able to freely use that book in the future unless I remove the DRM. Or, I could just steal everything. Maybe it’s not Music and Publishing that are failing to learn these lessons, maybe it’s me. Perhaps I shouldn’t be buying things. I can’t help it, I raised myself not to steal. So instead of enjoying this afternoon and finding new things to buy I will be removing DRM from my music tracks so I can enjoy my purchased music the same way the criminals do. No resentment going to be built there, no sir.

Anyway, back to Amazon Cloud vs Spotify. Spotify is a thousand times faster but wants a minimum of $10 a month to be mobile, which makes sense as they also offer what is in effect a portable listening station. Frustratingly, tracks I would like to purchase frequently come up as “the artist has chosen to make this track unavailable in your country” so it cannot be previewed or purchased, unless it is stolen and uploaded. Amazon is basically free, giving me unlimited storage for music and 20GB of space for a buck. we will see what they want to charge next year. (Answer: $25 annually) The downside of Amazon is that they don’t offer full previews of other albums or the sort of radio on demand thing Spotify has got going on. I’ll need to use both for awhile and see what I prefer. iCloud has priced itself ridiculously out of my market. It would  cost hundreds of dollars a year just to store what I already own. There’s no reason for me to even explore iCloud as a music option.

(Update note: iCloud will offer a plan that allows unlimited music storage.  We will see what happens.)

(Update The second: iCloud has limited the number of tracks I may upload to about half my legally purchased library. )

Whatever my iLibrary looks like in a few years time I don’t want it to be full of books I paid 30 – 40% more for only to find myself unable to read. When DRM started I was anti piracy all the time. I had no understanding or compassion. Having lived through DRM in music and DRM in books I find myself having less patience with both industries. I share their goals of capturing revenue for artists and those who package art, but I cannot support their delusions.