The pragmatic view on why DRM’d media will slowly die out
I recently read the article on BoingBoing about the Hachette publisher being upset that some of it’s authors who were also using the Tor publisher in different territories, would be releasing their works DRM-free.
I also saw some defence that stated that “the Hachette sales strategy with DRM works really well”.
Let me explain why I don’t think that DRM is a long term solution.
If you model this media market against the first days of the ipod/itunes store:
When people buy into the “device and store” idea, they’re ambivalent about DRM because it doesn’t really affect them.”
As commodity devices emerge and people are able to buy ~£30 no name devices that more or less, just work, then the consumers start to find DRM a significant barrier to painlessly consumpting media and may acquire media from “other” sources. (The commodity devices without DRM will be cheaper than commodity devices with DRM).
Once a sizeable market is regularly circumventing the DRM, either with software or acquiring the content from other sources
At the point when a significant audience exists with commodity devices which don’t support DRM who are unable to legitimating consume the media they want, publishers can make a decision about whether the benefits they see in DRM, are worth not monetising the market on commodity devices…
At that point, many publishers will point out that DRM costs them money and inconveniences their consumers.
Unfortunately, from a PR point of view, this means that early adopters of commodity devices are always going to feel the publishers are being obstructive, whilst the publishers go after the largest slice of the market at that point in the emerging market.
In my opinion, the key to DRM-free media, is a large number of people using commodity devices, that don’t support it.
What you’re seeing on Boing Boing is that Tor’s readers are generally early adopters of commodity technology, whilst Hachette’s are still more tied into the “one device, one brand, one store” ideology. I’d guess that, as that changes, so will their stances on DRM.