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Macrovision look to DRM future

Digital Rights Management as a topic of discussion is probably as hot as any subject is going to be right now. Quite recently, Steve Jobs issued an open letter, aimed at three different audiences. The intent was to foment some kind of unease with the idea of using DRM technology. And at the very least, to give the movie studios and the music labels pause for thought.

It seems he did do just that, which must have been a relief, because quite apart from the layman and the music and movie moguls alike as the first two parties of the audience, the third ear he was hoping not to have his words fall deaf upon was the Norwegian government and their apparent dislike of how iTunes ‘locks’ people into Apple’s own DRM scheme.

Since that open letter, the dialogue with regards to DRM has been itself much more open and refreshingly honest:

“Almost two-thirds of music industry executives think removing digital locks from downloadable music would make more people buy the tracks, finds a survey.

The Jupiter Research study looked at attitudes to Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems in Europe music firms.”

It’s a strange admission, especially coming from the people who almost single-handedly pushed the much maligned phrase: Digital Rights Management into the English vernacular.

Notable also by their opinion on the subject of DRM has been Macrovision, the company of the moment that stands to lose the most from any sudden shift away from DRM.

I’ll be honest, their open letter reads more like a cynical sales punt aimed directly at Apple:

“Should [Steve Jobs so] desire, we would also assume responsibility for FairPlay as a part of our evolving DRM offering and enable it to interoperate across other DRMs, thus increasing consumer choice and driving commonality across devices.”

You get the idea.

But there’s more, specifically, there’s a complete disregard for what was covered in the original letter by Steve Jobs:

“Consumers who want to consume content on only a single device can pay less than those who want to use it across all of their entertainment areas – vacation homes, cars, different devices and remotely. Abandoning DRM now will unnecessarily doom all consumers to a “one size fits all” situation that will increase costs for many of them.”

OK, I’m a consumer and I buy a movie and a music album. All I want to do is watch the movie and listen to the music.

What I don’t want to do is map out where and how I hope to consume my media, all in the vein hope of negotiating a slightly less expensive purchase price by limiting the scope of what I can do with what I’ve just bought.

Where on Earth these people go to think this crap up should be cordoned off for the sake of the preservation of all things sane.

Here’s an excerpt from my notes made while reading the Macrovision letter:

The idea of muddling your way through a payment plan for a song or a video game, just for your car or your bedroom is just stupid.

Such an utterly circuitous arrangement is quite, quite baffling.

But maybe this is where DRM is headed for? At least that’s what’s intimated in the BBC article:

“However, [there could be] a day when DRM was used to manage these rights and monitor what people did with music rather than stop them.”

I’m not quite sure of the value of this kind of thing. We’ve already established that music and movies can now be listened to and watched respectively almost anywhere.

In my mind, this response by Macrovision is an edgy, nervous sales punt aimed squarely at Apple.

I say edgy, because the influential power that Steve Jobs commands recently isn’t to be underestimated, nor is it a fact lost on Macrovision.

And if Steve Jobs talks up the idea of cutting the air supply to DRM, Macrovision stand to lose out.

Digital Rights Management as a mechanism may well find itself subject to an expiry date in the not to distant future…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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