Reporting on DRM Accurately

by on November 17, 2006 · 6 comments

The New York Times has an article on the Zune that puts DRM issues front and center:

Rather than selling songs in a closed-file format like Zune or FairPlay from Apple, eMusic uses the MP3 format, which works on all devices. Though dwarfed by iTunes’ 72 percent market share, eMusic’s 10 percent share (as measured by the research firm NPD Group) beats all other stores, including Napster, Rhapsody and Wal-Mart. And eMusic might do even better if it offered songs from the four major record labels–EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner–that control about 75 percent of the music market.

Aside from some small experiments, the majors do not use the MP3 format because it lacks the digital rights management, or D.R.M., technology that protects copyrighted works by preventing unlimited duplication.

It’s great that they’re putting the spotlight on the problems created by DRM, but that last sentence is highly misleading. It’s true that DRM is intended to prevent unlimited duplication, but it seems to be stretching the truth to flatly state that it succeeds in doing so. At best, I think you could say that it slightly delays unlimited duplication because it sometimes takes a few hours before someone goes to the trouble of cracking their copy and uploading it to a peer-to-peer network.


Maybe this is nitpicking, but I think careless statements like this are a big part of why pointless policies are perpetuated for so long after it becomes obvious that they aren’t working. It reminds me of the various “anti-terrorism” measures such as confiscating water bottles at airports. The press will blithely report them as “anti-terrorism” measures because that’s what the Bush administration calls them. That, in turn, reenforces the public impression that such policies prevent terrorism, despite the fact that there’s little or no evidence that they actually do so.

Likewise, reporters parrot the recording industry’s claims that DRM reduces online piracy, despite the fact that there’s little or no evidence that it actually does so. It’s probably too much to hope for the reporter to add a sentence that most computer security experts disagree, but at a minimum, they ought to phrase it as “the recording industry claims” that DRM protects copyrighted works. That would alert the reader that the proposition was controversial, and hopefully cause more readers to give the matter more thought.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    First the simple fact that this article, even if it is not totally accurate, is a major “advance” for the NY Times. It may indicate that even the NY Times is beginning to perceive and acknowledge that DRM/DCMA is not good. This article, to me, is uncharacteristic of the NY Times since they appear to have been very pro-DRM based on my reading of the paper so far. Considering they are in the content industry and they make their money by selling content it is not surprising that they would have a pro-DRM viewpoint and agenda.

    Independent of DRM as a bad technology, is the corruption of the English language by the pro-DRM crowd. Basically it is Orwellian Newspeak. For example the article states: “If a subscription service goes out of business, customers haven’t lost much because they never owned the music in the first place. And perhaps most music Ã?¢â?‰? whether rented or purchased Ã?¢â?‰? does not have to last forever. As Ross Rubin, an analyst with the NPD Group, said, “Do you really care about having access to the latest Britney Spears track 40 years from now?”” These are a very arrogant statements to make. They are indicative of the content industry’s mindset that the consumer is nothing more than a revenue unit.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14019452 Steve R.

    First the simple fact that this article, even if it is not totally accurate, is a major “advance” for the NY Times. It may indicate that even the NY Times is beginning to perceive and acknowledge that DRM/DCMA is not good. This article, to me, is uncharacteristic of the NY Times since they appear to have been very pro-DRM based on my reading of the paper so far. Considering they are in the content industry and they make their money by selling content it is not surprising that they would have a pro-DRM viewpoint and agenda.

    Independent of DRM as a bad technology, is the corruption of the English language by the pro-DRM crowd. Basically it is Orwellian Newspeak. For example the article states: “If a subscription service goes out of business, customers haven’t lost much because they never owned the music in the first place. And perhaps most music Ã?¢â?‰? whether rented or purchased Ã?¢â?‰? does not have to last forever. As Ross Rubin, an analyst with the NPD Group, said, “Do you really care about having access to the latest Britney Spears track 40 years from now?”” These are a very arrogant statements to make. They are indicative of the content industry’s mindset that the consumer is nothing more than a revenue unit.

  • http://www.digitalproductions.co.uk Crosbie Fitch

    DRM = Digitally Rented Music

  • http://www.digitalproductions.co.uk Crosbie Fitch

    DRM = Digitally Rented Music

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Tim, you know better than to talk about DRM and piracy without mentioning the DMCA. Arguments citing the technological limitations of DRM as basis for its market distortion merely reiterate the justification for the DMCA’s anticircumvention provision.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Tim, you know better than to talk about DRM and piracy without mentioning the DMCA. Arguments citing the technological limitations of DRM as basis for its market distortion merely reiterate the justification for the DMCA’s anticircumvention provision.

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