Archive for the ‘2. Thoughts on Digital Media’ Category

DRM Landscape

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

November 27, 2005

Lately, I’ve been talking with a technology company has me thinking about just who makes up the DRM landscape. There are three value chain participants that are impacted by DRM technologies

  1. Media Companies (including new ones like Yahoo)
  2. Technology Companies
  3. Consumers

Traditionally, a DRM technology companies focus has been on selling to media companies as this was perceived to be the head of the snake and that was where the power was. The most ‘dangerous’ place to sell was to consumers as they were seen to be the weakest and thus they were neglected – resulting in a bad user experience and a lot of hostility supported by the slashdot crowd and journalists. However, this traditional “top down” paradigm is being challenged mostly due to the democratizing effects of the internet and technologies. Fairplay, the only market success in “modern” DRM (as opposed to simple copy protection) has focused on the needs of the customer above the desires of the labels (non-permanent licensing, high prices).

  • Media companies are, to put it mildly, reluctant to implement technologies that give consumers more power than they currently have, excluding piracy of course. Moreover, they play a delicate political game with other media companies and therefore are not inclined to cooperate with them on the implementation of standards, even when it is in their interest. A current example is the battle between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. Worse examples in the past have involved the media companies battling new standards like MGM vs. Betamax.
  • At the other end, Consumers are difficult to sell to for several reasons:
    - Hard to ‘capture’ enough at once for critical mass
    - Very leery of DRM solutions
  • Technology Companies are in a vulnerable position as they are the somewhat reluctant intermediaries – balancing the interests of both groups. Currently the groups perceptions are divergent enough to be a real problem, however, there is some evidence to suggest that media companies are starting to realize they are in jeopardy, and consumers are also showing some indications that they will view digital content as having real value, making them more cooperative than they have been in the past. However, they need to be pushed to the inevitable future lower margins and higher volume, as the antitrust case against the record labels shows.

DMP Thoughts

Tuesday, May 25th, 2004

I was at the Digital Media Project in LA, which I found very interesting and informative. I won’t describe it – there is lots of information on it at the DMP website. (ed note. not anymore!)  It seems to be trying to straddle the line between the interests of society and content owners. Nevertheless, there still seems to be a “drift” toward the interests of the content owners, to the peril of the entire DRM endeavour. I just saw an article on the difficulties the Japanese broadcast system is having getting people to accept heavily restrictive copy protection on digital TV, a topic that came up at the DMP as an example of a ‘successful’ DRM implementation.

Ouch Again

Sunday, December 14th, 2003

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Not surprising, but nevertheless not a good thing: Canada is going to start charging a surtax for mp3 players:

“The cost of an MP3 player will increase in Canada after the government’s copyright agency decided Friday to charge a tax of up to $19 per unit to reimburse singers and songwriters.

The new levy on MP3s will use a sliding scale depending on memory size: $1.50 for units with up to 1 gigabyte, $11.25 for 1 to 10 gigabytes, and $19 for devices of more than 10 gigabytes.”

From – link outdated

This is a major ouch as it penalizes those who are “playing by the rules” – see the August 26 post for more of a commentary.


Thursday, October 30th, 2003

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Amazon is obviously digitizing the entire contents of their books. I have an image of this I’ll dig up

This must be putting a lot of pressure on the publishers to get their books online. I think that Amazon is going to be a pioneer here. Apparently there is a new way to check out books from a library that perserves the concept of “one copy, one checked out”, which I think does a decent job of bridging the structural gap between atoms and bits in regards to business models.


Saturday, August 23rd, 2003

It seemed appropriate to start this commentary with a discussion of the running debate between fee vs free. It’s not worth getting dragged into a discussion of which is better, or even what “free” is, though I recognize that for some people these things are important. I’ve noticed that there is a pattern, though, and people break out into their groups pretty fast:

1. Companies that have content, and particularly those that have a traditional business model, are nearly rabid in their defense of copyright at any cost…the labels are a good example, and they managed to ram through the DMCA

2. Those who think that there should be as free a flow of information as possible. We’re all pretty familiar with this one, and for some reason the media likes to take this viewpoint. There are many orgs like the eff, and this one

3. There seems to be a third paradigm emerging gradually over time….especially since the dot-com collapse…which is the “fee advocacy” movement. The end of free is a good example and there are now consultants that are seem to be working quietly in this area. Some journalists seem to get it.

One thing that’s interesting is that it’s been sometimes framed as a “media company versus technology company” battle. One CATO conference I went to recently in Palo Alto posed it this way, for dramatic tension I guess. (they don’t seem to have the past events linked but I did find this) The fact is that DRM companies (which are technology companies to be sure) have had this 3rd viewpoint for a while. It’s kind of the neutral stance, so it’s not exciting. But like many things that are not exciting in by being either evil or principled, this way is the way that will work in the long run.


Saturday, August 2nd, 2003

It’s funny how the term has become a rallying cry against copyright online: I was reading about the failure of vs iTunes.

Check this out: Stephen Van Esch writes:
BuyMusic’s DRM (digital rights management) system has been savaged by The Globe and Mail, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and TechTV. BuyMusic tunes can’t be transferred to portable music players.
What interests me here is implication that Apple does not use DRM.

Of course it has to. Apple never talks about it, which is smart. The article Van Esch quotes points out that there is DRM in both systems:
Apple’s “FairPlay” rules attempt to strike a reasonable balance between the desires of the music industry (“No copying!”) and customers (“No copy restrictions!”). Apple limits the number of CDs that can be burned using the same playlist, and prevents users from storing downloaded music on more than three Macs at one time. has left the DRM decisions up to each label and copyright holder, which complicates the buying process. Some songs can be burned to CD just once; others can be downloaded, transferred or burned to CD an unlimited number of times. This is bound to create confusion when people attempt to make “mixed” CDs that combine music purchased from different labels.

Ironically, despite its name, does not actually let you “buy” music. The system’s “Terms and Conditions” note that content is “sublicensed” to users, “and is not sold, notwithstanding use of the terms ‘sell,’ ‘purchase,’ ‘order,’ or ‘buy.’”

As I’ve said before, iTunes has managed slip in under the social acceptability threshold with its DRM. BuyMusic makes the blunder (among many others) of calling it DRM when speaking to the music buyer. Foolish. Very foolish.


Saturday, April 5th, 2003

I’m getting excited about the implications of the google purchase of blogger. Corporate internal blogs might be a way to utilize internal knowledge, and the addition of a google appliance makes the whole thing potentially disruptive to the content management field. Relation to DRM? You wouldn’t think so. But while researching the topic on slashdot I discovered RSS, which looks like a copyright management extension to XML.