DRM – a very busy last few days

Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been very much in the news these past few days – from the Queen’s iPod and whether it violated copyright law, and Apple rolling out their no-DRM variable pricing. I am not sure that no-DRM and variable pricing should be linked together although the record companies would like everyone to readily accept no-DRM from Apple as meaning some songs cost more.

With regards to Apple’s, Amazon’s etc. new pricing, I wonder if it will work.From a consumer’s point of view – the cost of a song is all over the place. Taking Leonard Cohen’s and Lady GaGa’s new CDs as an example.


Album Cost

Cost per Song

Leonard Cohen “Live in London”
F.Y.E. (store) $23.99 n/a
Amazon CD $14.99 n/a
Amazon mp3 $14.99 $0.99
Apple iTunes $14.99 $0.99
Lady Gaga “The Fame”
CD Universe (store) $13.99 n/a
Amazon CD $9.99 n/a
Amazon mp3 $9.49 $0.99
Apple iTunes $9.99 (6 songs) $1.29
(8 songs) $0.99

The variation is significant and as a rule consumers like simplified pricing and no one really knows the rules – what makes a song worth $1.29 versus $0.99 ? (it can’t be just popularity as Leonard Cohen is ranked #7 and Lady Gaga #19 in Amazon’s best sellers in music this week).

We have two unrelated things going on here, the record labels (and their electronic distributors) like the idea of variable pricing as it gets the consumer to pay more for songs that are in demand and less  for those songs that are out there on the long tail. They are trying to help justify the higher price (a 30% premium) by removing DRM,  which is really charging you more for a feature you never wanted in the first place. For a great discussion on DRM and why it causes more harm than good  – read the first article in Cory Doctorow’s book ©ontent available here or just the lecture.

On a more positive note, the 100 millionth photo on Flickr is now available under  creative commons (CC) license. There is a very informative blogpost that analyzes the use of the six different CC  licenses – for example there are over 24 million photos that can be freely  used for commercial purposes with minimal restrictions. When you couple this with a set of guidelines on how to find the perfect image to complement the written word , perhaps the days of boring powerpoints may be numbered ( we can but hope).

One thought on “DRM – a very busy last few days

  1. I still think that giving an iPod with songs on it to the Queen is a little like Her Royal Fence, and she should get banged up for receiving stolen goods. After all, presumably the Obamas (or a minion on their behalf) paid for the songs on the iPod, and now two people have access to the songs whereas only one paid! Ah, the absurdity of intellectual property. The notion of property is in itself quite arbitrary (a deeply unsettling and revolutionary thought, I know), but intellectual property is a truly capitalist artifice.

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