Speaking of DRM… Want to do more to help stop DRM, educate others, and let your voice be heard? A new website popped up recently called, “Defective By Design” will alert registered users by email and SMS when there is action you can participate in on the DRM battle field. This site is backed by the Free Software Foundation, a group fighting for open source, open standards, and open technology, in all its forms. This group is famous for dressing up in Hazmat suits in flashmob protests to oppose DRM. Get involved by joining their Alert Network to stop DRM, and by spreading the word by digging this story.
Monthly Archive for May, 2006
Not every MP3 player is an iPod, in fact the remaining market is mostly made up of other players with Microsoft’s “Plays for Sure” certification. This certification means that it will work with Windows Media Audio files with DRM built in. The “Plays for Sure” files are Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s “Fair Play” protected AAC files.
For months, hackers have been voiding the warranties on their iRiver brand devices in order to enable them to switch from DRM mode to UMS mode, in order to make it function more like other players on the market. UMS or USB Mass Storage, allows users to load MP3s and other files onto their players, and allows them to treat the device as a USB Flash drive.
Instead of declaring war on it’s consumers by making this feature harder to bypass, to their credit, iRiver has released a firmware update to ‘officially’ switch back and forth between modes; without voiding your warranty. This update doesn’t seem to allow users to continue playing DRM’d WMA files without authorizaiton, only providing consumers more uses for a device they’ve already paid money for. More companies should adopt this approach to customer service. iRiver’s customers clearly wanted this abillity, other players in the market give them that ability, and in a tactic that is sure to have saved them a mass exodus to Apple or another MP3 player manufacturer, iRiver gave users what they wanted. Kudos, to you iRiver… you may have been the first to market a portable MP3 player, and Apple may own more percentage of the market, but you are certainly not out of the game yet.
This story is yet another example of why DRM does more to hurt consumers (Sony’s Rootkit Debacle, anyone?) than it does to protect content. More companies should take the risk and offer non-DRM files for their customers to purchase, and because they don’t, Independent Record Labels have a huge opportunity to market to a large group of informed consumers who know what DRM is and can articulate why they don’t want any part of it. eMusic is one of the early pioneers, offering a subscriptioin service that allows for a certain number of downloads of 320kps MP3s for a fair monthly fee. Our personal favorite is Bleep.com, which is owned and operated by the infamous Warp Records. This download store allows for full previews (in 30 second increments, similiar to skipping the needle around on a record at your local vinyl store), and boasts the largest selection of underground electronic music covering all of the notable labels in this genre. Digital DJs will appreciate the integration of Native Instrument’s Traktor 3 DJ Studio with Beatport. Beatport caters more to to the danceable and club friendly end of the underground music scene, and is partially owned by Stanton and Native Instruments. By combining a software platform with a digital distribution store, they hope to mimic the success of Apple’s iTunes and iTunes Music Store one-two punch. DJs can browse, preview and download tracks in the same enviroment that they mix the music, which makes it easy to get non-DRM music ready to DJ with, sense Traktor 3 doesn’t support any DRM formats due to licenseing and other nasty restrictions. Even DIY-Till-We-Die record label, Nophi Recordings, has created their own low cost, bootstraped digital distribution site, Phitunes, built using paypal, a little ingenuity and a lot of elbow grease.
DRM alternatives are sprouting up everywhere, and is a direct reaction to Big Content’s (RIAA/MPAA) war against consumers and the things they want to do with the devices and media that they legally purchased. Independent Record Labels and Unsigned Artists have a huge opening in which to service consumers demands and get their music into the ear’s of people that will appreciate it. The risk that somebody will pirate the non-DRM music they legally purchased is small, as the files have more percieved value than files they nicked from their favorite p2p program, I guaratee.