Summary:

[By Robert Andrews] One of the predominant themes at this conference has been the thorny question – to use DRM, or not to use DRM? After the…

[By Robert Andrews] One of the predominant themes at this conference has been the thorny question – to use DRM, or not to use DRM? After the success of eMusic and pre-launch hype for ad-supported SpiralFrog, both of which offer so-called “naked” music files, there is growing pressure on the labels and download channels to remove restrictive or plain clumsy software that, while it attempts to preserve creators’ rights, can spoil the user experience. Opinions here range from those clamoring for completely DRM-free downloading to those who are supportive of eliminating copyright abuses – but not of bad DRM.
Geoff Taylor, general counsel, International Federation of the Phonographic Industry: “If all the labels stepped away from DRM, it would be difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. My guess would be that the labels want to stay with DRM. I don’t think a proposal has been made for [a DRM-free approach] that is compelling. I think DRM will become ubiquitous in a way that is accepted by the consumer; it will be interoperable – I’m very optimistic.”
Martin Mills, Britain’s Beggars Group: “At the moment, I consider being a DRM-free label a competitive advantage. The artists we work with like our policies. We’re like King Canute trying to stop the tide – in fact,
the tide has already come in; it’s too late to effectively apply DRM to the download market, especially when you’ve got unprotected CDs being released every day. There is the possibility for the music market to grow – but I think if it stays fixated on a per-unit revenue module, it will decline.”
Michael Bornhaeusser, CEO, Secure Digital Container: “We now have the first DRM service in China, even those guys are jumping on the train. We have to work out the technology and make everybody happy – if we achieve that, this technology will be the standard and will work.

There is little consensus, but all agree they still want to be paid for their effort
. Most here seem to acknowledge current technologies are either clumsy or overly restrictive. Looking for a third way, Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz announced the instrument maker is launching a new company that will encourage electronics makers to build a new “enhanced” standard that allows copying but which also includes protection. The proposed format would be based on both BluRay and HD-DVD, and would adds metadata and Surround Sound to music files, he said, adding that there had been “absolutely no technology introduced into music” in the two decades since the launch of the CD. Gibson is talking with the four major labels, Juszkiewicz said. The new format would include album art, web links and more. Juszkiewicz: “If you guys are going to exist, you’re going to have to get paid somehow. There’s a presupposition that discs are dead, they’re gone – I don’t believe that’s correct.”

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