Copy-Protected CDs Could Be Good Business For Download Services

A good piece in the Mercury News, with Dawn C. Chmielewski covering a lot of ground about CD DRM efforts. The labels are going after “casual pirates,” the folks who make mixes or copy albums for friends but wouldn’t traffic in bootlegs; they pose more “danger” than download sharers. Copying won’t be banned as much as limited. Copy a song or CD three times and you might be locked out.
This doesn’t bode well for iPods and iTunes users, who may have to do backflips to use some of the copy-protected CDs with the Apple service because the company refuses to license its FairPlay DRM to the labels. Talks are underway to try to resolve that. Thomas Hesse, Sony BMG’s president of global digital business, told the Merc the company’s protected CDs won’t play on iPods “simply because Apple has this proprietary approach. We would be willing and able to [put FairPlay] on CDs in an instant if Steve Jobs would flick the switch and allow us to do that.”
So what does this mean for digital music services and the content companies like Yahoo, Real and MSN relying on download sales/subscriptions? It could be good, removing one of the distinctions that currently exist between owning the physical media and downloading a copy-protected version. It also will force some consumer adjustments that could make it easier for people to switch to non-traditional ways of getting music.

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