Music Industry Begins to Imagine a Post-DRM World; Will Movie Studios Follow Suit?

One of the most common arguments deployed against using DRM schemes is that the move to unprotected files is inevitable. In recent days, starting with Steve Jobs’s memo, many in the digital-music business seem to be preparing, either with glee or trepidation, for a world after DRM. Bloomberg talks to David Goldberg, outgoing VP of Yahoo Music (he’ll leave April 1), about the company’s hopes to go at least partly DRM-free by the end of the year. “We’re making good progress with the labels,” Goldberg told Bloomberg. “It’s a good chance that it happens this year, but there’s no guarantee.”
Since what happens with digital music is often a harbinger of what will happen in digital movies, it’s no surprise that the movie industry is now wondering what comes next. WSJ notes, “Executives at Hollywood studios believe it is only a matter of time before the debate over removing copyright protections spreads to movies from music. Until now, the studios have steadfastly asserted that copy protections…are essential to preventing piracy of films.” The piece gives a good rundown of experiments so far, how people interact differently with music and movies, and the the different ramifications of physical-DVD DRM and digital-only DRM. Most eloquent about the last item is Chris Cookson, CTO at Warner Bros.: “‘Most people won’t break the rules if it’s made clear what is OK and what isn’t. Without DRM, it becomes very difficult’ to lay out the boundaries for consumers.”
It’s still a muddy area, and not everyone’s happy about the trend, as exemplified by an open letter to Jobs from the CEO of copy-protection company Macrovision. It’s useful to remember that, if/when DRM goes away, there will be losers as well as winners.
EMI Said to Be in Talks to Sell Music Online Sans DRM
WMG’s Bronfman: Jobs’ Manifesto Counterproductive