Decider 1, RIAA 0

Sorry, but I've got to assume the record labels aren't this callous about the wishes of their customers. Then again, maybe I'm guilty of a Panglossian world view.

Hand it to "The Decider" for nailing it.

"The model of the future is what Trent Reznor is doing today. What that means for the RIAA and its members is that it renders them obsolete."

His is the second TalkBack post commenting on our story about an executive from the Recording Industry Association of America predicting that digital rights management is set for a comeback. David Hughes, who heads up the RIAA's technology unit, argued that because "any form of subscription service or limited play-per-view or advertising offer still requires DRM" then it naturally followed that "DRM is not dead."

Um, not so fast.

As Greg Sandoval's piece noted, the top four music labels are warming up to unprotected music files while an increasing number of online stores now offer some open MP3s. If DRM is "not dead," that's not to say it's positively thriving. But Hughes maintains that the signposts are about to blow in a different direction. He told attendees at a music conference Thursday in Los Angeles that the move toward subscription services will necessarily return DRM to center stage.

I don't buy that, but I can't claim to be clairvoyant, so we'll see who's right six months from now. More immediately, does the RIAA understand how much ill will DRM fosters among music listeners? All he has to do is plug in the right search terms on Google. By now, who would be surprised to learn that DRM has only widened the gulf between the record labels and their audience? I've got to assume that the record labels aren't this clueless about their customers. (Then again, maybe I'm guilty of a Panglossian world view.)

Nearly two years ago, Chris Pirillo posted a neat little rant on why DRM drove him batty. The sad truth is that two years later, his complaint remains as relevant as it was when he authored the following lines in May 2006.

I've currently got a subscription to Napster, a trial account with Rhapsody, and another trial account with MTV's URGE. That's three separate subscriptions I've got floating across all my systems. Now, I've already downloaded Pearl Jam's new album through Napster. I can't listen to it in either Rhapsody or URGE. I've paid for it already! So, let's say I turn off Napster and switch to URGE. I'd have to download the album again. What's more, Windows Media Player / Windows Explorer doesn't tell me where the album came from - I have to guess. I have to play (by trial and error) to see which albums are supported by which service. THIS IS MADNESS! Why can't the individual file detect which service I'm paying for and then adjust itself accordingly? Why must I maintain three DRM'ed versions of the same song?

Is that the sort of publicity Hughes and the RIAA think will work to the advantage of the music industry? C'mon.

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Tech Culture
About the author

Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.

 

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