Do I buy DRM?

IDGNS: What’s your view on DRM and how it will impact the movie download business?

Navin: The bottom line is that DRM is bad for the content provider and it’s bad for the consumer, and the reason it’s being used today is because we’re in the very early stages of a new product cycle for the entertainment industry and they want to walk before they run.

I think the future will not be marked by digital rights management. It will be marked by advertising-supported content that’s clear of DRM, because the content publisher wants it to be as widely distributed as possible and consumed over as many platforms as possible. And we hope to be part of that evolution, and to drive that evolution wherever we can.

This seems a logic fallacy here... Proffered is some theoretical idea that would seem better than any existing option, but no method of getting from here to there is given. Boils down to ye olde theory:practice debate. If un-DRMed content that could hit every platform and still make the most money worked, well, sure, it'd happen. Problem is that, to date, it hasn't happened and I don't see any way of convincing companies to swap paradigms mid-stride (possibly because the theory isn't practical and would mean less money for those who adopt it?).

I'd also say that less-than-perfect DRM is still very effective DRM. If I make it difficult enough for 80% of my target audience to ever get their hands on un-DRMed content, well, I bet I still make a ton of dough. It should also be noted that the leftover 20% is over-represented by the number of pirated downloads. Many of those people wouldn't have purchased the movie at any price, who in some cases might very well come into contact with embedded advertisements as an added bonus. So why not do both? Perhaps today's DRM is a dual-pronged approach.

Seriously, though, however many music files being traded are un-DRM'd tracks from iTunes? I'm betting a negligible number, or at least one small enough that it doesn't impact profits as badly as the iTMS pumps them back up. It's a net gain, thanks to DRM.

Perhaps also worth noting is the extreme change in programming required for embedded advertisement to work. Look at the Disney Channel; they've already mastered "advertising-supported content" embedded to the point that it can't be removed. I caught two episodes of the DoodleBops stuck at the doctor's recently. It's non-stop brand bombardment, evident in part by my remembering the name after having only seen an hour's worth of shows. The beginning is, I assume, always the same, in fact I believe likely a third of the show is the same episode to episode, including the intro and scene setup pieces. The intro makes a pretty big point of repeating the characters' names, quite clearly so that kids know who their favorite is (Thomas the Train is little different). The songs sung are essentially warm-ups for the Doodlebop concerts, following very clearly in the Wiggles and Barney's footsteps. Katie Couric's move to CBS was, in many ways, handled with very few variations on that theme.

If this is the style DRMless distribution encourages -- because believe me, if they're conventional commercials in an open format, they'll be removed by the first schmoe that gets their hands on it -- I don't think I'm voting for it.

It's a mistake to assume that the market is going to passively create worthwhile content that's freely accessible. If I've read Navin, apparently co-creator of BitTorrent, correctly, his community-straddling position (capitalism/consumerism and "openness") is an unsuccessful synthesis of both.

Speaking of, if YouTube can provide crossplatform users with video they can watch, why can't CBS News?