354 - Crazy-Mad-DRM-(More-Logical-Is-Paranoia)

Tim Bray has a rather paranoia inducing piece on DRM. With DRM (digital rights management), however, I feel that a large dose of paranoia is justified. Most of the DRM that will appear in the near-future seems to be following the immature strategy of “we’re just going to make something up, uh, rather than actually sit down and think about it”. Very soon this will mean that if you don’t happen to want to run a piece of software, you can’t listen to your favourite new song. Spy-ware for songs, anyone?

Being a Linux user and a music aficionado makes me doubly biased against this lock-in stratagy. Losing the ability to be able to listen to music that I have purchased — anywhere I wish to, on any device I wish to — is important to me.

Imagine if CDs from Sony Music only worked on Sony CD players. Wait! You don’t have to imagine — music you download from Sony Music’s online store only works on Sony music players! Quick, get me some of those happy-pills!

Leading this charade to the decidedly non tech-savvy and panicking record executives is Microsoft. Who’d have thought that the company who practically invented the term vendor lock-in would be in the forefront of creating a closed DRM scheme? I’d love not to be so suspicious of Microsoft, but with a record like theirs, one can’t help but be. Choice, they cry, if you use our formats! Freedom! To use our operating systems! Any colour you like, so long as it’s beige!

As you may have guessed, this is something that rather riles me. The situation that is evolving is crazy. Of course music should not a freeloader’s dream. Of course some form of DRM is inevitable and — if well thought out and implemented — even desirable. Vendor lock-in and the shoddy, insecure, childish, badly designed “standards” which we currently have are not.