So, why, despite being fundamentally flawed, is DRM here to stay? Well, first off, DRM is big business. Just because it doesnt work doesnt mean that everyone involved is going to give up, shut up shop and move on to something else. As technology improves and computer power grows, the amount of processing power that can be eroded by DRM increases too, which means that a technique that may not be feasible today because its too slow and clumsy, might be practical in the future. Technology moves on and DRM is no different. The only drawback to this forward motion is that DRM will continue to become more and more of a nuisance for the average user.
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Another reason that DRM will continue to exist is that there are many businesses built upon a foundation of DRM. Subscription-based music services and online pay-per-view movies all rely on DRM and they are unlikely to be set free because doing so would jeopardize revenues (not to mention giving pirates cheap and easy access to content).
A few weeks ago EMI made took a bold step and offered its music catalog for download in high-quality, DRM-free form. The only catch was that consumers would have to pay extra for the privilege of being free of DRM. While this was welcomed by many consumer groups, some analysts believe that this deal was short-sighted, risky, and could harm EMIs bottom line. Its too early to tell what the effect on EMI will be (or on Apple for that matter) but I must admit that I was surprised by how quickly the story sank from public view.
Will consumers pay more (and it's not a "little more," 25 to 30 per cent is a lot more) for higher quality, DRM-free music? Sure, there's a market, but how big is this market? How many people are unhappy with the current state of downloads who will be happy enough now to start buying DRM-free downloads? Some tech communities make a lot of noise about the negative effects of DRM and how it's bad for consumers (and there's no doubt in my mind that it is bad), but the flip-side of that coin is that people are still buying DRMed content. Maybe outside of a small segment of tech-savvy consumers, DRM is all but invisible anyway.
DRM is far from dead.