I Hate DRM, or why MP3 will be forever with us

Declan McCullagh’s invaluable Politech mailing list is carrying an item by a poor chap who purchased a pile of music from Apple’s Music Store. No problems until two things happened: he moved from the US to Canada, and his computer system crashed. When he restored his system and attempted to re-authorised his purchased music, it was rejected. The purchases are only valid in the United States.

This is, of course, thanks to Digital Rights Management (DRM) built into many new digital music formats.

Moving country may not be the only difficulty. What if you’ve forgotton, or misplaced, your authorisation credentials, and your system crashes, or you’re migrating to a new system? What if you want to listen to a track on your notebook computer, but discover that you’ve ‘logged the track out’ (to use Sony’s terminology for its Network Walkman players) to a portable gadget … and the gadget is 3,000 kilometres away from you?

For all their benefits over MP3 in terms of sound quality, especially at higher levels of compression, Windows Media, AAC, ATRAC3 and any forthcoming audio formats are simply not going to cut it, thanks to the convenience factor.

Eventually content owners are going to have to come to terms with the fact that controls do not work. DVD rippers are readily available. Compact Discs (which will not be displaced as the principal carrier of music for many years) cannot be copy protected, despite efforts to the contrary, and Region 4 coding is either inconvenient or laughable.

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