a couple of weeks I'm thinking about the perfect DRM (Digital Rights Management)
now and wonder why we don't have a satisfied solution available which satisfies
everybody: the industry and the user.
The reason why I'm thinking about DRM
so much is the fact that I have most of my CDs ripped to my PC to listen the
musing at home on my PC, at work on my Notebook on the move with my Smartphone,
Pocket PC or iPod. However, I'm also entering the stage now, where I'm thinking
about building a Media Center PC and with this PC, DRM becomes even more
important because I would like to rip my DVDs also to store them on a single
location - the hard drive of my Media PC which should be the location where all
my media contents should be stored in future.
What's wrong with today's DRM
and DR laws?
First of all, I don't like that the music industry still
don't get the grasp of digital content and distribution. While I understand
their needs for DRM and I fully support them there, they made too much mistakes
in the past and still continue with these mistakes!
DRM is to protect the
investments, which is okay but DRM shouldn't limit the buyer of content where
and how to use it.
Example: if I buy the "wrong" CD today, I might be not able to play it
because I don't have any Hi-Fi equipment anymore at home but just my PCs
with CD-ROM drives. Some of these CDs supports copy protection mechanism
which either prevents from playing the CD on my PC or Notebook or I'm not
allowed to make a digital copy of it - to store it on my Media PC, Pocket PC
or iPod. Well, does it makes sense? Does I bought a CD or does I bought the
content? In my opinion I bought the content and I - as Arne Hess - should be
allowed to use it, wherever and however I want. I don't want to be forced to
buy a Discman just to be able to play my CDs on the move. I want to take it
with me, the content, not the bearer: into my car as a physical CD copy,
while traveling as a digital version on my Notebook, while walking as a
digital copy on my mobile devices.
Therefore the understanding of the music industry - what DRM is about - is
wrong. It shouldn't be about protecting the bearer (the physical CD) but should
be about protecting the content (bearer independent).
What I really love is Apple iTunes shop which allows me (in
general, if I would live in North America) to buy the stuff I like, the song I
want to listen - not the CD the music industry want to sell me and hey, iTunes
allows me to burn a CD out of the content I bought! Unfortunately iTunes doesn't
allows me to take the Music with me on other devices rather than the iPod
because its used AAC format and the used DRM isn't supported with RIO MP3 player
or Pocket PCs and Smartphones. Therefore I'm limited again in how I use my
bought and paid content.
This fact might drive more users into file sharing
than the music industry expects. I'm not sure about this because I don't have
any figures but hey, if you want to get a song and you want to get it fast and
the song only - not the complete album and you live outside the U.S. the easiest
way to get a song might be to jump into a file sharing system.
I'm sure it's
not about saving money anymore, it's about getting what you want: fast and
convenient. The Internet and mobile technologies changed the behavior of user
experiences. If you want to get something which isn't physical, you want it now,
immediately. You don't want to wait for the newspaper the next morning if you
want to get information about something happened in the world right now - you
check the Internet. You don't want to wait until the Computer store opens
tomorrow morning to get a virus signature update, you want it now - and you
download it. You don't want to walk into HMV next Saturday to buy a song, you
want it now! It's a dramatic change in the culture of delivering contents, not a
dramatic change in the mind of right and wrong.
How a perfect DRM cold
In the past days I "wasted" a some time in what the perfect
DRM model could look like and - because I believe into digital content
distribution - it's about downloading content.
However - and unfortunately -
this means that a lot of companies have to cooperate which don't cooperate
together that much because all of them have different reasons to go their own
ways: music industry, hardware manufactures like Sony, software developers like
Microsoft, mobile network operator, etc.
However, maybe this ideas here helps
and might be picked-up by the one or the other. Feel free to use them (if you
are from one of the industries above) and deliver what the customer expect. Also
feel free to hire me as a consultant for this project...
First of all, it's
about a unique identifier - something like Microsoft Passport. Something you
have to sign-in and to register. This identifier is used to mark DRM protected
Now you also have to register your devices/player/software with this
"passport". Either you do it online, if it is a connected device or you do it
offline, by entering a unique alphanumeric key, generated for your account.
Examples: My Internet connected PCs and Notebook get this kind of
signature delivered by the Internet automatically. My Pocket PCs, Smartphone
and iPod get it synced. On my car radio and CD player I have to enter the
keycode one time by hand.
Now I have two components: digital content and the "player".
content is distributed by the Internet, through online shops where I can buy the
song or even movie. This content, I've downloaded doesn't contain any DRM
signatures now, until I store/play/use it the first time. As soon as it is saved
or played it is marked with the DRM signature of the device (PC, Notebook,
Now I can play it on all my devices and can copy it from one
to another device - which have to include the same signature.
But what's about
sharing it? In my DRM model this would be possible also because it includes a
DRM signature history. In most copyright laws it's allowed to make a private
copy for friends or family. So far so good but how to track it? What's about
sharing music on a party where others bring their CDs with them?
Here how the
signature history would work:
- Level 1 - The buyer/owner of the content: He is marked as the original
owner of the copy and is allowed to play it wherever he want. If a level 1
owner puts his CD into a CD player with a different DRM signature the
content can be played because the player recognize the content as a original
copy which isn't redistributed. However, it is marked with the second
signature (the signature of the one who owns this CD player).
leave the CD for your friend he can continue to listen the music with his
DRM signature devices. However, as soon as he loan it to a third party the
third user can not use it anymore because he isn't in a direct relation with
the original owner, which brings us to the level 2.
- Level 2 - The buyer copied content for a friend: Level 1 owners are
allowed to make a private copy for friends. So if you want to share music
with your girlfriend you can make a copy for her. She can listen the music
or watch the video and she can do this on all her DRM enabled devices.
However, if her friend comes along and ask for a copy of your original
content, this copy wouldn't work for her anymore because he or she would be
a level 3 user only.
- Level 3 - A copy from a copy: It's not possible to listen music in the
original quality anymore but - and that's a difference because users would
become sales channels also - a level 3 user might be possible to listen
music in a super reduced quality. Give copies away for free - in a reduced
quality for a kind of pre-listening. Therefore the copy would continue to
work but not in the quality anymore. However, since you already have the
complete content you could reactivate the original quality buy buying a new
license and making you the level 1 owner again. For sure also level 2 users
could buy the license to become a level 1 customer again to become allowed
to share the content in full quality.
MY DRM model would required intelligent players which interacts with the
content but hey, wouldn't it be cool to be allowed to make private copies,
to share your content with your friends while they can not give your content
away anymore? However, the user himself would become a sales channel by
sharing music with friends!
My DRM model - as I said before - would require a strong cooperation
between all related parties but by implementing the DRM model only and how
it works/interact - every company could continue with their own technology
to make it even better. Microsoft could continue using WMA/WMV, Real could
continue to use its RM, Apple could continue with Quicktime and so on. So
the differentiator wouldn't be the DRM but the technology.
Well, maybe I'm dreaming and we will never see something like that but
again - I still live in the hope that somebody from the involved industry
see this article and pick-up my ideas. For sure it's not complete but might
be a start?
Cheers ~ Arne