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How Much DRM is Too Much?

9 Jul, 2007 By: Chris Tribbey

You don't go to a home media conference expecting a fight to almost break out. But hey, it was my first time at Digital Hollywood (June 11-14), so maybe that sort of thing happens all the time.

In one corner was the aggressive tag-team of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). In the other corner was the scrappy but outmanned Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

The topic: digital rights management. The fight: how much DRM is too much?

Including too much DRM on software can drive consumers away and puts a serious damper on getting this entire digital-delivery thing running at full speed. Include no DRM at all, and you devalue your content, begging for everyone to effortlessly pass your product around.

The MPAA is a big fan of DRM and the use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to go after people who create ways around DRM. The CEA is not copasetic with either DRM or the DMCA.

Jason Oxman, VP of communications for the CEA, said DRM is anti-consumer in ways large and small, from keeping them from buying a downloaded movie from one service and using it on whatever device they want, to wondering why they can't fast-forward through the previews on their DVD.

CDs with DRM were a disaster. CDs didn't work on many players, and some DRM-enabled CDs would crash PCs. That was before the 2005 Sony BMG issue, when their DRM messed with consumers' computer security.

DVD and digital video content providers haven't had it as hard, and part of the reason is because the DRM hasn't been as burdensome on the customer.

I see both sides of this issue: As a home media industry sympathizer, I expect content providers to do whatever possible to prevent theft and unlawful use of their product. Yet as a consumer, I don't want my content weighed down because of one company or another's proprietary nonsense.

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