Why Locking and DRM Ultimately Won’t Work

Lots of comments on the NYTimes’ Bits blog answering Saul Hansell’s question from a few days ago about whether people would pay extra for a DVD-like version of a movie to be put on an iPod. The consensus in the comments seems to be “no”. While I think the convenience might be worth it, I can understand why. I sometimes use a VCR rather than DVR, for example, because of the ease with which I can tape something in one room and watch in the next (without going through a lot of sturm und drung about how to set up system transfers, networked TV, etc. Not to mention the cost.) That’s a similar reason I watch some TV shows, like 30 Rock or Everybody Hates Chris on the computer rather than the TV: I can watch them on the laptop when exercising or in bed, or watch on my bigger iMac desktop, if I want a bigger screen or to enjoy it with more people. To me, DVDs are the best for this reason, as well, including for many TV shows. After all, what good is digital technology if it’s locked up, or you can only watch on one device.

And that’s kind of the point that many of the commenters on the Bits blog make. This one, for example, makes the point that anyone “under 30” (or, I’d say, over 40 ;) who can use Version Tracker) can find software to rip a DVD and watch on any device that can handle whatever standard it is. That way you’re not locked into one device. (Information, even if it’s a movie, wants to be free, in spirit if not in fact.)

Another point on the Bits post: Over here, on Congoo, I posted about whether Amazon is taking it to Apple, not only in selling music, but also because the Kindle is a device, and that starts to get into iPhone territory. Now, I see in the Bits post another posit about Amazon vs. Apple. Amazon, Hansell writes, may be a force in getting more movie studios into iTunes. “Remember,” he writes, “that Amazon’s entry into the MP3 business put pressure on Apple to lower the price of its unprotected downloads.”

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