Cory Doctorow has published the text of a detailed, witty, and well-argued presentation that he made to Microsoft Research:
Here’s what I’m here to convince you of:
- That DRM systems don’t work
- That DRM systems are bad for society
- That DRM systems are bad for business
- That DRM systems are bad for artists
- That DRM is a bad business-move for MSFT
He also puts the boot into Sony for their brain-dead policies of recent years:
But then Sony acquired a relatively tiny entertainment company and it started to massively screw up. When MP3 rolled around and Sony’s walkman customers were clamoring for a solid-state MP3 player, Sony let its music business-unit run its show: instead of making a high-capacity MP3 walkman, Sony shipped its Music Clips, low-capacity devices that played brain-damaged DRM formats like Real and OpenAG. They spent good money engineering “features” into these devices that kept their customers from freely moving their music back and forth between their devices. Customers stayed away in droves.
Today, Sony is dead in the water when it comes to walkmen. The market leaders are poky Singaporean outfits like Creative Labs — the kind of company that Sony used to crush like a bug, back before it got borged by its entertainment unit — and PC companies like Apple.
That’s because Sony shipped a product that there was no market demand for. No Sony customer woke up one morning and said, “Damn, I wish Sony would devote some expensive engineering effort in order that I may do less with my music.” Presented with an alternative, Sony’s customers enthusiastically jumped ship.
So true. You know, when I was at university in Japan in 1999, one of my classes took us on a visit to the Matsushita (aka Panasonic/Technics/National) headquarters in Osaka. This was the time when MP3s and digital music were just taking off. The guide showed us one of the new Panasonic products, a tiny digital audio player of about 40 by 40 by 10 mm that used SmartMedia cards to store the files. It was a really nice device, and I asked them if it played MP3s. She said that, no, it would only play a proprietary, copy-restricted format, although you could convert your MP3s to said format. Hardly an enticing prospect, I thought. I told her that I expected that to be a big barrier to adoption, not to support a widespread and popular format natively. And in the past five years, I haven’t seen any more Panasonic players—it looks as if they missed that boat.