2007: The Year that DRM Died

    January 3, 2007

This year promises to mark even more innovations in the realms of marketing, search, and digital music technology. The greatest feat of 2007 may not come in terms of an addition, but rather the removal of Digital Rights Management (DRM) practices from online music stores such as iTunes and the Zune marketplace.

Readers of WebProNews will find my utter disdain of DRM as no secret. As of late, coverage of the music community’s marked disapproval of the practice has become widespread not just at this publication, but throughout the entire blogosphere as well.

At first, the cries against DRM were like voices in the wilderness with no clear direction of how to escape the darkness. As we enter 2007, however, a new day seems to be dawning in the realm of digital music. Perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel, a beacon of hope on the horizon that signals the downfall of DRM once and for all.

There are those who would challenge tyrannical music stores like Apple for the sanctity of digital music. Bob Caswell, herald of the people when it comes to taking on DRM, takes an in-depth look at those who would champion the cause:


The company has reportedly wanted in on the music download scene for some time now but wants to enter on its own terms (i.e., DRM-free). Considering Amazon is the largest contender to Apple’s dominance in the DRM-full world, it may be the only one capable of disturbing the force. As much as we all love Apple, someone has to step up to the plate and show the world it is possible to do what Apple did, only DRM-free.


Sony BMG and EMI Music Group have agreed to a test DRM-free marketplace with “promotional experiments,” which include offerings from Jessica Simpson and Norah Jones among others. Depending on how satisfactory these experiments are in the eyes of the executives, further DRM deaths could be an order.


eMusic just passed the 100 million download mark and is the second largest digital music retailer after iTunes and is DRM-free, though the company is known exclusively for its indie offerings. So far eMusic claims no interest in major label albums but could be drawn into the game if competitors begin selling unrestricted MP3s.


The idea is to begin charging its 40 million users $1 per download while sharing the proceeds and marketing info (demographics, etc.) with the music industry. But LimeWire wants to keep the DRM-free look. The company seems to be serious, as it hired a former EMI executive to convince industry execs.


The company is working with SnoCap to enable musicians to sell downloads of their music directly from their profiles. Since MySpace insists on selling only unprotected MP3s, the music industry is ignoring it…for now. The idea is to focus on independent and unsigned artists willing to release DRM-free music. And if any success happens, this is more cannon fodder to help music industry executives take notice.

It has the makings of an anti-DRM Justice League of epic proportions. Think of it, champions of the people standing against the forces of The Man, defending the rights of the consumer when it comes to content which has been bought and paid for within legal channels.

This can’t be music to Apple’s ears. The Lex Luthor of the music community, Apple is already up to its neck in legal woes entering the new year. Now they’re looking at the prospect of legitimate opposition to the restrictive DRM structure that the company has milked for all its worth.

What does a DRM-free alternative mean to the consumer? Choice.

Viable alternatives to the iTunes music store, and even the Zune marketplace, mean that music aficionados have free reign over the content which they purchase.

Pondering a switch from the iPod to the Zune? (Hey, it could happen.) With DRM-free content, you would actually have the ability to take your music with you instead of purchasing songs you already own all over again.

The future is rife with possibilities as more join the cause. With any luck, 2007 just may be the year that DRM dies.

Good riddance.

Add to Del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit | Furl

Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.