Is DRM a "Tax" on the Intellectual Property Supply Chain?
Like it or not, the current controversy over the publication by Digg of a decryption key for unlocking DRM-equipped high definition DVDs might give some companies pause about how to handle threatening "take-down notices" in the event an employee blog or wiki is used to publish a protected or controversial work. This eventuality is just one of the things companies will need to consider when developing a social media risk management strategy.
I won't get into my views on DRM in detail here. It's fantasy to think that hardware and software based DRM techniques will not be bypassed at some point in time by sophisticated users, even as these techniques provide "speedbumps" for less sophisticated users and annoyances to those who have no interest in piracy.
Maybe we should think of DRM as a "tax" on the intellectual property supply chain. Everyone pays in some way for DRM -- publishers lose anyway from sophisticated piracy that cannot be prevented by any type of DRM, customers lose from added expense and product complexity, manufacturers have to maintain more complex infrastructures -- and the legal fees for everyone continue to mount up.
It's not a happy situation and has been referred to by more than one commentator as a game of "whack-a-mole."
If history is any guide, some kind of accommodation will be worked out eventually but only after much legal blood is spilled. I'm learning a lot about such situations from reading the book Playback, (c) 2003 by Mark Coleman and published by Da Capo Press. Coleman discusses the history of Edison's cylinder recordings, format battles over recording technologies, RCA vs. Columbia over LP technology, organized opposition by musicians over radio broadcast of records, and other events leading up to and including the Napster decision. The historic details in this book are oddly familiar as new technologies are introduced, they are battled by the status quo, and then -- surprise surprise -- businesses finally figure out that they can make money after all with creative thinking.
- A follow-up to this post is Followup to "Is DRM a 'Tax' on the Intellectual Property Supply Chain?"