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Engadget’s Michael Gartenberg and Techdirt’s Michael Masnick square off in opposing columns about the merits or lack thereof of Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Gartenberg feels that DRM has been demonized unfairly, and that it enables new business models that could not exist without it.

Take subscription services for example. Sure, I’d love a service that would allow me to download unlimited content in high bitrate MP3 format for a reasonable fee every month. Except economics and greed will never let that happen (although I suspect we’d see a lot users sign up for about 30-60 days).

Gartenberg does not address what happens when that DRM-locked subscription service goes out of business, though he does admit that DRM is easily broken.

Yes, I know most DRM solutions can and will be circumvented. If there’s a lock on the door, someone is always going to try to find the key and usually they will. It’s not about that. Folks that are looking to avoid paying for stuff will usually find a way. I’m talking about folks who are willing and looking to legally acquire content.

Masnick, on the other hand, points out that it is not the DRM that enables the subscription-based business model Gartenberg trumpets—it is fear of how people will use the music.

But, that makes no sense. People already have access to pretty much every song ever recorded with no DRM at all. Claiming that they need DRM to enable such a service makes no sense. It’s already there—just not legally. So what does the DRM stop in such a service? Absolutely nothing. If the fear is that someone takes a song and shares it online… too late. It’s already happened. The only thing that DRM does in that situation is put up a restriction on a legitimate, paying customer. That makes no economic sense at all.

Masnick says that no business model has ever been built on restricting behavior. Companies may be afraid to try a business model without DRM, but that is not the same thing as saying the DRM “enabled” it.

Both these essays are interesting windows into opposing viewpoints on DRM. Be sure and read them both.

 
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