The Greatest Trick

by Charles Miller on September 14, 2006

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn't exist." -- Baudelaire (albeit embarrassingly via The Usual Suspects)

James Robertson asks:

So let me get this straight: DRM irritates paying customers, and prevents them from moving their music around as they want to. Bad actors can move music around at will. So.... From a marketing perspective, exactly whose needs are met by DRM? The customer? No. The seller? No. Who then? RIAA members too stupid to read, perhaps?

In many ways, the recording industry is the biggest dupe in the DRM wars. They have repeatedly been sold, and have repeatedly bought heavily into copy-prevention schemes that don't work, can't work, and only give more power to the DRM vendor. Why does the record industry always cave in to Steve Jobs' iTunes pricing model? Because the industry accepts it as a point of faith that they can't sell music online without DRM, and Steve controls the only DRM recognised by 80% of portable digital music players.

You even hear this in the public rhetoric. I've lost count of the number of news articles criticising the iPod because it will "only play music purchased from the iTunes store", ignoring completely the possibility of legally distributed, un-encumbered mp3 or AAC files, or of music ripped from the owner's own CD collection.

Meanwhile, once you've started buying music on iTunes, unless you start illegally breaking the DRM locks, your next DAP is going to have to be an iPod, and the one after, and the one after.

Remember when the iTunes Music Store was launched, and Apple's public line on FairPlay was: "Yes, it's DRM, but we fought so hard with the recording industry to make sure we can let you burn CDs and play music on multiple devices!"

The greatest trick Apple pulled was to build a market where lock-in is mandated, but convince the world that this was something they did reluctantly, at the behest of the villainous recording industry.

Previously: Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death

Next: A Little Knowledge