The State Of DRM: Is The Customer Right? As of today, Apple is offering all the songs in the iTunes Music Store without Digital Rights Management, or DRM. While the technology was initially developed to keep people from sharing copies of files illegally, it also prevents law-abiding customers from making backup copies of their purchases or enjoying them portably. But is this truly the end of DRM?
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The State Of DRM: Is The Customer Right?

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The State Of DRM: Is The Customer Right?

The State Of DRM: Is The Customer Right?

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Despite the move, Joel Rose reports that DRM is not going away.

JOEL ROSE: Unidentified Man: Yahoo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROSE: Corynne McSherry is a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She says the music industry gradually found that DRM wasn't preventing piracy, just sales.

CORYNNE MCSHERRY: They wasted years and years fighting the technology instead of figuring out how to work with it.

ROSE: Movie producers and game publishers are facing a similar situation, but they seem to have no intention of dropping DRM.

FRITZ ATTAWAY: There has to be some degree of control, so

ROSE: same product for free, minus the annoying restrictions, from peer- to-peer networks. Movie producers and game publishers are facing a similar situation, but they seem to have no intention of dropping DRM.

ATTAWAY: There has to be some degree of control, so we're just not putting content out there in the clear so everyone can copy indiscriminately.

ROSE: Unlike the record labels, Hollywood studios agreed on uniform copy protection standards. Attaway concedes that DRM won't stop piracy, but he insists it does help keep honest consumers honest.

ATTAWAY: DRM really is helping consumers know the limits of the transaction they've agreed to. If they've agreed to a rental transaction, after a certain period of time, a DRM will prevent them from viewing the movie further.

ROSE: Mary Engle is acting deputy director of the Federal Trade Commission. She says that's not good enough.

MARY ENGLE: You need to be very clear with consumers upfront about important restrictions on any music or video or other technology that has DRM restrictions on them. You can't hide those.

ROSE: If you do, Engle says the FTC will, quote, "come calling." To spread the word, the commission held what was billed as a town hall meeting on digital rights management in Seattle last week, and the commission staff got an earful from unhappy consumers, many of them avid gamers like Chris Dolphin(ph).

CHRIS DOLPHIN: The honest customers, not the pirates, the honest customers are the ones paying the price. And in any other situation, where law enforcement punishes the innocent to get at the guilty, that's collective punishment, and that's wrong.

ROSE: There was a lot of talk in Seattle about creating better DRM that's less annoying for consumers. Motion Picture Association's Fritz Attaway says the studios did learn some lessons from the music industry's mistakes.

ATTAWAY: We are getting content out there legally in ways that consumers find more attractive than the illegal content.

ROSE: Attaway points to the free, ad-supported video Web site Hulu as evidence that consumers and DRM can get along. But the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Corynne McSherry is not convinced. She says she's glad to see DRM finally wiped from Apple's iTunes Music Store, but she'd like to see it disappear from Apple's other offerings, too.

MCSHERRY: The iPhone is locked in all kinds of ways that prevent people who buy it from using it in as many ways as they might like to. So, they're locked into the iPhone application store, and they're locked into AT&T. The DRM is only necessary to basically make sure that consumers are tied to the iPhone in specific ways that Apple can control.

ROSE: For NPR News, I'm Joel Rose.

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