Thursday, June 03, 2004

NEWS - New DRM for CD's

According to CNet, the RIAA is investigating more technology that will limit the number of times you can burn a CD and stop people from copying burned CD's. This is all well and good, but the article leaves a lot of questions:

Will the technology prevent people from format shifting (ripping the CD audio to a compressed format like MP3) for use on digital music players (like the iPod)?

While the article mentions that the RIAA also wants to incorporate the technology into legitimate music-download services (like iTunes), it doesn't say whether or not legitimately-ripped digital music tracks will have it tacked onto the new files.

I'm all for reasonable limitations on CD copyight, so long as they're not unduly restrictive, but it sounds like the RIAA wants to control the development of technology again. In order for a scheme like this to work, CD burning software is going to have to recognize the technology. Software used to rip CD tracks to digital format will also have to recognize it and incorporate it.

Fortunately, the RIAA hasn't quite been able to pull off this level of technology control. I don't think it would be a good idea for any parties concerned. If the RIAA adopts a standard and technology companies are required to use it, the RIAA is just begging people to crack it the same way they cracked Fairplay, the iTunes DRM system. What's the point of a standard if it won't actually do anything? Shades of DeCSS, anyone?

It seems, however, that Apple may have figured out how to beat Playfair, the program used to strip the DRM off iTunes music files.

This is a good thing. It proves that the technology industry can, in fact, keep up with the pace of technology. And Apple didn't have to resort to a DMCA lawsuit in a futile bid to keep Playfair offline, much like the one the movie industry tried with DeCSS.

The RIAA should just give it up. Let the providers themselves make the DRM decision. There are lots of standards out there. Sharing space on our computer hard drives hasn't brought our systems to a screeching halt. When there are lots of locks to choose from, a skeleton key that only opens one of them is a lot less useful.


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