5/05/2008

Two Fingers to DRM

I just spent the better part of a fruitless, irritating, enormously frustrating hour on my girlfriend's windows-running laptop, attempting to make it play a collection of classical music she purchased from the Napster website several months ago. Since then, the computer has been rebooted, and using Napster's 'licence renewal' software to allow her to play that music simply doesn't work. Attempts to update licences by any means results in broken links and crashing software. For legally purchased tracks. By the end of the hour, I felt like picking the laptop up and using it to make a serious dent in something. especially if that something was the soft, squishy, worm-like face of whichever moron thought DRM was a good idea.

In case you're wondering, I regard myself as at least reasonably savvy with a computer (or at least Macs since I dumped Windows for good), but my girlfriend, like the vast majority of people, only needs or wants to know enough to switch hers on, type up documents, play some music while she's prepping for her day's work, and finally switch it off again. Issues like 'DRM' and 'restrictive licensing' are not familiar concepts to her - but they are to me.

This was my first direct encounter with DRM issues, since I only buy physical CD's (which are then ripped to MP3, and therefore act primarily as a backup), and never buy MP3 downloads. The experience left me in absolutely no doubt why people pirate music; the overwhelming feeling I had after all that time wasted trying to help someone play music which they had paid for was that I wanted to stand in front of the main offices of every music business actively supporting DRM and shout fuck you at the top of my voice.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a working writer, and I want to be paid for what I do. I know if I were a professional musician, I'd certainly want to get paid for what I do. I like to believe most people would happily pay for the art, writing and music they value. And although I've felt intellectually DRM is not the way forward for some time, the anger I feel at my encounter with restrictive software provides a certain emotional weight to the issue I hadn't previously experienced. I consider this to be a lesson well learned.

1 comment:

Daniel Livingstone said...

www.emusic.com - subscription based service, quite a fair bit of classical music and downloads are DRM free mp3 files.

You get a short free trial too...

daniel