Music, film, games, e-books… In default mode that piece of entertainment or culture you just bought comes with built in copy protection, DRM (Digital Rights Management).
DRM takes away your control and actual ownership. (You know, those Amazon e-books that your Kindle app wrongfully claims “is not licensed for this unit”.) It prevents fair use. Normally DRM comes with special software for your gadget, out of your control. Sometimes such software has been proven harmful–and it is likely that it will spy on you and your habits.
In most places it is illegal to break DRM or even to provide information on how to get round it. (This puts some information about consumer electronics, software and content outside the realm of free speech.)
DRM is a menace. And it seems like we are stuck with it. (It is not only protected by national laws. Often it’s included in new trade agreements like the TPP and the TTIP.)
But DRM can also present a possibility–for startups, self publishers, independent filmmakers, new artists, disruptive ventures and brave entrepreneurs.
The possibility it opens up is not to have it. To use open formats and standards instead.
This is marketing judo. Making a point of not harassing fans and customers. Not demanding special software to play or read something. Not to tamper with peoples gadgets and not to spy on them.
The main sales points would be usability and being friendly to fans and customers. I also believe that most people would catch the “moral” aspect of supporting artists, publishers, record labels and film producers who trust them.
Providing Open Content could become some sort of coveted “moral quality label”. (This is, to some extent, already the case with content under Creative Commons licenses.)
OK, but… Will such content not be pirated? To some extent, yes it will be.
But for most content producers, being unknown is a worse problem than file sharing. There are lots and lots of examples of content taking off just because it has found a loyal following on the file sharing scene. Today, there are even bands and artists promoting their work by putting it on The Pirate Bay.
(To dig deeper into all of this, read Chris Andersons well known and easily digestible book Free: The future of a radical price.)
My point is that Big Business (with help from lawmakers and Big Government) is trying to strengthen its grip over the content industry by beefing up copyright / IP-law–and by technical means, such as DRM.
These dinosaurs are so totally focused on saving their outdated business models that they don’t manage to see, understand or adopt to the ever changing market. That will make them vulnerable to disruptive ideas–to concepts that are more in line with an online society, with the market and with popular demand.
Open Content can be such a disruptive business model.