Google man reveals all about DRM

DRM software is nothing to do with protecting software companies from piracy, a Google engineer has claimed.

Writing in his blog, Ian Hickson said that discussions about DRM focus on the fact that it does not work. However, this discussion focuses on faulty logic which claims that the purpose of DRM is to prevent people from copying content while allowing people to view it.

Hickson claims that the purpose of DRM is not to prevent copyright violations but to give content providers leverage against creators of playback devices.

He said that content providers have leverage against distributors, because distributors can’t legally distribute copyrighted material without permission. But if that was the only leverage content producers had, users would obtain their content from those content distributors, and then use third-party content playback systems to read it.

In no cases does DRM stop people from violating a copyright and in most cases the only people who are stopped from doing anything are the player providers who are forced to provide a user experience that, rather than being optimised for the users, puts potential future revenues first.

For example, they are forced to make people play ads, or build artificial obsolescence into content so that if you change ecosystem, you have to purchase the content again.

Hickson said that the fact that DRM doesn’t work is missing the point. It is working really well in the video and book space, even if the DRM systems have all been broken.

Licensed DVD players still enforce the restrictions and mass market providers can’t create unlicensed DVD players, so they remain a black or gray market curiosity.

Hickson said that DRM failed in the music space not because DRM is doomed, but because the content providers sold their digital content without DRM, they enabled all kinds of players they didn’t expect. Had CDs been encrypted, iPods would not have been able to read their content, because the content providers would have been able to use their DRM contracts as leverage to prevent it.

He thinks that DRM’s purpose is to give content providers control over software and hardware providers, and it is doing a damn fine job.