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DRM versus distribution

On BoingBoing, tireless DRM foe Cory Doctorow, who has convinced my old friend Aram Sinnreich to switch to Ubuntu (I’m trying it, too.), reacts to the news that Amazon will offer DRM-free with quintessential blog snark, expressing hope that Amazon will fall in line with its “wretched” video store Amazon Unbox. But we all know that audio is different than video because whereas consumers want unencumbered flexibility and choice with their music, when it comes to video they… um, they…. Well, the studios were smart enough to copy-protect their discs so we should reward that, darn it.

Amazon played its card differently than Apple, which expressed hope that its agreement with EMI would yield a domino effect for the other three major labels. In contrast, Amazon emphasized the 12,000 labels, all independent of course, that would offer DRM-free MP3 downloads. Most discussion in this area has focused on the “will they or won’t they?” decision at Universal, Sony BMG and Warner Music, but what if they don’t? That could lead to a situation where indie music is DRM-free and now has digital distribution as good as the big guys, which could grease the path to discovering new artists and shift (albeit slightly) the balance of power.

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