Wired magazine just published an article titled DRM Is Dead, But Watermarks Rise From Its Ashes. This article really got me thinking and I am wondering what all the readers of Computer Audiophile think about it. Wired details the music industry's interest in watermarking digital downloads once it stops using DRM. The watermark would make it possible for 1. labels to track individual files back to original purchasers and more importantly 2. allow traffic filtering and data gathering by ISPs at the insistence of music labels. Labels want this information more than anything so they can attempt to prove a case that piracy is leading to their downfall and must be stopped by Congress.
At first I thought the music labels must be joking. Just when they seem to be coming around to a consumer friendly attitude. Just when they had a tiny smidgen of positive press. The music labels bring up the idea of watermarking. I am starting to believe the labels are trying to put themselves out of business. They need to turn the idea of DRM-less music into the biggest thing they have ever done. The labels should be advertising the fact that Joe Sixpack will soon be able to move his music to all his devices. Heck, there should have been a Super Bowl commercial screaming this small bit of good news.
Instead what do the labels do? They consider watermarking music without DRM. With many people only reading headlines and possibly the first two sentences of articles, most consumers will automatically assume the major labels are at it again. There is nobody hated more by the youth of the world than the music labels. The fact that watermarking is even being considered adds another nail to their coffin. Are the labels that arrogant to think their latest watermarking scheme wouldn't be cracked before the first bit was downloaded?
I really don't blame the labels for wanting to protect their intellectual property with watermarks. However, instead of thinking up ways to keep an old business model alive and making excuses for their lack of sales the labels should be erring on the side pleasing the customer. Consumers purchase on emotion. Creating a god feeling for customers can't be bad. Pissing them off on the other hand will never work when there are "free" alternatives. If totally "open" music didn't work out for the labels then they could start to make changes. The current model is not working so what do they do? More of the same but expect different results.
All is not lost for the labels. They do have a chance to begin repairing their relationship with consumers. Losing DRM was a positive step forward. Now an unequivocal statement putting an end to watermarking would keep the labels from taking a step backward. They still have a marathon to finish to gain consumer confidence, but even the best runners take one step at a time.
Link to article