• Digital Watermarks To Replace DRM?

    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
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      I was thinking more about this and your comment about record companies getting us to buy the same title a couple times. This has been their gravy train for decades. With every new format many consumers repurchase their collections. It astounds me that the record companies don't see an opportunity to get consumers to repurchase their collections. When CDs came out the talk was all about "clean, crisp, compact disc." As false as the statement might have been most consumers jumped on the bandwagon. How about selling "twice the sound quality without leaving your house." The record companies have an opportunity to get consumers to repurchase their collections. I would consider the situation a win-win if I could purchase all my favorite music and download a true 24 bit / 96 KHz copy of it. The labels would make their money and I would be enjoying the music.
    1. markr's Avatar
      markr -
      ...repurchase 'AGAIN'. One word says it all. Indeed, 24/96 would in my case cause a buying flurry - NO DRM though. .... I hope I made it clear that I didn't fall prey the last time a "real" format change happened (CD's). Though it did start out that way (insert picture of fish being hooked here.) I probably have less than 300 CD's compared to well over 1000 LP's.... <br />
      <br />
      Chris, you missed the fact that they (record companies) even figured-out a way to trigger a repurchase wave in consumers without having to change the distribution or recording format: "24 bit" CD remasters. I have quite a few of those (hooked-fish picture again) and am pretty well satisfied with them. I suspect that that is mainly due to the limitations of the equipment available to record with when the masters were recorded though. The "24 bit" remaster technique pretty well matches the sound that was available on LP..... I will leave SACD and HDCD alone, except to say that I knew too much about digital bit depth at the time those interim semi-formats were inserted into the lexicon to have fallen for it ( I'm NOT taking this statement back, but perhaps my opinion is due to the currently available catalog or recording options taken in SACD's case.... ). 24 bit is just enough, Period. I would relish the ability to purchase genuine 24 bit / 96 KHz master-quality audio (especially reissues) to the MAX too, Chris. I'll go one step further: I want the option to purchase the multitrack versions: the heck with those ham-handed recording techs! I want my own mix. But then, I've always been a dreamer.<br />
      <br />
      Please don't misunderstand me: If you bought-in to any step that I describe in my rantings, I don't want to chastise you, just connect with you. I want to find the best way to get great sound.<br />
      <br />
      RIGHT NOW: Watching this week's new release of Austin City Limits - The Kings of Leon and then Roky Erickson (13th Floor Elevators) - with Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) backing him on guitar!!! God I love this town!