Friday, March 02, 2007

DRM part II

In the last post about DRM, I talked about why not only is it a bad idea, DRM is defective by design. The first thing to do is classify what the Music industry is competing against and then to identify what that does NOT provide to consumers. The biggest competitor to the RIAA and music companies in general is piracy via P2P networks. How does a musician or someone claiming to represent him combat piracy over P2P? First it's important to look at what a P2P network offers vs. current online music stores.

P2P networks offer several things to a prospective consumer:
-free music
-access to music that might not be sold in a given market
-a loose sense of community
-simple searching tools
-songs do not have DRM and may be copied to and played on most devices
-songs are available in both lossy and lossless formats

Compare this to the current offerings at the iTMS (which is used as an example because it is the largest and most "legitimate" of the online media sellers):
-$.99 per song
-~2 million songs (while this is a lot, there are many songs not available, and much content is regional or restricted by country)
-intermediate searching tools (you can search by a number of metadata tags)
-ease of use (you know that a song is going to be correctly labeled)

What can an online music store do to compete with free? Make non-monetary costs more visible and overall offer something that P2P can't offer. Considering that the cost of pirated music is very well obfuscated by things like the cost of your computer, an internet connection, an electricity bill, and most importantly TIME, the cost of pirating music is obfuscated but very real. Apple has demonstrated (even in its exhorbitantly high priced sales model) that people are willing to pay for good service. Even though P2P networks can give me access to millions of songs and movies, I have to invest time to find what I want, make sure it's the right thing, check the quality, etc. Even then, it is difficult to find new music, or music similar to what I like since I'd have to know an artist or song name to search for it. Apple's iTMS's success has shown that providing a clean interface to search, consistent quality, previewing ability, and a number of other *service* oriented features will draw some customers. These people are willing to pay for what is ultimately an inferior product due to the limitations of DRM. What if the commoditization of music due to digital networking technology were also accounted in this model?

Imagine if you could search a database (like iTunes) with all the same metadata-based criteria, but learn from myspace and the web 2.0 movement as well. Looking at the music your friends like, targeted recommendations (like amazon's "customers who bought this also liked..."), perhaps even algorithm based predictions (like based on your past musical choices. Now imagine if you could buy any song for 1 cent per megabyte (adjusted for bandwidth and other fixed costs). Now imagine that each song is made available in many different formats (mp3, wma, aac, flac, etc.) as well as different bit rates. I believe that a legit company that does this would see billions if not trillions of downloads.

The social changes in the way that people interact with their music is the most compelling argument for such a ssales model. Music can become effectively disposable, but without the waste associated with physical goods. What happens when you download a low bitrate version of a song so it fits on your phone but you end up really liking it? Without thinking about it, you spend another 5-10 cents and get a lossless copy. Music, as a commodity is treated as such. The hard drive in your computer dies? You drop your iPod in the lake? You're not at home but really want to rock out to Marley? Just download another copy, it's so cheap that anything else isn't worth your time.

To the RIAA worried about drawing enough customers to take advantage of economies of scale? Develop tools that help your customers better find what they like. Software algorithms, relational databases, a center of paid listeners who detail which song A you need if you like song B. Initial giveaways could draw millions. Every drink at McDonald's has a code on it for 10MB of downloads, store receipts give you 1MB/dollar spent, the point is that once music is correctly reclassified as a commodity, it can be marketed in almost any market you can think of.

How's that for a new trillion dollar market?


DRM part I

DRM doesn't work because NECESSARILY because it can't lock content without fundamentally breaking access to the content it's trying to "protect". Because implementing 100% unbreakable DRM would render a song unlistenable, DRM purveyers have tried to design implementations that make it hard(er) for the casual listener to share the music over P2P networks. The end result is music that is made more difficult to initially convert to an open format (such as mp3) at the expense of convenience and portability (you can't play your iTunes Music Store downloads on anything other than an iPod).

Do you see what I'm getting at? The mythical DRM that some content owners want cannot exist because of what's called the "analogue hole". Anything you can see or hear can be recorded and then converted into an open format. Anything. Let me say it again, anything, can (and probably will be) reproduced a number of times approaching infinity. The cost of making copies is on the whole a price approaching $0. To drive this point home, the amount of times a digital file can be copied is effectively limitless and the price of making one copy of a song is effectively very small. Given that anything that can be seen or heard can be copied into a nonsecure, digital format and further given that anything digitized can be copied for virtually no money, the idea of DRM paradox. Sometimes, those who wish to implement it (RIAA/MPAA et al.) claim that DRM is still useful because it "makes it difficult for casual users to make music and movies available on P2P networks". As I stated before, this fails because all it takes is a single copy of any song, video, or picture to render all other DRM useless.

What I've said so far is just a description of why DRM is fundamentally broken. So, what's my solution? It's not one that the current content owners will like because it involves giving up on their current and historical business model in favor of drastic changes. Before that can even happen, the management at these companies must accept a simple fact:
Modern digital and communication technology has commoditized the content producing industries.

Once people accept that as fact, things aren't as bleak as they first seem. In fact, there is the potential to create a market the likes of which have never been seen before. In the next post, I am going to describe how I would advise the RIAA and Music industry how they can make more money off of their content collection than they've ever dreamed of, though similar methods (and ones I haven't thought of) could work for TV/Movies and other AV media as well.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Oozinator...

Let the sexual innuendos commence. Seriously, when I was a kid, all I could think of was spewing hot, gooey liquid all over my friends' chests and faces...

via consumerist


Monday, April 10, 2006

Aerobics instructor from Glorious Nippon

also known as today's: W T F !?!?!?!!?

via fazed


Friday, April 07, 2006

For Those Who Can't Wait for Spore...

Check Flow in Games. No, I don't know where the name comes from.

Anyway, for all of you who don't know what Spore is, the quick (30 minute, but OH SO worth it) video of it's designer Wil Wright giving a speech at the 2005 Game Developer Conference, is a must see. Seriously, I have seen a full 100% "HOLY FUCKING SHIT, I'M SO GETTING THAT GAME" response, man or woman. Feel free to comment your assent in the... comments.


Ancient Dentistry?

From an AP article, and are believed to be evidence of ancient drilling, teeth unearthed in a Pakistani graveyard show holes that appear to be too perfect to be accidental. Additionally, flint "bits" were found near by and preliminary testing show that such holes could be drilled with a bow drill in a very short period of time.

via boing boing


Solar Eclipse from a Different Angle

Sorry readers all, I know it's been a while. I've been busy and distracted and other bullshit excuses. Of note, I do continue to post frequently to my account. You can even grab the feed if you prefer. Anyway...

So, for those of you who find amazing photographs interesting and also like pictures from space, see what the recent solar eclipse looked like, from space.


Monday, February 27, 2006

Drunk on a Bike?

Remember, when you've had too much to drink to safely drive, do the sensible thing and ride a bike. Feel free to request help from your local police officer if you'd like.


What DRM is REALLY About:

The big media companies (represented in music/video by the RIAA and MPAA) want to redefine their customers' relationship with the content they are willing to purchase. The ultimate goal is a purely rented model. In other words, you can no longer purchase a CD or movie, rather you pay for the privilige of listening/watching it for some period of time (the life of your computer, ipod). It cannot be for the stated goal of restricting the trade of songs and movies between friends/P2P'ers since that is ultimately impossible for anything digital, no matter what the DRM used. There is one exception to this situation:

If EVERY SINGLE playback and recording device can be forced to follow standards set up BY the media companies and backed up by laws that forbid non-approved devices it is possible that file-sharing might be slowed or stopped. The question is whether or not the Big Boys can hold out in the face of actual market pressure from companies who try to give what *customers* are asking for. You know, in this free market economy that made the US so great and all...

After all, none of the proponents of DRM can answer truthfully the 2 questions at this center of this mess:

Which customers have asked for DRM?
Which customers would willingly pay for something that they don't want?


Monday, February 20, 2006

Media vs. Tech

So, I basically had no idea of the comparative size of these industries. Hannibal @ Ars Technica has written an article asking why the tech industry (physical hardware tech) has been kowtowing to the demands of big media with regards to DRM despite the fact that consumers DON'T WANT IT?

In the tech industry, the price of a new fab is currently around US$5 billion, a price that puts such facilities out of reach for all but the biggest players like Intel and IBM. Still, that's 25 King Kongs, or over 350 Brokeback Mountains, or 1,000 five million dollar episodes of a big-budget HBO series like Rome or The Sopranos. My point is that, for even just half the price of a single 65nm fab, the tech industry could buy a few small studios and just start throwing tons of free content at the world. Or, for the full price of a fab, they could fund almost a decade worth of low- and medium-budget content to give away as an inducement for people to buy hardware. [Emphasis mine]

DRM certainly is not a selling point. To elucidate on Hannibal's suggestion, IBM could buy minor studios and say, "continue as you have been with one exception, after the theatres are done with your films, we'll be giving them away in hardware promotions as unencrypted files." They could do the same with HD and kill this whole BluRay vs. HD-DVD debacle. "Buy our HD player and you can play it on your computer, and share it with friends, just pop in the disk or download it, and play, no mess. Our media is cheaper because we don't have to pay an army of lawyers to sue you for enjoying it. Play the movies you buy in any device you want... LIKE OUR BRAND NEW MEDIA PLAYER :-)


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Long Bets

Long Bets is a website for people to make bets about the future. From the front page:

The purpose of the Long Bets Foundations is to improve long-term thinking.

Long Bets is a public arena for enjoyably competitive predictions, of interest to society, with philanthropic money at stake. The foundation furnishes the continuity to see even the longest bets through to public resolution. This website provides a forum for discussion about what may be learned from the bets and their eventual outcomes.

For example, the Featured Bet is between Craig Mundie (CTO, Microsoft) and Eric Schmidt (CEO, Google):

"By 2030, commercial passengers will routinely fly in pilotless planes."

Craig Mundie NO Eric Schmidt
Stakes: $2,000 ($1,000 each)


Paul Saffos

This man... is good. Pull your chair in, close your eyes for a second, and relax, take a deep breath. Then click on and read as he vocalizes exactly the stress I've been feeling about music. I never could put my finger on what it was, what had changed, but Paul does so in elegant prose. Perhaps I'm simply enjoying decent writing after the continual barrage of "OMG WTF" and mindless drivel that infects our Comment On This Article world; regardless, enjoy. In case you need further encouragment, does this sound like you?

I have become an unhappy podsurfer, idly wading through a sea of music, desperately looking for something new. Not merely a new song, but an entirely new experience.