DRM Is Failure

DRM is failure.  It will never work because the whole concept of digital rights management goes counter to the nature of an open system.  Every industry which has previously tried to use it has failed miserably and future attempts will be no different.

Ignore the fact that DRM disrespects customers and essentially treats them like criminals for a minute and consider what it represents:  an attempt to close/control the most useful and beneficial network our society has seen because it disrupted a dated business model.  DRM tries to treat the web as if the same rules of tangible media apply – which of course is not the case.

Anyone pushing the idea of a digital rights management system is trying to shape the evolution of communications to their whim, instead of the smarter play of putting the network to work for them in a way that embraces the new rules.

Trying to force the web to change for you through attempts at legislation, restriction, control, or management:

  • Hurts your brand’s PR and image
  • Shows an industry or brand has been asleep at the wheel
  • Is bound to inspire backlash from the greater digital community
  • Basically says you can’t compete with others who succeed by embracing the web
  • Positions your company as Draconian

I’m sure you can think of industries and brands who have incurred these outcomes and more, and you’ll notice the recurring pattern:  in the end they never succeed.  The result is always the same because you can’t win the game of digital whack a mole, it runs counter to the very fabric of the internet.

We didn’t make special legislation to keep horse and buggy manufacturers alive when cars were invented and we certainly will not do the same thing now.

Dragging the world two steps backwards instead of looking forward speaks volumes of those who go that route.  Besides, there is a much larger opportunity staring you right in the face.  The opportunity is simple:  redesign your company to play within the system, don’t try to force others to make exceptions for you or try to control how they are naturally sharing/remixing/using your content.  Instead, embrace it and put it to work for you.

Many companies and even individuals feel like it’s too late to join and others are too far ahead, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s never too late to reform your business strategy to work within a different system.  In fact this idea of change is not only how things become better and more efficient, it is exactly what is giving birth to thriving new sectors of every industry (in media and marketing in-particular).

As many wake up to the fact the web is not the future of how society communities, it is the current, we’re only going to see more attempts to restrict it alongside those who embrace it.  Fortunately, if the online community is great at doing one thing, it’s banding together to shine the public spotlight on those who attempt to change the rules for the benefit of the minority.  At its core the web most closely resembles an organic network, and organic networks are highly self-protective.  Fighting this is a mistake.

The open web is connectivity and influence – essentially power – for both individuals and companies who can organize what they are doing to work within the open nature of the network.

The past was protectionism, monopolies, control and trying to lock up information/content/communication from the majority.  Models of an unconnected world were based upon scarcity.  Some companies still embracing these philosophies:

  • The AP is currently trying to force its content into a form of news DRM
  • The RIAA sues its own customers into oblivion and fights the web at every turn
  • Viacom and other big content producers send take down notices at every turn

The future is open networks, transparency, freedom of communication, and power for those the network deems worthwhile.  Models of a connected world are based on abundance.  Some companies embracing these philosophies:

  • Google allows everyone insights into their entire system, free
  • iTunes now offers DRM-free music and they are cleaning up
  • Independent content producers build audiences, connect with fans, encourage them to share and give them a reason to buy (CwF+RtB)

The lesson, as always, is to embrace change and create something designed for it, not attempt to fight it or restrict it.

Related posts from The Future Buzz:

Clinging To The Past Is Not A Strategy

Future Marketing Trends:  By The Numbers

Your Marketing Is (Most Likely) Dated

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