We’re getting to the point where we, the people, are accepting restrictions on our use of music, motion pictures, and books — restrictions that we wouldn’t have accepted ten years ago. Restrictions that we’d never accept for other kinds of art. The public discussion is very much about protecting the artist, which generally really means protecting the corporation, without including the consumer in the debate.
One must recall (because it’s important) that without consumers the entire entertainment industry business model would fail.
A commenter recently asked us what is wrong with artists determining how their music should be played — in theory, it seems like a simple, easy-to-answer question. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to determine where and how their work is distributed? It does, we all know, happen all the time. Artists make choices about which retail outlets can carry their work, what countries their work can be sold in, and even the format of the work.
These are restrictions on exploitation. At no point in history — that I know of — have artists had the right to tell consumers who have purchased their work how they are to consume it. Could Andy Warhol have gotten away with telling those who bought his work that it could only be displayed on a South-facing wall? Could Stephen King really stop readers from opening his books on subway trains? Could the Rolling Stones decide that their music couldn’t be played on Tuesdays?
What’s happening right now, under the guise of DRM, are restrictions on consumption. Software is tied to specific hardware. What was once the perfectly acceptable option of making a copy for personal use has become verboten. Consumers are told that, sure, they bought the product, but they can’t really use it in a convenient manner.
To protect the artist.
It makes me wonder if the artists out there are paying attention to what’s going on. Do they understand the restrictions being placed on their work? Do they understand the impact of hardware-specific DRM? Do they truly grasp the implications of how the digital marketplace is changing the world of back catalogs?
DRM is important. There should be controls in place to protect the artist. But as long as only one party is “protected” by DRM, heck, as long as only party’s needs and rights are being discussed, DRM is destined for disaster. Consumers will pay for legitimate merchandise…but they have clearly stated a preference for fair pricing and flexible use. Add the consumer to the DRM discussion before it’s too late!