The Digital Rights Management technology was hailed as an ingenious and fool-proof method of protecting intellectual property rights when it was first proposed to online music companies. But, its practical success did not seem to match the high expectations that it created initially. What could be the reasons? Well, while there are a myriad of factors contributing toward this result, one significant one is the inadequate domain knowledge of people in the music manufacturing industry. In a world that is becoming ever smaller, specialization in one skill and ignorance in allied areas will no longer work. For example, the Information Technology gurus of music manufacturing industry are proficient in fitting high volume, high quality data in the most convenient of mediums at the cheapest of prices. But unless a broader understanding of the context of the business in terms of its legal, economic and social aspects is paid heed to, success will be difficult to achieve. Let us look at the reasons why this is the case.
The following is a classic example of creative application of technology but poor commercial results. For example, if a customer buys a film DVD from an online shop, he/she could be charged for each view of the film in a video player that does not correspond to the encryption code. While this restricts customers from benefiting from someone else’s purchase, it turned out to be a bad public relations exercise. Circulating DVDs among friends is a popular way of maintaining social contact and exchange of information. But, the fact that the customer could never really “own” the DVD unless he views it with his own player can be very offensive to the customer. Secondly, reselling is a longstanding tradition associated with all retail content – be it entertainment or information. The DRM makes it impossible for second-hand sale of the content it offers, irking the customers again. This case of failure to protect intellectual property is due to a lack of understanding on part of the manufacturers (basically Information Technology professionals) about the social aspects of digital data consumption (O’Brien, 2004).
A review of the scholarly literature on the subject lays open to the reader layer upon layer of poor perspective on part of Information Technology professionals. Let us leave alone all the other negative implications of the DRM systems in place presently. The least we can expect from DRM is a little progress toward curbing digital piracy in general and music piracy in particular. But DRM has failed to achieve its bottom-line in even the most liberal of evaluations. All DRM implementations ranging from Apple’s FairPlay to Advanced Access Content System employed for HD DVD versions have been circumvented by the resourceful. All entertainment content – be it music or movies – could be tapped off air. In other words, one need not hold a doctorate in electronic communication to record/copy protected content as it is playing. It is hard to believe, but nevertheless a fact, that the best brains of the Information Technology industry could not fathom this, let alone trying to address it (Goodman, 2007).