So now the announcement has been made. EMI Music launches DRM-free superior sound quality downloads across its entire digital repertoire.
I guess it’s safe to predict that the story will make No 1 at Technorati, so there are a zillion places for you to go to if you want the details. Instead of adding to that list, I want to concentrate on one key issue. The Freedom Premium.
SIMfree phones. Advertising-free digital content. DRM-free music and video. Device-independent anythings. Pollution-free anythings. They’re all the same thing. Either you put up with some corruption provided “free of charge”, or you pay for the freedom. A redemption price.
It’s not new. Today, if I want to buy a dishwasher that I can integrate into my kitchen cabinets, I have to pay more for that than I have to pay for the stand-alone device. Far more than is defensible in the context of shipping and packing costs. If IÂ want to unlist my phone number I have to pay for it, in most geographies. If I want an air ticket that can be transferred between airlines (or for that matter modified in any way) I have to pay.
The idea that freedom of movement (of digital goods) and freedom to change (digital contracts) are made available, but at a price, I find this idea reasonably appealing. Because this choice is more real than much of the snake oil we get offered today in the name of customer choice. I wonder how long it will be before someone gives me this equivalent for films, at least partially doing away with the nonsense that is Region Coding. Would I pay a premium for a Region Free DVD? Probably, as long as it’s a reasonable one.
Freedom at a price. Ironic, two hundred years after the abolition of the slave trade.
A coda. One of the things we have to watch out for is alluded to amongst the small print in the EMI news release:
EMI Music will continue to employ DRM as appropriate to enable innovative digital models such as subscription services (where users pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to music), super-distribution (allowing fans to share music with their friends) and time-limited downloads (such as those offered by ad-supported services).
The problem with that sort of statement is that it provides an opportunity for lock-in specialists to Trojan Horse their way back in, often without people realising the implied price.Â So we have to be careful.