Digital Directions: DRM: The Battle Observed
Digital, networked content, particularly book content, when not restricted by DRM, has the potential to dynamically interact with other works in the form of links and collections; to connect and interact with communities instantaneously and globally; and to interact with software applications, such as search engines. This interaction can create tremendous value—a whole far greater than the sum of its parts. None of this dynamic interaction can take place if the content is locked inside DRM, as it is applied today. DRM allows content to be distributed and sold, but not to generate value through dynamic interaction.
The business models used to drive the creation of content will need to evolve in a DRM-less world. Such revenue models will likely vary depending upon the audience. In education, for example, monetization might be derived more from charging for certification exams rather than the textbook to prepare for the exam. Contextual advertising also has been proven to be a surprisingly robust revenue model. Author Cory Doctorow has observed that by making his works freely available, he actually sells more books. We need to be open to exploring these new models.
The case of iTunes’ movie rentals indicates that DRM is likely a necessary, though possibly transitional, aspect of many digital distribution scenarios in order to allay the fears of content creators. It gets the ball rolling, allowing participation prior to the emergence of new revenue models.
In the meantime, we need to continue to push for DRM approaches that are more elegant and do not impede legal uses of content, and to keep federal intervention to a minimum. In addition, we should continue to explore business models that are not dependent upon DRM, to continue to discover the tremendous value of accessible, fully networked digital content.