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Music execs criticise DRM systems

February 15, 2007

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And the Digital Rights Management (DRM) debate is rocking the craddle once again. A Jupiter Research survey on the attitudes to Digital Rights Management systems in Europe music firms has hit the news in perfect timing. Conducted before Apple boss Steve Jobs stirred the topic earlier this month, the study announces that almost two-thirds of music industry executives think removing digital locks from downloadable music would make more people buy the tracks.

Analyst Mark Mulligan, one of the authors of the report, said he was “surprised” at the strength of the responses which came from large and small record labels, rights bodies, digital stores and technology providers.

The survey was carried out between December and January and it revealed that about 54% of those executives questioned thought that current DRM systems were too restrictive.

Also, 62% believed that dropping DRM and releasing music files that can be enjoyed on any MP3 player would boost the take-up of digital music generally. However, Mr Mulligan pointed out that this percentage changed depending on which sector of the industry was answering.

Many of those responding said current DRM systems were “not fit for purpose” and got in the way of what consumers wanted to do. Despite this few respondents said DRM would disappear in the near future.

Among all record labels 48% of all executives thought ending DRM would boost download sales – though this was 58% at the larger labels. Outside the record labels 73% of those questioned thought dropping DRM would be a boost for the whole market.

Among all those questioned, 70% believed that the future of downloadable music lay in making tracks play on as many different players as possible. But 40% believed it would take concerted government or consumer action to bring this about.

Despite these feelings, said Mr Mulligan, record labels are committed to using DRM because their digital music strategies revolve around these technologies.

“Despite everything that has been happening the record labels are not about to drop DRM,” said Mr Mulligan. “Even though all they are doing is making themselves look even less compelling by using it.”

Currently, he said, labels were sticking with DRM because they saw it as a tool for protecting their rights. However, he added that he could foresee a day when DRM was used to manage these rights and monitor what people did with music rather than stop them.

Mr Mulligan also pointed out that so far few consumers were troubled by DRM – though this was down to the fact that Apple’s iPod dominated the market.

He said the record industry realised that it had to do more to win over some sections of the music buying public – in particular the huge group of people aged 15-24 who prefer to download music for free from file-sharing sites.

in: BBC News

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