If you're a relative newbie to digital music downloading, you may be growing increasingly impatient with shrill diatribes from Internet pundits who rant about how digital rights management (DRM) is bad without explaining why -- or rather, without explaining why in language you can actually understand.
Enter Derek Slater with EFF's new guide, The Customer Is Always Wrong: A User's Guide to DRM in Online Music. It's just what it sounds like -- a human-readable tour through the specific restrictions the major online music services impose on you via DRM. Here's the plain language translation of the Apple iTunes marketing claims:
Apple iTunes Music Store Says..."Own it Forever and a Day" and "Just 99 Cents, Plus Generous Personal Use Rights"
The Facts: You Bought It, But They Still Own It
Imagine if Tower Records sold you a CD, but then, a few months later, knocked on your door and replaced the CD with one that you can't play in your car. Would you still feel like you "owned" the CD? Not so much, eh?
But Apple reserves the right to change at any time what you can do with the music you purchase at the iTunes Music Store. For instance, in April 2004, Apple decided to modify the DRM so people could burn the same playlist only 7 times, down from 10. How much further will the service restrict your ability to make legal personal copies of your own music? Only Apple knows.
Another hallmark of ownership is the right to give away or sell your property. That's called "first sale," and it's explicitly protected under copyright law. Yet Apple's DRM frustrates first salejust ask George Hotelling, who had to give away the login and password to his iTunes Music Store account in order to resell a single song.
As the table below shows, there are many other ways that Apple's DRM limits what you can do with a song you "own." Many other a la carte download services choose to impose similar restrictions. How "generous" of them.
The guide also covers RealNetworks, Napster 2.0, and Microsoft's "Plays For Sure" DRM campaign. Check it out
and pass the word along.