By John Gruber
Atoms: We are not selling shoes this time…
I would like to start by thanking Steve Jobs for offering his provocative perspective on the role of digital rights management (DRM) in the electronic content marketplace and for bringing to the forefront an issue of great importance to both the industry and consumers.
Fuck you, Jobs.
Macrovision has been in the content protection industry for more than 20 years, working closely with content owners of many types, including the major Hollywood studios, to help navigate the transition from physical to digital distribution.
We’ve been helping and encouraging the entertainment industry to annoy its paying customers for more than 20 years.
We have been involved with and have supported both prevention technologies and DRM that are on literally billions of copies of music, movies, games, software and other content forms, as well as hundreds of millions of devices across the world.
Remember those squiggly lines when you tried copying a commercial VHS tape? You can thank us for that.
While your thoughts are seemingly directed solely to the music industry, the fact is that DRM also has a broad impact across many different forms of content and across many media devices. Therefore, the discussion should not be limited to just music.
We recognize that if getting rid of DRM works for the music industry, it’s going to open the eyes of executives in other fields, and it could unravel Macrovision’s entire business.
DRM increases not decreases consumer value
Up is down. Black is white.
I believe that most piracy occurs because the technology available today has not yet been widely deployed to make DRM-protected legitimate content as easily accessible and convenient as unprotected illegitimate content is to consumers.
I have, to date, succeeded in convincing the entertainment industry that DRM can stop piracy.
The solution is to accelerate the deployment of convenient DRM-protected distribution channels—not to abandon them.
The solution is more DRM. DRM everywhere.
Similarly, consumers who want to consume content on only a single device can pay less than those who want to use it across all of their entertainment areas — vacation homes, cars, different devices and remotely. Abandoning DRM now will unnecessarily doom all consumers to a “one size fits all” situation that will increase costs for many of them.
Abandoning DRM will prevent us from forcing our customers to keep paying us over and over again for the same movies and songs they’ve already paid for.
Well maintained and reasonably implemented DRM will increase the electronic distribution of content, not decrease it.
I am high as a kite.
Quite simply, if the owners of high-value video entertainment are asked to enter, or stay in a digital world that is free of DRM, without protection for their content, then there will be no reason for them to enter, or to stay if they’ve already entered. The risk will be too great.
If it weren’t for DRM, no one would attempt to sell video in digital formats.
I agree with you that there are difficult challenges associated with maintaining the controls of an interoperable DRM system, but it should not stop the industry from pursuing it as a goal.
Just because we have sold the entertainment industry on the pipe dream of “interoperable DRM” that can’t actually be implemented does not mean they should stop paying Macrovision in a futile attempt to make it happen.
Truly interoperable DRM will hasten the shift to the electronic distribution of content and make it easier for consumers to manage and share content in the home — and it will enable it in an open environment where their content is portable across a number of devices, not held hostage to just one company’s products.
Magic interoperable DRM would give people all the features and capabilities they get with DRM-free media.
At Macrovision we are willing to lead this industry effort.
If we could get everything under our control we could make a lot of money.
We offer to assist Apple in the issues and problems with DRM that you state in your letter. Should you desire, we would also assume responsibility for FairPlay as a part of our evolving DRM offering and enable it to interoperate across other DRMs, thus increasing consumer choice and driving commonality across devices.
I realize Apple is never going to work with Macrovision, so I have decided to insult you and your company by insinuating that your “Thoughts on Music” open letter was an expression of frustration at technical hurdles Apple just can’t figure out on its own.
With such an enjoyable and revolutionary experience within our grasp, we should not minimize the role that DRM can and should play in enabling the transition to electronic content distribution. Without reasonable, consistent and transparent DRM we will only delay the availability of premium content in the home.
Without DRM we don’t have control over what people can do with their media.
As an industry, we should not let that happen.
As a company whose only purpose is to provide copy protection, we can’t let that happen.