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A Primer and Opinion on Digital Rights Management

Aug 17, 2007
Since the advent of recordable media, record companies have made billions of dollars on musical works sold in physical form. Although music has been around for thousands of years, this was a monster paradigm shift in the way artists made their livings. Fast forward to the present day - physical music is still the focus product although most musicians make little income from their sale.

Digital Right Management, or DRM as it is commonly referred, is a term used by music publishers to restrict access and usage of digital data. These restrictions can be explicit or implied. DRM supporters believe that it is necessary to prevent unauthorized duplicates from hitting the market and its institution will insure the artist's continued revenue streams.

In the computer age and the invention of the mp3 format, listeners are now able to freely (almost) distribute recorded works via file transfer and recordable discs to friends and fans alike. Although there is no discernable link between free exchange of digital files and the decline of cd sales, record companies continue to carry the DRM charge, hoping to block the transfer of music for free between computers.

The music industry still continues to file lawsuit after lawsuit against P2P providers like Grokster and Limewire. The RIAA, which facilitates these suits, has now started to take action against what it calls large-scale copyright infringement. Although the industry is enacting its own DRM policy, still more P2P networks spring up every day to replace the ones that shut down voluntarily or due to the RIAA's continued harassment.

Without DRM restrictions, digital music can be distributed freely among fans as well as be made available for derivative works including remixes and sampling.

Creative Commons (creativecommons.org) issues licenses to independent musicians just for this purpose where artists can release material with explicit instructions as to whether it is permissible to pass on the work, modify it or otherwise change and distribute the song. Even though this is a kind of DRM, we are not applying the US copyright law wholesale. These Creative Commons licenses can be tailored to fit each artist's wishes.

Although naturally artists feel that it is necessary to protect their creations and to be compensated for their use and ownership, there is a bigger picture. Music doesn't have to be a "product". Music is art. It doesn't need to be owned.

You cannot control the duplication of digital music. Many have tried and failed. Society will not stand for it anymore. Instead of fighting this cultural change, musicians need to use it to their advantage. Use music as a sales tool to get fans and build huge mailing lists of targeted consumers. Then MARKET to them!!! Your music is the key.

The music business is commercial - music is not.
About the Author
As an experienced studio and touring musician, producer and writer,Aaron Trubic has proudly garnered numerous commercial recording credits for both major and independent labels spanning 16 years.
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