Friday, August 17, 2007

Random House declares DRM will fall

PublishersLunch just highlighted an annoucment from RH Audio Group publisher Madeline McIntosh in which she declare that DRM (digital rights management) is an obstacle to consumer adoption and market growth, and it will fall. "We at Random House believe that DRM will ultimately disappear," McIntosh writes, "and we believe that will be a positive development for our market."McIntosh explains further: "The potential benefits of moving away from DRM are clear: it would allow the market to open up, so that any online retailer would be able to compete to sell content destined for any device, including the iPod. The hope is that the greatly-simplified consumer experience, coupled with greater retail competition, would lead to growth." "Essentially, the very best, most 'secure' DRM is only so good as the ethics of the individual consumer." McIntosh notes that digital audio is the fastest-growing part of the audio business--now comprising about 15 percent of retail sales--but "these sales come almost entirely from iTunes and Audible." That hegemony is now an obstacle to growth, and the only way onto the dominant-iPod without going through Apple is with unlocked files. Amazon's long-stalled plans to break from their sales agreement with Audible and offer their own downloads probably hinges on getting producers to offer DRM-free material.