So, what have we learnt from the Sony DRM fiasco? In internet terms, the scandal is old news, so the time may have come to have a look at how the item has affected the market.
The first lesson to be learnt is that blogs and online buzz have power once certain outrage threshold has been passed, and that the mainstream media listens to bloggers and may even incorporate some important net stories. Sony had to react to the perceived outrage immediately, asking for a recall and promising to remove the technology from future CDs.
The second lesson is that it is still evident that the mainstream doesn’t care about DRMs. While this has been a big online story, Sony has not yet suffered massive losses on sales. There have been direct losses as a result however, as sales of a music CD mentioned in most news stories plummeted on Amazon and other online retailers. But other than that, Sony has not suffered sales losses, which may be an indication that most people do not listen to music on their computers, and they do not transfer music to their digital players (or do not own one). People’s eyes glaze over when they hear about DRM and other technology, and your average music consumer will not care about what is inside the CD.
The third lesson is that despite the public’s lack of action, the system will not stop music copying in any shape or form. Reports have already indicated many different ways in which the DRMs can be easily beaten. Hackers and those likely to share music online are not stopped by restrictive DRM technology, so why use it? It is a manner of control of the everyday user, nothing else.
And finally, there is a chance that artists may want to regain some power over their music. Whenever the music industry sells their newest anti-piracy crusade, they will parade an artist to plead to the public. But the artists have no power in the music business. Some artists have complained that they were never asked if the CD should be sold with some technical protection measure. Canadian singer Jane Siberry has taken a stand and started her own DRM-free store (thanks to Geoff Pradella for the link). To me this is the most interesting development. Could artists try to retake control from the big labels? Do we really need Sony BMG?