In the wake of the announcement by EMI (along with Apple) that its catalog will now be available on iTunes DRM-free and at twice the bit-rate, many techies and tech market watchers are predicting the end is near from DRM.
It’s probably true that EMI will reap the benefits of being the only company to drop DRM, for a while. Others will likely follow suit and drop DRM as well. I doubt this will hurt bottom lines as the majority of songs are still distributed via physical media, which has always been DRM-free, with rare root-kit powered exceptions (thanks, Sony). Steve Jobs must agree as his distribution business counts on overall industry success.
Of course, my opinion ultimately doesn’t matter, as the market, not expert opinion, will work out all the gritty details. Experts can make fairly accurate predictions of the future given enough data, but they aren’t psychic. However, many seem to think they posses a sixth sense and have been advocating an industry-wide ban of DRM if not a change in the law to make DRM impossible.
This sort of preemption after prediction is like declaring the winner of a race based on calculations about the runners. Sure, we can use past data to judge future outcomes, but we usually want to see the race run.
Essentially, preemptive bans of technologies or methodologies are a retreat from empiricism and scientific thinking to a medieval paradigm of logic without observation.
The market will decide if Apple’s and EMI’s latest move is a good one. It is the laboratory for business models, showing us clearly which succeed and which fail. Unfortunately, many techies would rather have an economy run by geek decree, rather than market success or failure. Too bad these otherwise scientifically minded people ignore the dismal science.