This week, music-biz bigwigs from around the world are gathering in Cannes for the annual MIDEM conference, which takes its name from the oft-heard phrase, “Midem industry is slowly dying!” One of the talking points this year is whether digital-rights management (DRM) can cut down on piracy:
Its supporters say DRM also offers alternative methods such as subscription or advertising-supported services as the music cannot then be offered onto peer-to-peer networks. But one result of DRM is that tracks bought legally from Web sites such as Rhapsody cannot be used on the market-leading iPod as they are not compatible, potentially restricting the growth of legal sales.
“DRM is like polonium to some people,” [John Kennedy, the head of the industry's trade body IFPI] said. “Digital rights management is exactly that, it’s the management of digital rights and if we weren’t managing it the headlines would be ‘irresponsible music industry … creates anarchy.’”
Clearly, Kennedy has no idea that we’re long past the point when people believed the music industry to be merely “irresponsible.” But while comparing unrestricted MP3s to the chemical that killed a former KGB agent may seem like a crass aside, when you think about it, the music business is becoming more and more like Russia: They both employ hired goons to do their dirty work; they both hate allofmp3.com; and they both think that Shaggy is still relevant.