With multiple ebook retailers having closed in the past few years and the Nook Store on its last legs, readers are well aware of the problems inherent to buying DRMed content – and yet we do it anyway.
There’s a new article on The Atlantic‘s website today which ponders that question:
All this signals a larger cultural shift in the way people think about ownership of media in the 21st century, or how they ought to be thinking of it. Increasingly, the purchase of digital works is treated like the purchase of software, which has gone from something you buy on a disc to something downloadable with an Internet connection. “You might think you’re buying Microsoft Office, but according to your user agreement you’re merely leasing it,” Vaidhyanathan said. “You can think of music and video as just another form of software. There is a convergence happening.”
That convergence is built for a streaming world, one that’s driven by an expectation of instant gratification. “One of the things we’re doing increasingly is opting for convenience over dependability. And we’re doing it somewhat thoughtlessly,” Vaidhyanathan told me. “We have to recognize that it is temporary. Anything that is centrally collected in a server somewhere on Earth is ephemeral. Even if Amazon doesn’t go out of business in 20 years, Amazon will not exist as we know it in 100 years.”
The articles goes on to remind us of a fact that many know all too well:
The key, according to media scholars and lawyers who focus on digital rights, is to remember that even today’s most influential tech giants will eventually fall. That’s a prospect that may be easy to acknowledge, but is strange to imagine. “We depend on Amazon so much at this point that a world without Amazon would be kind of terrifying,” Vaidhyanathan said.
Leaving aside the clickbaity focus on Amazon, the factual errors on Kindle DRM and music DRM, and the general lack of background research (it’s framed as a “what if”, rather that “what was/is”) …
Even with all of its problems, this piece still raises a point worth remembering.
Any of your online services could go down tomorrow, taking your content (and possibly even your livelihood) with it. And to make matters worse, the service doesn’t have to go down; all it takes for your purchase to go poof is for the wrong contract to expire.
Then again, this isn’t just a problem with content so much as it is an inherent flaw in all online services – and even offline ones. The problem that The Atlantic debates in terms of digital content is the same problem that has been staring us in the face ever since the first DRM dongles started breaking, and the first DRM “protected” computer discs outlived their hardware.
This same problem is why I am such a strong advocate for stripping DRM.
So tell me, are you prepared the digital apocalypse?
image by Jeffrey Beall