…Or Maybe They Do

On further investigation, it turns out that there is a reason for the DRM protection on Qtrax downloads… it’s just not to prevent piracy.

When a Qtrax-downloaded file is played, the WMA licensing notifies Qtrax of the act — so that they can divvy up advertising revenue from the site based on what people are listening to.  Since the Windows Rights Management system lets them require a bit of netcode to be run when you listen to a song, this works.

However, it still won’t fix the existing problems with DRM — specifically, that non-DRM-enabled players won’t be able to play the files (they claim they’ll be offering iPod-compatible tracks, and worry about Apple blocking them, but there’s no word from them on how they’ll do this, since WMDRM tracks won’t play on iPods) and mobility between machines is difficult.  People will still be motivated to rip the DRM off the tracks (thus breaking Qtrax’s tracking system) for convenience, or to turn to pirate downloads.

My guess is that Qtrax would prefer to pay labels based on downloads, not song plays, but the labels wouldn’t go for it, or just couldn’t stand the very concept of releasing unencumbered tracks for free no matter how much ad money they got.

If this was the way the labels had released music to begin with, I think consumers would have been happy with it.  But now, after the history of DRM, I think the public perception of “bad juju” around anything DRM-encumbered may sink it.  We’ll see, though — legal and free pulls a lot of weight with consumers.

piracy, trusted client

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