People object to DRM schemes on the basis of ownership – “it’s my music and I’ll play it where and when I want!” I usually stay out of this argument (it’s boring to be saying the same as everyone else isn’t it?). I’ve been thinking, though. I think my principle objection has more to do with memory. Especially, I suppose, as I get older, music for me is about memory as much as about immediate experience (it was probably standing outside the Hammersmith Palais the other day that got me thinking like this).
What terrifies me about downloading DRM tunes is the prospect of losing access to them in the future. What am I going to do in twenty years time when I’m sitting at my cute/retro PC staring at an encrypted vault full of music I can’t access because my DRM key has expired and the business that sold it to me went bust in 2021 (funky riverside loft cut off by the first great Thames flood, most likely)
More to the point, how are my kids going to recover the tunes that first made them quiver and swoon under the balcony at the Hammersmith Palais when the DRM technology, the hardware it was embedded in, the OS that ran it, the business that developed it and the label that sold it to them are all history?
Are we allowing the labels and the industry bodies to quietly wall up digital music in an inaccessible concrete tomb to which future generations will have no access? By permitting rights owners to fixate so ruthlessly on the short-term are we risking the creation of a decades-long digital dark age from which we’ll retain no memory at all?