WSJ: Digital Rights Management Today And Tomorrow

Todayis Wall Street Journal serves up a story on Digital Rights Management and what it could mean for the future of media. Taking Appleis iTunes Music Store as an example, the story cites the recent changes Apple made to the terms of use for songs purchased from iTunes as demonstrating the power of DRM.

With the launch of the third-generation iTunes Music Store, Apple reduced the number of times a playlist can burned with music from the Store from 10 to seven, while increasing the number of authorizing computers than can play tracks from three to five. While the playlist burning changes applied only to track purchased from that day forward, the computer authorization changes were retroactive, applying to all songs ever sold.

"In this case, Apple gave users more liberal rights," the Journal notes. However, thereis nothing preventing Apple from making its DRM retroactively more restrictive -- though the company says thatis unlikely."

With subscription-based music stores, like RealNetworksi Rhapsody, DRM is further muddying the traditional definitions of ownership. Customers pay about $10 per month to download whatever music they want, but can only play that music on their computer. (Microsoft is working on technology, expected to launch later this year, that would extend DRM subscription music to portable players.) When a customer stops paying the monthly fee, they lose access to all the music they had acquired through the service.

DRM could also find its way into DVDs in the future, as Hollywood Studios work to curtail movie piracy while attempting to avoid trampling on an individualis rights.

"Different studios might end up imposing different DVD restrictions. You may, for instance, be able to make a copy of the "Toy Story 4" DVD for your laptop -- but not do the same thing with "Charlieis Angels 5," the story says. "Those variations will likely require some form of labeling on DVDs so consumers will know what theyire getting, according to companies involved in planning them."