A defense of DRM that essentially boils down to “without it, you can’t get services like Slacker.” A valid defense? Or a sophistry in support of technical alienation? Just how transparent should our technical artifacts be? And what’s an appropriate tradeoff? One argument from the LATimes’ Jon Healey: Slacker’s gotta DRM - pdf
For people who like radio, Slacker could be a leap forward, depending on how well its DJ software works. It’s more controllable (users can skip ahead until they reach a song they want to hear) and more closely attuned to a listener’s musical whims. Even the commercials will be more personalizedâ€”Slacker users tell the service what their interests are, and that input helps determine which ads their virtual DJ inserts into the playlist. Those who expect more have the option of buying the premium version, which lets them save songs and play them on demand later, mixed with their personal MP3s. The songs are still locked to the player, however, and the rest of the Slacker song cache remains hidden until it’s played. Those trade-offs may be too severe for consumers, but again, the restrictions are part and parcel of the service’s availability. They’re the basis for the business model.
That’s how DRM should be evaluated: not on the basis of some quasi-religious objection to freedom-limiting technologies, but on the specific value proposition enabled. There’s no question that without DRM, there would be no Slacker. That begs the question, are music fans better off with the Slacker option? Is the Slacker experience better than other portable sources of music? The answers depend on the quality of Slacker’s products and the ingenuity of its engineers. If Slacker’s done well, users don’t notice the DRM. If not, it’s likely to be the first thing they complain about.
For another version of the same argument, see John Carroll’s blog entry The EUâ€™s ongoing joust with iTunes