Techdirt has a great little piece on the problem with new DRM schemes. I’ve heard a lot about the idea that the problem with DRM is that there is no consistent standard and that once one evolves, everyone will be happy. Consumers will be able to play anything anywhere and content owners will know that their stuff is protected. But this theory doesn’t make sense.
First, as Brett says in his article, DRM is about restricting the use of content. Even if the standard is consistent, the implementation will be varied. Some content will be free to watch anywhere, but only for a specific duration. Others will be limited to certain devices for unlimited duration. Some will provide for limited redistribution while others restrict redistribution entirely. This creates consumer confusion and essentially eliminates the proposed flexibility gains from universal DRM standards. It reduces the value of the content and will drive consumers elsewhere.
Second, DRM mechanisms will always be broken by someone. The closer a corporation gets to a standard, the more people will work to circumvent the protection scheme. The result is a situation in which different companies will always work on competing standards. There will always be room to improve on the old standard in such a way as to make the existing standard obsolete. The most effective DRM will always be the DRM that is most draconian and not widely distributed, which also means that it will probably never become so.
The bottom line is that DRM is about making content owners happy, not consumers. And the consumers that are content owners typically aren’t interested in protecting their contributions with draconian DRM. Content owners have to figure out ways to make money off the free flow of content to any device at any time and for any duration. The DRM fight will go on for a decade, but free DRM-less advertising-subsidized content will win in the end. Consumers are driving this new market, not Hollywood. Expect them to get their way as more chips fall into their corner.