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DRM Is Not Going Away

Digital rights management (DRM) software, the code tucked into the ones and zeros of your digital music and movies that to prevent piracy, isn't going away anytime soon.

At least, that's the word from In-Stat.

In a report called "Digital Rights Management Update," In-Stat analyst Mike Paxton writes that DRM is likely to proliferate due to the amount of digital content flowing over telecommunications networks, as well as the rate at which it's growing. And this despite recent announcements to the contrary from Amazon and Apple.

"Much of this content is already protected by some type of DRM or content protection scheme. As the creation of digital content expands, it is, in turn, fueling demand for more DRM solutions and content protection technologies," Paxton said in a statement.

If Paxton's prognostication is right, it'll be because Apple CEO Steve Jobs did not get his way.

In February, Jobs called for music labels to stop selling music encrypted with DRM software.

"Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats," Jobs said in an essay posted to Apple's Web site.

"In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat."

In April, Jobs followed up on his rhetoric with action. EMI announced it would make its digital music catalog available to online retailers without DRM restrictions. Apple was the first retailer to sign up and said it would begin selling EMI's catalog DRM-free from the iTunes Store in May.

At the time, EMI spokesman Adam Grossberg told internetnews.com his company took this "big move forward," because it saw the lack of interoperability was too confusing for listeners.

"It was clear to us that music fans want to be able to buy and transfer their music among different devices and platforms," he said. "The restrictions on that usage seemed to be limiting the true potential of the digital music market."

Amazon followed Apple's lead in May, when it announced plans to offer DRM-free MP3 format songs from more than 12,000 record labels, starting with EMI's digital catalog as the latest addition to the store.

It's in the face of all this momentum that Paxton proclaims the health of DRM. He writes that forensic DRM technologies, which are used to identify actual end-users of digital content, will in particular see much wider usage in the future.

Partially, Paxton says, that's because most users aren't even aware of DRM or the limits it places on their use of digital media. In a recent In-Stat survey of U.S. consumers, he said, over 40 percent of respondents said they weren't familiar with the term "digital rights management."

And at time when a company such as Google finds itself served with a $1 billion lawsuit over alleged copyright infringement on YouTube, companies still have their attention on DRM.

Despite, perhaps, even Steve Jobs' most ardent wishes.