From Ed Felten’s musings on the implications of Apple’s decision to end DRM on iTunes tracks.
Interestingly, DRM is not retreating as quickly in systems that stream content on demand. This makes sense because the drawbacks of DRM are less salient in a streaming context: there is no need to maintain compatibility with old content; users can be assumed to be online so software can be updated whenever necessary; and users worry less about preserving access when they know they can stream the content again later. I'm not saying that DRM causes no problems with streaming, but I do think the problems are less serious than in a stored-content setting.
In some cases, streaming uses good old fashioned incompatibility in place of DRM. For example, a stream might use a proprietary format and the most convenient software for watching streams might lack a ‘save this video’ button.
It remains to be seen how far DRM will retreat. Will it wither away entirely, or will it hang on in some applications?
Meanwhile, it’s interesting to see traditional DRM supporters back away from it. RIAA chief Mitch Bainwol now says that the RIAA is agnostic on DRM. And DRM cheerleader Bill Rosenblatt has relaunched his “DRM Watch” blog under the new title “Copyright and Technology”. The new blog’s first entry: iTunes going DRM-free.