To combat piracy in China, Nokia has taken the road less travelled. Rather than applying stricter controls, it is trying to make the legal purchase of music over your mobile device a more attractive option than illegal piracy. Instead of fighting fire with fire, Nokia is using water.
What’s the story?
Nokia runs a music service called “Comes With Music“. It allows you to search a database of music and download tracks to your phone – the cost of the service is built into any compatible Nokia phone. You don’t have to download or subscribe, your phone simply Comes With Music.
The service is up and running in 30 countries – and today China has become the first one the get it DRM-free.
DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, and it is one hell of a controversial topic. It is meant to be an anti-piracy technique, preventing digital music from just being copied and sent around for free. There’s no set style for DRM – it changes from company to company. Sony, for example, got in a lot of trouble for its DRM, which involved installing secret spy programs on your computer. Apple used a much simpler encryption method, which meant that you could only play a track on a single device and it could never be transferred. But even that was too much – the problem has been that DRM tends to turn people off. If you can’t download and enjoy your own music after you’ve paid for it, what’s the point? Many people have felt persecuted by DRM, especially since pirates who steal music don’t face any of the same restrictions.
And so Nokia has joined a slowly growing number of companies who feel that the best way to enforce DRM is by getting rid of it altogether. So far, this is only a reality in China, and Nokia has not given any indication that it intends to expand this DRM-free service to other countries.
But we can always hope.
What we think?
This isn’t just an interesting story about Nokia – it also highlights things about the fight against piracy in general. Nokia has taken the step of combatting piracy by making it easier to download music. And that is a great move. As soon as getting your music legally becomes easier than pirating it, people will stop pirating. There are those who will continue to download music illegally as a point of principle, but they are far outnumbered by those who do it simply because buying music digitally is often a total pain in the ass. These days I’m perfectly happy to download my music through iTunes and pay for it – it’s still cheaper than buying CDs, and there is guaranteed quality control.
Consider also that Nokia is willing to take this step only in a country that is rife with piracy. Does this indicates that in Europe and the USA, DRM-free music would cost Nokia more than piracy currently does?
Another front that digital music retailers have to wage war on is streaming music. There are numerous services that by-pass the problem of downloading music by just streaming it directly from the website. You never actually get your hands on a copy of the song, but you can still listen to it whenever you want, and you have a vast catalogue of music to choose from. The true appeal of these services becomes apparent on mobile. By tapping into Spotify, Rhapsody or Grooveshark, you can effectively turn your phone into an “infinite walkman”, with access to a limitless amount of music. These are subscription services true, but the monthly cost rarely goes above the price of single album. If you buy more than 12 albums in a year, than these services are not only massively convenient, but extremely cost-effective. And that is something that digital music retailers have to fight against as well. Paying to download music becomes more of a chumps game with each passing year, and DRM only makes it look even less appealing.