There has been an interesting debate concerning DRM happening over at Pan Macmillan’s blog the digitalist, whereby digital editor Michael Bhaskar stepped where others fear to tread by arguing that DRM is not ‘evil’. No less than the likes of Cory Doctorow and Clay Shirky weighed in and to be frank Bhaskar received a virtual pounding.

Here’s what I wrote, partly in Bhaskar’s defence but also because the entire argument is redundant once we move beyond linear distribution channels (comment #50, at the bottom):

Here’s why DRM is important: it can be used to facilitate the RESALE of digital content. Let’s call it Digital Resale Management.

Why do I necessarily have to purchase an author’s writings from a recognised ebook retailer when they [the author] can sell it to me, and more importantly, why do my friends need to buy it from said retailer when they could buy it directly from me? What matters is that everyone in the value chain is paid: the author; publisher; wholesaler/distributor; and yes, even me for reselling those works.

I recognise anti-DRMers are opposed to locks and keys and rightly so, but some of the arguments are as overly zealous as those made by pro-DRMers. Having worked in and around the music business for the better part of the past decade I’ve heard all these arguments before and I’m really surprised we’re still having this debate.

So yes, locks and keys aka DRM has already failed, but no DRM means no resale. It is definitely time to move the debate beyond linear distribution channels!

Michael Bhaskar, good on you for stepping where others fear to tread.

Even those who I call anti-DRMers, and with whom I generally agree, are still arguing over linear distribution and it is somewhat surprising to find that many of them (some well known) are yet to move their thinking beyond what is otherwise a physical distribution paradigm applied to a digital world.

Anyhow, if you would like to discuss digital rights management (not of the locks and keys variety) please feel free to touch base via the contact form, phone or on Skype robert.collings. I’m not joking when I say every argument I am hearing from within the publishing industry about DRM I heard in the music biz, and in some cases nearly a decade ago. So I’ve been there, seen what happened and am uniquely placed to guide any author or publisher through the digital maelstrom — particularly big multinationals paying consulting fees :-)