I wrote recently about the Velvet Revolver album that is “protected” by SunnComm ‘s ineffectual CD anti-copying technology. The technology was doomed to fail – and has in fact failed – to keep the music off the popular P2P filesharing systems.
It turns out that things are even weirder than I had thought: the very same album was released in Japan without DRM (according to Alex Halderman, who has a copy of the Japanese release). So even if the DRM technology were perfect, the music still would have leaked, via Japanese buyers, onto the P2P darknet.
DRM costs the record company money to deploy, because the DRM technology must be licensed, and because of lost sales due to DRM-induced consumer inconvenience. So why in the world would a record company pay to DRM an album in some places and not in others?
One possible explanation is that the record company is not thinking clearly about the consequences of their DRM strategy. Based on the conversations I have had with record industry executives about their DRM strategy, this theory is quite plausible.
Another possibility is that they aren’t actually trying to prevent P2P copying of this album, but are instead trying to create evidence that US consumers will accept DRMed products. As I wrote previously (“Lame Copy Protection Doesn’t Depress CD Sales Much”), experience with the Velvet Revolver album seems to indicate that consumers see the DRM as a drawback, but many are buying it anyway because they think the music is good enough to outweigh the harmful DRM.
A third possibility is that they are worried about some other threat model, not involving P2P. Perhaps they think the DRM can prevent individual disc-to-disc copying. It’s not clear how much the technology will really do to prevent such copying, or how many sales would be saved by preventing such copies. (My guess is that most people who make disc-to-disc copies would not have bought a second copy.)
My best guess is that this is just one of those odd behaviors ones sees in large organizations that are in denial about an important issue. Shipping DRMed discs in the US shows that deployment of CD DRM is proceeding on schedule, thus allowing some in the industry to maintain their self-delusion that the CD DRM strategy is viable.