DRM and ringtones

This press release from Qpass is laughable–the premise is that internet users are “shoplifting” ringtones by using the free preview links on websites and converting them to tones by themselves. I could harp on the fact it’s not shoplifting since there is no shop (and technically you probably already own the full product, but you are looking for a small slice of it to put on your phone), but I’ll let that slide.

A startling study conducted by Qpass of 100 leading U.S. and European digital content Websites revealed that more than one third of the sites are unsecured, allowing users to ‘shoplift’ music tracks and download them as free ringtones. The extent of the problem in US may have already cost the mobile and music industries an estimated $40 million U.S. since the beginning of 2004, and a further $123 million U.S. by 2007, according to Qpass.

It doesn’t say how the dollar values were calculated, but I would assume those numbers have to be revenue not profit. As evidenced by the iTunes music store, rights fees can add up (Apple only makes a dime or so on each song) so if these numbers are revenue, the actual “damage” would be only ten percent or so.

However, the whole idea that there are legions of customers converting previews into real ringtones and transferring them to their phones is the real funny part–if they are smart enough to do the conversions, why would they poke around ringtone sites in the first place? Use existing music (even use the 30 second preview given away in the iTMS) which is probably at better quality. That’s what I do and it works great. My current ringtone is a catchy clip from the band Minus The Bear and everyone that hears it gets jealous.

So what’s the solution to these ringtone terrorists? DRM of course!

Preview content can be secured by using streaming, embedded pre-listening or the use of a DRM-protected file format.

With tools like Xingtone, just about anyone can make their own tone. That’s not a loss to the “ringtone industry”, that’s just being smart. The problem is that your “industry” is based entirely on selling very small segments of sounds your customers probably already own… And on top of that–for extremely high fees.


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One Response to “DRM and ringtones”

  1. Brittany says:

    I love Mtb.
    I would love you forever if you could direct me to a place where i can get some ringtones?
    Yeah, Xingtone right?
    Its too hard to browse, unless im just stupid.

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