Legally-mandated Content Interoperability?

Apple’s closed system for music sales is under attack from French lawmakers. It may seem ironic that the country that invented central planning is leading the charge for the bazaar over the cathedral, but this has major implications for closed end-end systems across multiple domains, including ePublishing. Especially if other jurisdictions were to follow the French example, mandated DRM interoperability could lead to increased consumer choice and the end of “walled garden” content distribution systems.
On the other hand, scads of current business models, ranging from mobile phones to sat radio to TiVo, are based on subsidizing sales of hardware devices tied to particular services. If legally-mandated content interoperability were to eliminate such business models, might consumers actually suffer, because few new services get built, or because usability is weakened by lack of compelling end-end solutions?
I personally believe that consumers would probably benefit overall. There is a brisk business in both devices and services built around Windows Media Audio which, while proprietary, is interoperable. The Internet, mobile voice & SMS are all built around interoperability and (uncoincidentally) have grown at immense rates.
iMode revolutionized mobile data because it adopted the Internet model, where anyone could create content sites, rather than the WAP model of an operator-controlled content portal. In general if you create an ecosystem that lets innovation and competition happen on both ends – device and services – you will evolve much faster. A competitive market may generate less elegant solutions (viz. Windows PCs vs. Macs, and the human appendix) but that is more than made up for by the network effects.

One Response to Legally-mandated Content Interoperability?

  1. viperteq says:

    WMA is interoperable? I think not. It is no more interoperable than Quicktime/iTunes and that’s saying a lot from me because I’m a Mac user. I’m also a realist. WMA just has the illusion of being interoperable becuse it is a product of the current dominant OS. Yes, it does kinda suck that people can’t buy songs from iTunes and play them on any mp3 player that they want, but the move was needed in order to insure the stabillity of the iPod and to quell the fears of Record Label that were afraid of piracy. As usual, Bill Gates and Co dropped the ball and are desparately trying to play catch up. If Microsoft had been the one to invent the iPod (rolls on the floor laughing..), then people would be screaming that Microsoft is a genius and how smart they are and no one would have a problem with WMA being proprietary. But now that it’s software that isn’t tied to Windows, people suddenly have issues. If I were Steve Jobs, I would grab my crotch like I was Jay-Z, and tell the French and whoever else has issues, to choke on it!