As a Kindle reader and a comiXology user, I'm pretty deeply entrenched in the DRM world. Heck, the sheer number of games associated with my Steam account versus those that are actually installed on my computer further supports this fact. And I honestly don't mind the fact that I have so many digital items that I "own" under DRM arrangements with these providers. Thus far, the benefits of portability, no storage considerations and ease of transfer far outweigh the limitations of not "fully" owning my content.
But that also got me thinking about where this is all headed. The easy point that DRM advocates bring up is the fact that should companies like Amazon or Steam fail, then I'm going to "lose" all of these "items" that I have with them. And while it's easy to say that the likes of Amazon are just too big to fail, it will always be a valid possibility
No, what I'm thinking about more is what "ownership" really represents in a DRM world. If you take things further and further, one has to wonder why are we obsessed with this traditional sense of "owning" something in order to claim fully? Isn't the experience of reading the story or watching the thing on Netflix enough? Isn't the experience what we are aiming for?
Being the nerd that I am, I can't help but roughly associate the DRM landscape with the world of Star Trek. In that universe, humanity and the rest of the Federation have reached this point where their economy does not require the wheels of capitalism to run it. People get jobs for the sake of fulfillment and within the Federation worlds there is supposed to be no need for currency - the economy is designed in a manner that allows member worlds to focus on self-enhancement. Thus people who write stories or create art do not do so with monetary goals in mind. Instead they create for the sake of creating and hope people look into their work over time.
So what if embracing a DRM environment is one of many, many steps towards that sort of a life? When we understand that it's okay to only have "access" to a work, whether it's a book, or a movie or a video game, perhaps that's moving towards a world where all knowledge and cultural artifacts of a digital nature are stored centrally but available universally?
We have a long, long, long way to go, but it's rather nice to think about.