CNET reports that SpiralFrog, a company that was, yes was, in the online music game is closing its doors. If one was a customer, music covered by SprialFrog’s DRM software will be unusable 60 days from the closing date which seems to have been on March 20, 2009. This problem looks a little like Zittrain’s concern about tethered devices and perfect enforcement. For me Spiral Frog’s shut down and resulting denial of access is part of the problem with cloud computing and what I call technological mediation in my paper Property, Persona, and Preservation. As more and more material is mediated or put at a distance, the more one must navigate second and third party software, hardware, and contracts just to access and use information and material that one ought to be able to reach directly.
SpiralFrog highlights the problems of the DMCA and DRM approaches to protecting information. The access to knowledge movement and commentary on the DMCA specifically examine these questions. I suggest that online storage poses additional issues. Material that was once on one’s computer is now stored elsewhere. So even if one had the key for the software, one cannot get to it. In SpiralFrog’s case, the material seems to be on one’s computer but inaccessible unless some new company buys SpiralFrog’s assets and unlocks the RM once more.
In addition, as this article points out, the company’s demise does not necessarily show that ad-supported music is a dead business model. Spiral Frog had management, funding, and deal problems. Now, it may also be that it was pursuing DRM solutions when others were moving away from that model for music. Nonetheless, as the FTC notes DRM “is expected to become increasingly prevalent in the U.S. marketplace in the coming years” and it must address “the need to improve disclosures to consumers about DRM limitations.”
Ah understatement, the lifeblood of press releases.