When you can’t even give it away

Free, Legal and Ignored

College students don’t turn down much that’s free. But when it comes to online music, even free hasn’t been enough to persuade many students to use such digital download services as Napster, Rhapsody, Ruckus and Cdigix. As a result, some schools have dropped their services, and others are considering doing so or have switched to other providers.

I’ll bet you’ll be shocked to hear the reason:

Purdue University officials say that lower-than-expected demand among its students stems in part from all the frustrating restrictions that accompany legal downloading. Students at the West Lafayette, Ind., school can play songs free on their laptops but have to pay to burn songs onto CDs or load them onto a digital music device.

There’s also the problem of compatibility: The services won’t run on Apple Computer Inc. computers, which are owned by 19% of college students, according to a 2006 survey of 1,200 students by the research group Student Monitor. In addition, the files won’t play on Apple iPods, which are owned by 42% of college students, according to the survey.

In other words, students don’t want DRM crippled music with which that they can’t do the things they want to do with music, like burn CD’s and put it on iPods. Even for free.

Because these guys can’t get it through their thick skulls that they’re still competing with piracy – which is also free, but comes with none of the restrictions. As any freshman in Econ 101 will tell you, the market will choose the superior product.

And that’s what really kills me about this stuff. There are many objections to DRM, both philosophical and technological. At the end of the day though, it’s also simply a bad business model. These people are pissing money away by insisting on it, which is mind boggling to me.

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