How big is the market for DRM-Free?

Originally published at:


Conversely, O’Reilly recently stopped selling DRM free titles on their site. When they started selling ebooks on their site, they were predicting the lack of DRM to be something that would appeal to their customers. Turns out, they didn’t really care.


In the drone market, there’s a DJI-sized space opening up for a solid maker that doesn’t stuff retro-DRM down the throats of the owners.

Proper title:
DJI Is Locking Down the Drones it Sold Against a Growing Army of Owners

DJI is worried about legal liability and crazy event-driven laws from Congress, but pissing off customers and driving off potential sales is no way to stay in business. (I wonder if this controlling DRM doesn’t open them up to more liability?)


I care, but the O’Reilly books are enough better than alternatives that I will buy them DRM if I have to. Of course technical manuals are less and less needed these days, with documentation and tech forums galore on the Internet.

So what it boils down to is something Hollywood has always known; you can abuse the customer all you want as long as you can prevent any non-abusive competition. You can prevent such competition by having a superior product - by outclassing any attempt at making a competing product… or by removing from the marketplace products that are competing with you.


DVD players… OK. I honestly didnt realize there was still much of a market for them these days since every BluRay player also plays back DVDs as well. Looked through the whole paper to see if their category of “DVD player” also included that, what since its 2017 and all, but nope. 1080p upscaling and HDMI yep. Not sure if they accounted for how those things really affect pricing, would have to read again.

Oh look! On p10 they cite Doctorow as a source!

What they did not mention and what to me is a notable absence are two potential key factors for why someone would pay a premium for a playback device that is region free:

  1. They own media from another region. Hard to say how big this market segment is really. I’m part of that market but compared to the overall market for playback devices this probably is a drop in the bucket.
  2. Region free devices will play any and all pirated media. Again hard to really size that market but I’m gonna venture a guess this category dwarves the first one.

Without factoring for these two things and considering that DVD is now previous generation media, I’m not so sure that this study is all that relevant in 2017.


It’s worth noting that O’Reilly still sells its ebooks DRM-free via Amazon. At least, it says “Number of devices: Unlimited,” which usually means they’re DRM-free. Seems to me it might just be that O’Reilly did a cost-benefit analysis and realized it wasn’t getting its money’s worth out of running a separate ebook store when so many people just buy via Amazon anyway.


Might also be worth considering how many people will pay $100 for a lifetime subscription to the AnyDVD Blu-ray/DVD DRM-removal app for watching or ripping movies on computer. (And how many paid it twice, given that the original company shut down and it had to start a new one in another country.)

How is this shocking? These are often infringing, gray market, or hacked items that are hard to find so they command a premium price. You can’t just walk into a Best Buy and pick up an up an “artisinal DRM free” DVD player but cheapo players can be easier to hack to circumvent them.

People who actually want a region free or “unlocked” media player will seek one out and pay a premium. I’d argue the vast majority of consumers don’t care as long as it can play their kid’s Spongebob DVDs.


Blu ray players and disks both cost a good deal more than DVD. And for most people, DVD looks fine from across the room, so there’s little incentive to upgrade. Both factors have kept Blu ray from seeing as universal adoption as DVD has seen. The huge outpouring of reissues of older movies that happened on DVD has not occurred for blu ray, which further limits the format’s appeal. Add it all up and DVD only looks irrelevant nowadays to a small population of tech nerds on the internet.


Many of these older movies would not look much better on blue-ray than on DVD as the technology of the times did not have the resolution…

Uh, no…if they’re movies and not TV, there’s ample room for greater resolution, assuming it’s scanned from the original film source. Even 16mm film has better resolution than a DVD.

Now if they were TV series or TV movies, you might have something there—but even a lot of TV series were shot on film until relatively recently. Even the original Star Trek was recently remastered in high definition. Some shows, such as later Star Trek series, may never get that same treatment because they were produced on the cheap for standard definition TV and it would require re-doing all their special effects in high definition. But that’s a relatively small fraction of the total content available.


Maybe for old TV shows that were recorded on videotape, but for everything else, no way. 35mm film has resolution equal or superior to your standard 1080p blu-ray.

That’s true for stuff filmed on magnetic tape. Not so much on basically everything that’s on film, except if there were special effects added to it at TV resolution.

That’s why you can get a top-quality, restored Star Trek (The Original series), but only a So-So The Next Generation.

Actually, TNG was remastered in the same way, with the special effects redone for the entire series. But because it happened right at the time people were starting to switch away from discs to streaming, sales were not in line with their original expectations. Hence, it’s increasingly unlikely that will ever happen for DS9 or Voyager.

I also have the feeling that Blu-Ray started to compete with streaming. The difference between a top-notch BluRay and a decently encoded Stream is even more negligible, especially after 5 minutes of viewing.

I got old enough to come to the conclusion that I will probably watch many movies or shows only once, perhaps twice. So forget about buying it in a format my son will look as as flabbergasted as I did when I saw those huge tapes and Schellacks. (pre-Vinyl records). And even if I have to buy, I do not care if this might become obsolete due to DRM. I don’t keep every 8 $ book or 5 € magazine either.


I’m not sure that information is current any more. Using the most common price search engine here in Japan and selecting for DVD players with HDMI out gives a price range of JPY3,0080-6,380 doing the same search on BlueRay players gets JPY7,537-642,600 meaning the price delta to playback both media is around JPY1,000.

It just so happens that the name brand BlueRay player I bought from Costco some years back for about JPY9,000 ended up being region free for both BluRay and DVDs.

This gives access to existing DVD libraries but lots of new movies dont even come out on DVD here any more, or come out as a combo package. The 2017 Ghost In The Shell is priced JPY3,122 for the combo base package. Maybe cheaper in the US?

The huge outpouring of reissues of older movies that happened on DVD has not occurred for blu ray, which further limits the format’s appeal

But you can’t buy a BluRay player that doesn’t play DVDs also so you don’t lose access to older releases on DVD. Since the study is comparing the purchase prices of DVD players, the key point is purchase. Doubtful this is just tech nerds on the internet.

The three of you are forgetting a very key aspect of digital releases, even a 4K scan of the best preserved source material can end up looking like crap if the digital compression and mastering is not done correctly. This was very apparent early on for both DVD and BluRay. There were a few movies where the US DVD was absolute crap but for whatever reasons a completely different scan/compression/mastering was done for the Japanese release and the DVD looked great. Some early BluRay releases (Fifth Element in particular) look no different from the DVD except being in 1080 resolution because the mastering/compression just wasn’t good.

Huh. Thanks. I must’ve misremembered. I thought DS9 and VOY had been already been recorded and sfx’ed in HD back then, like Star Trek getting filmed in color, even though that cost extra and most people didn’t have color TVS back then.

Gotta admit that I revisited neither of them: Nice shows, was a Trekkie for decades, but it’s not captivating enough to watch a 2nd or 3rd time, even though it’s on Netflix. I think. Could have been taken out by now.

You might be thinking of Babylon 5, which was shot widescreen because they knew 16:9 was coming. Sadly, the special effects haven’t aged as well as the aspect ratio…


And they lost the sources to re-render the CGI elements.


[quote=“doctorow, post:1, topic:104207”]They reached a shocking conclusion: DVD players with even minimal circumvention features sell for about 50% more than similarly reviewed DVD players of similar vintage – that means that in a commodity electronics category where the normal profit would be 2% or less, manufacturers that sell a model with just slightly different software (a choice that adds virtually nothing to the manufacturing costs) pocket 25 times the profits.

In one way, this is unsurprising. People want DVD players, but they don’t want DRM. If a manufacturer sells you a DVD player with some useful and desirable features, and some undesirable anti-features (like region-locking, or anti-ripping, etc), then under normal circumstance you’d expect a market to emerge for add-ons or rival products that remove the anti-features.[/quote]The considerably more interesting question is, how may people who bought these “DVD players with even minimal circumvention features” ever even used these minimal circumvention features? Has it not been amply demonstrated (tee hee) that the sellers of audiovisual equipment have little difficulty in persuading consumers to part with extra funds for features of little to no actual demonstrative value?