As CNET points out, when Sony BMG became the last major label to sell DRM-free tracks, we pretty much declared DRM deader than HD DVD or Tony Stark if he got in a fight with Batman (at least for the music industry; movies are another story). But RIAA tech chief David Hughes told a panel yesterday that DRM is tech's Obi-Wan Kenobi: It's coming back and will be powerful than we can possibly imagine, but it won't be giving sage advice to budding Jedi.
Hughes' argument centers around subscriptions: "(Recently) I made a list of the 22 ways to sell music and 20 of them still require DRM...any form of subscription service or limited play-per-view or advertising offer still requires DRM. So DRM is not dead." And he thinks subscription services are where we're headed (or at least the industry hopes so), meaning DRM for all.
But the fact that he's pinning DRM's survival on subscriptions—as opposed to advocating for it on all tracks you buy online—shows that we actually have come a long way, and DRM is dead, at least in one sense. Contrast with the MPAA's rep, whose industry is still in the beginning of the DRM life cycle: "We need DRM to show our customers the limits of the license they have entered into with us." The RIAA is a veritable Lessigian copyright hippie in comparison. [CNET]