1. DRM: the truth spoken

    brian on 2007.02.07
    at 12:39 am

    Brilliant. Notice I didn’t write an exclamation mark. Because what I am about to write about isn’t ground breaking. It’s just common sense. Now, let’s get to the good stuff.

    Thoughts On Music by Steve Jobs

    …if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none. If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music. If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.

    I think a lot of people will see this as shocking. I do not. I speak from a position of knowing Apple a little better than the average folk, and for the most part the company has a strategy. “Do what’s good for the customer, it’s just good business.” The problem comes when people criticize Apple for doing something they don’t see as “good for the customer.” For example, Apple making the entire widget is good for the customer, because they can control the experience and the support on their own. There’s no one to impede or pass the buck to. But some people prefer to view this as a hinderance. That’s why markets exist. If you don’t like one option, there’s a competitor who does it better. (Except in the wireless telephony market, they all do it the same: bad.)

    One thing that has been repeatedly cited as evidence to Apple “not doing what’s good for the customer” is the usage of the FairPlay DRM by Apple. But if you read Steve’s comments, its clear that DRM was not their choice, but was the only thing that was beneficial to the consumer at the time, seeing that the consumer’s choices were narrow.

    Prior to Apple’s iTunes Store, you could buy un-DRM-ed music in a store on physical media. But after iTunes, you could buy un-DRM-ed music in a store on physical media or have the option of digital delivery of the music in a much more convenient way (in regards to the internet delivery, not needing to encode the music for your portable player, and the ability to buy individual tracks and the ability to preview every song before buying at fair prices.

    Clearly, 2 Billion songs later, iTMS + DRM was a positive choice for the consumer. It added a choice that many people chose to use. No one was forced, and they certainly are not locked in. You can burn your music to CD at any point and run off to any other musical technology ecosystem.

    But frankly, Apple’s take on DRM — the most liberal out there — is only making the best of a bad situation.

    Another realization is becoming clear, and this time, it’s the music industry who is going to have to put up with the inconvenience. They have to deal with piracy themselves, without treating the rest of us like criminals. It’s time to abolish DRM, once and for all.

    I want to download lossless digital music, at a reasonable cost, without the technology I use having to be locked down to help out the industry I’m giving money to. And I want it now.

    The only thing that stands in my way of achieving this goal, is the industry that can make it happen.

    The time is now. Let’s bury DRM.

    Posted in: Apple · Music


    Comments (2)

    1. Hank said on 2007.02.07 at 12:23 pm

      I see a lot of comments (on Slashdot and other places) that Jobs is simply saying these things without meaning them.

      “He needs FairPlay to continue to leverage the iPod!” being the big rallying cry.

      I have news for these people – the iPod won, and with it iTunes. Sure, if Apple starts selling non-DRM’d music, some people might go out and buy a Zen or something to play them on. But just as many geeks will start buying music from iTunes because of the loss of DRM.

      With the huge installed base of users already, the iPod is not going anywhere. It is a cultural phenomenon. If Apple turns off DRM tomorrow, the iPod will still be huge next week.

      (Note this is only short-term. The iPod has a finite marketing life, DRM or not. The point is that getting rid of DRM is not going to change that lifespan).

    2. Tyler said on 2007.02.07 at 06:45 pm

      I was pleased to see this on Apple’s website. Steve was reminding us that Apple is not the one who’s hopelessly attached to DRM, it’s the music companies. And apparently it isn’t working well enough to justify it. I think the majority of people who buy from the iTunes store do so out of the convenience and LEGALITY of it. While I once frequently used LimeWire, now I tend to get the majority of of my music from iTunes, eMusic, or (ready for this?) an old fashioned genuine brick and mortar store. So I doubt that removing DRM will hurt sales on iTunes… in fact I think it could only help. Many people avoid iTunes BECAUSE of the DRM, and I bet they’d be far more willing to consider buying music there if they abolished it.

      I do with Apple would adopt a lossless VBR encoding method like LAME though.

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