The End of DRM (as we know it) ?

by Jeremiah Foster

"For the major recording companies selling in the MP3 format would be a capitulation to the power of the Internet, which has destroyed their control over the worldwide distribution of music."

- New York Times

Even Apple cannot prop up the record industry despite the success of the iPod. So now the backlash has come and DRM will most likely go to its grave.

43 Comments

Tom Bridge
2007-01-23 07:36:42
Apple could still command significant market share without the DRM, but I don't think for a second it's Apple forcing the record companies to use DRM, they're providing the record companies a fairly liberal and acceptable method for protecting the music against piracy without significantly standing in the way of the consumer who purchases the music. There hasn't yet been a circumstance in which the music I buy through iTunes has been made unaccessable to me. I've got three computers, a couple of iPods and I've never run into a situation in which the music I bought wasn't able to be played, not even as rip/mix/burn happy as I am. It's a pretty Fair Play, to borrow a bad pun, on the part of Apple, and I suspect that if the RIAA had been allowed to dictate terms, I would have to buy the song for each computer, each device and hell, if I whistled it on the street they'd come after me too.


I suspect that Apple's definitely able to sell "unlocked" (a term that sucks, but there isn't a better one, since the originals aren't all that locked to begin with) copies of the music they're selling with gentle DRM now, but in my experience, it's been the record labels clammoring for more DRM, not less.

jeremiah foster
2007-01-23 07:50:15
My view was yours up until recently Tom. The difference is that I have problems playing some of my iTunes purchases. I bought some music, then moved to Sweden. Now music that is licensed for sale in the US only that I bought will not play on any of my computers or iPods. This is very unfair.


Secondly, the labels are _not_ insisting on DRM, it is Apple. Look at eMusic, look at Nettwerk records, (they are Sarah McLachlan's record company amongst others) they are both saying DRM is not necessary, and both sell unprotected mp3s. Both consider Apple a monopoly harming their interests.


I too thought Apple was a benign user of DRM, they are starting to seem a little evil in my eyes actually.

Jochen Wolters
2007-01-23 07:58:14
Jeremiah:


Companies like emusic.com have proven that selling unprotected music files over the internet can be a business model worth persuing, but I just can't believe that the top brass at the Big Five have now seen the light, and that DRM will eventually just vanish. "If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is," you know. ;)


Also, as much as I do see the usefulness of DRM "protection" as an effective customer lock-in into the iPod/iTunes/iTunes Store system, it always seemed that Apple was presenting DRM as being required by the record companies. Therefore, do you have any references to back up the statement that "Apple refuses to remove DRM from iTunes, despite the fact that record companies do not demand it"?


That promises to be a pretty interesting read, methinks.

jeremiah foster
2007-01-23 08:05:34
I do have more evidence but this evidence is in the form of an article at the New York Times. I can quote some relevant bits but I do not think I have the right to reproduce the article because of copyright.


Randall Stross writes: "Apple pretends that the decision to use copy protection is out of its hands. In defending itself against Ms. Tucker's lawsuit, Apple's lawyers noted in passing that digital-rights-management software is required by the major record companies as a condition of permitting their music to be sold online: "Without D.R.M., legal online music stores would not exist."


In other words, however irksome customers may find the limitations imposed by copy protection, the fault is the music companies', not Apple's.


This claim requires willful blindness to the presence of online music stores that eschew copy protection. For example, one online store, eMusic, offers two million tracks from independent labels that represent about 30 percent of worldwide music sales."

Chris Chapman
2007-01-23 08:21:55
There are a couple things you are forgetting about the ipod and itunes - The ipod and itunes have always been fully capable mp3 players, not just AAC. It's just as easy to encode/and or add music with MP3 as with AAC (even without DRM) to both the software and hardware devices. That has always been the case.


The only thing that DRM has given apple is the ability to go to record labels - who have been HISTORICALLY against non-DRM distribution - and say, "hey we have a way to control downloads, if that makes the proposition any sweeter to you".


To say apple WANTS the lock-in is silly. I think they were just providing the avenue for their CUSTOMERS to legally purchase music online if they wished.


Could they start selling music without DRM tomorrow? Sure. Heck they already do - look at the podcast downloads and other freebies. If anything, adding these items to the store have BOOSTED sales of the ipod.


Itunes is not about sales of 99 cents per song. It's about sales of the ipod. It's that simple.

jeremiah foster
2007-01-23 08:34:38
Great comments from everyone but let me address your skepticism: It is Apple, and only Apple, that wants DRM at this point. The record companies want out. Record companies have either left, or are thinking of leaving DRM. Apple has no plans to remove it from their services. Apple can no longer blame the record companies for DRM, otherwise, they could have removed it already.
Chris Chapman
2007-01-23 08:38:54
I couldn't disagree more Jeremiah. I think you are reading into the tea leaves a bit too much. NOWHERE does it say in the brief article you point to that the labels are publicly calling for the end of DRM'd music sales. Where is WB or BMI or SONY saying this? If apple said tomorrow that they would delete all DRM from music sold in itunes, you don't think the labels would yank their catalogs and sic they lawyers on them? You'd be fooling yourself...


The one thing i Do know about the music industry is that a contract is a contract. They are holy and untouchable until they decide otherwise. And Apple surely knows this. Until the labels state officially and publicly that they want an end to DRM, Apple CANNOT change this. To think otherwise is wishful thinking at best.

Victor Panlilio
2007-01-23 08:41:13
"one online store, eMusic, offers two million tracks from independent labels"


Clue: "independent." Where's Universal? Etc. Oh, and the Sony rootkit fiasco wasn't evidence of major labels' interest in DRM?

Rudolph
2007-01-23 09:14:08
On what planet do the record companies not require DRM? Just because they're now considering going without it doesn't mean Apple is freed from its contractual requirement to provide it. None of the "Plays For Sure" crowd have dropped DRM, now, have they? The only one of the big music download stores to run with mp3 is eMusic, and as a result they do not offer the majority of music from the big four label/distributors.


What has happened is that Apple jujitsued everybody by rolling its own DRM instead of falling meekly in line to use Microsoft's. Not that Apple would have ever used protected WMA, since it doesn't play on Macintoshes. Please read that again: Protected WMA does not play on the Macintosh. Why in God's name would Apple bring out a product like the iPod that would have to be incompatible with the company's main line of products?


Now that Apple's solution has proved to be the one everybody prefers, the record companies are agitated that Apple refuses to go against its own market research that says 99 cents is a good price for a song and $1.49 isn't. They're so determined to gore the goose that laid the golden egg that they are seriously considering dropping DRM altogether -- against their own previous judgment that without DRM they'd be out of business in months. I'd rather have non-DRM'ed music myself, but don't tell this fairy story that Apple's DRM was devised to screw the record companies when the record companies would never have approved the iTunes store without it.

Ross Miller
2007-01-23 09:16:03
You wrote:
This could affect Apple largely because Apple refuses to remove DRM from iTunes, despite the fact that record companies do not demand it.


What's your source for this? I'd like a citation where Apple refused to remove DRM from iTunes when a record company demanded it.


What's that? You don't have a source? Exactly why the MacDevCenter has gone downhill, in my opinion. Give us technical, accurate information. These pseudo-journalist articles can be had elsewhere. Especially when it's just made-up clap trap like this.

Scott Schuckert
2007-01-23 10:00:06
"...because Apple refuses to remove DRM from iTunes, despite the fact that record companies do not demand it."


I'd be interested in where you got this information. It's been very widely reported that exactly the reverse is true. If fact your third paragraph states otherwise. If you're going to claim this has changed, you need to document it.

GD
2007-01-23 10:20:26
If he had proof that Apple wanted the DRM and the major labels didn't, he would post it, instead of making accusations and quoting "principal analysts."


Where are the quotes from Apple? Where are the quotes from the major labels?


The last paragraph is telling: "the coolest device won, not the coolest music, or best music site." I would bet he's one of those people who disparages popular music in favor of independent artists in an effort to appear hip.

Javier
2007-01-23 10:25:04
You lost me. Please explain how a song without DRM is "Cooler" than the same song with DRM; or how a song from one store is "cooler" than the same song from another store.


A song protected by DRM is obviously not pirated. Pirates think such songs are not cool. I wonder who thinks they are? Whoever they are, they have spent over $2 billion at the iTunes store.

Chris
2007-01-23 10:42:29
Javier: "A song protected by DRM is obviously not pirated"


That's what you think, me hearty. Arr!


Jeremiah, I can only echo what other people are saying. Beliving that something is so doesn't make it so. Apple can't just abrogate contracts without opening itself up to major legal exposure. If record companies are really offering the same wares as iTunes without DRM in other places, then the situation would change rapidly.


But there isn't any evidence that record companies want to drop DRM. What we have is rumor and innuendo. I'm sure some executives are starting to come around, but it's still an uphill battle.


And, liberal or conservative, you can't trust the NYT or any other newspaper/TV source without backup, just as you can't trust a single blog as if in a vacuum. There are too many documented instances of traditional media getting things very wrong -- cf Jason Blair, Judy Miller, Steven Glass. See also mediamatters.org for an eye-opener. It turns out that they're about as reliable as blogs, but without the benefit of the self-correcting mechanisms of reader feedback and blog trackbacks.

R Boylin
2007-01-23 11:11:10
I would be very suspicious of any Forrester Research source. Your quote (?) that record companies are not requiring Fair Play on Apple distributed content should be backed up from a record company source. I don't believe it for one minute!


Anyone can release mp3s or AAC songs playable on iPods or other devices that license the codecs. Mp3s may be free; but AAC exacts a fee, I believe. DRMs are content protection. The average iPod has less than a dozen iTunes Store song tracks. Apple distributes Podcasts without Fair Play protection right now.

anon
2007-01-23 11:15:53
How about the zune having its squirting ability revoked by the record labels for a majority of Universal and Sony backed songs. That proves that they want more not less DRM!
Doug
2007-01-23 11:17:18
If the big studios wanted to sell music without DRM, they would be doing it.


"Look at eMusic, look at Nettwerk records, (they are Sarah McLachlan's record company amongst others) they are both saying DRM is not necessary, and both sell unprotected mp3s."


Good for them!


"Both consider Apple a monopoly harming their interests."


I can't consider Apple a monopoly in this case since the iPod will play non-DRM mp3's. What could be monopolistic is the close integration of the iPod with iTunes and therefore the iTunes Store.


Personally, when I buy music I like to be able to hold the CD in my hand. And then copy it to my iPod.

Mike
2007-01-23 11:46:23
Oh, I think it is the record labels that have wanted DRM all right. But I think they are possibly slowly coming to realize that their insistence on DRM might be working against their own interests. Because implementing DRM is a software matter and outside their area of expertise, they have to go to the tech companies. And what that does is shifts power out of their hands. Apple now controls a large chunk of online music sales and also has a good bargaining position with respect to content providers who wish to deal with it.


And Microsoft is likely to play even harder with content providers if it gets the chance: the prospect of cornering the multimedia market via DRM and putting itself into a position where it can dictate to content providers is almost certainly what has caused Microsoft so build so much DRM so deeply into Vista. That's one of the conclusions of Peter Gutmann's justly famous analysis:


http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_cost.html


The record companies could undercut the tech companies at a stroke and sell music files online direct to the public from their own online stores, if they simply bit the bullet and went with a reasonably open and non-DRMed format like MP3. Their fear holds them back.


This matter was discussed recently at Slashdot and one contributor claimed this:


"Last week I had a chat with the former managing director of one of the big four labels in my country (and in a few others as well). His personal opinion is that DRM has to go. When asked directly, he stated that in the music industry boardrooms, about 50% of the people are by now convinced that it has to go, whereas 50% have not yet reached that point. One of the things that's holding them back, is that the movie and especially the games industries are putting pressure on the music one not to drop DRM because they fear the domino effect."


http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=218176&cid=17712672


Now this is Slashdot, and I've no way of verifying that, but it sounds like a plausible account to me. Everything I've read leads me to believe the record companies are havering - they don't really know which way to jump yet. I shouldn't be at all surprised if some offer quite a lot of MP3 downloads some time this year.

Hamish
2007-01-23 12:12:15
Sure, the indies are putting non-DRM out there - they are simply hoping on selling more tracks than they otherwise would. And if you "share" your unprotected music with a friend, and they too become a fan, then mission accomplished. Its a marketing ploy to increase exposure of hitherto unknowns.


The one aspect of the iTunes / iPod lock-in that no-one seems to mention, regardless of DRM or not, is iTunes itself.


Even if the iTunes store sold DRM free tracks, and you donwload to iTunes, how do you get it across to another MP3 player? Will the Zune sync with iTunes on a PC? Doubt it.


Can I get an Sansa and hook it up to my Mac, and then have iTunes seamlessly transfer my playlist across? Probably not.

jeremiah foster
2007-01-23 12:49:07
Again, excellent comments all. I am astonished at the level of understanding and insight the readers of the Mac DevCenter blog have. However, I must say that I have provided some excellent sources. Nonetheless, I will provide more and more clearly:


1. Record Companies Contemplate Unrestricted Digital Music
2. Ailing music biz set to relax digital restrictions
3. My own anecdotal experience. I purchased music that no longer plays on Apple computers, not because of record company contracts, but because of Apple.
4. pdf of Melanie Tucker vs. Apple Computer Inc. in which the term "crippleware" is coined.
5. Why DRM's best friend might just be Apple.


Read them, and weep.

pugilist
2007-01-23 13:05:52
i don't think the big record companies want DRM-free music...they just don't want to be locked into APPLE'S DRM. rather than apple calling the shots, they want to be in control of everything...


but apple isn't totally without culpability. DRM is GOOD for them as well, as they make it harder to move to another platform. for apple, DRM isn't about the recording artists or preventing piracy...it's about keeping people locked into itunes and the ipod. the TWIT guys were mentioning that indie recording artists approach apple all the time about putting their music on itunes without DRM...and apple flatly rejects them. if apple were "for the artist," as some assume, why not distribute DRM-free tracks?

Chris
2007-01-23 13:24:45
Jeremiah,


I'm sorry that you moved to another country and that your DRM'ed music won't play anymore. That's not cool at all. That being said, the sources that you are touting as proof that Apple is the only one that wants DRM anymore are either (1) opinion pieces, (2) stories talking about how the big music companies might just be starting to realize that maybe DRM isn't the great thing they might have thought it was, or (3) the denial of a 12(b)(6) motion (a motion made by Apple to dismiss a lawsuit for failure to state a claim).


None of these, not one, shows that Apple is the bad guy here. And not one of these has any effect on the contracts that Apple and the record companies have already signed. Don't you remember how difficult it was for Apple to get the iTMS up and running in various places because the record companies wanted more restrictive DRM?


Oh, and don't forget that there are other forms of media out there that have regional coding. Apple is far from the only company that does that...


By the way, I'm not in any way saying that DRM is a good thing or that Apple should keep their DRM going if the record companies stop requiring it. What I am saying is that you are allowing a personally disappointing experience to cloud your judgment.


Just out of curiosity, have you asked Apple for help with your problem? I have no idea whether they would help you out, but I can't imagine that you are the first person to have this difficulty...

D White
2007-01-23 13:44:06
What an incredible accusation you make in this irresponsible article. Do you for one minute think the record labels don't want DRM on their songs? Why aren't they presenting all their music on Yahoo or emusic without DRM. Because they're scared. To say Apple is totally in control of whether or not they put DRM controled music on iTunes is outrageous and you should learn to have proper quotes of people FROM the music companies saying they are against DRM songs, not interpretaions from people from Forrester Research ( who is clearly in favor of making Apple look bad as their last accusation of falling itunes sales rocked the world just prior to Christmas)
1. Try questioning actual people in the music business.
2. Ask why labels don't at a minimum sell full and only complete albums DRM free on their own web sites?
3. If record labels want to sell DRM free songs why charge twice as much for lack of DRM tunes on Yahoo?
4. Has anyone found any good music on e-music? I haven't. The selection is a joke. A clear sign music labels are not in favor of DRM free tunes.


I'm amazed your consider yourself a journalist with this type of sensationalist writing.

Victor Panlilio
2007-01-23 13:53:23
"Read them, and weep."


Yes -- for your seeming inability to grasp obvious empirical facts, ie. the existence of obnoxious DRM in ALL kinds of media. I played a commercial DVD in my iBook G4, and when I put it in my wife's MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo, up popped a Region coding dialog I'd never seen before -- saying I could only change the Region Code a certain number of times. Ah, time to reach for Handbrake. :-)

danny
2007-01-23 14:47:34
Jeremiah, you obviously don't plan on credibility as your career development strategy. No-one who works in the digital audio-visual media business would take this seriously.


RIAA Chairman Mitch Bainwol at Midem last week:


Bainwol said the CEA president, because of his pleas to abandon [DRM] restrictions and liberalize fair use policies, sometimes resembled "a fringe, ideological leader": "We are in a very, very significant transition," Bainwol said. "Technology is the basis of our future. We have to be able to monetise product and, every time we try, you want to make it available for free so people can buy devices. Gary stretches the concept of fair use to the point where the notion of 'fair' has been eliminated. You have to protect the market value. [Gary] wants to morph fair use into a concept that justifies any consumer behavior to the point where you eliminate the value of property. Kids grow up not understanding that music and movies are intellectual property. You teach disrespect for intellectual property. Gary takes a concept, morphs it, makes us look like we're evil."


That doesn't sound like "we're not demanding DRM to me".


As commenters have already pointed out, none of the majors have done any significant non-DRM digital sales and they won't. You may prefer to listen to indie bands (and I do as well - eMusic rocks) but that's not what Apple is making their money off.


The Times article is pure speculation and the main quote comes from Real Networks who have are scrambling for a business model because they've been largely shut out of the game - their view of what the industry should do will have no bearing on what actually happens.


Your anecdotal experience is a great thing to blog about, and I support your goal for non-DRM music, but I think you could say this without just making stuff up.

Steve Jobs
2007-01-23 16:26:08
"Apple refuses to remove DRM from iTunes, despite the fact that record companies do not demand it." This statement is of course the entire basis for your article and argument and is also an outright lie.


Apple would sell substantially more songs if the DRM was removed. They could also care less about DRM since their domination is not based on DRM but an almost impossible thing to copy, creative vision and flawless implementation. Both things beyond the competition's ability to mimic or create on their own.

Kevin S.
2007-01-23 18:03:08
This may or may not turn out to be the near future of DRM in the record industry, however, as far as the movie and software industry are concerned, DRM is going to be here for a while longer. Vista's DRM, for example, is much more burdensome than that of any Windows before it, and both HDDVD and BlueRay use an extremely complex DRM system - so complex in fact that it takes 1st generation HDDVD players a full minute just to work out the DRM on a disc that has just been inserted in the drive. See http://www.twit.tv/sn73 for more.

2007-01-23 18:32:07
"zunes squirting ability" ; what marketing wizkid came up with 'squirting'.... at least it makes me laugh :-)
Daniel
2007-01-23 18:56:48
To those of you that understand french please read this pdf concerning the ruling of a french court about Apple DRM... Of course another court in another country can rule the complete opposite, but nonethelless it's really insightfull to read this document.


http://www.conseil-concurrence.fr/pdf/avis/04d54.pdf


Jeremiah, what inhibited you to burn the music that you bought at iTunes Store in a CD and then rip it in a DRM free format?


Unseelie
2007-01-23 23:04:44
Nevermind the fact that all reports we have indicate that Apple, at best, breaks even on the sale of DRM wrapped music files. 70%+ of iTMS revenues go to the record labels and Apple pays all of their costs on the remainder.


The iTunes Music Store is, in industry terms, a loss leader and the RIAA is on record for wanting to charge more and pay Apple less... which is to say, they want the whole pie to themselves, nevermind the fact that they're eating almost all of the pie now.


Apple makes their money on iPod sales, not music sales, and the last time I checked, the iPod was a perfectly functional MP3 player.

Saint Fnordius
2007-01-24 02:47:45
When Apple opened the iTunes Music Store, the given reason was that the iTMS was meant to be an alternative for iPod owners; the DRM was to get the studios on board. Apple reportedly barely covered operating costs at the beginning, and was willing to take a hit in profits to make iPods more attractive versus WMA-supporting players.


So the irony is that Apple sees no reason why it should "sell" non-DRM media, as they only offer what is unique. I think they just don't want to go through the hassle of multiple file formats. Besides, if the studios sell MP3, they can do it themselves and don't need Apple to host the files. They'll work just fine on the iPod even if they don't come from Apple.

jeremiah foster
2007-01-24 05:15:57
Time to address the comments and criticisms from readers:


1. I don't contend that the record industry didn't want DRM, just that they see it as an Apple controlled tool now.


2. I don't contend that there aren't ways around DRM, I just do not want to advocate that people break the law to circumvent DRM. It should be removed by Apple instead.


3. I am not taking this issue personally because of my experience with DRM. I own Apple stock after all so what is profitable for Apple is by extension profitable for me.


4. I am not a journalist, I am a blogger. Big difference.


5. The movie industry and the music industry are in different stages of denial regarding the death of DRM. The music industry is beginning to accept it, the Movie industry is deep in denial.


Furthermore, I firmly stand behind every word of what I originally wrote and now will provide further sources for your perusal.


1. From the decision of the French National Competition Council, with a translation by me; source (pdf in French)


"VirginMega considère que ce refus d'accès constitue un abus de position dominante d'Apple". [ VirginMega considers this refusal of access constitutes an abuse of Apple's dominant position. ]


This statement shows that VirginMega is willing to state publicly, unequivocally, that Apple is abusing its monopoly position regarding digital music. Does this in and of itself show a willingness of the Major's to release music without DRM protection? No. It does show one view from one major record company towards Apple's dominant market position. That view is aligned with the independent Nettwerk record company that Apple's dominant position serves Apple only and not the record companies.


2. There is a class action lawsuit making its way through the courts in California claiming that Apple's dominant position is an "unlawful acquisition or maintenance of monopoly market power." The use of fairplay prevents consumers from using iTunes music on competing music players. Note that the lawsuit is aimed at Apple, not the record companies. It is Apple's technology that is preventing the free use of content.


3. EMusic is the number two digital music retailer behind Apple. The business model for DRM-free music is compelling. This includes such major acts as Sarah MaLachlan, Barenaked Ladies and Avril Lavigne.


4. From Apple's recent SEC filing, Source


"If the requirements from content providers or artists change, then the Company may be required to further develop or license technology to address such new rights and requirements. In addition, certain countries have passed legislation or may propose legislation that would force the Company to license its DRM solutions so that content would be interoperable with competitor devices, which could lessen the protection of content subjecting it to piracy and could affect arrangements with the Company's content suppliers. There is no assurance the Company will be able to develop or license such solutions at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner, if at all, which could have a materially adverse effect on the Company's operating results and financial position."


This shows Apple is aware of both legal and market pressure to change their DRM model.


5. From WSJ, Source


"Sony BMG, Warner Music Group Corp. and Walt Disney Co.'s Hollywood Records have also made a handful of selections from their catalogs available as MP3s." EMI is selling mp3s without DRM on Yahoo. Again from the Wall Street Journal: "By selling music in the MP3 format without copy-protection software, Yahoo can offer music that works easily on iPods."


If EMI wants their music to play on the iPod why wouldn't they just sell it unprotected through iTunes? Is the reason that Apple insists that everything they sell through iTunes be DRM protected?


6. Apple refuses to comment in requests from The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and states to Forrester Research that they see no reason to abandon fairplay.


From Wired Source


7. Sony Electronics head Stan Glasgow stated publicly; "DRMs are going to become less important".


In short:


- The record companies increasingly doubt the effectiveness of DRM.
- Record companies do not want Apple to control the market.
- Apple does not want to remove DRM.

Daniel
2007-01-24 05:51:25
FairPlay will allow a protected track to be used in the following ways:
The protected track may be copied to any number of iPod portable music players.
The protected track may be played on up to five (originally three) authorized computers simultaneously.
The protected track may be copied to a standard Audio CD any number of times.
The resulting CD has no DRM and may be ripped, encoded and played back like any other CD. However, CDs created by users do not attain first sale rights and cannot be legally leased, lent, sold or distributed to others by the creator.


It's legal, and gives the costumer a choice...

SteveS
2007-01-24 06:55:03
"This could affect Apple largely because Apple refuses to remove DRM from iTunes, despite the fact that record companies do not demand it."


Jeremiah,


We all agree that DRM is lousy and does not benefit the consumer. Nobody is advocating DRM. However, the premise of your article is flawed as you have no proof of the claims you make. Illustrating that some small subset of commercial music is available via MP3 does not mean Apple has the authority to remove DRM. If you have evidence that Apple has full authority to remove DRM and that the big 5 labels no longer want it, then please present it. Otherwise, please stop the nonsense.


To your point, I'm sure the labels are upset that Apple has as much control as they do. They're probably also upset that the vast majority of their music is still pirated which indicates that DRM is still basically ineffective. To that end, the logical conclusion for the record labels is that DRM should be removed if they want to increase sales and level the playing field. Contrary to your claims, that hasn't happened yet. If it had happened, people would be purchasing their music legally from the sources which offers non-DRM based music. Citing small subsets of MP3 sales is not the same. Apple wants to have the same policy and price for all of it's music so as not to further confuse consumers.


Steve

CH
2007-01-24 08:09:38
To all the people that are questioning the argument that Apple would not want to get rid of Fairplay, and that the iTunes Store is only about selling hardware, how do you explain the following:
- Apple refuses to license Fairplay to anyone.
- Apple changed the iPod firmware to keep music with Real's DRM off it.
Does Apple really want us to be able to listen to music we purchased how and when we want to? I think that Apple was anti-DRM at the beginning, but after the labels forced them to use it, they have realized how it helps them keep people locked into their system, and now they would not want to get rid of it. Although I agree the article is based largely on observations and opinion, I think the conclusion is spot on and a realistic view of what is happening.
CH
2007-01-24 08:41:46
..another one that I forgot:
- Apple puts Fairplay not just on RIAA tracks, but also on tracks from independent labels that sell the same music elsewhere as mp3s with no DRM
SteveS
2007-01-24 09:44:31
CH wrote:


"- Apple puts Fairplay not just on RIAA tracks, but also on tracks from independent labels that sell the same music elsewhere as mp3s with no DRM"


So, what... we should expect Apple to create a DRM policy on a song by song basis? Does the fact that Apple could potentially remove DRM from a handful of songs mean that it can also do the same for the more popular songs from the 5 major labels?


I don't know about you, but I don't want to guess which songs are protected and which songs are not. It's pretty much an all or nothing type of deal. When Apple removes the DRM, they will get my business.


Anyway, the bottom line is that those who think Apple is holding onto DRM against the record label's wishes are simply delusional. It's flawed logic to assume Apple can get rid of DRM just because a handful of songs (and the Indies) are offered without DRM. Once another competitor is able to sell their entire collection from the major labels without DRM, then we can point the finger at Apple. Until then, the blame is clearly misguided.


Steve

Jochen Wolters
2007-01-24 10:20:59
I hate DRM just like the next guy: it does not prevent piracy, some of its implementations have severe technical side effects, and it punishes honest customers only. Nevertheless, I still maintain that what you present as proof of your claim is shaky at best:


VirginMega


The files Virgin sells online are in DRM-"protected" WMA format. If they want to sell their music to iPod owners, they could do so by simply moving to uncrippled MP3.


class action lawsuit [...] The use of fairplay prevents consumers from using iTunes music on competing music players.


This could be seen as a problem with the FairPlay system only if you could get those tracks exclusively from the iTunes Store. Then, and only then, it would constitute a market monopoly. But that's not the case as long as you can buy the music from other sources, as well.


Unfortunately, this lawsuit, in my not so humble opinion, is based solely on the stupidity of the plaintiff, who has apparently not understood that she can burn all those files to a CD and re-import them without any DRM whatsoever, or — gasp!! — stick to buying CDs in the first place.


Too bad that far too many of those CDs are now also "protected" to prevent you from ripping them at all. Ouch. Could it be, that in these cases of the "protected" CDs, you're even better off by buying from the iTunes Store?!


As for the class action lawsuit, I hope the judge in charge will do the only sensible thing: shout "Without Merit!," and be done with it.


EMusic


All three artists you mention are signed to Nettwerk labels, the only(!) record company featured with a quote in the NYT article you referenced. How funny that they use RealMedia on their own website. If they are so worried about DRM, why don't they use a non-proprietary format like MP3 or Ogg Vorbis?


This shows Apple is aware of both legal and market pressure to change their DRM model.


Have you considered the possibility that record companies may consider it a breach of contract if Apple sold un-DRM'ed tracks? If Apple were forced by law in some countries to remove or modify the FairPlay system, some of the record companies could possibly request that Apple simply not sell those labels' tracks in these countries, which, indeed, would have a "materially adverse effect on the Company's operating results and financial position."


There is no indication whatsoever in that statement that it's necessarily the record companies who could force Apple to sell un-DRM'ed tracks.


If EMI wants their music to play on the iPod why wouldn't they just sell it unprotected through iTunes?


Because they don't like the current market power that the iTunes store has, so they evaluate other distribution channels like Yahoo! as well?


Is the reason that Apple insists that everything they sell through iTunes be DRM protected?


That could be the reason. Then again, it could be not. Again, there is nothing in that quote to support the view that only Apple is to blame.


Apple refuses to comment


That is standard Apple policy.


Sony Electronics head Stan Glasgow stated publicly; "DRMs are going to become less important".


A statement from the company who screwed their honest(!) customers by installing a root-kit based DRM system on their computers that rendered many Windows machines completely inoperable, and who did lose a related class action lawsuit. Right.


- Apple does not want to remove DRM.


This may be true, but the thing is that I still have not seen a single piece of conclusive evidence to support this claim.


As long as the Big Five record companies don't demonstrate their intention to spare us honest customers the pain of DRM (pirates don't feel that pain 'cause their media ain't DRM-crippled...) by selling their music as unrestricted files in decent quantities, I'll give Apple the benefit of the doubt in this matter.

Unseelie
2007-01-24 17:48:39
Unless a record label were to have an exclusive agreement with Apple, there's little to keep them from setting up their own store and selling non-DRM wrapped music or from using E-Music. That being the case, I don't how this is somehow Apple's fault. If the major labels wanted to sell unprotected music, they would be doing so.
William Cole
2007-02-06 20:05:19
Steve Jobs's open letter "Thoughts on Music" at the Apple website (http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/) pretty much categorically refutes the claim that "Apple refuses to remove DRM from iTunes." Indeed, he makes a public promise/challenge: "If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music." So who is still clinging to DRM?
jse
2007-02-07 07:47:57
From your article: "This could affect Apple largely because Apple refuses to remove DRM from iTunes, despite the fact that record companies do not demand it."


From Steve: "Convincing [the big 4] to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly."


From Nelson: "HA ha!"

Simon
2007-04-17 12:02:45
Hi Lucy! Photo I received! Thanks!
Green
2007-04-25 04:15:44
Hi Sam! Photos i send on e-mail.
Green