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Main > Archives > 2007 > February > Jobs' DRM Stance Part Deux

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Jobs' DRM Stance Part Deux

Thanks to those who thought it worth their time to disagree with me about my characterization of Steve Jobs.

To clarify, here are the words of The Man himself about why he won't license FairPlay DRM to other music device makers:

The second alternative is for Apple to license its FairPlay DRM technology to current and future competitors with the goal of achieving interoperability between different company’s players and music stores. On the surface, this seems like a good idea since it might offer customers increased choice now and in the future. And Apple might benefit by charging a small licensing fee for its FairPlay DRM. However, when we look a bit deeper, problems begin to emerge. The most serious problem is that licensing a DRM involves disclosing some of its secrets to many people in many companies, and history tells us that inevitably these secrets will leak.

So DRM is so unstable that if they share any of the code with consumer electronics' companies, it would be compromised. That is just posturing as an excuse not to license the software. Microsoft and other companies license their to hardware companies, but Apple is above all that. I thought the geniuses in Cupertino could figure out anything?

I agree with Jobs that DRM is flawed, and that it is hypocritical for the music industry not to protect digital files on a CD while requiring online music sellers to do so. But my point is that he's calling for an end to DRM assuming that it won't happen and out of interest not to the consumers but to Apple. It is the right argument for the wrong reason.

Does anyone really think that if Europe didn't threaten to close down the iTunes stores that Mr. Jobs would have written his treatise on digital music and DRM? No way. Also, my peers at Wired News point out that Jobs is mum on video copy protection, again an inconsistent stance.

Since it is unlikely that DRM will go away, Apple should license FairPlay to car stereo and portable MP3 players to appease Europe, give consumers increased flexibility, and put a few more bucks in Apple's coffer. If FairPlay's DRM becomes compromised, it will be because an end user reverse engineered the code, not because some hardware company decided to sell the secrets.

By John Gartner at 08:56 AM | Comments (6)

(6) Thoughts on Jobs' DRM Stance Part Deux

Re: FairPlay - If in fact this is the best DRM there is at the moment, and if it's one that the record labels like best, then the best thing that should happen to it is that it become an industry standard. And the way that could happen would be for Apple to forgo any financial interest in licensing it.

Spin off FairPlay. Call a huge summit involving all the major companies that need to be involved, and turn over all the patents and all the secret sauce concerning FairPlay to a nonprofit, Apple-agnostic industry consortium. Make it responsible for the maintenance and future development of FairPlay. Companies that join the consortium will devote some of their resources, including smart people, to ensuring that FairPlay stays a step or three ahead of those individuals who consider it their mission in life to crack DRM schemes.

Apple has a history here on the hardware front, and to find it you need look no further than the Firewire port on your Mac. The technology behind Firewire was invented at Apple and then turned over to an industry consortium that still exists. It's called the 1394 Trade Association (1394 refers to its designation by the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers.) Apple would be seen as the savior of the industry.

[From http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/feb2007/tc20070208_741893.htm?campaign_id=yhoo]

Comments by Dru Richman : Thursday, February 08, 2007 at 01:43 PM

The article and comments continue to ignore a simple reality at Apple, Microsoft, Napster, etc... They are legally responsible post-sale for the music they sell. All the comments about licensing DRM assume that the record companies free Apple of the responsibility to prevent "illegal" copying.

Now, I have no special knowledge of the language but it seems reasonable that if a 3rd party player is hacked such that it can play any protected aac file, it becomes apples responsibility to change the iTunes store to correct the situation.

For all the talk, the music companies are REQUIRING Microsoft, Apple, Napster, etc.. to take legal responsibility for content even after it is sold the user.

I have helped create industry standards and no universal standards organization could operate under a legal obligation to a contributing company.

After all is said and done, Jobs is correct. The record companies agreement with each music supplier limits what type of sharing can/will take place.

Now... If the record companies treat Apple like Best Buy and let them off the hook for post sale distribution there may be a way for DRM to be standardized.
As long as Apple becomes legally liable for the life of a single music file, there is no reason to believe it is financially beneficial to Apple to open up the DRM. The same is true for Microsoft or Napster.

In the utopia that is being painted, can you imagine a DRM breach occuring. Who should fix the leak? The hardware manufacturer? the original music seller? Apple? What if the fix only works on limited hardware? Does Apple face legal consequences from the record companies? And best of all, how will the millions of users feel about buggy updates to their iTunes or iPod or Zune due to the incompatibilities that all the changes will create.

No, an open DRM will never work because an open DRM has a half-life of a few days. Then a new one needs to be issued and be backwards compatible with all the existing software and hardware combinations. And none of this is value adding to the music listener. It's not even value adding to the music companies.

Comments by Vince : Thursday, February 08, 2007 at 03:08 PM

"Microsoft and other companies license their to hardware companies, but Apple is above all that."

That's the business Microsoft is in: Selling software licenses. Sometimes it includes a disc and a box, sometimes it doesn't.

Apple is in the metal-and-glass-and-plastic business. They write their own instructions for it rather than buying and re-selling someone else's.

""Microsoft and other companies"

...and who are these other DRM-writing and licensing companies you speak of? Sony does not license ATRAC.

"So DRM is so unstable that if they share any of the code with consumer electronics' companies, it would be compromised. That is just posturing as an excuse not to license the software"

Google "Remove DRM" and you will see it's not posturing. It happens every day.

Choose to believe that his personal motives are different from what he says if you wish, but his argument for his actions is sound.

If the DRM breaks, the RIAA takes their music and goes home.

It hard to keep a genie in ONE bottle.

Comments by Tedious : Thursday, February 08, 2007 at 03:21 PM

Apple's Fairplay is the least intrusive of any DRM I've seen. Do you think maybe Steve Jobs is worried that in order to be able to license it, he has to make it as unwieldy as Plays-For-Sure?

Use some common sense. Apple can't keep the same user experience and license its DRM. They are the experts and they know what they are talking about.

DRM doesn't work. Apple knew this and included just enough DRM to appease the record companies.

Now the music industry just wants to force everyone to a subscription service which can never work without DRM. That is what this is all about. Steve Jobs doesn't want subscriptions and the record labels do.

Comments by James Bailey : Thursday, February 08, 2007 at 08:56 PM

Who is this twit writing this crap?

My God you are the simplest guy in marketing like you fell on your face and the whole world was sidewalks.

Jobs has weighed out all possibility ten moves beyond your sidewalk and knows how to ensure you get to where he's decided. Your chicken shit compared to the real money and players. Trust me you don't want to place any bets cause you don't have a clue.

Comments by Sage Advice for moron marketing : Friday, February 09, 2007 at 05:31 AM

DRM is a pain in the proverbial. Not just on music - it's a blight on DVDs too ... in the age of laptops and world travel, I am not able to change the region of my drive more than 5 times before it is locked - trouble is I legally own movies from all regions and I travel a lot worldwide ...

Imagine being handed a DVD to check out on your laptop and not being able to view it. It is bizarre that a cheap Chinese DVD player has no trouble playing any DVD in my collection, yet my $2,500 laptop fails - to add further insult, the drive in my laptop spews out garbage if the region code it is set to and the region code of the disc do not match.

DRM treats everyone as criminals when the vast majority of users purchase their media legitimately. Given legitimate means of acquiring media - such as the ITMS - most people choose to pay for what they use.

I fail to see why I should be inconvenienced to thwart a minority who wish to steal.

The best thing that can happen to the Music industry is for artists to sign directly to the iTMS and its smaller brethren, bypassing the traditional distribution model which has served them so poorly in the past and continues to short change them to this day.

DRM needs to fail.

Comments by Tom Waits : Friday, February 09, 2007 at 08:49 AM

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